The Sweet Science
As I lie in bed on a Sunday morning -- (once again) procrastinating from beginning my day, which is to include a trip to Petco and Target, more work on the overdue script rewrite and awaiting a visit from the appraiser, who will measure my house in anticipation of a refinancing ("YAWN"; I know) -- I take supreme, near-tear-inducing pleasure from the fact that Million Dollar Baby made close to 11 million dollars this weekend while a widely-reported piece of shit called Alone in the Dark failed to crack the top 10 in its first week in release. Its Rotten Tomatoes score has dipped to 1% positive reviews, while Million Dollar Baby has a 93%.
I saw Million Dollar Baby last night, shrugging off an invitation by my friend Todd who loves bad movies and thus goes to see every bad horror/action movie that comes out, on its first weekend, I might add (grumble grumble). While I am a fan of bad movies (Todd and I once had a terrific day torturing ourselves with a triple feature of Basic, The Hunted, and The Core), unless they are REALLY fun-bad (see: Reign of Fire), they are beginning to lose their luster. To put a finer point on it -- my tolerance for crap is plummeting alongside my frequent inability (the natural state of most working screenwriters) to find homes for those pieces closest to my heart. In other words, the fact that if I wrote a script like Alone in the Dark, my agents would probably have an easier time selling it that if I turned in something like Million Dollar Baby curbs my hunger for inanity. And while I certainly understand the rationale behind things being that way (for a movie like Million Dollar Baby to work at the box office -- it takes a lot more specific pieces to fall into place [Eastwood & awards & orgasmic reviews]) -- it still remains a frustrating, (if so "no duh" obvious it's barely worth the effort necessary to type these words), fact.
But tiny victories like the Reid/Dorff/Slater + horror equation failing so fucking miserably perhaps pushes back the obviousness of the above statement just a tiny bit, and perhaps executives & audiences will regain a tiny bit of appetite for the thoughtful and gentle and specific. At least until Jerry Bruckheimer announces his next project.
As for Million Dollar Baby, it's difficult to talk about without giving away key aspects of the movie. Suffice it to say, that everything you've heard is true. I've never been a giant fan of Clint Eastwood as either of director or actor. I admire his careful and concise shooting style and reported no-nonsense way of running a set, but I haven't really loved a movie of his since A Perfect World, and haven't really like a performance of his since In The Line Of Fire. But mostly, I think he's a really shitty, hammy, over-the-top actor. Oddly, surprisingly, one of my chief pleasures in Million Dollar Baby was his performance. It's funny and subtle and emotionally convincing. And while I'm horribly disappointed like everyone else that Paul Giamatti didn't get a nomination, I no longer think the elderlies in SAG robbed from Giamatti to give to Clint. I think it's all Johnny Depp's fault.