Sunday, February 13, 2005

Double Feature

Since TinyTuna was very busy yesterday with her last weekend of costume crewing a local production of Winnie-The-Pooh (plus attending the all-important cast party following the last show), GramTuna and I decided to abandon all housework for a second weekend in a row, and we took in a double feature.

Our first selection was Oscar-nominated Million Dollar Baby

2005 Oscar Nominations
Best Director - Clint Eastwood
Best Editing
Best Motion Picture
Best Actor - Clint Eastwood
Best Supporting Actor - Morgan Freeman
Best Actress - Hilary Swank
Best Screenplay Adaptation

I wasn't thrilled about seeing this film, and had it not been an Oscar nominee, I wouldn't have. It was a Clint Eastwood movie (strike one) and it was a boxing movie (strike two). As the lights dimmed I looked at GramTuna and said dryly, "This better not suck."

Two hours later the lights came back up again, and we were sitting there, stunned, in the back row. It wasn't anything like I expected. Clint Eastwood was quite good, Hilary Swank was stunning, and yes it's true: Morgan Freeman could read the phone book and I'd love him.

What I loved about this film was its simplicity. It wasn't a boxing movie at all. It was a movie with boxing in it. The film had a decided lack of contemporary movie cliches: car chases, poorly disguised music videos, casts of thousands and nonsensical violence. It was lean and honest and centered around people, hopes, desires, dreams, hardships, triumphs and heartbreak. Despite all that, it wasn't heavy handed, and it didn't preach. The story unfolded simply and at the end it drew no conclusion -- that was left for the viewers to interpret. Maybe that is the best tribute any film could receive.

Hilary Swank is a front-runner for the Best Actress statue, and deservedly so. The film has a lot of positive buzz going into the Oscars. Best director nods are always a bit of an enigma because best motion picture winners do not always go hand in hand with best director winners. Morgan Freeman is a strong contender for supporting actor, although I loved Thomas Hayden Church in Sideways.

One last tidbit: Gram and I uttered a unison "WHAT?" when the credits rolled and we found out that in addition to directing, producing and acting in this film, Clint Eastwood also did the soundtrack. And it -- like the movie -- was quite good. Is there anything this guy doesn't do?

After a short break, we headed into film number two. Hotel Rwanda.

2005 Oscar Nominations
Best Actor - Don Cheadle
Best Actress - Sophie Okonedo
Best Original Screenplay

Unlike my feelings preceding the screening of Million Dollar Baby, I was quite excited to see Hotel Rwanda. And just like the first film, when the credits started to roll, all I could do is sit there stunned and say, "wow." Comparing Hotel Rwanda to Million Dollar Baby is an apples to oranges kind of affair, but I'd use the exact same words to describe them. I had imagined Hotel Rwanda would be shocking and horrifying, but the fact that it also managed to be uplifting and challenged its audience to be better global neighbors is perhaps the best tribute this film could receive.

It's hard to describe the performances of Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo. Stunning? Flawless? Moving? Yes it was all that, and more. Simply put, it was the perfect cast for the roles. There had been talk of using bigger named actors (Denzel Washington and Will Smith, among others) to help the boxoffice draw. I'm pleased the director was able to make this film with Don Cheadle -- the actor he envisioned from the outset to play this role.

After seeing a film like this, Oscar predictions become much tougher. I still have a hunch Jamie Foxx will take the Oscar for Ray, but if Don Cheadle won for Hotel Rwanda, I would be very, very happy.

Two films in one day. One was nothing like what I was expecting. One was exactly like what I was expecting. And both were outstanding.


TVJ said...

I'm starting to feel very, very bad about not going to the movies more often. Hell .. for not going at all. Color me green.

GreenTuna said...

Yeah, I have to admit I feel pretty lucky at the ones I've seen so far. I'm looking forward to "Finding Neverland" and feel like I'm going to absolutely DRAG myself to see Aviator.

Cindy said...

I loved Finding Neverland, I have recommended it to everyone I know. If you get a chance, you should see Aviator, it was much better than I was expecting. Most of the performances are wonderful and the sets and costumes are incredible.