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2004.12.20

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alison

david edelstein at slate was not so fond either.

Filmbrain

Alison...thanks -- I hadn't seen that one. "Exercise in obviousness" indeed!

Fried Pies

I take it you've never been through the Bible belt? My southern Missouri family says things like "Ah don't rahtly know" all the time, and they're not being ironic.

But boy howdy does MDB look like a dog, yes siree. I've been absolutey buffaloed by the hype, thanks for adding another puncture to that balloon.

Walter

Thanks for the lucid post - voice in the wilderness at last. I'm the 2% at Rotten Tomatoes, by the way, that doesn't agree with the rising din of the 98% that loved it. Enjoyed reading your site - great stuff.

Best,

Walter

David

Also being from southern Missouri, I can relate. When is this piece of piss getting a nation wide release? Kinsey won't be here until Thursday to give you an idea of how long the wait is here. Closer didn't make it here until two weeks after it's nation wide release. Missouri sucks.

Sal C.

Haven't seen the film yet myself, but I thought I'd mention that it finished #11 in the Village Voice year-end poll and a lot of critics I greatly respect rated the film quite highly (Rosenbaum placed it at #4, Kent Jones at #6, Chris Fujiwara at #1). Normally I make a point of seeing anything these guys put in their top 10. I wonder what they see that filmbrain did not?

Filmbrain

Sal -- I would love to know as well.

Rosenbaum doesn't surprise me, but for Kent Jones to have it on his top ten is mind boggling.

Laura

Thank you, Filmbrain. I was beginning to think I had gone insane. The cliches in this film were so painfully obvious. I am someone who weeps at EVERYTHING and I didn't shed a tear over this one!

Laura

Thank you, Filmbrain. I was beginning to think I had gone insane. The cliches in this film were so painfully obvious. I am someone who weeps at EVERYTHING and I didn't shed a tear over this one!

Freddie Kipple

I might say that Million Dollar Baby is the worst film I've seen in years, but that simply wouldn't do it justice. Cliched, emotionally manipulative and staggeringly crude, this is the work of Hollywood's favourite hack.

I firmly believed that it would have been knocked out in the first round by British film critics, but, bizzarely, they too have succumbed to its tv movie sentimentality.

It's a deeply reactionary film where an intellectually challenged character is used first as a figure of fun, then as a cipher for Morgan Freeman's nobility and sense of fair play (Familiar? We're just getting started).

Listing all the cliches of the boxing film Million Dollar Baby employs would take almost as long as the film itself, suffice to say that Eastwood signposts our arrival in Britain with a stock shot of Big Ben and liberally scatters Union Jacks around the 'River Thames Boxing Association' run venue. Jellied eels with yer cup of tea, sir?

Of course, Hillary Swank, Eastwood and Freeman can act. Although none do much more than reprise previous roles. Eastwood and Freeman spar in a contest presumably sponsored by the Gravel Voiced Boxing Association. Swank, leafs through her Boys Don't Cry Androgynous Survivor notes, adding muscle tone to check off the Academy's Physical Transformation box.

Once Swank's family arrive, the film really reveals its reactionary core: Fat, tatooed, welfare cheating scumbags, Central Casting would have sent them home for being a little on the obvious side. But with Clint, this is keeping it real.

Finally a note on the cinematography. Eastwood, never much of a technician, keeps it simple: underlit, green-hued, gritty. Or to put it another way, complimentary to the film in everyway - crude.

Truth is, and I hope you can imagine Morgan Freeman delivering this in voice over, Clint never was much of a film maker. But, following Unforgiven (or rather David People's brilliant script), he's gained the gravitas and critical respect completely at odds with his abilities. If Swank's Maggie had known that of her trainer, she'd have stuck to serving the lemon meringue pie.

Filmbrain

Freddie -- thank you so much for this. Easily the best piece yet written on this film.

scott

Ah, come on. It's hardly on my best-of list, but the film's not really that bad. Allow me to be a voice of moderation here:

Is it true that this film has been overpraised? Yes. Is it because Eastwood is considered one of those inalienably "great" Hollywood figures? Yes. Is the film cliched and obvious? Yes.

But are there also things to recommend it? Certainly.

I agree that the script is clumsy, derivative, and manipulative. I agree that the story is somewhat mangled and badly plotted, and that there is way too much superfluous "color." I also agree that the scenes with Maggie's eeeee-vil trailer-trash family are over-the-top and, worse, do nothing to help the story or the character development.

On the other hand, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman are great in this film. Sure, it's nothing new, but I found watching the two of them incredibly pleasant and entertaining. The grizzled-voice camaraderie, possibly competitive, that you all mention is rather the point of this movie, right? It sure wasn't the script that attracted them to the project, right?

I was disappointed that there wasn't more actual boxing in the movie. The matches all seemed very short, and to consist of Hilary Swank knocking her competitor out in about 10 seconds. The "training sequence" seemed to have been edited out for time or something. Although I found the latter third of the film interesting--a slower meditation on what happens when everything goes wrong in boxing, and how things don't always end with romantic triumph or defeat--it didn't really work.

I didn't find the movie emotionally manipulative, either. The script wants it to be a tearjerker, but Eastwood's direction and the cast's low-key gravitas pull it away from sentimentalism. I didn't cry, nor did anyone else in the theatre when I saw it, but that was okay. It didn't even approach the kind of weepy treacle that one finds in movies like The Green Mile or Patch Adams, which is what you guys seem to accuse it of. It found it to be somewhat emotionally cool, which was pretty much the only way to approach the melodramatic script.

And crude photography? Did you see a bad print? Some interesting photography was one of the better things about this movie, and I did not find anything "green-hued" about it. I thought the dusty, shadowy, dramatic lighting was appealing, and although it was hardly groundbreaking, it was well-executed and beautiful. Eastwood's music, too, was pretty good.

So: Good acting, bad script, a few nice scenes, marginally compelling story, plenty of missteps, and decent photography and music. I'd rate it around the middle of the mediocre range.

But Eastwood "not much of a filmmaker"? Please. Unforgiven is a great film, and Mystic River is a near-great one. Eastwood is a simple director, so when he gets himself into sub-par material, the result is not that good. But with good actors and a good script, his subtle approach can be incredible. Let's not use the critical overreaction to this movie as a weapon to smear Clint Eastwood, a smart, old-fashioned director who's interested in good stories and good actors, presented in an unshowy way.

David Robinson

Hello, I'm writing this in Sydney, Australia. and am fairly new to this sort of thing. Please bare with me. I haven't seem this film, but I'm a life long fan of Mr Eastwood. Unfortunately, I really haven't liked any of his films of late. Yes, they're watchable and well presented, but miss the mark on any number of fronts. I don't think Mr Eastwood's skills as a music composer are sufficient enough for him to write music for a living (yet 'good' enough for a major motion picture?). They serve in character driven films like this, because, like the plot; simple is better. (I said simple, not good). I much prefer Mr Eastwood when directed by someone else. He'd probably ask an outragious fee to star in somebodyelse's film these days. His roles nowadays seem to push the sympathy angle too much for me. Mr Eastwood's most famous characters are/were social misfits of the worst kind. Polictically incorrect these days, unfortunately.
This 'tempering' of his screen persona started in ernest in the seventies and has continued steadily to this day. It's all too comfortable for him, isn't it. He really needs a Scorcese, or Tarantino to get something new out of him. Call me old fashioned, but I'd love to see Mr Eastwood
in one last shoot'em up - where he plays a very violent, disagreable ass hole with no redeeming features at all. He could get Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, Samuel L. Jackson, Al Pacino, and Bobby De Niro and a few others to play his antagonists......

nick

Just an appetizer,

I read Charles taylor "critic" you mentioned in you review.
Did Charles Taylor actually see the movie? Or has he ever written a critic before? Maybe should he read some good written critics before attempting this exercise. He seems so eager to trash all the reviews about Million Dollar Baby. He should read his own stuff beforehand.

To be continued....

panasianbiz

I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some online research. I had much the same reaction when I saw A Beautiful Mind. I couldn't help but wonder what the critics saw in it because personally I was bored, confused, and full of intense dislike for the very character I was supposed to be rooting for!

colinr0380

I felt exactly the same way as you did about the film. I posted my thoughts up on this site (under the same name): http://www.criterionforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=912&start=50

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