Monday, March 21, 2005
Goodbye Comfort Zone

Well, I finally bit the bullet and passed my resignation notice. It feels like swinging in the jungle, letting go of one vine to grab the next one - and hoping it isn't greased. Right now, I'm squarely in mid-air, anticipating my days away. I guess I have to compose an obligatory goodbye email to my beloved co-workers...but that's for another day.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Tough Ain't Enough

It’s just been minutes since the end credits stopped rolling, and it was a good thing that I didn’t see any of the trailers for Million Dollar Baby, or read any PR about it. There’s a sense of purity in watching a movie with little knowledge of who’s who, or what the gimmick is. By saying “gimmick” though, is a mockery in this case. Much like the first Matrix film, this had the sleeper effect (something that comes out of nowhere to surprise you) on me because I saw the film without any expectations whatsoever. However, knowing beforehand that this is what won Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hillary Swank their respective Oscars this year may skew my views just a little bit.

To the reader, there will be spoilers here so be warned. The film opens with Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) patching up his battle-weary fighter. Here we see that he’s an old man, jaded with events that have passed. He lends a general air of disenchantment and nurses a broken sense of security. Deathly afraid that his fighter will get in over his head, he puts off setting up any major title fights for his boy. Eventually, his warrior leaves him for another manager, and for greener pastures. Enter Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank), a hopeless case practically begging Frankie to take her under his wing. Cynical as he is about her (“I don’t train girls”, “tough ain’t enough”), he reluctantly begins the agonizing process of starting from the ground up with this helpless, clumsy excuse of a newbie. We’ve all seen this same scenario played in other movies, but this time it strikes a very painful chord.

Here we see the excellent performances by Eastwood, Swank, and Freeman, who plays a vital role in this subtle drama. A burned out has-been in the world of boxing, he still has a glimmer of optimism for the young hopefuls that come through the doors of their gym. For me, Freeman’s character represents part of the painful past that has molded Frankie Dunn into who he is. Freeman plays Scrap, a longtime friend of Frankie, and they were in fact, partners at one time as a boxer and manager respectively. Frankie eternally regrets the fact that he pushed Scrap too hard in his 109th fight, which cost him his eye in that fateful match. Their funny banter and humorous conversations barely mask the complex relationship these old friends share. In spite of it all, they still share a bond, which I’d like to think, other men of their age would be envious of.

Going back to Frankie and Maggie’s uphill struggle, the movie is actually more than just that journey. We see the circumstances that have brought these two hurtful souls together. I appreciated the beauty of sharing a connection that they’ve long lost in the estranged families they’ve come from. Basically, they found the parent and the child in each other that they didn’t find in their own blood relatives. Frankie found it in himself to take a big risk - something that he hasn’t done in a long, long time. Maggie was more than willing to go headfirst into the fray. Meanwhile, Frankie was able to let go of his fear and inhibition after being inspired by Maggie’s iron will. Halfway through the film, it occurred to me that they would do away with the standard clich├ęs. By the time Maggie stepped into the ring for her final match, I sensed that the story would go for the ironic approach. I was right. Brief triumph was immediately followed by crippling defeat. It’s when they try to pick up the pieces that make the characters what they are – where they ultimately shine as decent human beings, trying to make the best of what life gives them.

Personally, I found final scenes heart-wrenching. At Maggie’s request, Frankie had taken it upon himself to end her suffering by cutting off her life support. I found this to be a very poignant decision because in one way or another, I could see myself in that situation. My aunt recently passed away on account of illness. She had requested in her last will and testament that should she fall into such a state, any artificial means to prolong her life should be halted. As such, I know the firsthand pain of someone dying right then and there.

I believe that the most effective movies are the ones where you can identify with the characters of the story – or at least find pieces of yourself in them. All of us have relatives we’ve been alienated from, all of us have missed an opportunity that we regret to this day, and all of us have lost loved ones to death. What makes Clint Eastwood’s efforts so great is that none of the scenes were over the top or overplayed. At the hands of a lesser director, the intended message might have not come across that clear, or that painful.

The seemingly dry wit and deadpan approach only magnifies the reality of the story. It makes the personal battles waged by the main characters all the more convincing. Finding a tasteful amount of restraint, the expression “less is more” sure carries a lot of weight. The themes found in Million Dollar Baby (sheer determination, the bond that goes beyond blood, seizing the moment) have been played in countless other films, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen them so gracefully depicted.
Monday, March 07, 2005
I wish that I was one of those special, magical people that don't need to cough up sixty bucks to park in the very same building I work in. Sixty a day may not be a big deal to others, but it is to me. Hundred parking slots, my ass. The ones allotted for the mere mortals aren't even at fifty, counting the ones at the basement level. Aside from the gas I'm already consuming to drive to work, wasting more money just to park is annoying. Pure B.S. IMHO.

I guess I just have to commute then.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
I'm running a fever today. The biogesic is keeping it at bay, but it's probably gonna kick in again when I get home. Will I make it until Friday? Only my body knows. Dan and I took a 3 hour nap last night at 6:30 pm. When I woke up, I felt a naseous sensation in my stomach. It felt like a bout of hyperacidity making a comeback. So I took an antacid and felt better after, but not before squirming in bed for an hour or so. When I woke up this morning, I felt a bit hot and my bones felt heavy. So I dragged myself out of bed to take a semi-warm bath and took some paracetamol before leaving for work. So here I am at the office trying not to let hyperacidity and fever get the best of me.

We're expecting a new nanny later this morning; hope she turns out ok. We interviewed her yesterday and so far she looks ok. She's a mother of two kids, both of which are in their early teens if I recall correctly. Of course you never know how they turn out until they've been around for some time. Here's hoping that we found a good one...I can't exist on a few hours of sleep on a daily basis.

It's five minutes until my short break, and one call is on queue. Time to earn my pay right? I'll be updating this later.