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I'm watching "Firefox" for the first time since it was released in 1982. I distinctly remember the opening scene, with Clint Eastwood jogging (although, for some reason, I thought I remembered him jogging without a shirt). When I was 21 years old, I thought to myself, 'My *God*, he looks old' (he was 52). Now, my impression when I just saw that same scene was, 'My *God*, he looks young.' Unfortunately, other than seeing the movie in the theater vs. on Amazon, there's only one variable in this equation. (Actually, in a later scene, Eastwood was standing around without a shirt - he really wasn't in top shape for this film, even for a 52-year-old.) I had completely forgotten how blatantly Soviet this film was - sort of like an earlier version of "The Hunt for Red October" (1990) which I thought was just awful. However, I was studying Russian in the late 1980s, and knew enough to pick out the flaws in Red October; when I saw Firefox, Russian was like Chinese to me, so I had absolutely no idea how contrived it was. I do find it interesting just how John McCain-like Clint Eastwood's Vietnam flashback was. I also didn't realize that Firefox, like all of Malpaso's (Eastwood's Production company's) pictures since, has no opening credits after the title was displayed. One thing I'm noticing about Firefox is the incredible attention that's being paid to seemingly mundane detail (which I consider to be a huge asset; others consider it to be dull) - not a lot of action is occurring, but the Soviet atmosphere is being slowly and surely cultivated, despite the film not being shot in the Soviet Union (for Cold War reasons) - I suppose some might find the entire structure ponderous; I find it fascinating, in the way that I find Bruckner's symphonies fascinating. Just don't watch Firefox looking for an "Eastwood action movie," because you're going to spend a lot of time trying to find it. That said, Eastwood's heavily Americanized Russian accent would *never* pass muster when scrutinized by even a casual speaker, much less suspicious KGB agents screening him at a security gate - also, doesn't *anybody* around the perimeter of the ultra-secure facility know what their own pilot looks like? The special effects used for the flying scenes were known as "Reverse Bluescreen" photography, and were pioneered by John Dykstra just for this film - Dykstra was the special-effects lead for the original "Star Wars," and is almost surely a household name to anyone who cares about special effects. When the second Firefox is chasing the first, it becomes *extremely* obvious that this is a riff on Star Wars - you'll know the scene when you see it. Interestingly, not long after this, there's a scene that's a riff on, believe it or not, my favorite scene from "Wings" (1927), one pilot showing respect to the other. And after *that*, there's yet another Star War's riff - recall, "Use the force, Luke." If you want a detailed plot synopsis, there's a good one on *** SPOILER ALERT *** IMDB.
Not only have I never seen "Million Dollar Baby," I know nothing about it other than that it's a boxing movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood and Hillary Swank, and won a Best Picture award - I didn't even know Morgan Freeman was in it until five minutes ago. This falls within that "post-Karen, pre-DR period" where I went a long time without seeing any movies. I spent many years, decades ago, being a student of film, but I let it slip because I got busy with other aspects of life - although I have a lot of catching up to do, it's coming back very, very quickly. Well, for once, I watched the entire film without writing any of the review during the movie - that's because it was so damned good that I didn't want to pry myself away from the film. This movie is a masterpiece, and not only must it surely be Clint Eastwood's finest directorial effort, but Eastwood also *composed the score*! I think that right now, he can take his place as the most important - or legendary - figure in all of Hollywood: He is our generation's version of the stereotypical Hollywood legend. "Million Dollar Baby" goes on my Top 10 List, or Top 20 List, or Top 5 List, or whatever number happens to resonate with me on a particular day. It's not a "boxing movie" any more than "Unforgiven" is a "western." I'm forcing myself to look at this without looking at any awards, but I do know it won Best Picture. I could also see it winning Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and numerous others - in fact, I'd be surprised if it didn't. How much did this movie affect me? I want to hurry up and finish writing this review so I can see an interview with Hillary Swank about the film, just to know she's okay. *** SPOILER ALERT *** Going into the plot would be redundant and pointless. Just allow me to say that "Million Dollar Baby" is one of the finest films I've ever seen, and that it should be among the pantheon of all-time Hollywood greats. How can Clint Eastwood keep getting better-and-better as he keeps getting older-and-older? I enjoyed "Gran Torino," but that was at a whole other level. Note, however, that both films involve Eastwood coming to terms with religion, atoning for past sins, giving up his life for others, and presenting Catholic Priests - not as characters to be mocked, but as supportive figures, which he badly needs. It's as if Eastwood realizes he's approaching the end of life, and he's displaying all his foibles for us on the big screen. Make *sure* to see "Million Dollar Baby" at least once in your life; just do *not* be prepared to come away feeling the way you did after you saw "Rocky." This is one of the best films I've ever seen, but it's also one of the most depressing films I've ever seen, and it's not a "boxing" film per se. I have one question: When Maggie (Hillary Swank) fought for the title, why wasn't she awarded the bout? How is it possible that she wasn't? It would have been *so* much easier to take the ending had she only known that she was, ever so briefly, the champion of the world - which she rightly was.
This probably isn't the best time to be watching "American Sniper," but I do get a childish pleasure out of Clint Eastwood films, and I make a mild effort to watch Best Picture Nominees, even though I realize that's hardly an arbiter of anything but notoriety. Still, it's 2:30 AM, I'm having a tremendous pain flare, and I guess I'm in a "misery loves company" mood, so ... Interestingly, my personal assistant attended Chris Kyle's funeral (long story, that one). I also feel that, since I'm never there, I learn something from war movies, although I realize I'm watching Hollywood, and not reality, so must selectively filter whatever I see. Watching new films also fills a gap which I'd developed over the past fifteen years in terms of general popular culture. I really liked the analogy (at the young Chris Kyle's dinner table) of "sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs," and I guess I'm a classic case of a sheepdog - or I would be if I wasn't so badly hurt. I wish I could protect the unprotected, the weak, the sick, and the disadvantaged, but right now I'm just too badly injured, so I just have to sit back and watch. About 75 minutes into "American Sniper," I'm less convinced this is a "war movie" than it is a biographic about a man who's just doing his job - getting completely absorbed into his job - grisly though that job may be. I can easily see how partisans could either denounce this, or support this, but as pure film, I see this as more of an individual story than some sort of complicated team picture - almost like a perverse version of 'The [hypothetical] Cal Ripken, Jr. Story' (though I have absolutely no reason to think Cal would forsake his family for his job, which Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) ultimately does)' How it progresses in its final hour remains to be seen, but I can certainly understand how this movie polarized the public. Even now (or, perhaps "especially now"), I have a weird, almost sheepish feeling even writing about it, but this post should be taken as a movie commentary; not as any sort of pro- or anti-war stance. (Yes, of course I have strong, personal feelings about Iraq, but they have no place here, and if I betray them - one way or the other - then I have failed miserably). Boy, the contrast between Kyle buying his son a treat from the bubble-gum machine, immediately followed by the auto mechanic turning on his power drill, positively made me (as well as Kyle) shudder. Perhaps this is one of the first signs of Kyle's impending PTSD? Indeed, after I wrote that last sentence, I continued the film, and Kyle met the soldier he saved (the one who lost a leg), as the power drill continues to whir in the background - I'm pretty sure this is an important pivot in the film. The amount of liberty taken with this biopic is substantial - apparently, Kyle didn't have that much association with Mustafa (skillfully expressed in this film by Sammy Sheik), and only wrote one paragraph about him in his book. I don't know much about this particular issue, so if anyone has information to the contrary, please let us know. The shot (from underneath) of Mustafa jumping from one rooftop to another evoked something out of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," i.e., it looked very fake (well, they did say he was an Olympic athlete; but I assumed it wasn't for the Long Jump). Such happy scenes in this film - Ryan "Biggles" Job: "What do you mean, she can trace the diamond to Zales?" A little tidbit I picked up from Amazon X-Ray: "Chris Kyle's father personally told Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper that he would 'unleash Hell' if his son's memory was disrespected in this film. He also said that Eastwood and Cooper were 'men he could trust.'" I don't like the way they "invented" the villain of Mustafa, just to have a villain to root against. It really dumbs down the film - this is a story that should tell itself, and Eastwood (or whoever) felt the need to create a "Bird-Magic" type of rivalry between the two snipers. That might work for the masses, but it doesn't work for me: In real life, people aren't even sure "Mustafa" - or whatever his name was - even existed. That said, even though it was complete fiction, I *loved* the take-out shot in slow motion. Okay, that was one of the *worst* endings to any serious movie I've ever seen. I knew almost nothing about how Kyle died, and I *still* know almost nothing about how Kyle died. I feel cheated as all get out. Like the rest of my movie write-ups, this is obviously not a "review," so much as it is part of a (hopefully) larger discussion. When the day comes that I write a full-fledged movie review - and that day has not yet come - you'll know it; for now, I prefer these discussions to be a team effort among an intelligent, diverse group of movie lovers, hopefully flushing out some interesting and educational things about the films working together as a group. This type of approach could only work if this website was going to be around for the long haul - which it is. If the next commentary about this film comes two years from now, then so be it - we have all the time in the world, or, at least until humanity no longer exists. What I fear the most (and this relates to the film) is that, 100 years from now, inexpensive, devastatingly destructive technology will be available to anyone who wants it, so we, as a species, had better damned sight learn to start loving one-another; otherwise, there won't be anyone left to love, or to hate. Apr, 2013 - "The Legend of Chris Kyle" by Michael J. Mooney on dmagazine.com