Million Dollar Bong Baby

By way of an effectively related chain of events, I found myself stoned, high, lit, blitzed, and all of the above at a free screening of Million Dollar Baby this afternoon. Now, you might find yourself wondering why. Well, I don’t know why; the chips just fell that way today. After losing our soccer game 1-0 (first half = tons of energy, scoring opportunities, plus no one was covering me in the center, so I could make a lot of things happen, but second half = suddenly dead tired, mostly playing defensive), my teammate friend Leeann invited me over to her apartment to meet her new bong, which I was very happy to do. About every few months or so, when someone hands me a pipe, bong, or joint, I take advantage. My parents weren't too good for the occasional mid-70s toke, why should I be? There, at Leeann's apartment, I learned a new figure of speech called “blowing my spot.” Example of figure of speech in use, courtesy of Leeann: She was sitting at her desk at work, checking the MSN website for celebrity gossip, and her co-worker walks by and says really loud, so the whole office can hear, “Leeann, checking the MSN!” She totally blew her spot. I didn’t know that one. I can’t wait to have a spot to blow so I can use it in a sentence.

Forty-five minutes later, I was coasting home and remembered my friend had invited me to use a free ticket to see the film that is odds-on to take home the grand Oscar tomorrow evening. While a nap sounded like a good idea at the time, my curiosity about Hillary Swank’s ability to match, or even top, her performance as Myagi’s protégé in The Next Karate Kid definitely got the better of me. I parked near the wrong one of the Burbank Media Center’s five or six AMC theaters, so I had to walk the dreaded through-the-mall route, starting with Macy’s. I was petrified…fascinated, but petrified. Malls and me being stoned is not a good combination, especially since I have not been inside a mall for at least six months. But for the sake of the short cut, I took a deep breath and entered.

I prepared my eyes to dart everywhere, worriedly observing without judgment the effortless consumerism overload, wondering why people are blowing money they don’t have, spending the fruits of several hours of work on shit they don’t need. Bright colors, teenage girls with eyeliner that looks like it prevents them from seeing, trends beckoning but promising no new you tomorrow. To the right, a rack stocked with wooden sandals color-coded, from pea green to magenta, Birkenstocks with a Jesus twist. To the left, handbag merchandise and women who already have brand new handbags perusing them, because women who are their handbags are like the men who are their cars. When charge cards empower status symbol, the sky’s the credit limit. Entering the makeup-skin care-perfume depot, posh ladies with smocks condescendingly eyed my face, lightly sun-kissed from the morning sun, and wondered if it could use a little Pale Tan #2 foundation and Rouge Rendezvous blush. Perfume interrogators stood on the sidelines next to a rack with a rainbow of cotton ponchos, this season’s hottest accessory. After emerging from the ka-ching credit card slip printing ear tension of Macy’s, I made a beeline for the exit on the other side of the mall but was sidetracked by the people lined around the railing in the center of the mall, which opens up to the ground floor. As I neared the railing, I peeked down to see what everyone was watching, and I saw a ten-year-old girl doing a roundoff-back handspring on a gymnastics mat downstairs, which got me reminiscing about my sister’s short hardcore gymnast career, but not for too long, because I was fighting to understand why they were having a gymnastics exhibition in a mall. I wish I could have read the minds of the other people watching. I wonder if they were wondering the same thing, or maybe just pondering the next stop on their mall crusade.

Despite the no hurries pace of my stoned self, I made it to the theater with five minutes to spare, ready for some Million Dollar Baby, with expectations extra high because the buzz says this is an exceptional movie. We made it to second row seats just in time for the Ring 2 trailer, then the Batman Begins trailer, and then the Cinderella Man trailer, which wasn’t exactly targeting anyone born after the Great Depression. Call me ignorant, but who is the Cinderella Man? The trailer could have been about a fictional prizefighter, Jake LaMotta, pre-III Rocky. Even Russell Crowe’s voice guiding us through didn’t clear up my confusion, leaving me wondering if maybe the Cinderella Man was produced with the foreknowledge of Million Dollar Baby going on to do award business, thus providing a no-fail spot for the trailer. “Who is the Cinderella Man?” I whispered to my friend. “I don’t know. Some boxer during the Great Depression.” I know, through the power of Internet connection, I can find out in 3.3 seconds on Google, but that’s not the point. If it must intrude on our lives every second, advertising should at least require the audience to do no research.

Anyway, I finally got my stoned Million Dollar Baby, just a little less stoned than ideal. Mad that I got away without spending any money, the mall had to go and take away my high. Damn THC had worn off by the first fight scene. But, as I realized as I neared the end of my time with Clint, Hillary, and Morgan, Million Dollar Baby is best spent sober and somber. No tears came to the eyes, but I loved the film all the same. I thought it was brilliantly understated, simple in its intentions without losing the underlying themes. I came to know and care about the three characters, and my heart was beating frantically after the punch heard round the theater, the tension of that moment filled with so much of what we fear, both physically and emotionally, but I couldn’t look away. Without blowing the spot of the plot, the only uncomfortable parts of the film, for me, were the scenes that featured Danger, the hillybilly wannabe fighter, and especially the scenes with Maggie’s white trash mom and sister. And yes, I used the label, “white trash,” because it is selfish, despicable people like them (and they do exist, I’ve seen a cross-section in action) who are responsible for giving every nice and decent poor white person the bad name. And did anyone else have a clue about what happens at the end of the movie? I sure as hell didn’t. What a blindsiding knockout punch. But I do highly recommend seeing Million Dollar Baby, stoned, at a theater near you, preferably without an adjoining mall.


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6:35 PM  

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