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"Slumdog" Backlash: Oscar's Frontrunner Is Under Attack

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Box-office reports this weekend show Slumdog Millionaire generating real heat, it's the only one of the five Oscar nominees for Best Picture to crack the Top Ten. But that hasn't stopped a backlash from kicking in. What was once the little movie that could is now the favorite movie to take a swing at. Everything from accusing the filmmakers of exploiting the child actors in Mumbai by paying them chickenfeed on a film whose worldwide gross is $86 million so far -- to claims that the movie, from British director Danny Boyle, is dying in India because real slumdwellers hate being called slumdogs. Then there are the critics who insist the film is far from all its cracked up to be. The arguments go like this (jump in if you agree or disagree):

--The movie isn't an upper, it's "poverty porn," exploiting misery for fun and profit.

--It's a "white man's imagined India," not the real thing.

--The movie shows the worst aspects of India and that is what the western world likes to see.

--The plot is impossible to believe. The questions that young Jamal (Dev Patel) is asked on India's version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire correspond chronologically with traumas in a young boy's life.

--The quiz show theme sends the wrong message -- the answer is education and hard work, not a quick fix.

--The movie's joyfulness "feels more like a filmmaker's calculation than an honest cry from the heart about the human spirit."

Do you buy into any of this? Do you think the backlashers have a point or are their criticisms just sour grapes?

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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