Beliefnet

Hollywood's Revenge


"Million Dollar Baby" is Hollywood's revenge for not feeling able to give the Oscar for Best Picture to "Fahrenheit 9/11." It's an even worse movie than Fahrenheit. And, unlike Fahrenheit, it's not even filling movie houses.

Charlotte Allen points out that even though MDB is doing only so-so at the box office ("Because of Winn Dixie," a family-friendly movie about a dog, has almost the same weekly gross, despite having been in the theaters for only ten days), it was destined to win big at the Oscars. She and her sister-in-law both bet on it in advance of last night:

"[B]oth of us knew our Hollywood, and we predicted, quite accurately, that the cinema elite would find irresistible this oh-so-serious Clint Eastwooder with its doubly politically correct whammy of female boxing and plug for euthanasia. For 1999, Hollywood handed a 'Best Actor' award to Michael Caine for playing a friendly neighborhood abortionist in The Cider House Rules, another picture that hardly anyone wanted to see either before or after the Academy Awards show but that pushed a cause dear to West Coast liberals' hearts. That's the way Hollywood is. So, sis, you have a great time on the Strip."

Swami interviewed Sufi sheikh Kabir Helminski about MDB. The sheikh, who seemed quite movie savvy, liked MDB, even noting that boxing coach Frankie is a spiritual person because he reads William Butler Yeats. The sheikh also regarded suicide under the circumstances as an acceptable transformation. He quotes a teacher named Rumi: "I died as mineral and became a plant, I died as plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was man. Why should I fear? When was I ever less by dying?"

If that is your view of death, I can see that you might not be bothered by things in this movie that rendered me apoplectic. The movie portrayed Frankie's decision to accede to the wish of Maggie, now paralyzed, to kill her as a wrenching but moral choice. The film depicts Frankie as going to Mass daily, and this gives the impression that, no matter what the Catholic Church teaches about suicide, Frankie was a good Catholic and his decision was thus more human and correct than Church teaching. Before killing Maggie (as we know all along he will), Frankie takes his concerns to a priest, who already has been shown in the movie to be a less than engaging human being. The priest seems sort of a stuffed shirt who wouldn't understand a "real" problem like the one confronting Frankie.

Of course, there's no reason there couldn't be a good movie about assisted suicide--if it were an artistic venture rather than a mere preachment. Like "The Cider House Rules," MDB has an all-too-obvious agenda. That's why the elite so liked these two movies--they preached their gospel.

Think of Medea being rewritten to argue for increased after school programs, or Romeo and Juliet transformed into a play about the need for more publicly-funded teen suicide hotlines. That's about how artistic MDB is.

MDB is preachier than any televangelist on Sunday morning TV. It preaches a passé gospel, left over from the sixties. Here is a closing snippet from Charlotte Allen on why the public seems to be rejecting this bleak little opus:

"'Million Dollar Baby' is cut to the Sixties template: attractive young heroine with every card in the deck carefully stacked against her: poverty, rotten family, no friends (except for the equally down-on-his luck Eastwood), rigged fight, dank, disease-ridden hospital with not a caring attendant in sight. Even the priest is a drone--so much for the moral authority of religion. It's the System, and you can't beat the System. The heroine can't win--and doesn't. It's the audiences that are different 40 years later. Today's young people--and their elders--have more realistic and hopeful attitudes toward adult life. So they mostly don't want to see a cynical movie that informs them that struggling isn't worth it and the society they live in is beyond redemption. The Sixties are over, folks, and Hollywood can plug its favorite brand of nihilism with every Oscar on the shelf, but I predict that not many people are going to buy it."

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