On the last Sunday in February we’ll have our annual meeting; later that day many of us will tune in to the 77 Annual Academy Award show when this year’s Oscar winners will be announced, one by one, sprinkled with entertainment: “The envelope please.”
We haven’t seen all the nominations for best picture, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Clint Eastwood collect three Oscars for his marvelous Million Dollar Baby: for best picture, best actor, and best director. He made my day, in a very different way.
I am, surprised, however, that a boxing picture—female boxing, at that—could capture my imagination, and touch such deep places, way ‘down there where the spirit meets the bone.’
Clint Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, a sort of has-been fight manager and boxing gym owner who is haunted by his broken relationship with his daughter, and who reluctantly agrees to manage Maggie Fitzgerald, powerfully played by Hilary Swank. The story unfolds with the resonant baritone voice of Morgan Freeman, the same way he narrated Shawshank Redemption.
The boxing ring becomes an effective and affecting metaphor for the place within each of us that struggles—and sometimes fights—to gain a deeper sense of meaning in life, limited by roped-in boundaries, taking inevitable beatings from time to time. Clint’s character keeps the fight going by stopping the flow of blood between rounds—the ‘cut man.’ One message is, “Hang in there, keep going, hold on to hope.”
Frankie Dunn does with Maggie Fitzgerald what he failed to do with his own daughter—a failure that is left to our imagination—a fight he’s lost, though he hung in there, trying to mend his broken relationship. He gave it his best shot. It’s as though he was his own ‘cut man,’ deeply wounded, but refusing to give up. He attends Mass regularly, throwing tough questions at his priest who is always on the verge of throwing in the proverbial towel on his doubting Thomas.
Hotel Rwanda gets my vote for most disturbing film of the year. Paul (Don Cheadle) is the manager of a four-star hotel in Kigali who does what Oskar Shindler did—he risks his life to save more than a thousand Tutsi and Huti refugees who came to his hotel during the massacre being carried out by the Hutus in 1994.
Last week’s 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is a reminder of genocide—Hotel Rwanda is based on actual persons and events, and the hero is just a regular guy who has been using the system to his own advantage, until the time comes for him to live out some higher values. He and his family survived and are now living in Belgium—the hotel was owned by a Belgian company. They survived because Paul kept his equanimity in the midst of madness.
Some other films that merit mention include Kinsey, Ray, Motorcycle Diaries, Maria Full of Grace, Vera Drake, Sideways and the documentary Super Size Me. Enjoy the show.