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The bright side

Movies | Is Hollywood moving away from darker films?

Issue: "Schock factor," Jan. 31, 2009

A few weeks ago, WORLD asked whether the tough economic times might lead to a more light-hearted era in Hollywood as it did during the Great Depression. It's still too soon to tell, but the 2009 Golden Globes ceremony indicates the tide may finally be turning away from darker films.

In an impressive sweep, Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle's uplifting tale of a destitute orphan from Mumbai winning big on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, took home awards for best screenplay, best score, best director, and best motion picture. This feat is made all the more striking given that the small foreign film had to beat out some of the industry's heaviest hitters, including a Brad Pitt vehicle, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; the much-hailed Doubt, starring Meryl Streep; and Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon. All were good films, but none so feel-good as Slumdog.

The trend this year also moved away from the seriousness of history toward the artistry of imagination, rewarding actors for playing fictional creations rather than public figures. Despite the critical buzz Sean Penn received for his portrayal of assassinated gay politician Harvey Milk and Frank Langella received for his stunning depiction of Richard Nixon, both walked away empty-handed. Instead the award for best actor in a drama went to Mickey Rourke for his Rocky-esque underdog who comes out on top in The Wrestler. In fact, none of the evening's major acting awards went to an actor portraying a real person, the first time that has happened since 1995.

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Should these trends repeat themselves at the Academy Awards come February, it may be safe to declare that Hollywood is finally looking on the brighter side of life.

Megan Basham
Megan Basham

Megan, a regular correspondent for WORLD News Group, is a writer and film critic living in Memphis, Tenn.. She is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All.

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