Monday, February 23, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

'Slumdog' evening? Oscar fave enters home stretch
The young stars of "Slumdog Millionaire" were greeted with cheers and blew kisses in return as they walked the red carpet into Sunday's Academy Awards, where the rags-to-riches story was a surefire favorite.

"It's unbelievable," said Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, 15. "We never thought we'd be here but we are."

In keeping with its theme of bottomless optimism amid adversity, "Slumdog Millionaire" has led a charmed life, dodging a flirtation with straight-to-DVD, winning over critics and climbing toward $100 million hit status. The film has won top honors at all key earlier awards ceremonies, with one to go.

Now its cast of unknowns — from new celebrities Dev Patel and Freida Pinto to kids plucked by director Danny Boyle from the slums of Mumbai, India — have taken a trip to Hollywood's glitziest party.

"It's a non-traditional film and depicts the differences between the haves and the have-nots," said Kristine Bednarz, 38, of San Diego, who had a coveted seat among enthusiastic fans in bleachers outside the Kodak Theatre.

"I hope they win. I'm sold! Well done kids," fan Eli Berg, 23, of Los Angeles, exclaimed in the bleachers after six of the film's young actors arrived.

Shot in India on a modest budget of $14 million, "Slumdog Millionaire" traces the life of a Mumbai orphan who overcomes poverty, betrayal, police torture and other hardships on his way to a reunion with his childhood love and success on India's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

The film nearly got lost in the shuffle as Warner Bros. folded its arthouse banner, Warner Independent, which had been slated to distribute "Slumdog Millionaire." It was rescued from the direct-to-video scrap heap when Fox Searchlight stepped in to release the film.

It wasn't all sunshine for "Slumdog Millionaire" going into the Oscars, though. A few raindrops fell on the red carpet at midmorning amid forecasts of a 30 percent chance of showers on Hollywood's big night. And hope of warm feelings between the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was lost late Saturday night when SAG's board of directors rejected the producers' "last, best and final offer" for a new contract.

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