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Thread: Comments - No Spoilers

  1. #1
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    Comments - No Spoilers

    Finally got a chance to see this film (missed it by 10 minutes in NYC last week). With "Million Dollar Baby", Clint Eastwood has crafted another powerful film about pain, sin, and personal redemption. He avoids falling into the cliche-ridden traps so obvious to the genre (underdog fighter with a heart of gold), and in so doing has created what to me is his most sincere and moving film to date. I was barely able to hold back tears, and many others in the audience weren't so lucky. In addition to the strong storyline and the light, consistent directing touch, the film is bolstered by a knockout performance (cliche, sorry) from Hillary Swank.

    To speak about this film in detail is to give away too much to anyone who hasn't seen it. Perhaps if anyone here would like to discuss these certain details of the film, we can start another thread here with "spoilers". That said, I think I can safely say that Eastwood's delving into the subject of salvation through the tenets of formal religion (a subject also broached in "Mystic River") is a bold and interesting step. His strong-headed character is often frustrated with the unwavering and authoritative answers espoused by the Church. This dimension is just one of many to discuss in this deep and multilayered film.

    Also worth noting is the film's gentle, beautiful score, also composed by Eastwood. He was nominated for a Golden Globe in the music category, and I'm sure he'll also be nominated for an Oscar for music and for Best Director. Much of what makes this film so powerful is Eastwood's light touches as director, and he's sure to receive a multitude of accolades in the coming months.
    Last edited by JustaFied; 01-07-2005 at 10:22 PM.

  2. #2
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    My 1 cent worth ...

    My 1 cent worth ... (oops, not a million?!)

    What I like about the film?
    -- The movie gets better as it goes along. In the beginning, you will think, ok, another from nobody to somebody story ... but the story gets better ... The last half is better than the first half ...
    ;)
    -- The movie is full of subtleties in portraying relationships and characters.
    -- I like its occasional dry humor.
    -- The good performance by Hilary, Clint and Morgan.
    -- Most important of all, the movie DRAWS the audience in ... the audience are keen to know what happens next!!!


    Since MANY people have sung so much praises about the movie (INCLUDING ME!), let's try to brainstorm and think about possible areas of improvements (if any) ... that's how all of us improve in life, isn't it? I sincerely believe even a masterpiece will have 1 or 2 scenes/items that can be improved ...
    ;PPP

    What can be improved (if at all)?
    -- I have NOTHING against voice over. But I have been wondering: This movie has quite a substantial amount of voice over (esp. in the first half of the movie). In a way, it helps the director gain the advantage of "a BOOK plus a MOVIE"! Often, the difficulty of converting from a written material to a movie are the "hidden" thoughts and feelings. To some extent (not all), the voice over helps solve some of the problems in this movie. Would Clint be facing a more daunting task if he has opted for a movie without voice over ... hmmm ... just wondering ...
    -- If we really think about it, the topic in discussion is not exactly new ... BUT BUT BUT ... it is very well executed!
    ;)
    -- Maybe it is in my culture, but I thought the impact would be even MUCH GREATER if ...
    * very MINOR spoiler *
    * I will write in a very NON spoiler fashion *
    ... After Hilary first dropped the pen, and after all the family's commotion, Hilary still asked to have the pen picked up and agreed to her family's request ... wow ... wouldn't that be more IMPACTFUL ...


    Conclusion
    I have watched all the 6 films in nomination for Golden Globe Drama category: The Aviator, Closer, Finding Neverland, Hotel Rwanda, Kinsey, Million Dollar Baby ...
    -- As of last week, I zoomed down to Aviator and Finding Neverland ...
    -- But as of today, I think Million Dollar Baby will win!!!

    Why?
    (i) The Aviator is very epic like, but it does not have the characterization that Million Dollar Baby succeeds in ...
    (ii) Finding Neverland has VERY good performance, but so has Million Dollar Baby, but I guess the impact of Million Dollar Baby on the audience will be more than Finding Neverland ...
    (iii) Hotel Rwanda is not as consistent. The historical story by itself is good, but the movie is not filmed in a high key fashion throughout ... most parts are good, but there are 1 or 2 low key moments ...
    (iv) Kinsey is very good but too controversial for some voters ...
    (v) Closer is very good but it has too SUDDEN "time" hops and feels too much like a play ...

    Nonetheless, all the 6 films are WORTH a watch! ;)
    Last edited by hengcs; 01-07-2005 at 10:18 PM.

  3. #3
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    Re: My 1 cent worth ...

    Originally posted by hengcs
    let's try to brainstorm and think about possible areas of improvements (if any) ...
    Minor carping on my part:

    1) The relatives from the Ozarks were basically caricatures. They were stereotypical rednecks with no redeeming values. Things aren't that bad in the heartland, are they?

    2) The imbecile kid hanging around the gym (I think his name was Danger) also wasn't fleshed out as a character. His purpose in the film seemed to be to provide minor comedic moments, like something out of a sitcom. It broke the otherwise hyper-realistic feel of the film whenever he was in a scene.

    3) The voice over. Face it, when Morgan Freeman's doing a voice over on a movie now, it reminds you of "Shawshawk Redemption", no way around it. And that takes away from the originality of this film somewhat.

    I disagree with you about her "dropping the pen". I think her actions showed her independence and stubborness, her defining characteristics.

    This and "Closer" are the only two from the Golden Globe drama category I've seen, and this one is far superior. Looking forward to seeing the rest so I can make a more informed decision...but, at this point I'd say "Million Dollar Baby" and "Sideways" for best picture overall, with possibility of "Eternal Sunshine" as a darkhorse.

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    Re: Re: My 1 cent worth ...

    Originally posted by JustaFied

    1) They were stereotypical rednecks ...
    2) The imbecile kid ...
    3) ...
    4) I disagree with you about her "dropping the pen". I think her actions showed her independence and stubborness, her defining characteristics.
    I agree that 1 and 2 are kind of nasty ... ;)

    * possible minor spoiler *

    As for (4), that was why I qualify that it might be culturally oriented (oops, sorry for stereotyping) ... But after being here for 5 years, I think that "in general", Americans value independence a lot and are more individualistic (quoting Hofstede's well known research).

    Why I suggested that scene change?
    --> As of now, the audience will simply HOORAY, she is fighting for herself and her rights!!!
    --> But if you make the change, it will really wrench the audience that despite all the "crap" by the family, she still VALUES them SO MUCH (more than herself even) and does NOT want to burden them ... isn't that an act that not many people are capable of ... maybe I like the story to be sadder ...
    Last edited by hengcs; 01-07-2005 at 11:08 PM.

  5. #5
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    Re: Re: Re: My 1 cent worth ...

    Originally posted by hengcs
    Why I suggested that scene change?
    --> As of now, the audience will simply HOORAY, she is fighting for herself and her rights!!!
    --> But if you make the change, it will really wrench the audience that despite all the "crap" by the family, she still VALUES them SO MUCH (more than herself even) and does NOT want to burden them ... isn't that an act that not many people are capable of ... maybe I like the story to be sadder ...
    Actually, I was expecting to happen what you've described. I was surprised that she "dropped the pen" (I'm trying to keep this vague so as to not give away anything crucial). It wasn't really a case of her not having any loyalty or not valuing her family. That's what the house was for. I think it showed that she was loyal and thoughtful, but at the same time she wasn't a pushover. She could see what they were after.

    Thinking more about this film, I could complain that the initial plot setup is a bit...too..contrived. Why does she insist on being trained by him alone? Why didn't she start fighting at an earlier age? What has she been doing all these years? Why does Morgan Freeman live at the gym, with no apparent outside life? Again, minor carping on my part. Eastwood says he set out to make a film that evokes the classic era of the '40s and '50s, and he succeeds admirably. It's elegant in its simple straightforwardness. Is it a masterpiece, as so many critics have already labeled it? That's a different question.

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    I don't see the point of some of your questions. The film is what it is. Accept the conventionsl of the genre, and the necessities of the situation. Maggie comes to the gym. Frankie is the trainer/manager of the Hit Pit. She admires him. She chooses him to be her trainer. It'll be hard for her to persuade anybody to take her on because: (1) she's a woman, (2) she's too old, and (3) she's completely inexperienced. So she might as well focus on one trainer and keep begging him to take her. The strongest point you all take up is that the hillbilly family is stereotytped and caricatured. But everything is a stereotype in this movie; it's just that the main characters grow on you, because they're played by such good actors and with such simple conviction. The point about the family is that this happens. When a poor person gets rich her relatives are going to try to cash in. The sternly moralistic Eastwood wants to emphasize that this is not tolerable.

    As for the various nominees for the Golden Globe evaluated by hengcs, I think your evaluations are just and accurate. But I'd tive The Aviator more of an edge, that is, I personally think it's magnificently cinematic and gloriously entertaining, despite whatever its flaws are, that it falls short of greatness, that DiCaprio isn't quite right, at least at times, and so on. If Million Dollar Baby wins, it won't mean it's a better movie; it'll mean it grabs people in a simple, direct way and feels authentic despite its cliches, as hengcs says.

    I just posted a review of Million Dollar Baby next to this thread -- http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/show...&threadid=1196

  7. #7
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    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    I don't see the point of some of your questions. The film is what it is. Accept the conventionsl of the genre, and the necessities of the situation.
    I think my primary purpose with some of the questions was to try to find something, anything, wrong with this movie. It's a beautiful and powerfully affecting film; I was playing the devil's advocate to some degree, kinda like you and others going after Sideways I think.

    That said, what is the "genre" of this film with its so-called "conventions"? Is it a rags-to-riches underdog boxer story (a la Rocky) or is it akin to '40 and '50 noir films? What I liked about the film is that it doesn't so easily fit into such genre classifications; and when it risks getting bogged down by the cliches associated with genre, it changes course and becomes original and fresh in its story.

    <The point about the family is that this happens. When a poor person gets rich her relatives are going to try to cash in.>

    Oh yeah? Is that what happens every time? Are there any exceptions, by chance, to this rule?

    <The sternly moralistic Eastwood wants to emphasize that this is not tolerable.>

    Yes, and the reoccuring theme of morality and integrity in his films is part of what makes them so fascinating. And of course his work as director has become superb.

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    Originally posted by JustaFied
    I think my primary purpose with some of the questions was to try to find something, anything, wrong with this movie.
    You're right, anyone who read all of your posts above can easily come to that conclusion.

    It's a beautiful and powerfully affecting film; I was playing the devil's advocate to some degree, kinda like you and others going after Sideways I think.

    Let me make it clear that I wasn't playing "devil's advocate" by any means while talking about Sideways. I found many problems with that film and mentioned some of them in my post. The film won't be anywhere on my end-of-the-year list.

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    Granted I probably ought to have been more precise and said conventions of the genres, plural both times. I was trying to get into Clint's rocky, no-nonsense mindset when I stated things very absolutely about poor people's families. Some no doubt may resist cashing in on the newly rich relation. This one at least was smart enough to try. They probably figured Frankie wouldn't miss it lying there. The movie's focus was on their mean spirited exploitiveness. When a director like Robert Bresson makes things so absolute the cineastes call it supreme art. With Eastwood, with his dubious Dirty Harry past, it qualifies his late masterpiece for the junkyard. Look, I don't think this is the greatest film ever made, but I think it's strong and pure, and I am not going to let Roger Ebert's simple minded adulation spoil it for me. At least when Jonathan Rosenbaum speaks of Eastwood's "grace and precision as a director," I'd sit up and take notice. And I'd rather watch hoary stereotypes handled with class and truth than the dubious wit of sit-com sociology such as one gets for much of Sideways. However, both are on my Ten Best U.S. list, because they're among the best of what 2004 had to offer us in that category. We have to work with what we have and time will tell what lasts. The records show we have an excellent chance of guessing better than the Motion Picture Academy.

  10. #10
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    I'll be brief

    This film has redeemed my faith in Eastwood the filmmaker. Mystic River was disappointing and overrated, this film was neither. Any awards this film wins, I really wouldn't have a problem with (although Sideways is still my favorite film of the year).

    Since I have no heart, I couldn't cry, but my gf sure did, so it must have some emotional power. Hilary Swank's performance was fantastic, and far better than the one she won the Oscar for.

  11. #11
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    Re: Re: My 1 cent worth ...

    Originally posted by JustaFied

    2) The imbecile kid hanging around the gym (I think his name was Danger) also wasn't fleshed out as a character. His purpose in the film seemed to be to provide minor comedic moments, like something out of a sitcom. It broke the otherwise hyper-realistic feel of the film whenever he was in a scene.
    Just saw the film; this comment I'd have to disagree with. I really felt this movie was powerful as all the characters seemed to go on their own journey. I found it fascinating. Even Danger managed to find his own in a bizarre way. The only character I disliked was the priest. I found him one-dimensional and dragging.
    "So I'm a heel, so what of it?"
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    I think you're right, Horseradish Tree. The priest is obviously not fleshed out. Danger is the pure embodiment of ignorance and eagerness. The young actor who plays him has a rare, almost scary intensity. You can see him as like somebody you'd find around a gym, or as more of a metaphor. "Realistic" is a bad word to throw around when you're talking about a movie. Vladimir Nabokov always said that "reality" was a word that always had to be written in quotation marks. Let's not get into how "realistic" Million Dollar Baby is. It is strong and simple and emotionally valid, and it tells a good story. The characters -- mostly -- "feel real," if you like, but let's not say the movie is "realistic" still less "hyper-realistic," whatever that might mean. Let's not say that about anything, because it's useless.

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    Well, first of all, I agree with you guys that the priest was "one-dimensional". That character was clearly intended to be severly limited in what he could do and say by the doctrines of the Catholic church. That was really the point of the character, to show how the rigid rules of the church couldn't provide a satisfactory answer to Eastwood's anguish.

    Secondly, on to the issue of "reality" in film, I understand what Nabokov is saying but I disagree that we can't create distinctions or classifications of "reality" in film. I think his point is that there is no overall objective "reality" in life; so much is filtered through our own subjective interpretations. That said, we can attempt to understand the filmmaker's "reality", i.e. his subjective point of view and his approach to telling the story. For example, the "reality" in The Life Aquatic is distinct and different from that in Sideways. Wes Anderson likes to create parallel worlds where everything is somewhat recognizable but still a bit off-center. This is the "reality" of his films. Alexander Payne, on the other hand, creates characters and situations that are much closer to what you'd find if you took a stroll down the street. So, to conclude, I think discussing this element of "reality" in film is a legitimate and useful exercise.

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    You're perfectly right. Nabokov's statement is a bit extreme, designed perhaps to further his aesthetic of self-conscious "modernist" writing (probably another term he'd abhor). I was simply trying to challenge the idea of an "otherwise hyper-realistic feel of the film." I don't think it has that.

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    And actually looking back on this film, I wouldn't even consider it to be "hyper-realistic", whatever that means. Who uses that term anyway? LOL. But, again, I don't consider it to be inappropriate to talk about the "reality" of this film. Is it simply a period piece, a genre film, a throwback to the films of the '40s and '50s? Is it a story relevent to life in modern times? Is it simply a up-from-nothing underdog boxing story? Probably some combination of all of these. The ending certainly takes on an edge that's relevent to "real life" in today's world.

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