So once again we have survived.

Million Dollar Baby

Hi, everyone. “Moriarty” here with some Rumblings From The Lab…

You know why I don’t pay attention to Oscar talk? Because it reduces an entire quarter of every year to a horse race. People don’t talk about the merits of movies. They talk about whether or not they’ve “got what it takes to win.” They pit films against each other. People start digging trenches and getting nasty about their team. And inevitably, the films that mean the most to me from a given year aren’t the ones that have the giant campaigns or the marketing muscle. So instead of getting all worked up and expending dozens of column inches to explain to you why someone else’s opinion is wrong, I’ll just stick to my own personal opinions of a film’s merits for the two hours I’m in a theater, and fuck the Oscars.

While I wasn’t knocked out by Clint Eastwood’s latest, I think it’s a nice little film, sincere and unadorned for the most part. When I got in this review from Vern, who is a raving Clint Eastwood fanatic, I figured it would be nice to run it as the film starts its expansion from limited release on Friday. Check this out:

Boys,

Just to prove that I don’t ONLY watch straight to video Steven Seagal movies (just mostly), I thought I’d send you my review of the latest from Clint Eastwood, America’s Badass Laureate. I know MILLION DOLLAR BABY is already playing in a few hotshot Oscar qualification type cities but I was lucky to see it before its official release here. In my parts this is early.

Million Dollar BabyBy the way Quint, congratulations on Harry and Mori giving you the keys while they are out of town working on mortal kombat or whichever. This is a big opportunity to make mom and dad proud. DO NOT fuck it up. No parties. And cool it with the sexual harassment please. What if Natalie Portman reads that shit, how you think she’s gonna feel? Good? Jesus man. Otherwise good job though champ.

Clint’s latest as a director, producer, composer, star is a real good piece of work. I’ll tell you that up front. But still I want everybody to calm down for a minute. Keep your pants on. Don’t let all the acclaim butter you up too much. Don’t listen to Roger Ebert saying “there is only one word to describe Clint Eastwood’s new film: masterpiece.” Or Peter Travers saying, “Explosive! A white knuckle thrill ride!” Or Gene Shalit saying, “MILLION DOLLAR BABY is one in a million. I’ll watch it a million times, baby!” Or Larry King saying, “Incredible! One of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen!”

(that first quote was real, the other two I’m just assuming they’ll probaly say)

What this is is a humble movie that moves in slow and pulls you in an inch at a time. The kind of movie that comes over and you figure it’s nothing special, you hang out for a while and don’t have much to do, then all the sudden you turn around you realize you’re married to it and you have two kids. And you like it. They’re good kids. Maybe one’s a little slow but he tries, you know. He has heart. What I’m saying is this movie works its magic slowly. Doling out information about the characters a piece at a time, making you wait until it all fits together.

If you go in though thinking “masterpiece! one in a million! Oscar Oscar Oscar!” you will probaly end up being one of those assholes that says, “I don’t see what the big deal is.” But if you go in saying, “Well okay, an underdog boxing movie, I don’t know. But it’s Clint, it can’t be that bad,” then you got the right idea.

And yes it’s a movie about boxing, sort of. Clint is the “cut man” whose job it is to make a fighter stop bleeding long enough that the ref won’t call the match. One day this stubborn “trailer trash” gal Maggie (Hilary Swank) shows up at his gym and tries to get him to train her. Of course he turns her down and she eventually convinces him, he grows attached, she gets real good, but she thinks she’s more ready than he does, etc. etc. (Thankfully the fact that she’s a girl isn’t very important. They get over that fast. Most of the characters work in the world of boxing so they understand that there is such a thing as woman boxers that aren’t part of foxy boxing.)

The boxing scenes are intense, the relationship between Clint and his boxer is sweet, and there is some good everyday life type color to the scene at the Hit Pit Gym where they are based. Morgan Freeman is the manager of the gym who narrates the whole thing, and at the beginning I was a little worried. He’s dropping little nuggets of boxing wisdom like “You can’t fight without heart” and that type of bullshit. And plus, he’s wearing the same god damn hat he always wears. I think Moriarty already said something like this, and whatever he said was probaly wrong, but between you and me Quint here’s the truth. The guy has shared so much down home wisdom with us in so many fucking movies that it’s hard to take him seriously. This time he has a dead eye and a little extra grit but I wish he would try harder to come off as somebody other than Morgan Freeman. And what it boils down to I decided is the fucking hat. In the two scenes where he’s not wearing it, he looks more tough and athletic than usual. He looks like his character, Scrap. When he wears the hat, he’s fucking Morgan Freeman, here to guide us through life with effortless, angelic wisdom. Oh well. He steps back after a while and it all works out.

All you really need to know is that this is about boxing but it’s not mostly about boxing. It turns out to be more about family and mistakes and blame and God and what you do with your life, etc. It’s about Clint not having his daughter and Hilary not having her family. It’s refreshing to have a movie that starts out as a satisfying formula movie then chews a hole through the template of this type of movie, doing so much damage that the whole thing peels off and gets trampled under its feet. In other words it’s not really the movie you expect when you come in, which is a good thing.

But fer chrissakes don’t go in there trying to figure out what to expect! Jesus. I hate that. People read so many reviews saying, “I would never dream of giving away the big surprise plot twist at the end!” that they sit there watching the movie going, “Hmmm, what’s the plot twist, search for clues, search for clues… what could come out of left field?Could that chick have a dick? Could he be a ghost? Could the guy from Felicity be the killer? Ah ha! I figured it out! That movie sucked. So predictable.”

Not that there’s some surprise plot twist, I’m just saying, go see the movie before you hear too much about it. The fresher the better in this case.

And now, as for Clint. He’s a great director, but he’s also the greatest icon of Badass Cinema. So I’m glad to see him in front of the camera for this one. To be frankly honest I thought MYSTIC RIVER was real overrated. That cast, a script by the director of PAYBACK, and directed by Clint? How could you go wrong? Well, I think they sort of did. The middle part was great, real gritty, real intense, real foreboding and tragic. But the beginning and end were too phoney for me. The beginning was like mupppet babies, with little kids dressed up as the adult cast. A tough talking kid wearing a leather jacket is baby Sean Penn! I forgave all that but then in the end, after two hours of rubbing your face in the horrors of true crime, they wrap it up with a shiny Hollywood bow with two many coincidences and ridiculous sitcom contrivances. I don’t care if it was in the book, it just didn’t work for me. It should’ve stayed true to life.

This one, I think, works. I mean there’s alot of cliches in here but they’re grounded in the real world. They feel more like real people and events to me. Things work out the way they work out, instead of the way they’re supposed to work out in a movie. And it’s more understated, the music and the editing and the acting. And no random Lady Macbeth monologues out of nowhere.

Clint is as tough and charming as ever. He gets to say alot of funny lines and also not say much about the pain that he’s obviously living with. And now he has a grandpa feel. He puts on his reading glasses and it’s over, you gotta love the guy. I gotta point out that Clint is really looking his age now. I mean he looks more interesting the older he gets, but it’s actually to the point where I’m getting worried about him, realizing he’s not gonna be around forever. It fits the character but I think the gravelly voice is for real this time. Our relationship with him and his movies sort of mirrors one of the situations in the movie. We want him to stick around, but if he doesn’t, he had a pretty good run.

Oh, who am I kidding – “pretty good?” He had a fucking rampage! From the Leone pictures to the Siegel pictures to the A Film by Clint Eastwood pictures. The good, the dirty, the outlaw, the drifter. And THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT, man! I love that movie. Then he sits down at the piano and starts playing. Puts up the money to finish STRAIGHT NO CHASER. Wins best director and picture for UNFORGIVEN, and actually deserves it! And that was 13 damn years ago, he’s still going strong. Clint Eastwood is the motherfucking MAN. Nobody’s had as good a run as him, ever. And he’s still not fizzling out.

On behalf of America and the world, thank you Clint.

your friend,

Vern

Thanks, man. And for the record… I finished MORTAL KOMBAT about three years ago. It’s in the hands of the money weasels now, where I’m sure it will continue to languish quite nicely.

“Moriarty” out.

Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/19080

View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback

  • Jan. 6, 2005, 4:58 a.m. CST

    Moriarty in the works

    by Cottonwood

    C’mon, Moriarty, do tell us then what you’re working on at the moment, I’m interested. And pls post your Top 10, dude.

  • Jan. 6, 2005, 5:09 a.m. CST

    Proper spelling

    by Vern

    For the record bud, it’s SEAGAL. 2 a’s. All capitals. Short for Rinpoche. thanks.

  • Jan. 6, 2005, 6:39 a.m. CST

    I still can’t decide what to think about this movie…

    by iamnicksaicnsn

    It’s true, it takes a while to get into this movie, but once she started fighting, I found myself rooting for her to keep winning her fights. But then suddenly, the third act appears, out of this huge, bizarre, plot twist, which comes so far out of left field that it’s clearly in another state. There have been a lot of movies that I’ve seen where I prayed that the movie had the balls to kill off a major character or to somehow let the villain win, but in this movie, there’s no real closure. ———-MEDIUM SPOILER——– I mean, it’s cool that she tells her douche/hick family to fuck off but other than that, there is really no closure. We never find out what happened to the ugly “bull dyke” boxer who fucked her up, and Eastwood goes and ends up seemingly living an empty shell of an existence out in the boonies, and instead of being a movie about a person who was told she could never make it, and a person who’s career was full of disappointment but finishes on a good note, it ended up being a movie about euthanasia. — spoiler over — So Eastwood has got balls for the crazy ending, I guess, but I just felt sad after, and not in an uplifting way, and yeah, I guess that’s a petty complaint, but the bizarre ending mixed with the weed I smoked before seeing it, was just very unsettling. Overall, though, I am glad that on the whole, it wasn’t utter garbage, as I was 100% expecting it to be going in. I mean, jesus, I was seriously considering watching Blade 3 over this.

  • Jan. 6, 2005, 6:52 a.m. CST

    Saw this last night

    by Shawn F.

    I thought it was great. The story was a tad on the predictable side (it’s still a great script), but that is really minor quibbling when in comparison to Eastwood’s great directing and three superb performances from the leads. Another great film from one of the all-time best directors in American Cinema. Bad title, great fucking movie.

  • Jan. 6, 2005, 7:21 a.m. CST

    Proper Spelling

    by Barney Hood

    And more importantly it’s Website, not Sight!

  • Jan. 6, 2005, 8:49 a.m. CST

    Don’t Blame the Plot Twisters

    by stlfilmwire

    The critics and the studio are to blame for the people searching for the plot twists! Get it right, buddy! Don’t waste your time blaming the audience because idiots who already saw the movie want to give away the fact that there is a plot twist. By definition, a plot twist is something unexpected that happens… so just by telling us there is a plot twist you have already destroyed the plot twist… even without giving it away. GET IT THROUGH YOUR SKULLS and stop telling us about twists.

  • Jan. 6, 2005, 10:58 a.m. CST

    This movie is terrible (MAJOR Spoilers)

    by The guy

    What the fuck are these critics smoking? I really can’t understand what the hype is about.

    I think it’s great that a supposed hard-nosed older gentleman who’s been burned once too many times before learns to love again through the aid of a surrogate daughter. I also thought it was great when I saw the same thing in ‘Man On Fire’ and about one-third of all of the movies I’ve ever seen.

    This movie boils over with cliche. It’s absolutely sad that in 2004, we can condone a film where it’s not only expected, but we gleefully accept the sexism where a woman can’t be trained to be a fighter simply because she lacks a penis, no matter how good she may be or how much her heart may be in it. Of course this isn’t an uncommon element in a film. She doesn’t have to be a female, she doesn’t have to be white. You can take any number of genetic elements and plug it in to the equation and give her a different occupation or soundstage and it’s the same thing we keep seeing over and over again. Except that would take some element of creativity. Since this movie thrives on the ‘seen-it-before’ element, let’s just refer to it as the bastardized sequel to ‘Girlfight.’

    Morgan Freeman does keep the movie moving along extra slowly and painfully by recreating his narration from ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ When he’s not keeping the audience up to date on the ‘can-you-guess-what’s-coming-a-mile-away’ storyline, he playfully lingers in the background playing advocate to both the devil and the good in a subtle knows-better-than-everyone-else-but-they-refuse-to-see-it-until-the-third-act-when-it-turns-out-he’s-been-right-all-along, or the cliche Magical Negro (as so eloquently outlined by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu in her essay available at http://www.strangehorizons.com/2004/20041025/kinga.shtml). The man should have absolutely been ashamed to have accepted such a role, but I guess at his age, it’s hard to turn down the rare role when he’s not the oldest actor on screen.

    The writing was consistently contrived and nauseating. The whole relationship between Swank and her mother was just over the top. Virtually ripped completely from classics such as ‘Joe Dirt’ no less. I half expected Ben Affleck to show up and flash his pearly whites and proceed to molest the mother with animal cookies. Her actions become more absurd every time she’s onscreen.

    There’s a scene in a hospital (you’ll never guess where the mom went before she got there) that’s so over-the-top that it plays like an SNL sketch.

    The cinematography was nothing to write home about either. The contrast was way too high. A lot of the time I felt like I was watching a blue & white movie.

    About the big twist… (MAJOR SPOILER WARNING)

    Granted it was the only unexpected thing in this movie (of course if I could expect that sort of fantastic bullshit, I would have also expected Old Yeller to come back as a claymation ghost at the end of the movie). For Eastwood to have to prove his new-found love for his surrogate daughter by killing her, oh, the irony and genius of it all. If only someone hadn’t inexplicably thrown a chair on its side into the ring during the fight. Blah, blah, blah.

    So in conclusion, here’s why it can be considered oscar material: (1) For best picture/director, he’s Eastwood and he’s probably owed in the minds of those out of touch with reality. (2) Oscar loves a retard and virtually every actor who plays one is nominated for something, so it’s quite surprising there weren’t at least two in this movie. (3) Oscar loves when a pretty girl uglies herself up. Since Swank isn’t what we might describe as classically pretty, breaking a nose should still be enough to garner a nomination for best actress. Becoming a paraplegic should be enough to guarantee her the win. Becoming an amputee should lock her in for best supporting actress as well. And becoming suicidal, well, she’s all but given a lifetime achievement award.

    But as it stands on its own, this is truly a horrible, unoriginal picture. It’s not thought provoking in the least, it doesn’t offer amusement, it really has no redeeming value for anyone who’s seen more than five movies in their life or a single episode of Sabrina the Teenaged Witch. And that is why it doesn’t play well to the common folk. Because word of mouth has no interest in promoting something we’ve all seen time and time again and can see by buying an old dvd movie on sale instead of paying through the nose just to have the rest of our face rubbed in it.

  • Jan. 6, 2005, 5:55 p.m. CST

    Even though it was finished 3 year ago can we still crack jokes

    by Tall_Boy

    “FINISH HIM!” “FLAWLESS VICTORY!” “BABALITY!” C’mon, this stuff is comedy GOLD!

  • Jan. 6, 2005, 7:13 p.m. CST

    vern’s right

    by jackburtonlives

    eastwood is a demi-god. loved those westerns. and vern, buddy, it’s ‘site’, not sight: you made the same mistake on your webpage.

  • Jan. 6, 2005, 9:59 p.m. CST

    “I’m just saying, go see the movie before you hear too much abou

    by Darth TJ Mackey

    Well, sure. What’s funny about that is, sites like this have helped to kill that very sentiment. People talk about a movie for months, even years, before they are released…debating the actor choices or the differences from the original book or script or whatever…after enough of that, rarely is something really going to hold up to whatever expectations have been discussed at length forever. Really in a lot of ways we are doing it to ourselves. We are setting ourselves up to make everything suck even worse than it should. (Seagal is, of course, exempt from all this.)

  • Jan. 7, 2005, 12:52 a.m. CST

    Only reason to watch Oscar this year

    by Volstaff

    is to see what Chris Rock has to say.

    Remember when he hosted the MTV awards, and basically ridiculed every act?

    When he introduced Britney Spears with ” who wants ta hear some lip synching?”, and how he clowned on all the white rappers..

    I don’t think the producers of the show know what they’re in for.

    I must be the only one who loved the time Letterman hosted the Oscars, and the way he poked Hollywood in the eye.The way he cajoled Tom Hanks into getting up on stage to help with the dog act, and when he proclaimed ” ok kids, time to start handing out Oscars! ”

    And how everybody connected to the show acted like they were surprised, when Letterman just did what he’s always done, make fun of the popular kids.

    I think ( hope) this show will be a lot like that.

  • Jan. 9, 2005, 10:35 p.m. CST

    There will never be another like Clint Eastwood … unless, some

    by JDanielP

    It’s almost like he’s gone already. (But please feel free to stick around for as long as possible, Clint.) — He’s had a GREAT run, in life.

  • Jan. 10, 2005, 3:56 p.m. CST

    The moral of M$B is

    by Trader Groucho 2

    if you’re gonna take on a German lesbian, it’s best to use a strap-on

  • Jan. 10, 2005, 4:57 p.m. CST

    magical negroes – Jim in Mark Twain’s Huck Finn

    by Trader Groucho 2

    I read Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu’s essay on magical negroes over at dark horizons, and what she did not point out is that one of the major progenitors of what has now become a racist cliche is Jim from Mark Twain’s Huck Finn. Jim isn’t technically magical, but he’s a supporting character who acts as a surrogate father figure to Huck – dispensing all sorts of wisdom – and sacrifices to protect the boy. Jim is also the only adult male in the novel who is not conniving, self-serving, dishonest, disloyal, stupid, or some combination of the above. In other words, Jim was a refreshing contrast from all of the white adult males in Huck’s world. Now when Twain wrote the novel, this was a huge deal, because he was totally subverting the racial stereotypes of his period, a message not missed on white racists who have always hated the novel with a passion and to this day work to get it banned from public libraries and classrooms. Twain’s Jim, unlike so many of the later characters Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu references, actually does have his own agenda – he escapes his slavemaster because he values freedom – which helps to make him a fully-realized three-dimensional character.

  • Jan. 10, 2005, 5:02 p.m. CST

    magical negroes – on its ear

    by Trader Groucho 2

    To really get this, try turning it on its ear. Imagine Bruce Almighty starring Chris Rock or Chris Tucker with God being essayed by a squeaky-clean Tom Hanks. How would that feel?

  • Jan. 10, 2005, 5:04 p.m. CST

    magical negroes – on its ear

    by Trader Groucho 2

    To really get this, try turning it on its ear. Imagine Bruce Almighty starring Chris Rock or Chris Tucker with God being essayed by a squeaky-clean Tom Hanks. How would that feel?

  • Feb. 10, 2005, 7:55 a.m. CST

    Myt random thoughts

    by Vishnu

    Really enjoyed the movie and here’s why

    The more I thought about the film the more I felt it was a classic, probably the best of its kind since Cool Hand Luke and One Flew of the Cuckoo

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
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