After several months in limited release, the Oscar frontrunner “Slumdog Millionaire” finally arrives in Bowling Green this weekend.

This is a film that lives up to the hype, a film that is both heart wrenching and heartwarming.

Based on the novel “Q & A” by Vikas Swarup, “Millionaire” tells the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, India, one question away from winning 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?”

But when the show breaks for the night, Jamal is arrested for suspicion of cheating.

Determined to prove he is innocent, Jamal begins to tell his life story and his desire to reunite with his childhood love Latika (Freida Pinto). As his story unfolds, Jamal is able to reveal moments in his life that ultimately led him to the answer of every question on the show.

The brilliance of “Millionaire” lies in Swarup’s story and Simon Beaufoy’s delightful screenplay. The film manages to balance a tone of intense despair with an uplifting and inspirational final act that doesn’t feel manipulative.

Director Danny Boyle, the man behind the brilliant drug film “Trainspotting,” deserves credit, too, for a film that reminded me a lot of the foreign gem “City of God,” with a completely original spin.

The cast, led by Patel, is very good as well.

I did have a minor gripe with the relationship between Jamal and Latika - especially in the early stages when it looked like it was headed in a “Forrest Gump”/“Benjamin Button” direction - but ultimately it won me over, like everything else in this film.

From the opening shot to the nod to Bollywood in the final credits, this is a film that filled me with sheer joy - more so than any other 2008 release.

And the Oscar race is on

As expected “Slumdog Millionaire” was one of the five nominees for Best Picture announced early this morning, but several oversights and surprises have appeared to completely reshape the races in several major categories.

The biggest surprise perhaps is the omission of “The Dark Knight” and its director, Christopher Nolan - “The Reader” took the fifth spot for best picture.

“The Reader” also gave Kate Winslet a surprise leading actress nomination instead of the expected supporting nod she received (and won) at the Golden Globes. Winslet’s nomination wasn’t the biggest surprise, however - my personal pick for best actress Melissa Leo in “Frozen River” managed to beat out Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins for the final spot.

Winslet’s absence in the best supporting actress category paves the way for Penelope Cruz to pick up the award for her work in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

The other big surprises came in the form of a pair of critical favorites - Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor”) and Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road”) beating out Clint Eastwood and Patel in lead and supporting categories, respectively.

Eastwood’s omission should make the actor race a two-man battle between Sean Penn (“Milk”) and Mickey Rourke (“The Wrestler”), while Patel’s lack of a nod could be a bad sign for “Slumdog Millionaire’s” best picture chances.

Sadly, the film that came away with the biggest momentum is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which led the way with 13 nominations. Having the most nominations usually bodes well for a film’s chances at best picture and director - and with Nolan out of the way, David Fincher could (unjustly) steal the director’s prize.

The Academy Awards will be Feb. 22.

— Snubbed for years by the Oscar committee, sportswriter/movie reviewer/leading man Micheal Compton can be reached by e-mailing mcompton@bgdailynews.com

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