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MILLON DOLLAR BABY
2004 - Clint Eastwood
United States
58
Opening Shot

Over the sounds of Clint Eastwood's tender musical score, the Warner Brothers and Lakeshore logos are shown in black and white, further expressing the noirish atmosphere and tone of the film. The opening scene (which reveals the film to be in color) begins with an overhead shot above a boxing ring where two fighters are in action.

The Film

The strength of Million Dollar Baby lies within it's characters and its noirish atmosphere. Even though the film is simply (and even begins commonly) told, and the depth or knowledge of their past are limited within the narrative, you will deeply sympathize and truly care for these characters. They are human in every way, but Eastwood is not presenting his film as real life, yet rather through a cinematic world of dark doomed fate. There are also moments of humor and touching beauty, as Million Dollar Baby is a love story of two souls, that have been abandoned by both family and religion, who's relationship is connected through redemption. That's the key, and their redemption comes through tragedy!! The film is gracefully told as a reflection by the seemingly ghostlike narrator (Scrap-Iron, played brilliantly by Morgan Freeman), and is focused on the relationship of boxing gym owner Frankie Dunn, and Maggie Fitzgerald a desperate and persistent female boxer. They are both played to absolute perfection by Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank who give the best best performances of thier careers. There are many depths and layers within the film, but ultimately I believe Million Dollar Baby to be (above all) an emotional journey with the characters which transcends any of it's themes. Million Dollar Baby is simply flawless in all aspects of filmmaking, acting, and writing. Absorbing, touching, and painful, this is a film you will not forget. Unforgiven may be Eastwood's quintessential film, Bird his most passionate, Mystic River his most haunting, but Million Dollar Baby is his most heartbreaking and to me his greatest accomplishment.

The Filmmaker

Since his breakout appearance as 'the man with no name' in Sergio Leone's influential 1964 "Spaghetti Western", Clint Eastwood has become a renowned legend. While continuing his acting career (mostly playing tough guy roles and westerns- including the completion of Leone's 'Dollar Trilogy') Eastwood would also work as a director starting with the impressive thriller Play Misty For Me in 1971. Working successfully in both acting and directing, Eastwood has become an icon in American film and today stands among the most respected figures in Hollywood. I don't think Eastwood could be classified as an auteur filmmaking and many of his films rely on a strong script, but when the script is good Eastwood can often turn it into a masterpiece. Of course, to say Eastwood is not an auteur does not mean that his films do not have his presence. Eastwood is a master when working with dark and tragic films and each of his greatest films have captured this in different ways: Bird (a depressing and grim look at the great Charlie Parker); White Hunter Black Heart (a tragic character study of obsession, and distrust); Unforgiven (an examination of a man's buried evil and violent past); Mystic River (a haunting and complex view of the cycle of violence); and Eastwood's greatest masterpiece Million Dollar Baby (a heartbreaking noir of redemption, family, and religion). To capture this dark and tragic mood Eastwood's films almost always feature under-exposed natural lighting, and very often a jazz musical score (Eastwood is a jazz-fanatic and even composes the score on many of his films). Perhaps Eastwood's greatest strength as a filmmaker is his ability to work with actors. He has a well known reputation for his private, calm, and quiet shooting sets in which actors feel very comfortable. Eastwood's legendary status continues to build as he gets older. Three of his most recent films have each been nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, and for the second time in his career he won both awards with Million Dollar Baby in 2004 (he also gave, to me, his best performance as an actor in the film - followed by a remarkable career persona defining performance in his superbly directed 2008 film Gran Torino).

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Resources
trailer (youtube)      
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