Rush: A Sports Movie About Winning Without Meaning

Based on a true story of the 1970s rivalry between Formula One drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt. This is a good sports movie in that you don’t need to be a sports fan to appreciate it. It’s about much bigger issues that we all can relate to: The desire for success and accomplishment, the search for meaning and purpose and love.

In its most basic form the story is a competition of two worldviews about life embodied in the main characters. Niki Lauda is a by the numbers techie nerd who gets into race car driving to pursue the winning of discipline and perfection of craft. James Hunt is a womanizing adrenaline junkie who wants to have fun, live fast and die hard. I think that’s what makes this movie so fascinating in one sense. To see these polar opposites in contrast, and both of them equal rivals with strengths and weaknesses.

Along with his proper rules following, Niki also marries one woman and stays with her to the end, while James tries marriage after a string of “lays” only to fail at it because he is so selfish in his obsession and ambition that he cannot give to another. But Niki’s neurotic obsession with details and his emotional detachment because of his intellectualism causes its own trouble in his marriage. When James is asked why all the girls are drawn to race car drivers, is it because of the cars and daringness? He responds, “No. It’s because the closer you are to death, the more alive you are, and the more alive you are, the more desirable you are.” He concludes that man’s nobility is to stare death in the face and risk it all. There is another statement he makes about how there is a something stronger than the will to survive and that is the will to win. In fact, he is even prepared to die by driving in a dangerously rainy race because of his wildness. While Niki is so concerned with safety, says, “To me, that’s losing.” It is all about getting the details right, making the car the best specimen of mechanical perfection and playing safely by the rules to win.

Ironically however, everyone votes to keep the race against Niki’s advice and Niki is the guy who gets in an accident on that rainy day. He gets third degree burns over his body and has a grueling path to physical recovery, only to jump back in the race to try to defeat James. There is even a point where Niki has fallen in love with his wife, but he laments that “Happiness is the enemy. It’s weakness. Because you have something to lose.” His wife says that if he feels that way, then they have already lost. But it is a profound truth that the love of another will bring that kind of value and meaning to life that is absent from those who seek experience and thrills. Why? Because love is sacrifice and sacrifice opposes the self.

And this kind of wraps up for me what was the sad tragedy of this movie about winning.

Here’s why: It is a movie about winning, and about the price you pay to win. It’s got some honest moments and challenges to the obsession of such ambition. But it ultimately does not offer any transcendence. By the end of the movie, both guys have the winning moments and losing moments against each other, both end champions, but it is a very empty achievement to me. There is no transcendence about what really matters in life. Because at the end, a bunch of trophies and historic achievements in sports really contain no lasting meaning. And the two men have ended lonely at the top, without intimacy of true friendship, without what really matters, what really lasts. I am not even asking that they deal with God, although facing death and never thinking about God is truly inauthentic and dishonest storytelling. I am just saying that, you know Jackie Robinson, fought for the respect of black human beings in baseball. (42 was a boring movie, but at least it had transcendence). Rudy was about a young kid touching people’s lives with his determination. Chariots of Fire is about doing sports for a higher purpose, We Are Marshall is about the team spirit and our need for community. Secretariat was about the American spirit of determination and women’s liberation. I could go on with other sports movies that have transcendence that make them rise above mere victories or achievements. But in Rush, Hunt and Lauda just end up alone and James even dies young of a heart attack. For what? For fun? For records that will be overrun and forgotten in the mists of history anyway? There is not even a hint of the transcendence that they lack.

I am not so sure that this emptiness is what Ron Howard was attempting to prove either. I just don’t know for sure. But I do know that the movie left a bad taste in my soul about the obsessive ambition of winning without transcendence in your life. It made winning look empty. Maybe that’s what the intent was, to tell a story where winning is losing. But without pointing to a higher purpose or transcendence, Howard leaves us with a bleak cynical view of life in the midst of shallow victory. In Rush, there is no transcendence offered, and therefore an interesting movie with an unsatisfying ending.

127 Hours

Survival tale based on a true story of Aaron Ralston, a mountaineer whose arm was caught in a fallen boulder while rock climbing in a remote crevice in the desert. When he realizes that no one knows where he is, and no one will find him, he will die unless he can cut off his arm to escape. It is a riveting story that takes place virtually entirely in one simple location where Aaron deals with his dilemma. Aided by a few flashbacks and video recordings, Aaron faces the consequences of his own solitary existence. He was such a loner that he didn’t tell anyone where he was going. He didn’t answer his mother’s phone call because he was too focused on leaving to bother. So his personal journey of examining his life leads him to realize how he needs people more than he realized and this dilemma is a direct result of his own selfish solitariness. We need others.

One dishonesty of the story is that in this entire journey of facing death, Aaron is never depicted as thinking about God and his ultimate destiny. I understand that Aaron in real life is a Christian, so this is particularly manipulative of not being true to his spiritual journey. But even if he was not a Christian, it just doesn’t ring true that someone with that time on their hands, facing death, would not even spend a moment considering God and his spiritual destiny. It leaves one empty in an otherwise riveting account.

Secretariat

This is a total feel good movie of the year, sure to be a strong Oscar contender. The story of one of the most amazing race horses in history, whose speed in winning the triple crown has never been repeated. But really, it’s the story of Penny Chenery, the owner of Secretariat, a story of American egalitarianism triumphing over class, gender, aristocracy and hatred. Penny is portrayed as a middle class housewife who, with her brother, inherits her rich parent’s horse farm. Because of the inherent oppression of inheritance taxes, she is pushed to sell the farm to pay the taxes. She says no. Then to sell Secretariat to pay the taxes. She says No. And then to get out because she is a woman in a man’s world, to go back to her kids and raise her family instead of engaging in successful business. But she keeps pushing through for her dream, a dream to make something of her life, to find her passion by raising Secretariat to be the champion he became, from his underdog beginnings as a second choice bred horse. Her husband is shown bothered by her absence from the family as she obsessively pursues her dream miles away from home, but he gets over it and the family is never shown to be adversely affected by it all. Sure, she misses some school plays, but it’s all depicted as worth it. In a way, this woman is the ultimate feminist who has it all: a good family, a successful business and a priority of her own dreams. She fights the establishment of white male power with the egalitarian American “never give up” spirit and wins.

The movie starts with a passage from the book of Job about the power and beauty of the horse in God’s scheme of things. And the movie ends with a gospel song as Secretariat wins. These spiritual elements add a deeper sense to the theme of the movie, though wind up appearing somewhat artificial due the complete lack of spirituality in Penny and her family’s story. Is redemption really only about achieving personal dreams and bucking the establishment? Is salvation really just about triumphing over cultural prejudices or over personal character flaws? I say this because there seemed to be a lack of this personal dimension to the story that would make it rise above a shallow external victory of personal dreams into a triumph of the human spirit.

Invictus

A true story of Nelson Mandela becoming president of South Africa and his subsequent attempt to bring the country together by focusing on the nation’s rugby team winning the World Cup. The movie begins with Mandela winning the election and being installed. The racial tensions run high as everyone, including his own entourage, expect a “regime change” mentality – fire all the previous administration and replace everyone with your own agents of power. But Mandela surprises them all, by his very first act in office. He calls the previous staff in and tells them that if they want to leave, they can, but if they want to stay and help bring change, then he will keep them. Much to the chagrin of his head of security, Mandela also brings in five big white Afrikaaners to round out his security. Mandela also stops the newly empowered rugby committee from disbanding their “all-but-one-white” team. Why? Because they see that team as a symbol of the oppression of the past. But Mandela sees it as the perfect location for embodying the very future unity the country needs.

And this is the theme of the movie: Overcoming injustice through forgiveness and reconciliation, rather than the multicultural view of overcoming injustice through the will to power and revolutionary regime change. Whereas multiculturalism would preach forced or artificial affirmative action and the vengeance of reverse discrimination against whites, Mandela says, “Forgiveness starts here. A rainbow nation starts here.” If you want to overcome past institutionalized injustice, you cannot replace it with a new injustice of institutionalized vengeance. That is only a cycle of violence. Demonizing previous administrations and punishing them is the injustice of victimology, crying victim in order to justify revenge.

Interestingly, the movie does not address in detail the fact that Mandela was also estranged from his wife because of her belief in violent resistance, but it does show his estrangement from his daughter because of his commitment to a higher cause. His daughter asserts the vengeance and regime change mentality of reparations and affirmative action. But Mandela tells her, “You seek only to assert your own personal feelings. That is selfish. That will not help build our nation.” Mandela so believes in the higher cause of forgiveness and reconciliation that he will even walk away from his family because they sought the ways of multicultural hate and violence.

The title of the movie comes from a poem by William Ernest Henley, “Invictus,” that Mandela quotes a couple times in the film. The last lines are emphasized in this lyric of overcoming the “fell clutch of circumstance” that bloodies the head of the oppressed in life: “I am master of my fate and the captain of my soul.” Mandela concludes, “If I cannot change when circumstances demand it, how can I expect others to?” And so this film is a story about living out grace and forgiveness instead of getting back at your oppressors by oppressing them when you are in power. That “master of my fate” line seems to cast it in a humanistic self-derived power to forgive rather than a religious or faith oriented worldview of divine empowerment.

Whip It

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut about a young girl in a small town in Texas who desires to get out from under her mother’s stifling expectations for her so she can do what she has discovered she really wants: Roller derby! Starring Ellen Page as Bliss Cavender, this story, as with all Barrymore’s stories, is a women’s empowerment narrative about women needing to come out from under oppressive social norms for their roles.

Ellen’s mom, played by Marcia Gay Hardin, is molding her two daughters to be beauty pageant queens just like herself. This of course doesn’t fit for Bliss, but she goes along to make mom happy until she finds what she really loves to do, roller derbying, which causes the turmoil. Bliss accuses mom of shoving her small town “50s morality” (an obvious reference to the traditional gender roles and family notions) down her throat. But what makes this more than a simplistic feminist fairytale is when a fellow roller derby queen challenges Bliss that she is being selfish and that her mom may be wrong about roller derby, but she cares for Bliss and is only trying to help her, and that mom’s rules are for her own good, NOT because she wants to hurt her or control her – that there is value to what her mother thinks. The mom and dad are actually happily married and even frisky, thus showing such “traditional” marriage as mostly positive.

There are no strong men characters in this movie, illustrating a female gender bias in the viewpoint. The roller derby coach is a loony obsessed with exercise and acting like a pothead with a few screws loose. Bliss’s very first rock and roll boyfriend turns out to be a womanizer, and the announcer of the roller derby is a loser horny toad always failing to get laid. Bliss’ dad, played by Daniel Stern, is a stereotypical couch potato sports fan who follows mom’s lead instead of being a leader in the family. He is too weak to face mom about her contempt for sports so he watches the football game by lying to her that he is staying late at work. He pretty much cow tows to her until the end, when he is the first one to support Bliss and takes the lead by pulling Bliss out of the big pageant and bringing her to the roller derby. So his leadership is portrayed as good when supportive of Bliss’ desires.

So this film seems to prioritize the individual’s dreams without negating the value of family. The collective family and the individual member can get along and balance each other’s interests.

Take the Lead

Social issue dramedy. Antonio Banderas plays a Ballroom Dance instructor who tries to help inner city delinquent students to learn self-respect by teaching them ballroom dancing. This was a very rich story, full of hope and redemption for wayward youth. On one level, it is refreshing to see the discipline, hard work and beauty of Ball Room Dancing invade the undisciplined ugly environment of modern high school culture. It has the predictable lead student struggling between choosing a criminal life on the streets and the good life of accomplishing something through the dance competition. But so what. It still worked.

I enjoyed seeing the clash of cultures with Antonio’s polite manners being quaint anachronisms in the “modern liberated” egalitarian tyranny of public schools. Yet his politeness is shown to be superior to the lack thereof and even desired. A young kid picks up from him the lost art of opening doors for women. This of course is sexist patriarchal condescension to a feminist or egalitarian. But in this story, it’s goodness. And the burnt out woman principle played by the always lovely Alfre Woodard, jumps at the chance to do a dance with Antonio, even though every one else is questioning his program of dance for the kids. Even the teachers think it’s all just play and fun and the kids, who are in this class for detention, should be learning their math and doing homework.

Yet, Antonio explains to them how dancing teaches respect and dignity between people. Although it’s interesting that never once does he use the word discipline. It was almost like the filmmakers were trying to make a movie about discipline, but were still carrying residue from a politically correct worldview that just won’t admit to certain concepts like discipline and punishment. So, rather than being the hard strong Coach Carter, Antonio woos his students and persuades them. Well, this works well in fiction, but I question its efficacy in real life, and wonder what the real Pierre Dulaine (That Antonio plays) really was like. The filmmakers personal agendas most likely revised that history. But just the same, Antonio does tell the parents who are blameshifting their troubles, “Assigning blame is easy. Parent, environment, but it doesn’t make a problem go away.” True enough, indeed.

There is also a moment when a girl complains about the man taking the lead as making him “the boss,” and Antonio tells her “no,” she is the one who chooses to accept, to follow and is therefore not really being “led.” Well, okay, there’s definitely some truth to that, but you can’t help but think they are yet again trying to avoid the obvious patriarchal essence of male leadership that the very name of the movie, TAKE THE LEAD, implies. But of course, actions speak louder than words.

One thing bothered me though and that is the sexuality of the Tango that was used to inspire the kids. We see that their street dancing is sensual and erotic and they think that ball room is for old foggies. But then Antonio shows them a Tango with a dance queen and they see that it can be just as erotic in a classy way. The problem is that teens should not be sexualized so young and yet youth culture is so heavily sexualized that teens are being spiritually and psychologically raped and they don’t even realize it until they grow up and their screwed up relationships illustrate that they “grew up” too fast. Of course, like Antonio’s character, this very thought of mine is so anachronistic and old fashioned as to be laughable by the deluded modern mind. But it nonetheless remains the answer to the problem, just as his dancing was the unlikely catalyst of redemption.

Also, some of the humanistic worldview of individualism kept trying to creep in and recast the meaning. For instance, Antonio explains to the parents about his leading of the principle in a dance, “If she allows me to lead, she’s more than trusting me, she’s trusting herself.” Boy does that make any sense? He tells another kid, “You need to dance for yourself, not anybody else.” And to another, “Having courage to follow your heart is what makes you human.” All very beautiful half-truths. Of course on one level, kids do need to learn that following their peers or living to please peer pressures etc. is not cool. But I would recommend “doing the right thing” is freedom, believing the truth is freedom, and both those things often do not reside in our “selfs” or our hearts, which tend toward selfishness.

The Upside of Anger

Not really recommended. This is a movie about a woman, Joan Allen, and her four daughters whose father walks out on them for a secretary, and the woman is left to deal with her anger, while she falls for a washed up Baseball star played by Kevin Costner as he courts her with beer can firmly in hand, as both are drunks. The characters are eminently interesting, (except for their drunkenness), good acting and dialogue and great human drama. But the problem I have is it’s modernism in relationships as well as it’s basic lack of story. It is a family drama without much plot, so it would lose my interest. Oh, there’s some story with a daughter getting an ulcer from worrying about her lack of acceptance by the mom, and Costner pursuing Allen a little, and a subplot of an older guy dating one of the younger daughters. In an illuminating moment, the mother scolds the guy for such age abuse of dating a young girl. BUT SHE DOES NOTHING TO STOP IT. And when she catches them in bed, she just gets all flustered, BUT DOES NOTHING TO STOP IT. And worse, off, the filmmaker never portrays this as a weakness that is overcome or even realized. It is just part of life. One good moment is when the older guy responds to the mom that older women his age are not worth it because they aren’t grateful, but are selfishly obsessed with themselves and their agendas. Some good insights, but mostly piece-meal. Another problem is that the Costner character provides no real redemption and is himself a loser whose only quality is to recognize that when he is “With her and her girls, he knows everything is great and how it’s supposed to be.” Whoopy do. Like that is a great insight into love? Almost, but not quite. Rather than the motivation to be better people, this story’s understanding of love is a feeling of happiness or comfort or “fittedness.” This is a story that has great potential for meaningful significance, but never quite achieves it, yet captures some good human drama and conflict. The problem with this is the problem I have with so-called “realism.” Realism, with it’s modern elevation of dysfunction without redemption is used as a disguise for nihilism or humanistic cynicism. When a discovery is made and Joan realizes that she was wrong about everything she thought about her husband, the pseudo-wise young daughter narrates that the upside of anger is how it brought out who her mother really was or some kind of psychobabble, when in fact, her mother was a complete failure who did not learn her lesson and really just hurt others and herself because of her bitterness and anger, AND IT WAS ALL NECESSARILY WRONG because it was founded on a fallacy. So, really it should show how worthless and negative anger is in destroying or hurting lives, especially, when it is often wrong in its assumptions anyway. An opportunity for a profound insight into the nature of anger and how to be redeemed from it, was in my opinion, profoundly missed. GREAT acting though, too bad.

Cinderella Man

Highly Recommended. Definitely the new Rocky of the millennium. Fabulous pro-family movie about blue collar boxing hero, James Braddock, who, during the Great Depression, became an inspiration for all normal Americans struggling to make it through hard times. This movie was so mesmerizing, I didn’t take any notes, cause I was so caught up into it. What is so fabulous about it is on a mythological level. This movie exalts family as a source of hope, inspiration and meaning. Braddock loves his wife more than anything in the world, his wife even teases him about all the women oogling him at the ring, and it’s all just a joke to him. I mean, I haven’t seen marriage exalted with such beauty since Jerry McGuire. It wasn’t just that marriage was good, here, it’s that marriage was the best way to live, and superior to the fast living fornicating superstar life style of Braddock’s ultimate nemesis at the end. Braddock is a man who most today would not begin to understand. He tells his son to return a sausage he stole in the midst of the Depression. He lowers himself to receive welfare and even beg from the rich boxing promoters in order to keep his children from being sent away to family. And then he returns the money to the government when he takes home a big purse!! He doesn’t swear or even react to provocation by his enemy. He remains respectful and a gentleman to the end. He is a man of grace. This guy has so much integrity, most Christians couldn’t even keep up with him. One complaint I would have about the movie is the boxing itself. That is, boxing seems to me to be a morally illegitimate sport. It is not that men CAN get hurt, as in most sports, it is that it is a sport whose very premise is to hurt people. For this reason, I consider it founded on violence, rather than the violence being a side issue, as in hockey. Hockey could be played with more civility and without fighting and it would still be a good and entertaining sport. But in boxing, taking away the violence is the elimination of the sport itself. So, its likeness to gladiatorial games is one of degree rather than essence.

Coach Carter

Highly Recommended. This is an amazingly preachy movie that I absolutely LOVED. Which in my mind only proves that being preachy in movies is not always bad if you preach a sermon well. It’s based on a true story about a black basketball coach of a high school in the inner city who seeks to discipline his players not only on but off the court. Samuel L, Jackson is superb as Carter. The theme of this movie is obviously that individualism is selfish and won’t lead to success. The key to successful living is to be a part of a team, where “if one person struggles, we all struggle. If one person triumphs, we all triumph.” It is also an excellent moral antidote to the ghetto hip hop culture that is controlling the minds of young people today with a complete disregard for authority and moral responsibility, and a worship of violence and hate. Coach Carter comes in, as a black man mind you, and teaches his mostly black players things you will NEVER hear in hip hop culture, but we all know he is right. From a BLACK MAN! This is beautiful! Like listening to Bill Cosby chastise the black liberal leadership in its failure to teach responsibility. He starts them out calling each other “sir,” for respect. He despises the use of the word, “nigger” used by blacks, because “it’s derogatory. When a white man uses it, you wanna fight him, but then you use it of yourselves you disrespect yourselves and you make it easier for the white man to disrespect you.” He teaches them that basketball is good, but it is not more important than an education. It is an education that will free you from your impoverished past. Now, this is a bit too much enlightenment prejudice for me. The belief that education is salvation simply isn’t true. It is not mere “secular” education that changes a person, it is MORAL education that people need. However, everything that Carter is teaching the kids is precisely a moral worldview, so that balances the negative for me. Carter points out that the system is designed for them to fail because the expectations of the educators and parents are too low. They expect kids to fail and don’t raise the bar to challenge them to do better. Carter never believes this lie and believes the theme of the movie: “Growing up means making your own decisions and living with the consequences.” He disparages the blame shifting of most poverty oriented activism, he faces parents of the kids who are themselves undisciplined and unwilling to accept their kids’ responsibility for their actions. He asks the kids, “Look at your parents, and ask yourself, Do I want better?” Carter makes the kids sign a contract to play ball that includes wearing ties and jackets on game days, and that they will maintain a 2.3 grade average, which is higher than even the school district demands. But this is the grade average that will get them into college. When the kids start to accept responsibility and become better ball players, they get cocky and Carter commands them to stop “Trash talking,” to humiliate their opponents. This is just as disrespectful as anything else, and he won’t have it. It’s brilliant. I could not believe all this moral sense coming out of a Hollywood movie dealing with poor black kids. It was astounding. But when the kids fail to meet the grades on their contracts, Carter suspends the whole team and cancels games, even though they have become a winning team. When the parents try to fire him and complain, he tells them, “if you enforce the fact that they don’t have to keep a simple contract, you are sending them a message that they are above the law. How long then before they start breaking the law?” Again, truly unbelievable to find such truth in a Hollywood movie. One big negative for me was an anti-life message with abortion that contradicts the theme of the movie. One of the players has gotten a girl pregnant and they struggle with the reality that he can’t go to school and college trying to maintain a family. But he wants to try anyway. Okay, that’s cool. That’s reality. Let’s see how they overcome it. Unfortunately, the girl has an abortion and this is what is portrayed as solving all their problems. Now she won’t be on welfare and they won’t be saddled with a child while trying to go to college and they can still fornicate by living together on campus. Well, this is directly contradictory to the theme of the movie which says, “Growing up means making your own decisions and living with the consequences.” When those kids had sex, they were making the decision to risk a family. To kill the preborn child is an unwillingness to take the responsibility for their actions, and unwillingness to live with their consequences, but another juvenile way of selfishly thinking not of the “team” but of one’s self. And unfortunately, the movie presents this as a solution rather than the problem. It is the typical attempt to avoid the consequences for their choice of having sex. It is a selfish definition of children as unworthy burdens to be eliminated or destroyed. The devaluation of human lives is not responsibility, it is the height of irresponsibility. Not a single thought about the responsibility of adoption or even accepting the consequences and getting married or maybe refusing to fornicate anymore. This could have been a great moral lesson for the ball player to learn that he shouldn’t be having premarital sex because of all the responsibility that comes with it. But instead the filmmakers contradict their own theme because of their immoral agenda to support the killing of the unborn. But that said, it is a minor plot point, not the major one which is more important to the heart of the movie, so I am able to complain, while still appreciating the countercultural truths that the movie does promote.

Million Dollar Baby

Partially Recommended with Extreme Caution. Boxing trainer reluctantly trains an eager young woman to be a champion boxer. This movie will most likely win the Oscar for best picture of 2004, even though The Passion deserves it far more. It is a brilliant work of passion and heart. Even though I abhor it’s worldview, it provides much to think about in terms of the harsh realities of life and the search for redemption. The problem is that I think Clint Eastwood, does not believe redemption can be found in this world. First, Mystic River, now Million Dollar Baby and others of his movies (Unforgiven) seem to communicate a despairing nihilistic worldview. Let me explain. This movie is basically a brilliant incarnation of the “quality of life” argument for euthanasia. Thirty years too old, Hillbilly girl with passion to be a champion boxer enlists Eastwood’s character to train her. Trouble is, he doesn’t want to work with “girlies.” And he’s a man with a bitter past struggling with God to understand. The boxer is played by Hillary Swank, who is superb here, in the girl who is terrible and without training, but is so determined that she persuades Clint to train her. Brilliant supporting role by Morgan Freeman as Clint’s right hand man, who also has his failures to overcome. The girl boxes her way to the top in no time, virtually knocking out everyone along the way. But Clint’s motto is repeated over and over, “Always protect yourself.” And so he does throughout his boxing training and life. And that’s why he loses boxers because he holds them back, trying to protect them, rather than letting them reach for the stars and fumble a bit. For years, he writes letters every week to his estranged daughter who returns them all for what he did to her in the past. So he finds the opportunity to find a daughter in Hillary. And Hillary suffers from rejection by her hillbilly white trash family who doesn’t give a damn about her. Her father ran off when she was a kid, so she looks to Clint as a father figure to replace her dad that she never had. It’s incredibly moving and powerful. Morgan is a fighter, who represents the ghost that haunts Clint. Clint had managed Morgan as a young boxer. One fight, Morgan was cut badly but wanted to keep going. Clint didn’t want him to, but let him. And Morgan ended up losing and losing the sight in his eye because of this. Now, he works for Clint in a sweaty gym. This is why Clint will no longer let go of his fighters, because he feels guilty for doing so in the past and now must overcome that guilt by letting Hillary seek the championship. Trouble is, Hillary gets to the top, but then is hit from behind by a dirty trick and she falls and breaks her neck, rendering her a quadrapolegic on the level of a Christopher Reeves. So the rest of the movie is the struggle with Clint’s guilt over this pain again and whether or not he will kill her as she asks him to. After living the dream she had, she feels no life in this existence and wants to die. He ends up killing her with an injection of adrenaline and taking her breathing tube out. Then he disappears into the backwoods. The whole emotional power of this film is to create a life that has real hope and energy and exciting dreams in the boxing girl, so when we see her paralysis, we can feel the tremendous loss of hope and value in a life lived to the fullest of one’s dreams and hopes. We feel the extremity of the loss of quality of life, so that we may sympathize with the belief in euthanasia as a justified act. This movie reminded me of Cider House Rules. Both movies make arguments for controversial deeds, by incarnating the best emotional argument for it in a powerful story. This shows the power of story like nothing else. Cider House Rules incarnated the incest argument for abortion, and Million Dollar Baby incarnates the quality of life argument for euthanasia. And I must say, it is very powerful, no matter how false it is. The worldview of this film is humanistic and nihilistic. Clint seeks God for answers throughout the movie, which is fair and honest, but when confronted by the priest that euthanasia is murder and a sin, he finally gives up on God and walks away in order to kill his beloved Hillary. So God has nothing valuable to say about the meaning of life, because God supposedly doesn’t have a good answer for this. Well, too bad they don’t know Joni Erickson Tada. That’s the story that counters this one. Where a woman is a quad, but finds God through the suffering that wakes her up to what is really most valuable in life. Joni’s story is the one we really need to hear. Of course, this is just way too easy to SAY with WORDS, and the fact is, I totally empathize with the desire to die as a quad. But that doesn’t make it right. I am just saying that the truth is not determined by our feelings, and sometimes the truth and life is not fun or good to us. But none of this justifies murder. It is one thing to stop “extraordinary means” of life support, but quite another to inject someone with an overdose of adrenaline or morphine. One is letting a person die, the other is killing them. Unfortunately, Clint does both and is therefore guilty of murder. Another problem is that they set up the Hillary character as a fighter who fights her way out of poverty and white trash only to give up when she faces the biggest match of her life? Not consistent with the character they set up in Hillary. It says that she ultimately failed cause she gave up. She tossed in the towel, which makes it unsatisfying as a story. She doesn’t win the final fight, she gives up. That is a failure of character. This humanistic worldview conceives of a universe in which there is no ultimate good, only a choice between the lesser of two evils, killing someone you love to release them or allowing them to suffer because you don’t have the guts to kill them. But either way, life is miserable with no good option. In reality, there are other options. And Joni is a perfect example of this, of a woman who wouldn’t give up the fight. Clint never regains his actual daughter and loses the one hope of a daughter replacement, and ends in hiding all alone. Morgan gets a lonely gym, and Hillary dies – but, hey, she has the experience of seeking her dreams. Her request is that with each day, “they are taking away” the sounds of the cheering and the crowds and her importance. “They were chanting for me. I was in magazines.” This is so sad to me that we find our value in life in glory and personal ambition rather than knowing our Creator. Well, I would agree that there are some choices in life that are not black and white, but this is hopelessness and despair to give up on life in the name of blocked goals or desires. Who are we to define a life not worthy to be lived? If I can’t get what I want, then I should be able to die? Says who? Who died and left us God? Well, this is all academic arguing for me. The fact is, I have lived for far too long in a world of “argumentation.” A world of rationality and logic with little experience of such misery and pain. So, the fact is, I think I would rather truly share the pain of a person suffering than seek to find my first opportunity to launch into my carefully crafted abstract logical argument about God’s sovereignty, true though this is. I think it is really valuable to see this movie and really experience the heart of an argument like this, because it isn’t mere logic that satisfies the burning desire for meaning and truth. I am not denying logic or devaluing rationality. I am merely saying that for too long I have elevated reason to a godlike status, but have been able to do so only from a privileged position of not having to actually experience the real pain about which I often argue. I don’t think truth is determined by experience and I don’t think lack of experience disqualifies rational truth, but I do think lack of experience requires me to shut up and listen more readily before rattling off my string of logical abstract arguments unconnected to any real suffering. I want to suffer with those who suffer and cry with those who cry, not just spew out mental abstractions. This movie helps me to care more, makes me want to care more, even if I disagree with its philosophy. But having said that we should have an empathy for such suffering in life, let us not be deceived. To attempt to prove that some lives are “unworthy to be lived” as the Nazi booklet on eugenics tried to prove in the 1930s, is an atrocity. In my research lately, I discovered that the Nazi eugenics program and its sterilization laws in the 1930s were based upon American eugenics laws in the 1920s. Yes, those “scientific” Social Darwinists, among whom was the nefarious Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes, who ruled in the Buck v. Bell case that “three generations of imbeciles was enough” so they sterilized thousands and thousands of the “feeble-minded” (mentally retarded) and other “unfit” members of society – and all in the name of Darwin, I might add. How’s that for a Crusade? Yes, it is a fact, people: Ideas have consequences. And if you believe morality is a social construct for survival, then you will end up justifying killing those who you don’t like (such as Jews and Christians). What chills me to the bone is knowing that the mindless youth of today, who are literally manipulated by their postmodern culture of pure image and entertainment, are the ones who will be euthanizing me in my later years. Oh, yeah, one other thing, WAY TOO MUCH NARRATION. Clint, please, lay off the heavy handed telling us everything with words.