|The real life Jim Braddock.|
I rarely go to the movies; it's cheaper and more convenient to rent. Finally, I'm getting the hang of my DVD player's intricacies so I get all the extras included along with the feature. The last two movies I've watched are about boxing. Last summer, I rented Million Dollar Baby with Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Hilary Swank. The first 75% was as good as I've seen- the final 25% was the worst. I have nothing against sad movies but it left me with feeling there was nothing to hope for. Last night, my viewing choice was Cinderella Man, the real life story of Depression era heavyweight James J. Braddock. Once comfortable from boxing purses and investments, Braddock lost everything in the events following the crash of Wall Street in 1929. Injuries caused Braddock to lose his boxing license and his family was forced to dwell in a shanty-like apartment that could barely be considered livable. Reduced to manual labor, Braddock secured employment on the docks when he could, hiding his broken right hand. When the utilities to his home were turned off and the milkman stopped delivering because of overdue bills, he grudgingly accepted public assistance from the state of New Jersey. Given a second chance to fight and toughened by the life of a dock worker, Braddock improbably won a series of bouts versus top contenders before being matched in the ring against Max Baer, the reigning heavyweight champion. Baer, whose fists had once caused the death of an opponent, was such an overwhelming favorite that many feared Braddock could forfeit his life by climbing through the ropes for the shot at the title. In true fairy tale form, Braddock survives a fierce fifteen round struggle with Baer, taking a unanimous judges' decision and being crowned "Heavyweight Champion of the World!" Many movies work the 'rags to riches' angle. James J. Braddock was the flesh and blood embodiment of everyman whose rising from the ashes inspired a nation in need of a hero.
Feel-good movies leave us... feeling good. It's amazing how many are sports related. Hoosiers, Seabiscuit, Cool Runnings, etc. You know the plot. A team/athlete with no chance defies the odds and reaches breath-taking heights that none, including themselves, believed possible. That's what I found hard to swallow with Million Dollar Baby. It followed the formula to where I was sucked in, only to have the rug pulled out from under me. (I won't spoil it for you in case it hasn't played in your living room yet.) We accept that life will be hard and, to our way of thinking, unfair, but we want desperately to believe there is hope. Those are my favorite Bible stories. Too old Abraham and Sarah have a son who fulfilled God's promise that Abraham would be the father of nations. Too scared Gideon takes 300 men and defeats a much stronger opponent. Too young David chops down the mighty Goliath. We all have a too characteristic that we let deny our dreams and duties. God is bigger that any too. What problem is too big for the one who created the universe? Hollywood dramatizes the storyline to make it sell. For example, Max Baer apparently was not the ogre he's portrayed as but a hatable villain makes the concluding victory sweeter. Our problems need no exaggeration- they are more than real to us. God knows- and God cares. Genesis through Revelation is a script of the greatest love story ever told. His concern for his children resonates through each chapter. There are high points and low lights, from Adam through Paul, from Mount Sinai to Golgotha, but the rug won't be jerked out from under the believer when the final credits are shown. You want a feel-good ending to the saga of man and their Creator? How about this for a review? "The story of the Bible is the same as Cinderella- we live happily ever after. The End."
PS: Is Cinderella Man an oxymoron?
Applicable quote of the day:
"She believed in dreams, all right, but she also believed in doing something about them. When Prince Charming didn't come, she went over to the palace and got him."
Walt Disney (speaking about Cinderella )
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