By Joshua Rich
Updated February 24, 2009 at 05:30 PM EST
Credit: Mark Ralston/Getty Images

Danny Boyle has just won an Oscar for Best Director, and his movie, Slumdog Millionaire, was just named Best Picture. Missing the real significance of that statement? Okay, let me try this: Danny Boyle — the independent auteur who splashed across the international radar in 1996 with Trainspotting, a movie about heroin-addled Scottish junkies who dive into cruddy toilets to fish out opium suppositories…to the music of Bizet’s Carmen! — has just earned Hollywood’s highest honor.

I mean, wow, how cool is that?! What an endorsement of someone who, in my mind, is one of the most original filmmakers in the world today — someone who has never truly gotten the props he has long deserved. It’s hard to think of another current director whose work so seamlessly spans genres, from thriller (Shallow Grave, which he made before Trainspotting), to dramatic fantasy (Millions), to horror (28 Days Later), to sci-fi (Sunshine), to Bollywood (Slumdog Millionaire). Even though I’ve always been baffled by his weird, misguided big-studio followups to TrainspottingA Life Less Ordinary and The Beach — I’ve always taken comfort in knowing that I’d go to a Danny Boyle film and get to watch something new and exciting. For him, the label “independent” has always been more than a mere state of finance.

Of course, until the smash success of Slumdog Millionaire, I wasn’t sure many folks necessarily agreed with me. Boyle’s movies have never been box-office magnets: Before Slumdog came along, the zombie saga 28 Days Later was his top domestic grosser, with just $45.1 mil, and my nominee for his best film to date, Millions, banked a paltry $6.6 mil in 2005. And we’ve heard plenty about how Slumdog Millionaire was sat on, passed around, and almost sent straight to video before Fox Searchlight picked it up.

So I wonder: Can Oscar success mean even better things for Boyle? Will this independent-minded director finally garner some mainstream respect, even after the Oscar glimmer has faded? And what should he do next? Maybe not a James Bond or Narnia film, but certainly there’s a lot of big-budget fare that could benefit from his creative juice. Oh, and what’s your favorite Danny Boyle movie? Let the love-in commence…er, continue!

addCredit(“Mark Ralston/Getty Images”)