Despite dozens of respectful, worshipful reviews, I've been hearing very mixed reactions on the street for the new Eastwood film, Million Dollar Baby, and some friends of mine who went to the premiere say the first two acts are pretty standard boxing-movie/sport-movie stuff... but with the third act, the plot makes an unexpected turn and the film takes things in a new direction, with Eastwood's character stealing the show, turning in a bravura performance.
If the buzz is true, it's surprising Eastwood's camp isn't pushing harder for a supporting actor Oscar nom for the old Clint. Or, to put it in more exact terms: Despite a movie flawed by clichés, Eastwood's acting is surprisingly transcendent, and yet it's his directing and the solid performances by Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman that are getting all the acclaim. Perhaps he's just being modest about his histrionic skills, and biding his time for a knock-out punch in a thespian category... Surely he won't land too many directing awards for this one.
[Update: After writing this, Eastwood nabbed Academy Award nods for both Best Picture and Best Actor, so perhaps the Oscar campaign for his acting work was stronger than the Million Dollar Baby industry trade ads led me to believe. Also, he won a Golden Globe for best director, so despite my prediction, the man's getting trophies even for directing work that's arguably less impressive than such previous efforts as Unforgiven and Mystic River. But then again, Renée Zellweger was nominated this year for a best actress Golden Globe for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason—quite possibly one of the most vigorously soulless films ever committed to celluloid—so we can't take the Globes too seriously.]
Also, I can’t help but suspect that Kevin Spacey made his new Bobby Darin biopic (Beyond the Sea) because he's one of these triple-threat actors that has a lot of pent up anger about the fact that they can do everything (sing! dance! act!), and yet they're just seen as being the same as all the other actors (e.g., Brad Pitt or Al Pacino can't sing and dance like Spacey, and Spacey wants the world to know it). In every interview, I can just see Spacey thinking I can outperform 98% of modern actors, dammit, and all those embarrassing years of dance lessons shouldn't go to waste!