I am glad to see Ms. Hillary Swank won the Oscar for Best Actress for Million Dollar Baby. Her performance was amazing and worthy of the award. My wife and I were amazed by her performance and have done some blogging about it here. Roger Simon live blogged the event, which is much more valuable commentary from an insider.
Morgan Freeman's acceptance of his Best Supporting Actor award was extremely gracious for Million Dollar Baby. He is a man with incredible class.
The Incredibles is an outstanding family drama that I highly recommend and was very glad it won Best Animated Feature Film. Thought the Shrek 2 scenes making fun of Starbucks patrons in Beverly Hills was hilarious.
Cate Blanchett was incredibly believable as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator. Her award for Best Supporting Actress was well earned with her performance.
I really don't have anything to add to the discussion other than congratulations to the winners.
I don't blog much on film (a few posts are here) but I am glad to see Hillary Swank won the Best Actress award for "Million Dollar Baby" at the SAG awards. She well deserves it for an outstanding performance of an aspiring boxer.
I don't care much for boxing, but her portrayal of a struggling boxer gave me far more respect for those who pursue it. Morgan Freeman did very well reprising his supporting actor role to Clint Eastwood (much like Unforgiven) and was rewarded with an SAG award as well.
"Million Dollar Baby" wrestles with some powerful and important social issues. I disagree with where the film ends up but appreciate the emotional and spiritual struggle one of the protagonists goes through.
Todd McCarthy has a disturbing article in Variety (hat tip: Drudge) about a trend in recent independent films at the Sundance Film Festival (2005). He lists 9 separate films, all with young teens making horribly wrong adult sexual decisions. As a moral compass, Sundance seems to be pointing in the wrong direction.
I am not one for censorship, as the header for this site explains. But just because anything can be said, done or shown doesn't mean it should be. There are many well-made films that, from my personal perspective, are not worth seeing. Depicting bizarre sexual escapades of minors is wrong. The fact that aspiring Sundance directors are focusing on the topic is just one more indicator of the culture war that is out there.
I am pleased Variety is writing an article about this trend, though it stops, of course, short of rendering any judgment on the films.
My wife and I saw our third Oscar contender for Best Picture on Sunday, "Sideways". This smaller, independent film is loved by the critics. If you love wine, wine tasting, wineries and mid life crises, you will love Sideways. The premise is a bachelor party week tasting wines outside of Santa Barbara for two former college buddies, one a failed writer and the other a mostly failed actor.
While there is plenty of wit and good dialog and great information for wine connoisseurs, we found it difficult to care for the plight of either of the characters. The lead is brooding, and the supporting actor (played very well by Thomas Hayden Church) is a philandering, self-centered groom-to-be.
I think this is receiving positive press from Academy members because many of them may be boorish males in their mid-lives going through problems finding meaning. That is obviously overly harsh, but we were at pains to see what the critics love in this film. I like Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator, in that order, over Sideways. I must see Ray, though. I hear it is a wonderful and powerful performance.
My wife and I enjoy films. We have not seen as many in the past several years, but we have seen the two main contenders for best picture (if Drudge's link can be believed). Here are some comments on "The Aviator" and "Million Dollar Baby":
This film gives the viewer a window into Howard Hughes' life from the time of his early 20s, filming his extremely expensive "Hell's Angels" film about WWI pilots, to his Senate battles and successfully flying the famous "Spruce Goose" for the only time. Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent in the film, and I am a person who despised Titanic. Cate Blanchett, as a young Katherine Hepburn, is dynamic in the role and convincing.
In the film, Hughes is a brilliant man, a clear visionary and patriot, but mentally conflicted with an obsessive-compulsive disorder that practically destroys him. My wife did a good amount of research online after seeing the film to find out more about Hughes. The film does not address his childhood, his parents, or his sad end in a Las Vegas hotel. However, the performances are rich and the story compelling.
The Million Dollar Baby
If you loved "Unforgiven," then you will love "Million Dollar Baby." It almost seems as a modern day version of "Unforgiven," with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman playing similar roles as before. Instead of an old retired gunslinger out to fight one last battle with his willing sidekick, played by Morgan Freeman, Mr. Eastwood plays a boxing trainer agreeing to train his last boxer, Hillary Swank. Mr. Freeman narrates the film and pushes Clint's character to train a "girl". The film, like Unforgiven, has a morality tale focus, though it does the best job of any film I have seen explaining boxing.
I disagree strongly with the moral conclusions that Mr. Eastwood's character and Hillary Swank's character choose. However, it does deal honestly with the struggle they face. Hillary Swank deserves a best actress Oscar for her role. She is extremely believable as an aspiring boxer.
I lean towards "Million Dollar Baby" even though I disagree with its ultimate moral reasoning. There is more to this film to digest and reflect on, and I believe it will be the more enduring picture.
If I could nominate a film that I enjoyed the most, with a great family story and wonderful character development and action, it would go to Pixar's "The Incredibles". As Roger L. Simon says (who actually voted):
To be fair, I should have voted for The Incredibles number one for Best Picture, because I am sure in future years it will be the most watched movie of 2004.