“Million Dollar Baby” made it to HBO over the weekend, so we watched. (Our motto: “Seeing the movies everyone’s talking about — six to 12 months later.”) I don’t know if it was the best film of 2004, as Roger Ebert said; I didn’t see all of them, and he probably did. But it was an excellent movie, and after it was over, I was left with one overwhelmind conclusion:
Michael Medved is a very bad man.
He’s certainly no film critic. A film critic has to understand, first and foremost, that he’s judging a work of art. Commercial art, sure; art by committee, no question. Compromised, but always with the possibility of art, and the things art has to teach us about ourselves, our lives, and other people. The campaign he led against this movie, which he seemed to justify on the grounds that the movie was falsely advertised, shows that he’s little more than a yapping little pipsqueak pissant piece of it, and ought to stick to something he knows more about. Mustache grooming, perhaps.
“Million Dollar Baby” has its problems, but in the end — pay attention — it’s not an argument for euthanasia, or a commercial for the “culture of death,” whatever that is. (Jeez, people, get some new catch phrases, will you?) It’s a story about pain and redemption and forgiveness and a few other things. An eighth-grader could see this; how were so many otherwise intelligent people fooled enough to express opinions on its cultural influence? It’s a puzzle.
(Here’s where I need to say that spoilers are coming up. If you’re among the four people left in the world who doesn’t know the big plot twist, click away now.)
Although the story is set in the present day, it has the quality of a fable about it. It’s Los Angeles, but it’s really Anytown, USA. The characters live on Lonely Street, move about in a place where women can reach boxing’s highest levels and still end up in a nursing home where they get bedsores and there’s lousy security. Honestly? It reminded me of an old “Twilight Zone” episode more than anything, a place where things look normal, but aren’t. Which is why I could forgive the liberties taken with reality, because — again, pay attention — it’s not a goddamn documentary. How anyone would half a brain could watch this movie and come away with the message that it’s some sort of propaganda film simply astonishes me. I found it moving and honest to its last moment. This must be what you miss when you’re a faithful follower of the religious right’s “leaders.” No wonder those folks are crabby.
I thought it was, like many of Clint Eastwood’s later films, a visual expression of jazz — mournful, distinctive, dark, singular, ultimately uplifting. I really, really liked it. Go to hell, Medved, and the horse you rode in on.
The car show ended today, a decrescendo after Monday’s frenzy. Chrysler topped itself, at least as far as the jam-kicking part of the job went. I can’t tell you what it was like to sit in the audience during that “snowstorm.” I opened my mouth to say something to the guy next to me, and it filled with tissue-paper snowflakes. Finally, all you could do was hunker down and wait for the snow to clear, at which point you looked up and there was an SUV.
Here’s a much better story than anything I wrote. Final price tag for the glass-breaking stunt show — $500,000.
The press preview for the show ended today, as GM’s saddle burr laid the smack down at the RenCen down the street. I was there, and filed the blog version. When shareholders advise management on how to deal with a $24 million daily burn rate, we are in a whole new ballgame.
But my job is done. Dammit! Back to lackadaisical working at home for me, tomorrow.
Amy Alkon said on January 11, 2006 at 12:52 am
Lighted cupholders? How about good, old fashioned non-ugly design?! Almost went to the auto show out here, but I missed it due to a deadline. For all their snow and breaking glass at these auto shows…why not just create some great cars. On the way to Anaheim (from Santa Monica), my car got between 66 and 67 mpg. Honda Insight — been around for about five years…and Detroit’s just starting to come out with hybrids now?
mary said on January 11, 2006 at 1:24 am
I agree about Million Dollar Baby. I also have the same system of seeing movies; I caught the cable debut. Michael Medved should be more concerned about the culture of people incapable of independent critical thinking. I really liked the movie, but I was semi-cheesed off at the end, specifically because it made no sense to me that anyone found anything propagandizing about the movie.
I went to the LA car show last year and had the kids purposely leave hand prints all over the Hummers. Usually I discourage such behavior, but a little guerilla action was ok with me in that instance. My main memory of the show was of a woman in the ladies room washing out her designer doggie carrier. Her chihuahua had experienced some serious intestinal distress in there, and she was using the public sink to clean her dog and a Louis Vuitton doggie carrier. Why would someone bring a chihuahua to the auto show, and how revolting is it that she was cleaning dogshit in the public john’s sink. I put me off car shows for a while.
Dorothy said on January 11, 2006 at 8:23 am
Why does anyone have to carry a dog inside any store, unless it’s a Petsmart or something? I was at Hancock Fabrics on Sunday picking up just a few notions, and this dingbat in front of me ha a chihuahua sticking out of her tote bag. She was trying to pay for her purchases, pick up the bags, and lug this humongous roll of quilt batting out to her car, all the while the dog kept popping up like a slice of toast. Did she need the damn dog’s opinion on what kind of batting to buy?!
I watched a Japanese movie last week called “Nobody Knows.” To say it was disturbing is putting it mildly. Four kids left alone in their tiny apartment, abandoned by their bubble-headed mother. It’s based on a true story that happened in 1988. I understand the real story was much worse. I’m curious to know what happened to these kids. Does anyone know?
brian stouder said on January 11, 2006 at 9:00 am
“Her chihuahua had experienced some serious intestinal distress in there, and she was using the public sink to clean her dog and a Louis Vuitton doggie carrier.”
It sounds like you ran into Paris Hilton! (I think Leona Helmsley would be infinitely more interesting)
At the last PTA meeting at our school, one of the teachers brought her dog. The teacher is one of the 5 officers who sit at the front of the room (my lovely wife is president). The dog, also a chihuahua, occasionally commented on the proceedings (and the sweater he was wearing was nicer than mine).
I was somewhat taken aback.
Randy said on January 11, 2006 at 9:51 am
I liked MDB too, but I felt a little manipulated, for reasons totally unrelated to the Medved-euthanasia fracas.
My take is here, if you’re interested:
Danny said on January 11, 2006 at 10:09 am
The dog thing gets me too. My wife and I have terrible allergies to anything with fur and saliva (hence dander). Her’s are worse than mine. She can hug someone who has a dog or cat and have a reaction.
MDB was an ok movie, but I did not like it very much because the basic story did not suspend my disbelief. A female boxer. Right. I know they exist, but it is not something I would ever watch. Hell, boxing today is virtually unwatchable. I cherish the days when we had Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hit-Man Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. What great atheletes and fairly decent personalities as boxers go. Nope, if I am going to see a boxing movie, I much prefer Rocky (I and II).
Danny said on January 11, 2006 at 10:51 am
Randy, read your take. I have to agree on the fake accent (I had forgotten that part). Having come from a long line of hillbillies myself, I immediately recognized the faux-inbred.
For the record, I no longer speak with a drawl, but I reckon I do a might’ bit when I’m a visitin’ kin.
mary said on January 11, 2006 at 11:49 am
I think I’m going to start toting my dog Max around with me. He’s a great dane boxer mix, about 120 pounds, very sweet and goofy. I could do sort of a fireman’s carry with him over my shoulder, or draped around the back of my neck.
Mindy said on January 11, 2006 at 12:40 pm
A friend was once president of a company that produced slicing machines for delis and restaurants. Every year he got the red carpet treatment at the National Restaurant Association (NRA!) show in Chicago. Now them’s freebies to die for. Every booth has to demo its wares on some fabulous delicacy that’s free just for stopping by to gape. Show goers stuff themselves with every sort of nosh imaginable and then go out on the town.
The Saturday night of the show was the champagne and strawberry party for the bigshots. Waiters laden with champagne bottles would empty one in only a step or two before uncorking another. Tables groaned under the weight of astounding strawberry creations and ice sculpture swans.
If you get to cover this shindig, Nance, please take me with you!
Dorothy said on January 11, 2006 at 2:10 pm
Am I the only one who read Mindy’s entry, waiting with baited breath to see what story she had about a dog popping out of someone’s bag at this food show? I thought we’d have some horrid tale of dog feces being accidentally sent through one of those deli slicing machines!
(But I’d like to go to that show, too!)
brian stouder said on January 11, 2006 at 2:20 pm
“I thought we’d have some horrid tale of dog feces being accidentally sent through one of those deli slicing machines!”
What movie is it where Bill Murray picks up a what looks like doggy-dump, bites off half of it, and announces “Baby Ruth”?
Anyway Dorothy – I too was braced for a wrenching twist in Mindy’s story!
Dorothy said on January 11, 2006 at 3:40 pm
When Mike and I were dating (age 16) we’d take his dog Bingo for walks. Sometimes we’d point out other another dog’s “doo” and saying what candy bar it resembled. Most frequently named sweet treat? Why, the Tootsie Roll of course!
Now don’t we sound like a fun couple!?
joe kobiela said on January 11, 2006 at 5:36 pm