Published Feb 04, 2014Million Dollar Baby is a pretty good movie, simply written and economically directed, with lots of attention to the actors' performances. Hey, wait! Remember when it won a bunch of Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 2004?
Surely somebody does, because a Blu-ray re-release celebrating the film's tenth anniversary has arrived, with the same head-scratching forced significance as the tribute to Chicago at last year's Academy Awards ceremony (which was produced, not coincidentally, by the producers of Chicago). Ten years later, however, does Clint Eastwood's film about an unlikely female boxer (Hilary Swank) rising to success through the support of her reluctant trainer (Eastwood) still hold up? Taken alone, these elements, plus Morgan Freeman's signature gravitas and Paul Haggis's sparse, emotional script, make for a really good movie. But there's little to suggest that it's a great one.
In 2004, Million Dollar Baby was the sort of simple, classic Hollywood movie into which audiences were looking to escape. Eastwood's gruff, vintage aura only boosted the film's anti-zeitgeist appeal, and Freeman essentially recreates his narration from 1994's The Shawshank Redemption, completing Million Dollar Baby's perfect execution of old entertainment adage "the same but different."
If the films of 2004 were being nominated today, would Million Dollar Baby still be competing for Best Picture against The Aviator, Ray, Sideways and, er, Finding Neverland? According to the Academy Award's current rules, the category would've also included The Incredibles and The Passion of the Christ, among others. And if hindsight was considered, some de facto classics that didn't receive enough nominations the first time around might be contenders: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Closer, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Spider-Man 2.
As things are, however, we're left with an unexciting re-release of Million Dollar Baby, with bonus features championing its existence in the face of that old chestnut: "Nobody wanted to make this movie." An interview conducted by a typically sycophantic James Lipton with Eastwood, Swank and Freeman shortly after their Oscar sweep is the extent of their involvement here, leaving the commentary track to producer Albert S. Ruddy, who narrates the action onscreen and boasts about how terrific everyone is. (Warner Bros.)