Celebrating Great Films

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Million Dollar Baby

#174 at time of writing.

This film, about an ageing boxing coach who reluctantly agrees to train a relentlessly determined and positive woman, does not end up going in the direction you expect, and is all the more powerful as a result.

Clint Eastwood plays almost the same character as in Gran Torino, which is ranked higher on IMDb, but in my opinion this is the superior film. And the Academy clearly agrees with me, having awarded this the Best Picture Oscar (and three others).

You have to admire Mr Eastwood for continuing to direct and act in such compelling and challenging films despite being older than sin - he was 74 when this was released and he's still going strong almost a decade later.

Even more respect to him for sticking with this difficult story, based on short stories by F.X. Toole, despite the typical narrow minded studio reaction to anything that doesn't fit the formula. Several studios refused to fund Million Dollar Baby until Tom Rosenberg stuck his neck out to provide half of the $30million budget. Box office receipts ended up exceeding $200million.

Hilary Swank puts in a stellar performance that would steal the show, except that Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman live up to their reputations as masters of gravitas while they compete to see who can be the gruffest old man.

A movie that can be hard to watch, but is full of heart.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Sixth Sense

#143 at time of writing.

To say that this is M. Night Shyamalan's best film would not be telling the whole truth. Far more accurate would be to say that this is his only remotely good film.

Yet it is a very good film. It has all the hallmarks of his worst stinkers - e.g. schmaltzy monsters, a tendency towards over-earnest cheesiness, an excess of focus on plot for the sake of the twist - yet somehow manages to dodge between the cracks and end up being a satisfying and very touching masterpiece.

Perhaps he should stick to being a writer, and let better directors realise his work - or the other way around. (This was a spec script of his, one twelve released films that he's written as of 2013, ten of which he directed. And one of which is any good. Did I say that already?)

The story is about a child who claims, "I see dead people" (the American Film Institute's #44 movie quote of all time), and the skeptical but kind child psychologist who tries to treat him. Despite trying to avoid spoilers, I heard a little about the twist ending, and for years I dismissed it as sounding too similar to The Others. When I finally got around to seeing it, I was pleasantly surprised. I got so into the film that I forgot about the twist, and when it came it had the full effect. Thrilling.