Only half a million dollars, baby

Million_dollar_babySPOILER ALERT — I have wanted to talk about this movie for a while now but haven’t gotten around to it for one reason or another. Maybe it is because this film depressed me to no end, such that I found myself unable to jot down a simple word or two about it. Now that some time has passed, I feel compelled to talk about the effect that this production had upon me. From its title, Million Dollar Baby, I mistakenly thought the movie would be an upbeat beat success story about how the individual can conquer all and eventually win a million dollars. Boy, was I wrong. The movie ended on such a very depressing note. It was not at all what I expected from a movie that went home with this year’s best motion picture Oscar.

For some reason, I wanted the movie to inspire me, perk me up or even give me a new thought or two to contemplate. I don’t remember being as depressed after watching a film since seeing the House of Sand and Fog. I do have to admit that technically this movie was well made, however. Hillary Swank did a brilliant job that certainly merited her Oscar win. One sentence that stuck with me throughout the picture was: "She grew up knowing one thing, that she was trash." God, how depressing is that.

But as I’ve searched to find a bright side to this film, I only had to look as far as its star, Hillary Swank, who’s inspiring story mirrors that told in the film in some ways. As a girl who herself grew up in a trailer, Swank had nothing but a dream, a dream that has thus far secured her two Oscars. Now that is what I call the realization of the American dream.

So if you were to ask me if the film deserves a "Best Motion Picture" Oscar I would say yes and no. Yes, because it was very well made (edited and directed) and the acting was superb. And no, because I thought the Aviator was better on a number of other levels that made it more deserving of this title. Here is my review of that film.

23 thoughts on “Only half a million dollars, baby”

  1. alot of “politics” goes into the oscars, the members of academy are very liberal left wingers and this movie struck some chords in that department of euthanasia; on a social level we saw that several weeks later with terry shiavo. Plus, eastwood and freeman have alot of weight as veterns of the academy and both of them together on screen in an Eastwood film must’ve brought back memories of Unforgiven. The aviator had only scorcse to carry it really.
    as a film however it was very hard to pick a real winner between aviator and million dollar. photo finish.
    my suggestion? make another lord of the rings movie! the hobbit is comming, the hobbit is coming.

  2. come on Nat ! You are not fair about the movie ! just because you returned depressed home you dislike it.. I think it was a great movie, not having a happy ending is part of life, which movies tries to capture.

  3. Well Isam, as I said in my post, I thought the movie was very well-made and Hillary’s acting was superb. The depressing side of it just killed me;-)

  4. Another note: A recent report indicated a woman was killed in the boxing ring for the first time ever in professional women’s boxing. This was just in the last few weeks or so. That report also included a story about a woman that got hit so hard she lost her ability to speak and walk, taking two years to recover. Yes, she actually did recover. But she said watching the movie hit so close to home it was scary. The film was fiction.
    As to the comparison let me just say a few things. First off, the academy: The academy is not left-wingers by any means. They are perhaps a bit left of center. The academy is not who you think it is. Sure it’s actors like Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts. But it’s also this 75-year-old guy who did the foley sound for a picture in 1955 and got put into the academy.
    The Academy is filled with old Hollywood talent that are often out of touch with the rest of the US/world. This group of folks actually comprises over 50% of the voting members. The big names are only a bit over a quarter (some estimates say less). The controlling percentage group is also the one most likely responsible for leaking screeners that make their way to the net.
    These folks often had a moment or two in Hollywood and so remain a member of the academy until they die. They are many times more regular folk than you’d imagine and often they are older; academy membership rules are a bit different now than in decades past so this trend is less likely to continue. IMHO the older generations also tend to be a bit more conservative, the world over. The academy is no different. They rarely make bold choices.
    For that see the Hollywood Foreign Press — The Golden Globe folks. They are younger and definitely more liberal and hey, they’re European (mostly).
    Both films in question are top drawer and both sad, one obviously more so. But truth be told Clint got his Oscar (Unforgiven), Martin never did and he so deserves one. Here’s where the politics play. Clint has been around forever. Many Academy members are his peers. Heck, they’re Freeman’s as well. These guys played well with the Hollywood system and nearly always have. Clint broke out early with Play Misty for Me but he’s stayed within the confines of the system to a large extent.
    Marty is a maverick. He always has been. He’s part of a pack of brilliant filmmakers that broke out in the 70’s and made their own path. Some were embraced — see Spielberg — and others created their own world — see Lucas. Marty did his own thing and has never been liked or really accepted by the Hollywood old school. That said Francis Ford Coppola hasn’t either. And the two of them are some of the finest filmmakers alive.
    Marty deserved this Oscar, Clint did not. Baby was a quiet little film, meant to elicit emotion and thought much like Bridges of Madison County. It was only big by virtue of who made it. That said, it’s still an excellent film.
    Aviator was the first time Marty made a film that was “Hollywood” in much of its structure, less challenging than his usual. But that said, it does have a grander quality, a more potent and important storyline (that’s really quite amazing). It should have merited him an award, at the very least at the director level. How many films have you seen where everyone that walked away from the stage with an award for a film (and Aviator got a few) said, “I couldn’t have done it without you [Marty]” and yet the guy gets nothing?

  5. Thanks for the heads up of it being even MORE depressing than the House of Sand and Fog. I won’t watch it unless I’m in Beirut and happy 🙂

  6. I do agree that this movie was not quite what I had expected!! It’s a very good movie but as I had commented on Subzero Blue’s blog, I wasn’t really enthusiastic when asked about it… Hilary Swank sure deserved her Oscar but I don’t feel the movie did… not because it was depressing, but because it was a typical Euthanasia story!! I strongly feel that “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind” should’ve been nominated and would’ve deserved an Oscar… Not only is it more original, but also very intelligent, and with superb performances from Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet!

  7. Nas, we agree on this one! I spent the last week watching the extended version of the trilogy and I’m even ready for Silmarillion.
    Metal, so where do you think the new SW will play? Who’s in the right line? Oh, whoops, you may even BE there!

  8. You know what’s funny? Eventough I’ve seen this movie, upon seeing that SPOILER ALERT I skipped this post when I first opened the site. It only hit me after a few seconds!

  9. I have to say, Million Dollar Baby was one of the most beautiful films made in the last two years. I can totally see this movie failing in the Arabic market because of the reaction that it’s depressing. I don’t think it’s depressing at all. I think it’s about sacrifice and the beauty of this father/ daughter relationship. It’s touching, moving, emotional…but depressing? I’ll tell you what’s depressing…Love Actually. I just popped this movie in and had to stop the player because it was depressingly bad. The writing was depressingly cheesy, the set-ups were stupid…etc.
    But Back to Million Dollar Baby. I was very happy that it won the best picture award because while the Aviator was brilliant, it still did not have the emotional impact on me as this film did. Eastwood’s simplicity in telling an emotionally involving story beats all the grand effects and flashy camera-work of the master, Scorcese.

  10. Amin,
    I think you should give Love Actually a chance. Yes, it is cheesy, but very witty and extremely amusing. I guess this is what defines British comedy. I highly enjoyed watching Love Actually and I’m willing to watch it again.

  11. Sorry, but that was not a witty comedy, but a bad bad attempt at wit. The concept was nice, but the writing and execution were terrible. You want witty Brittish humor, watch Lawless Heart. An excellent drama with dry witty Brittish humor. I had to turn Love Actually off after a really unconvincing Billy Bob Thornton as US President hits on the maid, then the press conference turns into Hugh Grant’s reprimand of the president in political terms. They tried to play it like it’s subtext, when really, it was just plain stupid. I’m not usually harsh on films, but this one made me vomit…then my dog came over and started eating my vomit off the floor. Then he looked up at the TV and watched a couple of scenes and vomited my vomit. The neighbors came in complaining about the smell of vomit, and when they saw Love Actually playing on the TV, they vomited on my Welcome rug. I had to turn the movie off, lest I turn the whole building into an acid-infested health hazard zone.

  12. Actually, I kind of liked it. I’m not sure why everyone is attacking this simple multi love story. Relax people. It’s just a light comedy. Jeez!

  13. Jeff’s comment about Oscar politics and Academy composition struck me as very insightful and knowledgeable. So thanks for that, Jeff.
    As for Million Dollar Baby, I wanted to see it but just couldn’t bring myself to go. I don’t think I could tolerate watching women strike each other – seeing a woman being hit or injured makes me sick to my stomach.

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