you see The Rock? Yeah, I know, apologies
for reminding you that Michael Bay (or rather Michael Bay
movies) are still out there somewhere. Screenwriter William
Goldman sat open mouthed as the movie's spectacular car
chase destroys half of San Francisco. He says in his essay Who Killed Hollywood...
goes on and on and I remember thinking as I watched:
Connery has to get away because, if he’s re-captured,
the whole thing was pointless and should have been
cut. Guess what? Cage re-captures Connery.
was describing my anger at this sloppiness to Clint
Eastwood one day. "It's crazy," I said.
"He already had Connery as a prisoner, so the
entire car chase turned out to be simply a waste of
movie time and millions of studio dollars. It made
who is smarter than most of us, looked at me for a
moment, then said "Bill, today the car chase
is the sense."
the book The Big Picture
by William Goldman
Well earlier this week, Eastwood got the Oscar nod for
Best Director and Best Movie. Maybe today (or at least
tomorrow) is about STORY. Make us care. Clint Eastwood
is as durable a movie icon as you could wish for and
he knows how to make movies the way movies used to be
made and thank God someone is still out there practising
and excelling at their craft. When Eastwood picture
dissolves, it means 'a passage of time', the staple
meaning of a traditional mix. When Eastwood cuts to
a building, we know where we are and the next cut will
invariably take us inside the building. Eastwood frames
traditionally, cuts traditionally and thank you Academy
members last night for giving a loud holler welcoming
back narrative to the fold. Old fashioned it might be
but hell, at least it IS fashioned, crafted, made with
passion and do you know how refreshing it is to see
a movie that delivers the emotional goods without the
computer butting in for a moment? Very.
allows his stories and his remarkably talented casts
to dominate the craft and there is not one 'look at
me' shot in the entire man's oeuvre. As a director he
is invisible. As an actor (I mean the man is 74, remarkable)
his screen presence is now embedded inside a public
consciousness that has grown up with him. I was too
young for Rawhide, too insular for
Sergio Leone (I did later make up for this appalling
lack of foresight) and too knee-jerk liberal for Dirty
Harry. Eastwood was just a trigger finger and
I often made the mistake that many have. You can't see
Eastwood for the "Freeze!". He was so much
the cop/hawk politician that his sensibilities were
often submerged by other people's assumptions (perhaps
I mean just my own) regarding the clichéd political
biases of the right. That he is a talented musician
and jazz aficionado seemed to preclude him from most
stereotypical right wing thinkers. I was wrong. My God,
the haunting, lyrical score for Million Dollar
Baby was written by, you guessed it, Clint
himself. When does he sleep?
was in California in 1982 and had a reason to visit
the Warner Brothers lot. I passed by Eastwood's production
offices, Malpaso, and was amused to note that he had
three parking spots reserved with his name stencilled
on each. Naïvely I thought "The absurdity
of Hollywood power, the granting of things no one man
could possibly need." And then I grew a brain and
figured he may have a few guests popping by who may
be driving. In L.A.? It's feasible.
myself, Eastwood is on an incredibly interesting journey.
His movies seem to mirror what I believe to be his changing
tastes, the way we change when we get older and he riffs
on his younger subjects and characters but adds depth
from experience. Unforgiven is the
'real' B side of the gun-slinging automaton he excelled
at in his early days. The assured and mature Bridges
of Madison County tells of middle aged passion
in a way that seemed real and was never less than entertaining.
In fact, in Eastwood's career as an actor and director,
you can see Shakespeare's ages of man pass before you,
in full celluloid glory. Clint has really grown up on
screen and it's a sight to see. Age has upped his vulnerability
quotient and it's precisely that vulnerability that
makes his characters more rounded, more believable,
characters you invest in.
my rampant and unassailable passion for David Fincher's
extra-ordinary and groundbreaking Fight Club,
fighting is neither something I personally enjoy nor
condone. Even though Malcolm McDowell got hurt for saying
to David Warner (as H. G. Wells and Jack The Ripper
respectively) something along the lines of "The
uncivilised man is the first to turn to violence."
I'd still have attacks of spurious morality if I find
boxing on TV. I might take a cursory glance but I keep
thinking "Money…" Is there any other
point? There can't be anything good about two people
trying to knock each other out, can there? But then
the world would be a poorer place without Mohammed Ali,
that's for sure. So it's a good thing that Million
Dollar Baby could have been about needlework
- the thing isn't 'the thing'.
(tut tut) Million Dollar Baby lies
its ass off in its trailer. OK, maybe it doesn't lie
but hell, it plays the 'female Rocky'
card as three aces but the movie damn well full houses
you. I checked off all the inspiring sound bites from
the trailer in the movie in under an hour or so, so
was astounded when the prize fight came up a good thirty
five minutes away from the actual end of the movie.
I will not spoil anyone's enjoyment of the film by giving
anything away but with good movies, you can't really
second guess the direction the film takes. If it had
ended Rocky style, it would not have
been as uplifting as that sweaty fairy tale because
Clint was taking us down different, darker alleys, sowing
seeds, giving his fellow actors enough rope to lasso
major awards. And did they ever.
Swank is Maggie Fitzgerald, what's known in the American
South as 'trailer trash' with a gloomy future knee deep
in fat and suds (and re-electing born again Christians
as President). She believes that with the right training,
she could be (I can't believe I am typing this) 'a contender…'
After some modest success, her parasitical family (quite
the most odious and despicable characters I have seen
on screen for a long time) leech and leech again. At
one point in the film, their disrespect and infinitely
horrific disregard for Maggie floors me. When the pen
drops you'll know the moment. Swank is utterly believable,
even as a rather fast knocker-outer female boxer. She
has the moves and that steadfast precision of knowing
how and when to move in a scene. It's almost as if she
knows the framing of each shot, so comfortably she exists
inside the screen's four lines. Her Oscar was deserved
for technical merit alone. As I have not seen the performances
of all the other nominees, I won't go down the very
dubious road of comparisons. I'll leave the absurdity
of the annual Academy blow out to be munched up and
spat out by my fellow Outsider, Slarek, here.
of Frankie (Eastwood) Dunn's ('done', get it?) previous
fighters, having lost an eye after his 109th and almost
final bout, is Eddie 'Scrap Iron' Dupris, played by
Morgan Freeman. Now correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't
Morgan Freeman exude such presence and authority, it's
hard for an audience not to see Morgan Freeman and see
the character instead? Yes, he'd have a devil of a job
convincing us playing an elf but he is a consummate
actor with a barrel load of skill and charm to boot.
But I have not seen him lately in a role that seems
to stretch that stoic 'seen-it-all' tough when he has
to be persona he's adopted for a decade now. He has
gravitas by the bucket load and he may have interesting
problems playing a nasty character because the man is
so honest on screen. But it's also (Shawshank-like)
Freeman's voice over that keeps Eastwood's movie laced
up. It's a lovely surprise to find out he's not actually
delivering a voice over for our benefit.
whichever way you cut it, it's Eastwood's movie all
the way. It's heartening that his estranged relationship
with a daughter who continually returns his letters
unopened is never resolved. That would be too Hollywood
to have her wander back into his life. The movie ends
on a minor key that leaves you wondering after the credits
if the man actually found the peace he was looking for.
But as a study in loss, redemption and renewed hope, Million Dollar Baby is your ticket.
it was 'better' that The Aviator is
a silly question, the kind that Hollywood likes to ask
and answer every year in an 8 hour telethon. Marty Scorsese
will have another shot. I mean he's a mere nipper at
63 compared to Clint...