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If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

CHAPUT & GROSSWIRTH REVIEW EASTWOOD FILM

What follows are two reviews of the film 'Million Dollar Baby.' The first review is by Archbishop Chaput; the second review is mine. While Archbishop Chaput was correct in identifying the great acting in the film, he was incorrect for what he refers to as bad moral reasoning on the part of Clint Eastwood. My review therefore recognizes 'Million Dollar Baby' as a true masterpiece. Here are the two contrasting reviews:

'Million Dollar Baby': Great boxing, bad moral reasoning
by Charles J. Chaput
Archbishop of Denver

The Epistle for this past Sunday (2 Tim 1:8b-10), in leading us more deeply into Lent, urged us to "bear (our) share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God."
It called on us to put our trust in "our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality . . . "

I remembered these words over the past few days as I thought about the controversy over Clint Eastwood's film, "Million Dollar Baby." Advocates for the disabled have criticized the movie for being pro-euthanasia. Supporters have dismissed critics as right wing "culture cops." One columnist even drew parallels between Clint Eastwood, who directed and stars in the film, and William Shakespeare.

That kind of praise is overstated by quite a stretch. But there's no doubt the film is powerful, and in many ways, attractive and compelling. Briefly, Eastwood plays a washed up gym owner and ex-boxing coach, tortured by some wound he inflicted on his estranged family in the past. Irish and Catholic, he attends daily Mass and argues with his priest-friend about doctrines he doesn't understand. He's driven to seek something in Church, but unwilling to find it.

Into his gym one day walks a young woman - played wonderfully by Hilary Swank - who wants to be a boxer to escape her "white trash" background. Little by little she wears his resistance down. He coaches her. They become friends. She's a natural fighter. She takes the place of the daughter who rejected him. And then, on the threshold of winning a championship, a dirty punch from an unethical opponent turns her into a paralytic dependent on a respirator.

This is where the story takes the wrong turn. She asks him to help her die. He resists and seeks the counsel of his priest friend, who warns him - quite articulately - not to do it. He struggles with his conscience. Finally he slips into her room one night, detaches her respirator and injects her with adrenaline, killing her instantly. Then he disappears. As the film concludes, it's unclear whether the Eastwood character has any peace with what he's done.

"Million Dollar Baby" is a great film about boxing and a bad film about moral reasoning. That's why people have reacted to it so sharply. If Eastwood had done a poor job of filmmaking, nobody would care. Instead the characters in "Million Dollar Baby" are appealing, complex and involving, and the key moral choice of the movie isn't made to seem easy - it's just wrong; very gravely wrong.

It's hard to believe that Eastwood intended this film as "pro-euthanasia propaganda." But the effect may be the same. He could have taken the final act of his story in a different, more humane and ultimately redemptive direction. Instead, by equating murder and mercy, he locks his characters into hopelessness. He makes a profoundly evil act seem noble. The tragedy in this otherwise arresting movie is what it could have been - and isn't.

'MILLION DOLLAR BABY' A GREAT FILM
by Ray Grosswirth, National Secretary of CORPUS

I want to thank Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver for recognizing a wonderful movie. At the very least, the archbishop brought out the wonderful acting and relationships depicted in the film, which in my estimation, is amongst the finest work produced and directed by Clint Eastwood.

I am admittedly writing this review with somewhat of a bias. In short, I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan! From his very early days in the acting profession, when he was one of the regulars in the television western 'Rawhide,' I saw something in Mr. Eastwood that led me to believe he would find fame an fortune in motion pictures. I was certainly right in my predictions, for Eastwood has come a long way in his distinguished career, beginning with what has been referred to as 'spaghetti westerns' and progressing through a series of 'Dirty Harry' films and a vast array of westerns, comedies, love stories and complex dramas.

I like to feel that I have become somewhat of an authority on the films of Clint Eastwood, for I can take any of his movies and carefully outline the plots, characters and Clint's production intentions. Especially during his later years, Mr. Eastwood has fashioned what can best be described as brilliant story-telling. Some of these stories have indeed been complex, as is the case with 'Million Dollar Baby.'

Clint Eastwood's movies of the last few years emphasize the point that life presents us with very difficult choices. In a likewise fashion, there is often a very fine line between good and evil. This became very clear in Mr. Eastwood's masterpiece 'Unforgiven.' Some have labeled this film as 'anti-western' in that there is no clear distinction between the bad guys and good guys. Such complexities also were evident in last year's brilliant movie (also directed by Clint) 'Mystic River.'

Clint Eastwood has stated over and over during the past few weeks that he was not trying to make a moral or political statement with 'Million Dollar Baby.' Perhaps the best way to watch this film is to envision it as a three-act play. In the first act, we are introduced to the characters. In the second act, the plot moves forward, whereby we think the climax will be reached. However, we are suddenly surprised by a third act, whereby Hilary Swank's character finds herself paralyzed and on a respirator. (One needs to see the film to understand how this comes about.)

Clint Eastwood is not trying to make a statement about euthanasia with 'Million Dollar Baby.' First and foremost, he was being loyal to the story's author. Secondly, via his brilliant direction and acting, he gets us to understand that we can't predict how we will respond in certain situations, unless we are actually in those situations.

I simply urge people to see 'Million Dollar Baby.' I guarantee that it is a film that will move you to tears. Above everything else, the story is about relationships and difficult choices some of us are faced with. I thank Clint Eastwood for this wonderful masterpiece.

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