Friday, February 5, 2016

Oscar Movie Review: "Million Dollar Baby" (2004)

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Movie"Million Dollar Baby"
Year Nominated: 2005
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Did It Win?: Yes.

Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) is a 31-going-on-32 year-old woman with aspirations of becoming a professional boxer. She convinces a grizzled old boxing trainer named Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to take her under his wing. He reluctantly agrees as Maggie quickly rises the ranks until tragedy turns their worlds upside down.

Damn, The Academy loves depressing movies.

Best picture winner "Million Dollar Baby" is produced, directed by, and stars Clint Eastwood in the same role he has played in every movie over the last 25ish years. To the surprise of no one, Eastwood's Frankie Dunn is an angry, gruff, grizzled old man with a rough, callous voice that speaks frankly about everything to his detriment. As usual, Eastwood gives a great performance, one that almost makes us forget he talked to an empty chair live on stage at some political function a few years ago. Eastwood was nominated for best actor for his role here and took home the Oscar for best director. Starring opposite Eastwood is Hilary Swank, who plays Maggie Fitzgerald, an aspiring boxer in her early 30's who is self-proclaimed trailer trash. Hilary Swank won her second Academy Award for her performance here as Maggie, and she does a good job in the role. In order to look the part of a boxer, Swank transformed herself by getting into excellent physical shape. You know the Academy, they looove their transformation stories. Third fiddle to Eastwood and Swank is Morgan Freeman, who narrates the story and plays ex-professional boxer Eddie 'Scrap-Iron' Dupris, a man who was partially blinded during a match who now spends his days cleaning up Frankie's gym, offering advice to those who Frank thinks are a waste of time as professional athletes. His performance here also won him a supporting actor Oscar, which was well deserved.

This film is part inspirational sports movie, part soul ripping, depressing, hopeless tragedy. As we mentioned, Maggie views herself as trailer trash and knows she grew up in an awful way with limited abilities. If she is trash, her family is bottom of the barrel toxic waste soaked in raw sewage. Maggie's mom, sister, and brother-in-law are completely despicable human beings, almost to the point of cartoon villainy. Watching Maggie continue time and time again to help them out financially made us scream at the TV screen. She was always in their corner, hoping they would be the loving, supportive family she needed, and their reciprocation was to treat her like garbage and use her for money. Once tragedy strikes, Maggie realizes their real worth. Also, as much as the film pontificates about the glory of boxing, it's actually a pretty poor representation of the sport. This is a minor gripe as former fans of the sport, but the final fight in "Million Dollar Baby" is painfully unrealistic. Anyone related in any way to the final fight, be they referee, announcer, or corner-person, should have stopped Maggie's opponent from throwing illegal moves long ago. This ultimate cheating on behalf of her opponent gives the impression the match was conducted in a certain, false way, and it also gives all combat sports sort of a bad reputation. As fans of these types of sports, it is definitely is distracting and bugs the crap out us. This final fight plays out more like a pro-wrestling match than professional boxing one. Even though this is a well acted, well shot, emotionally impactful film which neither BigJ nor I really liked at one point in time, it is really poorly paced and is often painfully slow. To us, this is certainly good movie, but it isn't really deserving of a Best Picture award.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 91%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching:

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