Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
February 23, 2009

Looking Like A Million

  Slumdog Academy Awards.jpgMumbai Slumdog 2.jpg

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Eager to crank up the zeitgeist-y significance, the marketing machine at Fox Searchlight, which ended up buying Slumdog, told New York magazine that “the film is Obama-like,” for its “message of hope in the face of difficulty.” (Other journalists have since picked up on the meme.) Slumdog has been so insistently hyped as an uplifting experience (“the feel-good film of the decade!” screams the British poster) that it is also, by now, a movie that pre-empts debate. It comes with a built-in, catchall defense—it’s a fairy tale, and any attempt to engage with it in terms of, say, its ethics or politics gets written off as political correctness. — from What, Exactly, Is Slumdog Millionaire? (Dennis Lim/Slate)

Beyond the marketing itself, it seems much of the visual coverage surrounding Slumdog has also been overly “correct.” That’s why I like the top image, which calls out the thorough staginess of the Oscars by capturing an intentionally well-dressed photo assistant positioning Freida Pinto’s arm for a publicity picture.

What stands out in the second photo — especially as compared with related images (1, 2) — is how much the Mumbai slum residents, under the observation of photographers and journalists, become “feel good” actors again in this engaging moment watching the Academy Awards on T.V.

(image 1:Mario Anzuoni/Reuters. caption: Actors Irrfan Khan (2nd L), Anil Kapoor (C), Freida Pinto (2nd R) and Dev Patel (R) of “Slumdog Millionaire” arrive at the 81st Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2009. image 2:Arko Datta/Reuters. caption: Neighbours of Azharuddin Ismail, who acted in ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ gather to watch the 81st Academy Awards presentation on television outside their homes in Mumbai February 23, 2009. Ismail, along with the other cast members of the film, are in Los Angeles for the Oscars ceremony.)

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