' Cinema Romantico: Finest of the 00's: The Movie of the Decade

Friday, December 18, 2009

Finest of the 00's: The Movie of the Decade

Film Critics are supposed to be impartial and offer professional and reasonable analysis while refraining from embellishment and/or trips to the Thesaurus Of The Overwrought.

This critic does not subscribe to such antiquated notions.

My affection for "Million Dollar Baby" is absolute. There are many amazing films I have seen in my 32 years, a few much more than amazing, and two that are much, much more than just much more than amazing. In my life "Million Dollar Baby" and "Last of the Mohicans" are the two peaks that stand above the rest.

Clint Eastwood's twenty-fifth film (as director) is elegant and old-fashioned, never demanding your attention with a showy camera or shrill plotting, but eliciting it anyway through an attribute that often feels as if it might be extinct in modern movies - storytelling.

The protagonists have specific goals and driven by these goals their decisions make one thing happen which makes something else happen which makes something else happen. That's it. The story is driven by the characters making decisions. It never grows flashy even as it explores some awfully hard-hitting themes. The characters seal their respective fates. Neither the fimmakers nor any magical pieces of plot do it for them. (Does anyone agree this screenplay, based on short stories by F.X. Toole, might be to Paul Haggis what "The Deer Hunter" was to Michael Cimino? A one-off piece of insane brilliance never to be re-created? My only complaint with it would be the over-the-top portrayal of Maggie's family but that's the only one and whining about anything in a film this wonderful is just a frickin' waste of precious life.)

I have written a review on this blog in which I remain utterly disappointed because it does not come anywhere close to properly explaining how this film affects me. In the wake of seeing it that first time I wrote and sent out a four page letter to my friends and family in an attempt to explain how it affected me and that didn't come close to getting it right either. I have stared at my computer for weeks in an effort to draw something from of my mind to place in this post to summarize, five years on, how it continues to affect me but I've got nothin'. Yet I feel as if I should have somethin'. So brace yourselves. This could get nuts.

If you are people like us, people with unswerving devotion to cinema, people that spend untold amounts of money each year to go to the movies and to build DVD collections in which we possess immense pride, people who travel halfway across the country just to see where a movie was filmed, then from the very first day you sat down to watch a motion picture you have been waiting for a specific movie. You are waiting for a specific movie that is made just how you want a movie to be made, told just how you want a movie to be told, drawing on themes that you hold dear. You do not know what this movie is or when or where it will happen. But you are waiting for it. You are never disappointed when it doesn't happen because in many ways you don't truly expect that it will happen. And yet....you wait. People like us believe it will come one day. And when it does, you know. It is an inexpressable sensation but it is unconditional. You won't even ponder it. You will just....know. "That was it. That was the movie I waited for my whole life. It actually happened."

Maybe you have seen this movie, maybe not. If you haven't, you will. I promise. And when you do you will understand why five years later "Million Dollar Baby" still leaves me speechless.

2 comments:

Alex Withrow said...

This is not only the best thing I've ever read on this blog (and I have read many many great things), but this is one of the most accurate encapsulations of what it means to love a film. And film in general.

I know that paragraph completely disregards the notion of "refraining from embellishment" that you mentioned, but, like you, there are times when that notion is best ignored.

Just... Jesus man, so well said. I know what it means to not be able to fully articulate your love for THAT film, but you've done a damn fine job here. Your second to last (and brilliant) paragraph in this post speaks (most recently) to my affection for McQueen's Shame. I remain in complete awe of that film for a number of reasons.

Damn fine job here, Nick.

(Oh, and I love Million Dollar Baby as well. Recently did a post on all of Eastwood's films, and MDB is by far my favorite. Showed it to the girlfriend two nights ago, she couldn't speak during the entire closing credits. And a few minutes after that too.)

Nick Prigge said...

Thanks, man. Incredibly kind words. Glad to know I was on point with this one because it meant a lot to me. I know EXACTLY how your girlfriend felt. That's how I was! I can remember watching the credits the whole way through, having a moment, and then going out to my car and just sitting there having another moment.

I read and enjoyed that Eastwood post too. (Sometimes I just lurk unfortunately and don't comment.) He's made some truly great films but this one to me is just in a league all its own.