- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2005

Thumbs up for death

“The story couldn’t sound more commonplace, really: A trainer at the end of his career, looking for his last shot, matched with an eager protegee with more will than skill, looking for her first, and maybe only, shot.

“But then the other shoe drops. ‘Million Dollar Baby’ … offers clues to its eventual destination early on, presenting [boxing trainer] Frankie as a man wracked by guilt (over something to do with an estranged daughter). He attends Mass every day, pestering the priest with probing theological questions. Sadly, the priest doesn’t offer Frankie much in the way of answers to these questions — then fails miserably in answering the central question of the movie, when Frankie needs guidance and direction most.

“Midway through the film, tragedy strikes, and we learn that the compelling relationship developing between Frankie and [female boxer] Maggie … is simply the groundwork for a social treatise. Suddenly, it is clear why critics love this movie so much.

“‘Million Dollar Baby’ takes on the flip side of abortion: euthanasia. And where [director and star Clint] Eastwood falls on that issue is, to put it mildly, morally reprehensible.”

Andrew Coffin, writing on “Million Dollar Baby,” Jan. 14 in World magazine at www.worldmag.com

Cinematic socialism

“The French motion-picture industry is pushed, aided, encouraged and constricted by numerous subsidies and forced financial contributions intend to play their part all the way from project writing … to product distribution. … It appears that nearly all movies made in France and most French co-productions are subsidized. …

“The official French statements justifying these policies are often incoherent, incomprehensible, unverifiable, and sometimes nearly hysterical … yet these traits are not enough to demonstrate that the policies are defensible, but their proponents and implementers defend them incompetently.

“This situation would not be surprising, given that the French opinion makers who promote such policies are rarely knowledgeable about free trade and free-market arguments in general.”

Jacques Delacroix and Julian Bornon, writing on “Can Protectionism Ever Be Respectable?” in the winter issue of the Independent Review

Techno-bigotry

“When cable television channels began to proliferate in the 1980s, a new type of broadcasting, called ‘narrowcasting,’ emerged — with networks like MTV, CNN and Court TV catering to specific interests. With the advent of TiVo and iPod, however, we have moved beyond narrowcasting into ‘egocasting’ — a world where we exercise an unparalleled degree of control over what we watch and what we hear. We can consciously avoid ideas, sounds and images that we don’t agree with or don’t enjoy. …

“TiVo, iPod and other technologies of personalization are conditioning [us] to be the kinds of consumers who are, as Joseph Wood Krutch warned long ago, ‘incapable of anything except habit and prejudice,’ with our need always pre-emptively satisfied. …

“University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein … argues that our technologies — especially the Internet — are encouraging group polarization: ‘As the customization of our communications universe increases, society is in danger of fragmenting, shared communities in danger of dissolving.’ …

“Sunstein describes a world where ‘you need not come across topics and views that you have not sought out.’

“‘Without difficulty, you are able to see exactly what you want to see, no more and no less.’”

Christine Rosen, writing on “The Age of Egocasting,” in the fall/winter issue of the New Atlantis

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