Beating up Million Dollar Baby.

Running thoughts on movies and their makings.
Jan. 28 2005 3:25 PM

Beating Up Baby

Clint Eastwood, in the line of fire; plus, Hide and Seek.

(Continued from Page 2)

One interesting contest will be between Annette Bening and Hilary Swank in a rematch from 1999. Swank deserved her Oscar for her stunning work in Boys Don't Cry, although the odds at the time favored the very pregnant Bening. My guess is that academy members wanted to protect the fetus from getting bounced around by the insane hugs and kisses of the repulsive Roberto Benigni. In any case, Bening gives a beautifully shaded performance in Being Julia of an aging diva, and deserves every award there is (including my own, the David).

The list of omissions for best actor could fill its own, separate competitive category. I was happy to see Clint Eastwood nominated for Million Dollar Baby; his soulful gravitas as God's Lonelist Man is the best thing about that bizarrely overrated movie. Don Cheadle is marvelous, of course. But it's a pity about the lack of recognition for Javier Bardem, Kevin Bacon, Paul Giamatti, Jim Carrey, and, maybe most of all, Jeff Bridges as an unsavory children's book writer in The Door in the Floor. Jamie Foxx will win, of course, for his bravura (and gratifyingly unsentimental) performance in Ray, but it's too bad that the academy overlooked Regina King and Aunjanue Ellis from the same film.

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Johnny Depp is fine in Finding Neverland—drying out (along with Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, and the kids) what could have been painfully mawkish two hours. But what of the affection for the picture? It obviously represents old-school Hollywood's stubborn belief in the importance of fatal-disease movies that celebrate the life-affirming wonders of the human imagination. But as author/illustrator Robert Weinstock (of the delightful new kids' book Gordimer Byrd's Reminder) put it recently, "Why do movies about the imagination always have to be so unimaginative?" ... 10:49 a.m.

David Edelstein is Slate's film critic. You can read his reviews in "Reel Time" and in "Movies." He can be contacted at slatemovies@slate.com.

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