WARNING: Even though most of you have by now either had the ending of "Million Dollar Baby" spoiled for you and/or have seen the film for yourselves, I'm still going to avoid actively posting or discussing the specifics on this blog entry. The folks in the articles I'll be linking to, though, will not be so kind so click at your own risk. You have been warned.
As of this writing, the Academy Awards are only about sixteen hours away. For the entire awards season, we've watched extremists claiming to represent America's religious community vent their frustrations at the "snubbing" of their beloved epic of medievalistic torture-porn, "The Passion of The Christ," by trying to "take down" the Awards themselves and the likely winners in particular. With it seeming more and more certain that Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" will be the film that "steals 'The Passions' award," so called culture-watchers are making one last ditch effort to damage the reputation of the film and Eastwood out of what I can only describe as distinctly un-Christian spitefulness.
Albert Mohler, (posting at the Christian family website Crosswalk.com,) throws his hat in with the Medvedite critics who feel that spoiling the film will "save" potential viewers from it's "harmful" message:
It's mostly spoilers, so I can't use most of the best money quotes, but here he is defending Medved:
"The cultural left responded with a vengeance, defending "Million Dollar Baby" and Clint Eastwood and suggesting that Medved was a "spoiler," out to ruin the movie's commercial prospects."
Okay, let's be clear about this here: Medved IS a spoiler, and there's nothing "vengeance"-related about calling him so. Whether you disagree (as Medved does) with what he sees as the film's message, withholding the dark 3rd-act plot twist so that it wallops the audience the same as it does the characters is THE central narrative mechanism of the film: In giving it away, anyone who does so forces the audience to see the film in a manner infinitely less affecting than was intended, and beyond all that it's still just a rotten thing to do.
Crosswalk also posts an article adding fuel to the "boycott the Oscars for ignoring Mel Gibson!" fires, courtesy of "independent film producer-director and screenwriter" Joe Camp, best known (oh heck, ONLY known) as the creator of "Benji." Joe Camp thinks our culture is going downhill, that Hollywood is to blame, and that their failure to nominate a nearly-plotless feature-length depiction of a C-list actor in a Jesus costume getting the stuffing kicked out of him as the Best Picture of The Year is the final nail in the coffin. But Mr. Camp can say it better for himself:
Now, I've never heard that Joe Camp is anything but a really stellar guy. And I'm certainly not going to argue the film-quality-gauging skills of the auteur who cracked the uber-complex cinematic equation of "that dog is cute, let's film that dog," but lets look at some quotes here:
"I would like to see all the Christian people who went out and spent money and made it one of the top-grossing pictures of all time not watch the Academy Awards, just because of that,"
And before that, the article tells us (in regards to the "Family Values" of the "Benji" franchise):
"Another movie that depicts those values even more directly is one "Benji"'s creator regards with great admiration: "The Passion of the Christ." He feels producer-director Mel Gibson's movie about the crucifixion of Jesus has proven the power of the individual, with uncompromising vision and beauty, as few other films before it have done -- and, lest anyone forget, it was a box office blockbuster to boot."
Yegh. Enough is enough, people. I want ONE of these Religious "Right" zealots propping up "The Passion" to explain to me where all these "values" are in the film. We see almost none of Christs' good works or teachings, of the multiple miracles he's said to have performed the film feels the best thing to show us is a fictional scene crediting The Lamb of God with the invention of Big Tables. If I'm not already a believing, practicing, 100%-converted Fundamentalist Christian before I sit down for this movie, WHAT am I supposed to get out of this other than a long stretch of the kind of "plotless gorefest" the Michael Medveds of the world have spent their whole prior careers telling me I was going to Hell for enjoying? If watching a main character take a hellacious beating and come back for more is the definition of a film about values, then "Passion" shares values-movie shelf space with everything from"Lord of The Rings" and "Star Wars" to "Salo," "Kill Bill" and "The Story of O." Yet somehow, I don't think the director of "Benji" is going to try and convince me that "The Story of O" was robbed of an Academy Award nod anytime soon. Just a ballpark guess.
Ahem. That being said, Camp makes his point eloquently and his feelings sound sincere. And "Benji" really is one of the better dog movies, when you get right down to it.
Let's hear from a lady. Jill Stanek is an anti-abortion-rights activist, who's position on the subject lies slightly to the right of the talon-fingered newborn from "It's Alive!" Though she's definately not-kidding-around with her comittment to her cause, she's evidently not above using the difficult subject matter of her cause as the money-shot in a gag headline. Witness her new Worldnetdaily column, entitled "Pro-lifers: Abort the Academy Awards!"
Here's where this one gets interesting: After using the word "abortion" as a shock-word for a jokey headline about a movie award show, the actual column attacks Oscar Host-to-be Chris Rock for having made abortion jokes in his past. Here's Rock's joke:
"Abortion, it's beautiful, it's beautiful abortion is legal," joked Rock. "I love going to an abortion rally to pick up women, cause you know they are f---ing."
Okay, the only thing "shocking" about that joke is that an original talent like Rock would resort to that worn-out Frat Boy oldie of a dirty joke. But here's Stanek's outraged reaction:
"Some say Rock was actually making a sarcastic indictment against abortion. That could be, and his comment did open my eyes a little wider on the exploitive nature of abortion. Nevertheless, the joke was repulsive, and any comedian who would use abortion to get a laugh is the last comedian in the world I want to watch on television. Abortion is the unfunniest topic in the world."
"The unfunniest topic in the world..." unless the funny is occuring in headlines to her own articles, apparently. But while pointing out baldfaced hypocrisy may be fun, (and it is,) we move on to the REAL reason she's up in arms: The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences has had the unmitigated gall to nominated for various awards not one but TWO films that run counter to the personal politics of Jill Stanek. Well, at least she's not being unreasonable or anything...
Specifically, she takes issue with "Million Dollar Baby," for reasons I'm still not going to spoil for you, and "Vera Drake" for being about the life, arrest and trial of a pre-abortion-legality working class Englishwoman who provides (illegal) abortions for those too poor (or in too bad a situation) to afford the nice, discreet, clean (but still illegal) ones used frequently by the wealthy. My immediate reaction here is: "Tsk, tsk. She forgot 'Kinsey!"
But okay, as a "pro-lifer" Stanke has, of course, all the right in the world to be irked that "Vera Drake" has three nods. But she also saddles up next to the Medvedites when it comes to "Million Dollar Baby"...
"You've likely heard about the shocking end of "Million Dollar Baby" only from friends. Its ads and trailers give no clue to its real agenda."
This kind of groupthink borders on the eerie. People: Withholding details of a major plot and tonal shift is a NARRATIVE DEVICE, not evidence of a hidden agenda. Granted, Stanek and others who confuse the two have the benefit of not being professional critics and former film-scholars of note... what's Medved's excuse again?
In the end, there's ONE person left yet who hasn't been much heard from on the controversy, and that's the director/actor himself. Clint Eastwood has only offered smatterings of info on how he feels about the propaganda campaign being waged against him, but he finally spoke in depth in an extraordinary interview with Time Magazine:
Seriously, take the time and read that. Eastwood is not only the finest living actor/director in America, he's also one of the most honest and intelligent. One of the best filmmaker interviews I've ever read. But let's see the "money quote" exchange here, when Time writer Richard Schickle puts the Big One right on the table i.e. former Republican mayor Clint Eastwood "turning against" his Conservative fans with "Baby":
TIME: THERE'S A NOTION THAT CLINT EASTWOOD, THE GREAT AMERICAN ICON, HAS SOMEHOW DISAPPOINTED A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF HIS CONSTITUENCY WITH THIS MOVIE.
EASTWOOD: "Well, I got a big laugh out of that. These people are always bitching about "Hollyweird," and then they start bitching about this film. Are they all so mad because The Passion of the Christ is only up for the makeup award and a couple of other minor things? Extremism is so easy. You've got your position, and that's it. It doesn't take much thought. And when you go far enough to the right you meet the same idiots coming around from the left."
Hey, whaddaya know... Dirty Harry just made my day :)