February 28, 2005 12:00 PM

FINDING NEVERLAND

MILLION DOLLAR BABY [star]
RAY

SIDEWAYS

Watching Million Dollar Baby, you know it’s special. The next day, the full weight of the movie’s meaning and complexity hit you like a Mack truck. A powerful meditation on the meaning of faith, love and charity, the drama tells the story of the growing friendship between a veteran boxing coach (Clint Eastwood) and a would-be pugilist (Hilary Swank). To call it a boxing film is to label a Rolls-Royce merely a car.

The other nominees each have their merits: The Aviator is lushly entertaining. Finding Neverland movingly reveals the roots of artistic inspiration. Ray gets your toes tapping and your tear ducts working. And Sideways, my runner-up choice, is warm and winning. Not one, though, stays with you the way Baby does. Like all great art, it lingers in your thoughts—and your heart.

Best Actor

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