Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
At First: An energetic, multicultural mash-up from cutting-edge English director Danny Boyle.
But Then: Boyle has really come down since the days of Trainspotting, adding contrivance and sentiment to his lack of discipline.
Notable Competition: Negligible; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button got a lot of nominations but wasn’t beloved, and the rest of the crop was historically oriented material that didn’t offer a significant challenge: Milk, Frost/Nixon, and, ugh, The Reader.
Strength of Backlash (1-10): 5. It’s definitely not considered a hip choice the way it might have been almost a decade ago, but it’s also not (as far as I know) considered a major embarrassment, either. It’s just another case of the Oscar stamp making a movie seem less cool. Slumdog is a little sentimental and contrived, yes, but its real problem wasn’t really addressed the backlash — namely, that the love story at its center is something of a void.
Strength of Deserving (1-10): 4. This isn’t one of Boyle’s very best, and I’m not even talking about comparisons to the still-excellent Trainspotting; his pre-Slumdog comeback run of 28 Days Later, Millions, and Sunshine is great, too. But 2008 was not a strong year for movies, Slumdog has a lot more entertainment value than the other nominees, and now the decidedly non-stodgy Danny Boyle has an Oscar!