The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou with underwhelming relish. Zissou is supposed to be a kind of Jacques Cousteau, or a National Geographic oceanographer filmmaker or something, but he’s actually a grass-smoking aquatic fraud in the midst of a midlife crisis that may have begun at least thirty years previously. At least.

 

When his best friend and partner (? we never see him) is killed by the Jaguar shark (?), Steve pledges to go and find the shark and kill him. When he is asked why, he says, “Why for revenge, of course.” That’s about the funniest line in the movie.

 

Team Zissou is in debt so Steve asks his wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) to ask her parents for help. She refuses at first, and she refuses to go on the voyage. A pregnant reporter tags along  (Cate Blanchett) and Steve is interested in her, but things get complicated when Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) shows up. He’s a pilot from Kentucky Airways and he thinks Steve is his biological father, so he comes on the voyage, too. Alistair Hennessey plays Steve’s wealthy rival, in love (he is Eleanor’s former husband) and in discovery.

 

And so on and so forth. Enter Filipino pirates who take over Steve’s ship and who leave their three-legged dog behind when Steve fights them off. This makes Steve think the pirates were really dumb, but he kind of takes to the dog anyway. This part was pretty funny, too.

 

There was also about a three minute black out in the film when somebody threw the electrical switch on the ship; we couldn’t tell if the projector broke down at just the right place or if it was intended. Everyone stayed in the theater, though, and that’s when the laughter picked up a bit. It was so awful it was funny.

 

If you like quirky, you might like this film.

 

I like quirk, but only the kind from Australia.

 

This one’s from the sea of Mars.

 

Hotel Rwanda

 

Hotel Rwanda: Bearing Witness

 

        On December 22, Hotel Rwanda, Golden Globe

nominee for Best Motion Picture – Drama, will open in Los Angeles and New York. Directed by Terry George, Hotel Rwanda is the story of Paul Rusesabagina who can rightly be called Rwanda’s Oskar Schindler. With the support of his wife, his business acumen and humble humanity,  Paul Rusesabagina was responsible for saving the lives of more than 1,200 Rwandan people during the genocide of 1994.

 

Back Story

 

        About six hundred years ago the Tutsi people came to live among the Hutu people in the African country now known as Rwanda. It is a beautiful land, now bound by the Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania. The people raised herds, farmed and mined to sustain themselves. Although more numerous than the Hutu, over time the Tutsi subjugated the Hutu people by forming a controlling monarchy. This resulted in continual tension between the two ethnic groups.

 

          Beginning in 1894 the German and then Belgian occupation kept the Tutsi in power. The1926 Belgian mandate that the people carry identity cards stating their ethnicity only made matters worse. The increased conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu eventually erupted into civil war in 1990, with extremist Hutu killing thousands of Tutsi. In 1993 a U.N. supported peace accord was signed by the Hutu President Habyarimana but he did not implement it. Finally, on April 6, 1994, extremist Hutu caused a plane crash that killed the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. The very night of President Habyarimana’s death marked the beginning of the systematic killing of the Tutsi people as well as moderate Hutu throughout the country – a genocide the governments of the world chose to ignore

 

Hotel Rwanda: 100 Days in 1994

 

In the capital city of Kigali, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) goes about his duties as the manager of the fashionable Milles Collines Hotel. He oversees everything. He moves around the city in the hotel van to pick up food and supplies. He trades favors with business owners, each to provide the other with things they don’t have. Going from place to place he talks to his driver Thomas about the importance of “style” in one’s professional life. Paul deftly avoids political conversations with his business associates. At one warehouse a wooden crate falls open and machetes fall out. Paul and Thomas quickly leave.

 

        Back at the hotel Paul confidently encourages the staff and greets guests. At day’s end Paul goes home to his beautiful wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), and their children. But there is a disturbance in the neighborhood caused by the Hutu militia. In the next few days the political storm gathers and their relatives and mostly Tutsi neighbors instinctively take refuge with Paul, a Hutu and Tatiana, a Tutsi. Because of his prestigious job at the hotel and his personal integrity, the neighbors trust him.

 

         A news crew (David O’Hara and Joaquin Phoenix) arrives from Europe because they have received word that the ethnic tension in Rwanda is exploding and thousands of Tutsi are being murdered. Hotel guests start to panic because the airport has been closed. Paul’s friend from U.N., Col. Oliver (Nick Nolte) tells Paul he is frustrated because the U.N. has withdrawn most of its peacekeeping troops, leaving only 270 out of 2,500. They cannot do anything but watch the massacre. Within a few days, however, Oliver manages to evacuate the guests to the airport. Things have become too dangerous for the news crew as well, and they leave with startling footage.

 

         The situation in Paul’s neighborhood deteriorates. After his son witnesses the murder of a friend one night, Paul decides to evacuate everyone who has taken refuge in his home to the hotel. Soon, a Red Cross worker arrives at the hotel with some orphans, followed by a priest, local nuns with more children. Paul negotiates with his friends, now in the military and police, calling in favors, to keep the people safe and fed. Paul calls the hotel’s main office in Brussels to ask the company contact the Belgian government for immediate assistance but the government refuses to intervene in any way. When travel visas come through for many of the people in the hotel who have friends and family in other countries, Paul, Tatiana and their children board the trucks with them. At the last minute though, Paul decides to stay to care for those who remain behind yelling out to Tatiana, “I cannot leave these people to die,”

 

         Tatiana is wild with anger at Paul for not coming with them, but before the trucks can get out of the city, they are stopped and the people terrorized by the militia. The U.N. escort guides them back to the hotel and Paul and Tatiana are reunited. Meanwhile rumors of atrocities abound, and Paul and Tatiana make plans in case the inconceivable happens and the Hutu militia attacks.

 

         1,268 men, women and children hunker down in the hotel amidst great danger to wait for help from the outside world that never comes. All the while, Paul is the exemplary host to his guests at the Milles Collines Hotel.

 

The Film

 

Hotel Rwanda is a based on a true story and historical events about a time when the world closed its eyes to great human need. It is a visceral film that bears witness to one of Africa’s greatest tragedies through the eyes and experience of one man and his family. Don Cheadle is remarkable as the ordinary, likeable, calm and suave hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina. Cheadle claims the role with such dignity and credibility that we know he is the man who could save a thousand lives. Sophie Okonedo (Dirty Pretty Things) is exceptionally well cast as the wife. Her anguish when Paul proposes what she should do in the eventof Hutu attack is heart wrenching and real. Hotel Rwanda, for its stark, understated style, story and exceptional acting, has great Oscar potential. Don Cheadle is amazing.

 

         Hotel Rwanda is familiar social justice territory for director/co-writer Terry George whose previous credits include In the Name of the Father and Some Mother’s Son about the troubles in Northern Ireland.

 

          Amnesty International’s Artists for Amnesty www.amnestyusa.org/artistsforamnesty.com)

spokesperson Angelina Jolie introduced the film with Harrison Ford at the premiere screening in Los Angeles at the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on December 2. She said that Hotel Rwanda brings the audience into Kigali ten years ago when the world chose to ignore the mass killings, much the same way as the ongoing emergency crisis in Darfour, Sudan. It took 100 days for the world to respond to Rwanda, but the situation of starvation, thirst, and extreme human rights violations in Darfour, Sudan, is now in its 21st month and the world continues to do nothing.

 

        “This movie is a message,” said Paul Rusesabagina who was present at the screening of Hotel Rwanda with his wife, Tatiana. “My dream and my wish is that you will be messengers who will tell other people about what you have seen. The tragedy in Rwanda was only recognized as genocide after the fact. It is time that Africa be considered as a continent, and that its people be recognized as human beings and given the same human rights as people all over the world.”

 

        Some movies inform, some movies entertain and some movies bear witness to the human face of God in the midst of tragedy. Hotel Rwanda is such a film.

 

 

The Aviator

Director Martin Scorsese marches to his own music. He makes a lot of dark films that don’t net him a lot of money (Bringing Out the Dead, for example.) I disliked Gangs of New York very much because it didn’t look authentic, it was not emotionally convincing and it seemed a big unwieldy violent beast.

 

But with The Aviator, Scorsese got my attention. The Aviator is a very interesting movie, as clichéd as that sounds. It kept my attention for 169 minutes, and I do not like looonggg movies. When Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) tells off Senator Brewster (Alan Alda) at a senate hearing about Hughes’ supposed misuse of government funds for aircraft development during World War II, I wanted to stand up and cheer. Brewster was in the pocket of the president of PAN AM (played by Alec Baldwin) and trying to draft an airline monopoly into law. Even though Hughes was suffering from mental illness, he came out of it enough to win the day.

 

When that huge Hercules aircraft lifts off the ocean at the end of the film, I wanted to cheer again – out of pity for a man who today could have been helped by medication, and out of admiration for a man who did incredible things because he could, against terrible personal odds.

 

The film begins in the 1920’s when Hughes is into making movies: his was the first multi-million dollar film ever made, Hell’s Angels. He is already exhibiting signs of the obsessive-compulsive-paranoid disorder that will become more dominant as the years pass. He begins a relationship with Katharine Hepburn, amazingly played, accent and all, by the versatile Australian Cate Blanchette. Hughes goes from movies to aircraft, keeping an interest in both, but succeeding with airplanes in a way that can only be called gifted and inspirational.

 

The movie ends around 1947, in the middle of things; we don’t find out a lot about his early life (other than a hint that his mother may have had mental problems as well and to learn that his parents had died by the time he was in his twenties) or what happened after the Hercules flew. We do get insight into his illness – and his penchant for very young women and movie stars, though he hated the limelight. Hughes was certainly no saint.

 

In a year when epic films have gone pretty much bust, The Aviator succeeds. For it is an epic biopic. Howard Hughes is too huge a historical, Hollywood and aviation personality to deserve anything less than a film like this.

 

And did I tell you how good Leo is? I felt that he is totally believable in the role and if he gets some award attention, he deserves it.

 

Hold on. The Aviator is quite a ride.

 

(I saw this at The Bridge cinema at the Hughes Center, just off the Howard Hughes Pkwy in Culver City – now I really get the connection. Culver City is where much of the film story took place.)

Spanglish

A woman at Princeton University’s admissions office opens an application and begins to read an essay. A girl’s voice over narrates the story of how she, Cristina, (Shelbie Bruce) and her mother, Flor (Paz Vega), came to the United States from Mexico, and their life once they arrived in Los Angeles.

 

Flor works two jobs to support Cristina. But when Flor realizes Cristina is growing up and needs her mother’s guidance regarding boys, she decides to search for a job that will pay enough to allow her to do this. She has never learned English because they have lived in the barrio, so she goes for an interview to the Clasky’s home in Beverly Hills with her cousin. Deborah Clasky (Tea Leoni) hires Flor immediately, even though she cannot pronounce her name. John Clasky (Adam Sandler) is a world class chef but manages his hours so he can spend time with his family. Deborah’s alcoholic mother Evelyn (Cloris Leachman) lives with them. The Clasky’s have two children, the sweet, smart and pudgy Bernice (Sarah Steele) and Georgie (Ian Hymand.)

 

Deborah is extremely high maintenance and clueless about Mexican culture, though everyone else catches on quickly. She also does not know who she is. As a result, Deborah puts her marriage at risk, and hurts Bernie by her incredibly high standards and what is actually a cruel attitude toward her daughter’s appearance. John is easier going with the children, and Deborah is always upset at him because they are not on “the same page” regarding the children

 

Things go along pretty well until the Clasky’s decide to rent a house in  Malibu for the summer and insist that Flor move in with them. Now Flor tells them she has a daughter, and cannot. Deborah pretty much gives her an ultimatum, and Flor agrees to let Cristina stay for the summer, too. Cristina is lovely, and Deborah interferes between her and Flor, acting as if Cristina is the daughter she really deserves. Meanwhile, Flor begins to learn English. And things get very complicated between Flor, Cristina, John, Deborah and Bernie. And don’t forget the dog. Never throw a ball and have the dog fetch it…

 

Spanglish, written and directed by James L. Brooks (As Good As It Gets, Jerry McGuire) is not at all what I expected from the trailers. I was surprised by Brooks’ insight into the mother-daughter relationships that he portrays in very believable ways – as well as the immigrant experience from the perspective of newcomers to the United States and the “white” people who employ them.

 

This is a very nice film about women and the mothers who raise them. It is also about the nature of love as communication.

 

It is also very rare to successfully have a girl do a voice over narration, but Brooks does it well. Most coming of age movies are all about boys and fathers. Spanglish is thus a refreshing approach.

 

Perhaps this is Sandler’s transition film into grown-up movies. He is good in the movie.

 

At the end, Cristina, with much love says something like this: “If you accept me into Princeton, I will be flattered, but it will not define me. It is my mother who has defined me and made me the person I am and this is all I need.”

The Sea Inside/Mar adentro

The Sea Inside/Mar adentro is based on the true story of Ramon Sampedro, a quadriplegic who struggled with the Spanish legal system for almost 30 years for the right to die, or the right to be put to death. The film is exquisitely directed by Alejandro Amenabar (The Others, writer for Vanilla Sky.)

 

The film opens with Ramon (Javier Bardem) being cared for in the house of his brother (Celso Bugallo) by his sister-in-law Manuela (Mabel Rivera). His father lives with them as well. Ramon has a strong and positive influence on the entire family. Three visitors come: Gene (Clara Segura) who is with the organization that supports the right to choose life or death, Julia (Belen Rueda), a lawyer with a degenerative disease, who will take Ramon’s case to court, and Rosa (Lola Duenas), a disc jockey and single mother of two who sees Ramon on television and comes to him for her own needs. There is a fourth visitor, Padre Francisco (Jose Maria Pou), also a quadriplegic, who first insults the family for not loving Ramon enough and then tries to convince Ramon from a philosophical point of view that life is worth living. (How I regretted the approach this priest took in the film; did it happen in real life? I would hope that clergy and all pastoral workers will take note of how not to minister to the sick, even if you share their disease.) How these guests and the family interact with Ramon and the journey they take with him, is the story of the film.

 

Ramon takes journeys inside his head – back to the accident that made him a quadriplegic, back to the many countries he visited as a young sailor, and just to the freedom of the landscape and the sea beyond his window. The film is located in La Coruna in the Galicia province in Spain. I had the priviledge of visiting there for a week in 1995 for a media education conference at the University of La Coruna. I only had Saturday afternoon of that week to walk around the city (when I could still walk long distances and before I knew I had MS). La Coruna is a very old and marvelous city. Unfortunately I started my trek about 1:00pm when everything was closing for four hours – siesta time! All the many churches were closed, too, except the chapel of the Poor Clare nuns. I prayed there for awhile. The architecture of La Coruna is singular: the buildings along the waterfront and sea shore are all made of windows that look like thin alabaster in the sun. If you know this, then the film is even more moving.

 

The Sea Inside has already won many awards, including the Grand Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival (2004) and is being nominated for others. In terms of story-telling, this film is at the top of its class. Bardem, who won great acclaim as the Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in Julian Schnable’s 2000 film Before Night Falls, only keeps adding to his impressive filmography as one of today’s finest actors.

 

The Sea Inside builds a case for mercy-killing. Ramon speaks of love – that if someone loves him, then they will help him die when the courts delay and refuse his plea. But isn’t love about willing the good of “the other”? There are some very strong moments in the film where Ramon and his brother and Rosa argue about euthanasia. All I could think of is: what is the nature of love? Ramon expected others to fulfill their love for him by helping him die, but he seemed to have missed out on what his death would mean to those who loved him – the loss. He seemed selfish to me. They cared for him unconditionally, yet he put conditions on his love. They had to help him die, and when they will not, he turns to those who will.

 

Ramon has a sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye. Someone asks him as his sister-in-law turns him in bed: how can you smile so much? He responds: “When your life depends so much on others, you learn to cry with a smile.” Ramon had so much to give.

 

Julia helps Ramon publish his poems. The publication date becomes a deadline – literally. Julia, who has a neurological condition that makes her keep having strokes (I missed the name of it in the film), reinforces Ramon’s dilemma in the sense that her condition becomes so serious she cannot make the final determination about her life; Ramon still can and he will.

 

If you are a person with a chronic disease, like MS, you can understand Ramon and Julia, even if you cannot agree with their nihilistic rationale. The film touched me deeply. For MS patients, you never know what the next day will bring, if you will wake up blind or unable to walk. But you just keep going, one foot in front of the other, because life is good in itself – and the alternative is unacceptable. I understood the film because I could identify with many aspects of what the characters were living with. Yet I reject Ramon and Julia’s conclusion that we are the master’s of our own final destiny, that death is preferable to life. This is the paradox of Catholic teaching about life: we say it is a holy thing to be martyred for the love of Christ, that we live well to die and to be with God in eternity. Yet, it is not up to us to choose how or the means, or to carry out this death that awaits us all; we are never to make a direct attack on the life of another, or even assist in it, as happens in the film. Suicide is not an option on the smorgasbord of ways to end one’s life, as is presented in The Sea Inside.

 

If Ramon ever had faith, he lost it. He no longer believed in life after death. If you believe in everything, then ultimately you believe in nothing; if you believe in nothing, then anything is permissible. The story of Ramon Sampedro is the face of nihilism in today’s world. The Sea Inside is a brilliant, heart-wrenching film that sheds light on nothingness.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

This is the tale of the Baudelaire children: Violet, aged 14, Klaus, aged 12 and Sunny, the baby, who liked to chew things. One day while they are at the sea shore, their parents are killed in a fire and their house burned down. Mr. Poe, the banker, brings them the bad news and takes them to stay with the nearest of only distant relatives, Count Olaf. The Count is an evil actor who only wants the children’s fortune.

 

The film (based on the first three of the wildly popular series of books of the same title) is the story of how one unfortunate event leads to another in the lives of the Baudelaire children.

 

To prepare for the film, I started reading the books and have made it almost through the second. I like the style because it encourages the reader to engage on many levels, especially focusing on reading and imagination.<o:p></o:p>

 

The problem for me is the darkness in the books, and in the film. We could call Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events a fantasy-myth tale of three heroes who overcome great odds to triumph over evil. The problem is that in children’s literature this genre would be “assisted by a protective figure” ( see Children’s Literature, Briefly by Jacobs & Tunnell, 2004, Prentice Hall) – and there is none. What the film does is reinforce the popular culture notion that kids have to take care of themselves and that grown-ups are evil, inept or just plain stupid, trust no one and bad things are going to happen no matter what. The end of the film tries to make the outlook hopeful for the Baudelaire children, but a voice over does not balance out the drama and visuals that have come before.

 

The film is an excellent visual reproduction of the books, though it mixes up the sequence of unfortunate events somewhat. Jim Carrey is good as Jim Carrey (oops! Count Olaf), Billy Connolly as Montgomery Montgomery and  Meryl Streep as Aunt Josephine fulfill their roles well enough and the art direction is more than adequate. The problem is: there is no benevolent figure in the film (or so far in the books) that comforts and cares for children. Thus, the film to me fits the horror-fantasy genre more than any other. And I think kids who can identify with loneliness, abandonment, abuse and evil, inept and just plain stupid adults (or social system) may find a kind of strength or catharsis in the film. They go because they are already scared and need to figure out a way to survive.

 

If this is the case, then we as a society (and faith communities) need to reflect seriously on why these books appeal to kids, and what we are doing about the lost children in our country and world. A friend told me that he knew a ten year-old child of divorce who loved the books and could not get enough of them. Perhaps the books transported the child to a place where he could figure things out and exorcise his experiences.

 

A series of unfortunate events is one thing; imagine a lifetime. Pretty depressing on the one hand; on the other it can help us open our eyes and act for the good of our children

 

Is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, the books or the film, just harmless literature? Seems to me it is coming from someone’s experience, transformed by imagination.

 

Although the film had a beginning and a middle, the ending was unsatisfactory and unsatisfying. Like it was tacked on. I just didn’t like the film all that much.

Million Dollar Baby

-spoiler-

 

A male voice over tells the story of Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) who owns a gym in Los Angeles where would-be boxing contenders train. Frankie is a hardened trainer who studies Gaelic in his free time. Eddie (Morgan Freeman) is a kind of assistant maintenance man, who was one of Frankie’s fighters until he was blinded in a fight. He lost. Frankie is a Catholic who goes to Mass everyday.  He has a kind of contentious relationship with the parish priest whom he is always questioning about matters of faith. The priest tells him he has to believe – and write to his daughter.

 

Frankie is dismayed when the man who is his best hope for winning leaves him to go with another trainer/manager. This happens because Frankie doesn’t trust him enough to let him fight for a title. Just about then, a young woman (Hilary Swank) shows up at the gym and pays for six months of training. Her name is Maggie Fitzgerald. She is 31 and she wants to fight; she waitresses for money. She tells Frankie that it’s only when she is boxing that she feels like she is living when he tells her she is too old to learn boxing. Maggie wants Frank to train her because he is the best, but he resists for a long time. But after a year or so, he puts her in the ring and she wins twelve straight fights by knocking out her opponents in the first round. They end up in England, where Maggie wins again. They stay in Europefor awhile and Maggie wins more fights.

 

Frank always tells her that the first thing she has to do is protect herself. Frank goes home at night to see all the letters he has sent to his daughter returned to him. Little by little, Maggie has grown on him as if she were a daughter.

 

 

Maggie has been saving up her money and buys her mother, who lives on welfare in Southwestern Missouri, a house. Her mother (Margo Martindale) is unappreciative and yells at Maggie because if she has a house, she can no longer get welfare and take care of the rest of the family.

 

Frank ups Maggie’s class so she can win another women’s boxing title in Las Vegas, a straight split for a million dollars. But her opponent is ruthless, and whenever the referee isn’t looking, she attacks Maggie. Finally, when Maggie turns around to return to her corner, the woman punches Maggie so badly that she falls and breaks her neck, severing her spinal cord. She is now a quadriplegic and cannot breathe on her own.

 

After two months in the hospital, Frank accompanies Maggie to a rehab center in Los Angeles. Maggie becomes dispirited. She eventually asks Frank to help her die. Frank refuses and goes to talk to his priest about it. The priest listens and tells Frank it is wrong to help someone die, and that he will be lost if he does this thing.

 

Maggie tries to commit suicide by biting her tongue, twice. She almost bleeds to death. The doctors keep her sedated so she will not do it again.

 

Frank decides to help her die. One night he goes to the rehab center, kisses her on the forehead, disconnects her breathing tube and injects a huge dose of adrenaline into her I.V. Frank disappears after, returning to a place in Missouri where he and Maggie had eaten lemon meringue pie, and even Eddie cannot find him.

 

_____________________

 

Million Dollar Baby is a film that will reach in and wrench your soul, no matter how much you might disagree with its premise that euthanasia is okay. The film is written by one of my favorite screen and television writers, Paul Haggis. I think I am the only fan in the world that taped and still have all the episodes of EZ Streets that aired before the show was cancelled in 1996. Brilliant, dark television about people’s souls and the battles they fight there.

 

Million Dollar Baby is such a film, but it deals unsatisfactorily with two huge moral issues for me. One is boxing itself. Eddie’s voice over says more than once that boxing is unnatural. I agree. I could hardly watch the boxing sequences in this film, or any other boxing movie for thatmatter. Boxing is worse and more senseless than football or ice hockey on abad day.

 

The other moral problem is that of euthanasia; it, too, is unnatural. To deliberately act against life is always wrong. The ends do not justify the means – ever.

 

The film never talks about the moral dilemma of euthanasia really, nor does it explore any options for Maggie. No one talks with her about the pros of living or the hopelessness of dying by your own hand or that of another.

 

What the film does so effectively is take us in and make us feel every bit of Maggie’s misery and Frank’s self-blame. It makes us think that euthanasia was the only choice. Therefore, as a human being and a Catholic, the film is a disappointment to me. We can always choose life. I refuse to not believe in hope.

 

A medical ethics argument can be made that Maggie’s care was extraordinary treatment. Even though the boxing commission was paying for it, a person is not required to ask for or be given extremely expensive care. A person has a right to die naturally under normal care. However, neither Frank nor anyone had the right to kill Maggie, which is what he did by giving her the excessive dose of adrenaline. This was a direct attack on the person.

 

Nothing in the film happens in the light. The movie has a film noir quality about it, beginning with Eddie’s voice over. Film noir is usually about the dark side of policebusiness and the criminal underbelly of life. The film has these qualities because of the location of the gym, the lighting – and maybe the crime of euthanasia. No one overreaches in this film, and the acting is minimal, convincing and heartbreaking.

 

Million Dollar Baby gets its name from the prize-money purse and the fact that Maggie only weighed a little over two pounds when she was born. She had to fight to survive from the moment of birth.

 

Director Clint Eastwood and writer Paul Haggis have crafted a superb movie that works on every level except the ethical and moral. It’s too bad it is nihilism dressed up as compassion. But may it like other films of 2004 about life issues, launch a million conversations.