MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004)
What is it? Clint Eastwood's story of a young woman (Hilary Swank) who wants to become a boxer and persuades a grizzled veteran coach (Eastwood) to train her, much against his better judgment. The second half takes a turn for darker, unexpected territory.
Why did it win? Eastwood is Hollywood royalty, a figured admired by his contemporaries and revered by his juniors (at this point, practically everyone) - and he's of the same generation as many of the voters, which probably doesn't hurt. And who's going to vote against Dirty Harry? The other nominees were The Aviator (continuing Scorsese's run of undeserved oversight), Finding Neverland (perhaps too schmaltzy?), Ray (too much of a straight biopic) and Sideways (too funny).
Did it deserve to win? It's a very good film, certainly. Eastwood's a solid, unshowy director, who manages to tread the careful line between emotion and sentiment with narry a wobble. It might be nice to imagine Oscar taking a chance on the not-even-nominated-for-Best-Picture Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, but that's probably about as likely as Charlie Kaufman writing a Bond movie.
Worth a look? Yes - both Swank and Eastwood give great performances, and that last act will tug the heartstrings.