Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Million Dollar Baby


The best movie of the year, for my money. (Lee disagrees.) Okay, we haven’t seen Sideways yet, but hope to in the next few days, and we’re probably going to wait for the DVD of Finding Neverland. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.

There’s really not much I can say about the film, cinematically. Everything worked. But there are two issues I want to address.

I don’t like boxing. I don’t understand why anybody would want to pound on someone else, and get pounded in return. I don’t know why anyone would enjoy watching it. (I take it back; I think I do understand the attraction of boxing, on some level. Along with the foot race, boxing and other forms of hand-to-hand combat are the purest, most basic and primitive of all the activities we call “sport.” They require no equipment and don’t even require any rules. The winner in boxing is the one still standing; the winner in a race is the one that crosses a line in the sand first.)

I don’t understand why anyone would want to ride a horse cross country or over hurdles. I don’t understand why people like to climb onto big motorcycles and drive them at 100 miles per hour. I don’t know why people want to climb up vertical rock faces. But I know there are people who love to do all those things, and more power to them. I wouldn’t dream of standing in their way.

People get hurt, boxing. They also get hurt in American football, in real football, in skiing, in car racing, hockey, and bicycling. All these activities can, and have, produced C2 and C3 spinal cord injuries. But boxing is the one a lot of people want to ban. Why? I guess it’s because it’s the only sport I know of where actual bloodshed is routine, and expected. (Yeah, I know, a lot of blood gets spilled in hockey, but they’re not supposed to be pounding on each other with fists and sticks. They get penalized for it. In boxing you get points for it.) Still, the only opposition I know of to horse jumping, which broke Christopher Reeve’s neck, comes from animal rights nuts, not from people concerned about the riders. So although I dislike boxing intensely, I have no problem with those who want to do it.

And I agree with those who say this isn’t a boxing movie. My mom hates boxing, and loved this movie. I’m with her. Many of the best sports movies aren’t really about the sport itself, but about human determination. The sport is a metaphor. I don’t even think Raging Bull is really a movie about boxing. Rocky, now there’s a boxing movie, because Rocky always wins in the end. In many of my favorite sports movies, the folks we’re rooting for lose. Like Friday Night Lights. I think we learn more about ourselves when we lose than when we win.

One more thing. … And if you are one of the three people left in the world who don’t know how this movie ends, you’d better check out right here.


I hate it, hate it hate it hate it, when people grab a work of art and run with it as a political football. I hate it when that pustulent gasbag, Rush Limbaugh, accuses Clint Eastwood of endorsing assisted suicide. I hate it when John Hockenberry and other advocates for the disabled howl that showing one woman’s decision not to live somehow cheapens the lives of people with spinal cord injuries who are living full and happy lives, and even wonder in print if Roger Ebert would like to go to a military hospital and pull the plug on injured Iraq war veterans. Jeeez! You know, if they want the plug pulled, they should have that choice. Most elect not to! I know that! Does that mean that Million Dollar Baby should be forced to include some sort of smarmy example of disabled people triumphing over their disabilities? I’ve seen a million films like that, and they’re fine, they’re inspiring, they’re wonderful, but that’s not the story of this woman!

I’ve known a lot of disabled people in my life, some fully as bad off as the woman in this movie. Not one of them wanted to commit suicide … and I applaud them and rejoice for them.

I kind of think I would want the plug pulled, myself, but I could be wrong. I won’t know until I get there. However, the issue is choice, not force. The disabled have a horror of society demanding that they get out of the way of the able-bodied, of them being pressured or forced to make the choice of death, or even having it made for them, as in Hitler’s Germany … and well they might worry about it, with assholes like Rush Limbaugh insisting they stay alive while at the same time opposing the measures that would help make their lives more productive or even tolerable. But I put it to you that denying me or anyone else the right to die when life feels intolerable is in itself the use of force. Suicide is my right, and I resent anyone who denies it to me, from the right or the left. LEE SAYS: Metaphor schmetaphor. Million Dollar Baby (and Rocky) GLORIFIES boxing, a sport that PROMOTES brain damage. Maybe with a different sport … but there’s still the predictable plot twists (even the ending that everyone’s talking about) and the clichéd characters, especially Maggie’s trailer-trash family. I really liked Morgan Freeman’s character … the first time he played it in The Shawshank Redemption. I like all these actors; they all were good. And I really expected to like this movie, which is probably why I felt kinda pissed off afterwards. Varley and I do agree on the right to suicide.