This always happens. No sooner do I turn in my Top Ten list of 2004 to meet a deadline than I suddenly discover a film that changes everything.

I’m not much of a Clint Eastwood fan. I love Unforgiven, but I thought Mystic River was a vastly overrated film that had a flawed script and too much melodrama.

Last night I saw Million Dollar Baby , and it’s definitely in my Top Ten for the year. It’s Clint Eastwood’s best movie, in my opinion, and it has one of the best-written scripts I’ve encountered in years. I’d give this movie an ‘A’ even if I’d only LISTENED to it.

I’ll be pleased if Hilary Swank wins Best Actress. I’ll be pleased if Morgan Freeman wins Best Supporting Actor. And I won’t complain if Clint Eastwood wins Best Actor (although I’d prefer to see Dicaprio or Foxx win.) Best director? Perhaps, although I’d give it to Michel Gondry or Zhang Yimou or Scorsese first. Best adapted screenplay? Absolutely!! Best Picture? Well, given the films that the Academy is likely to nominate, yeah, I think it should win. But my vote would go to Eternal Sunshine or The Incredibles before it would go to this. Still, it’s deserving of honors and I won’t fuss if it wins.

Here’s the rub: Don’t read any reviews! (Except mine, at CT Movies on Friday.) The film’s third act takes a left turn, and it’s a much better film if you don’t see it coming. The problem is that almost every review I’ve read gives away what happens.

You’ve been warned.

I do disagree with the ethics of some of the characters’ decisions, but that’s a small complaint. And while some of the characters choose unwisely, the film allows for the viewer to disagree with the decisions while still sympathizing deeply with their predicament. The film is so very very rich.

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