Plot: What’s it about?
A decade ago, Martin Scorsese hadn’t yet won the Oscar for Best Director. That would change with The Departed in 2006. However when Million Dollar Baby was released, it was pitted against The Aviator. I feel, had Eastwood’s movie not been released, that The Aviator would have won Best Picture. Still that was a decade ago and now here we are. This makes me wonder, however, what is it about boxing movies that makes most of them great and memorable? The images of two people beating the hell out of each other is certainly a way to evoke emotion and a boxing movie, although not too common, is usually a good candidate for a great movie. This movie won 4 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor (giving Morgan Freeman his long overdue statue). I feel Eastwood’s performance was certainly worthy of a nomination and had it not been for Jamie Foxx’s magnificent turn as Ray Charles, Eastwood would have nabbed the trophy. All of this, naturally, takes a backseat to how simply wonderful this film is and the controversy it sparked.
Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) comes from a blue collar, redneck family. She’s moved away from them to pursue her dream of becoming a professional female boxer. The only problem, though, is that she’s got no training and as Eastwood’s character says “Tough ain’t enough, kid.” She lives in poverty, works a job as a waitress and uses all of her spare money on gym fees and equipment. Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris (Morgan Freeman) starts to notice her and takes her under his wing to teach her the basics. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with Frankie (Clint Eastwood) who “doesn’t train girls”. After enough begging and pleading, Frankie reluctantly agrees to train Maggie, teaching her discipline and the correct techniques. The two form an unlikely bond as she rises in the ranks of the female boxers. Everything seems to be going well, Maggie is earning money and her family is doing everything they can to extort it from her”¦and then something happens. I won’t say what it is as it will ruin the movie. I didn’t know about it going in and I wouldn’t want to ruin the central focus of the film for anyone who is unfamiliar with what happens.
Suffice it to say that Million Dollar Baby was certainly worthy of winning Best Picture, no matter how many people thought Scorsese was due. I’m glad it came down to what the better movie was as opposed to whose turn it was to win. Hilary Swank, at the age of 31, now has two Best Actress Oscars under her belt (she won in 1999 for Boys Don’t Cry) and Eastwood has a couple for his Directing in Unforgiven and this. While on Eastwood, how many good things can be said about him? He’s had one of the most stories careers in Hollywood, directing nearly as many films he’s acted in, even though he’s most closely associated with his role as Dirty Harry. With Mystic River last year and Million Dollar Baby this year, I’m eager to see what the 75 year old will do next.
Video: How’s it look?
Seeing as this is a Clint Eastwood movie, I’ll say that this has bits of “The Good”, “The Bad” and “The Ugly.” Ok, maybe not so much of the latter part. The film was one of the initial releases on both the fledgling HD-DVD and Blu-ray formats back in 2006. That was a eight years ago. At the time, the movie was still fresh in people’s minds and Warner put out one of their recent Best Picture winners on the new HD format. Back then it looked good. Here we are now and we’re treated to a tenth anniversary edition and…the image is the same. Yes, it’s the same transfer used in the initial Blu-ray release that Warner put out in 2006. It’s even still encoded as a VC-1 transfer. Clearly (pardon the pun), Warner just issued this to capitalize on the tenth anniversary of the film and figured people would buy it. I’m sure they will. Having said that, the image isn’t bad by any means, but compared to some newer films, there are some obvious faults. Some of the black levels seem inconsistent, I found a spot or two with some halo effects (though minute) but detail still looked good. I feel that if Warner had really taken their time with this release (and we know that they can do amazing things when they want), it could have been, well – a knockout.
Audio: How’s it sound?
One thing that has changed since the original Blu-ray release is the addition of a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. This replaced the previous Dolby Digital 5.1 track found on that disc. To its credit, there is a bump in the audio quality. It’s not earth-shattering, but if you compare the two (and I did), certain scenes do sound a bit more robust. Dialogue sounds about the same, with Eastwood’s grizzled voice taking front and center (literally). Surrounds are used sparingly, but with great effectiveness and even the LFE get a few times to strut their stuff. I wouldn’t say that this is the only reason to upgrade, but there clearly is a difference.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Warner isn’t stupid, they have added a couple of new features that might actually sway the buyer to pick this disc up. We covered the previously-released supplements in our review of the HD-DVD, but since we constantly strive for that brass ring, we’ll cover them all here.
- Born to Fight – Swank and Lucia Rijker (“The Blue Bear” from the movie) talk about the movie and the controversy it sparked. We get some input from Eastwood and Freeman who share their thoughts on the film as well.
- Producers Round 15 – Albert Ruddy, Paul Haggis and Tom Rosenberg tell the roots of the movie and how it was adapted for the screen (with author F.X. Toole).
- James Lipton Takes on Three – Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank sit down with James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor’s Studio and talk about the film, its impact and the acclaim it received.
- Theatrical Trailer
New 10th Anniversary Supplements
- Audio Commentary – Producer Albert Ruddy gives us his insight on the film, the difficulty in getting it made and the like. All I can say is that it’s nice to finally have a commentary track for this film.
- Million Dollar Baby: On the Ropes – Clocking in around 30 minutes, this retrospective look at the film includes all of the notables: Eastwood, Swank, Freeman and Ruddy. It’s more of a look back on the film, the challenge of getting it made and its long-lasting impact.