Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Million Dollar Baby (2004).
I feel it’s necessary to start this by saying I’m a defender of late period Eastwood, so seeing films of his from back when everyone was on board with his directorial style is always a great thing. Taking on boxing, the most awards friendly of the sports movie types, and winning another slew of Oscars more than a decade after Unforgiven seemed to honor his whole career, and nearly two decades before present day which he still spends churning out movies at a pace most people that could be his great-grandchildren should be envious of, Eastwood proved that his economical style can perfectly match anything as long as his performers are up to it. Eastwood makes the fights in the ring as exhilarating as any old west shootouts or suspect chases from the films he so often made before, but as with any boxing film, it’s the personal conflicts that make it riveting, especially with Freeman’s stellar performance once again proving why he and Eastwood are one of Hollywood’s best duos. Perhaps most interesting though, is that Eastwood, best known for his gruff macho man persona on and off the screen, once again finds himself questioning the role of all of that in our society and even more, the reality of the American Dream. In the wild West, some grit and determination may have been enough to make life more comfortable (though exacting a toll on the way, if Unforgiven is to be believed) but in our modern age, a true rags to riches story may never be possible.
The Real Best Picture:
I won’t drink any fucking merlot but I will say Sideways was the best.