“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.