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This week:
Million Dollar Baby

Filthy says:
"Get ready to rumble, but not jerk off."

My interest in Foxy Boxing is the same as everyone else's: so long as those girls are beating the shit out of each other they won't have time to wail on me. Really, though, when you see girls fighting you get either "foxy" or "boxing," and never both. The girls are hot and just sort of jump around and pretend to slap, or they're hairy-armpitted , thick-necked bruisers who slug other women in the face. Which is sexier? It really depends on your mood, but you never see truly hot girls getting punched in the face. In fact, to see that you either need to be incredibly wealthy or the producer of a reality television show.

Even if Foxy Boxing is usually a misleading way to get me into a bar, I am grateful that these ladies are off the streets. Now, if someone could only turn watching the teen punks in the Conoco parking lot punch each other into a bar draw, I could walk home from the Tavern without fearing there's a 50/50 chance I'll wake up in the gutter with "GBH" spray-painted on my forehead. Hell, if I weren't so dedicated to keeping the Arvada economy vibrant, I wouldn't risk life and limb every night to avoid getting drunk alone. But, as our chamber of commerce says, "Eat and drink where you live, and shit in Wheatridge."

Million Dollar Baby wasn't about Foxy Boxing. I was disappointed. But as long as it wasn't about that, I'd have been happy if it were a remake of Million-Dollar Duck; the story of an infant who shits golden eggs and the hilarity that ensues. Dean Jones would be a plus. Since that's what you probably thought it was, too, I'll tell you it's not. And if Clint Eastwood makes a movie called No Deposit, No Return don't go. It won't be funny. He doesn't seem to be a very nice guy. I think he's a hermit, or someone who wishes we could do away with words because he doesn't like listening to all that other people say.

Million Dollar Baby is about ladies boxing, but it tries to dress it up as something noble and classy, sort of like those fiberglass Rolls Royce grills you can mount on old Volkswagen Beetles. Hilary Swank plays a hillbilly determined to be the welterweight champion of the world in the classy arean of women's boxing, which I assume in real life attracts a seedier crowd than men's boxing or, say, snuff films. In L.A., she latches onto Clint Eastwood, a down-and-out trainer, by showing up at his gym every day until he gives in and teaches her how to fight. Eastwood is a failed fighter, as is his sidekick Morgan Freeman. In their past, Eastwood failed to call a fight in which Freeman lost an eye and he blames himself for that. He also blames himself for losing his daughter. So, he's cautious and his tentativeness costs him chances at title fights as the kids he trains jump ship rather than wait for him to decide they're ready.

He trains Swank, who is too old by his own admission, and she quickly rises through the ranks, easily beating the ladies she faces until they're shitting ovaries. And when it's time for a title bout, Eastwood gives in and agrees to let her duke it out with a cheating East German former prostitute. During the fight, which is typically the moment that the fighter rises to her glory and finally achieves her dream, something awful happens. I won't say what that is because I don't want to get e-mail from every fucking baby in the world who thinks his life is ruined by knowing the ending of a movie. That would be every fucking baby who thinks that the only joy in a movie is being "surprised". It's probably you. I'll just say that instead of celebrating the title, Eastwood gets to feed his guilt complex some more.

For its first two-thirds, Million Dollar Baby is just a slightly better version of the fight-movie cliche. It has the same old scenes and characters but with better and less dialog, slower pacing and a slightly-forced atmosphere of grit. In its last third it is about Eastwood being an old man brooding over his failures and the guilt he carries. It transforms into the story of what happens when he finally lets someone into his heart after intentionally avoiding it for so long. It's the most interesting part of the story, even if it is overly long and a bit melodramatic. I'm not convinced that it's great. There's too many God damn big speeches in the last half hour designed to tell us what it all means for it to be great.

When hasn't Eastwood played a guilty old man? Even when he was young he was old. In this movie he is relentlessly miserable. Maybe he sees in Swank an opportunity to redeem himself by helping her achieve her dream, only to be once again crushed under the wheels of a bus full of failure. That is, any Greyhound.

The characters are almost all deluxe versions of sports-movies stereotypes; they talk less, are tougher and act more sour than in other movies, but their cores are borrowed. Surrounding Eastwood as the reluctant manager and Swank as the female Rocky are some less modified cliches. Freeman is the wizened black man with a few twists, but not enough to make him original or interesting. Most embarrassing to the story is a retarded boy who dreams of boxing and who gets dragged into the story either for comic relief or to be used as both an on-screen and on-script punching bag. It may define nobility when movie characters treat a retard with respect, but it's also noble for Hollywood to make them more than convenient caricatures that prove a protagonist's worth. The one here is treated pretty shitty by the story. Similarly, Swank's southern family couldn't be written any more one-dimensionally.

Swank is surely going to win some statuettes for this shit. It's the sort of gold-hearted hick who meets tragedy that Hollywood loves to see portrayed far more than they like to see in reality. It's hard for me to say if her acting is great. But I think the awards people mostly look for tragedy anyway. Eastwood hisses every line like he's got a hole in his throat that they're coming through. He looks like he'd rather be speaking less, and maybe that's why he leaves so much heavy lifting to Freeman in voiceovers. Freeman also tries to show as little energy as possible, but that's what the script asks for.

The lighting of Million Dollar Baby becomes a joke by the halfway point. As you watch, count how many times a character speaks either half in/half out of shadows, or emerges from them as he speaks. This might be an effective tool to show us conflicted souls if used occasionally. But this whole fucking movie is shot that way. Okay, already, we get the damn point.

Million Dollar Baby's an okay movie and I'm giving it Three Fingers but it could have easily earned another one if Swank would have crapped out a gold egg, or I hadn't been roughed up by two girls for six bucks while walking home. Flicks that get those chicks off the street are what we need.

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Shawn Edwards of Fox TV

Are We There Yet "will have you laughing from beginning to end in this family film that's perfect for everyone."

Filthy's Reading
Don Delillo - Cosmopolis

Listening to
David Byrne - Grown Backward


Finding Nemo