Tag Archives: The Fighter

Lively Debate in Haverhill Sparked by Dubus’ Memoir

The Eagle Tribune’s Haverhill coverage today includes a lively debate about the potential impact of author Andre Dubus III’s memoir “Townie” on the image of the city. Mayor James Fiorentini took exception to initial media coverage of Andre’s book with references to the rough side of life in the Haverhill of the 1970s. The Mayor and the author are quoted in reporter Mike LaBella’s article, and the two of them have spoken about the book, agreeing that Haverhill today has much to recommend it. The Mayor now recommends it. Of interest are the readers’ comments accompanying the web version of the article. Lowell and its reaction to “The Fighter” pops up in the comments. Read all about it here.

I bought the book Friday and read it straight through. I’ll share my thoughts in another post.

‘Lowell’s Irish Micky Ward’

With all “The Fighter” buzz, this is a good time re-run Tom Sexton’s poem about the local boxing legend. One of the best things about a good poem is how it stands up to repeated readings or listenings. Maybe Tom should do an audio recording of his Lowell poems. People would enjoy hearing the poems in his voice.—PM


Lowell’s Irish Micky Ward


Round 2. Ward’s left eye is already cut,

but he keeps moving toward Arturo Gatti.

My wife’s gone to bed and turned out the light.

Gatti’s left hook sounds like a thunderclap.

I haven’t watched a fight in many years,

not since moving away from Lowell.

A Celtic Cross glistens on Ward’s shoulder.

I wince as he shakes off blow after blow.

He has my uncle Leo’s fighter’s face,

with features almost as flat as a stone.

Staggered by a right, he picks up the pace.

I want to see a hurt Gatti go down.

They fight to a draw. Closed eye for closed eye.

I go to bed shamefaced and stubbornly tribal.


—Tom Sexton (c) 2007, from “A Clock with No Hands” (Adastra Press)

Here’s My Review of ‘The Fighter’

Tonight, with my wife and two friends I saw “the movie” at the Showcase Cinemas, just a slapshot away from Micky Ward Circle. The film ended two hours ago and I’m still in a kind of shock from the hyper-realism on screen. Lowell appeared to be under a colossal magnifying glass. The film felt as much like a documentary as it did a drama, and is a family story more than a boxing movie. More than a family story, though—a cultural story about people and lives and aspirations that are common across a certain segment of the social spectrum. My immigrant roots are in that segment. The film bangs a gong for anyone who knows Lowell. You walk out of the Showcase Cinemas, drive out of the parking lot, and you are on the movie set. I suppose that must be how lots of people in Los Angeles or New York City feel about being in TV-land or movie-land. The locations are like the back of your hand.

Knowing the outcome of the real-life story didn’t dilute any of the impact of the screen story. The acting was extraordinary throughout. The casting was tremendous. The portrayals of George Ward and Officer O’Keefe (as himself) were outstanding. Melissa Leo as Alice Ward dominated her scenes, even when backed by the seven weird sisters. My favorite fight scene was Amy Adams’ smackdown of one of the sisters during the attempted home invasion or sibling intervention (choose one) on Christian Hill. Christian Bale deserves a prize for his work—just the physical aspect would be enough to win, never mind the talk. My favorite Lowell scene was Bale running across the bridge. And Mark Wahlberg holds the social cyclone all together as the steady, modest moral center of this fractured but winning parable.

I’ve worked with a lot of folklorists in my career. This film is a field day of deeply local popular culture in a post-industrial city. Speaking of which, the Industrial Revolution that some people like me have made so much of as part of Lowell’s revitalization is tossed off as a joke when it comes up in the notorious HBO documentary about “crack street.” The ending is more complex than someone might expect, mostly because of the inner life of the hero. Just when the viewer expects him to pull out of the tribal quicksand, he reaches back for what he knows best and finds some kind of middle ground or third way through his own will power. Humanity in many but not all of its shades is on display here. I’ve always said the whole world is in Lowell if you look hard enough. “The Fighter” is film art in peak condition. Let’s have more of it, more Lowell stories, more cinema visions, more movie art for more human good.

Class Warfare in the Movies – the Lowell Connection

Christian Bale, left, and Mark Wahlberg play brothers who are boxers in “The Fighter.” (Jojo Whilden/Paramount Pictures, via Associated Press)

This morning Dick Howe noted for his FaceBook friends that for a recent edition of the New York Times - A. O. Scott has written an essay on class consciousness as reflected in today’s films - and features “The Fighter” and Lowell, Massachusetts.

The idea of the universal middle class is a pervasive expression of American egalitarianism — and perhaps the only one left.”

Scott goes on to to discuss class warfare and antagonisms today as seen in the current crop of movies – many contenders for top film awards and honors. Here he refers to the local movie biopic based on Lowell’s Micky Ward “The Fighter” and the movie based on the Harvard grad Facebook founder Marc Zuckerburg “The Social Network”:

Or, to put it another way: Class is everywhere and nowhere. The feeling of class antagonism is what allows the Mark Zuckerberg of “The Social Network,” a child of suburban prosperity, a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and a student at Harvard, to feel that he is excluded from the highest reaches of social distinction, an underdog with something to prove. That same feeling percolates in Micky Ward’s Lowell, a few years and an hour’s drive from Zuckerberg’s Cambridge but a different world altogether. There Micky’s girlfriend, Charlene, is regarded by his sisters as superior and stuck-up — a virtual Berglund, even though what they call her is an “MTV skank” — because she briefly went to college and believes that Micky can rise above his hardscrabble circumstances. Micky — like Ree Dolly, the Missouri teenager in “Winter’s Bone” — wants out, just as surely as Zuckerberg wants in. What they want into and out of are the closed systems defined by custom and kinship that demarcate the ends of the social spectrum.

Read Scott’s full essay here in the NY Times.

For you denizens of Lowell and the environs – as you wait for the full brunt of the expected northeast blizzard –  do you recognize the “on location in Lowell” site of the movie “still” pictured above? Share!




NYTimes Reviews ‘The Fighter’

Tonight’s NYT online includes a home-page positive review of “The Fighter”  by A. O. Scott in which the commentary goes on at length and includes observations about the portrayal of Lowell and the city’s place in American culture. Read the review here, and get the NYT if you want more.

It’s unfortunate that many people in the media are writing about the setting of this story as if one slice of the city’s society represented the urban experience here as a whole during the 1990s, when Lowell was already 15 years into its renaissance. That was the source of the controversy over the notorious HBO documentary back then, and the film would appear to rewind the tape. I will see it soon. Richard Howe, Sr., was Mayor then, I believe, and was strong in speaking out for a more balanced image of the city at the time of the HBO production. There’s no denying the problems in those years, or now, but more was and is going on.

Mickey O’Keefe, Mark Wahlberg, and Christian Bale (Web photo by Jojo Whildon/Paramount Pictures, courtesy of NYT)

Sticking fairly closely to the facts of Mr. Ward’s story, “The Fighter” also plants itself firmly in his native terrain of Lowell, Mass., immersing the viewer, especially in early scenes, in the sensorium of a hard-luck industrial town left to languish in the backwash of globalization. The voices of the citizens are angry, irreverent and profane. The light is flat and unlovely. You can almost smell the weariness and desperation rising off of the tar that Micky, in his day job as a road paver, spreads on streets lined with sagging three-decker houses and faded storefronts. A city with a distinguished place in American labor and literary history — it was the birthplace of Jack Kerouac — Lowell in the early 1990s, when “The Fighter” unfolds, is blighted by poverty, unemployment and the crack epidemic, which has claimed Micky’s half brother, Dicky Eklund, as a casualty.

Christian Bale Pushes ‘The Fighter’

In this past Sunday’s NYTimes, actor Christian Bale discussed his work on “The Fighter,” particularly the challenge of getting his character’s voice right for the place and time. Read the article here, and get the NYT if you want more.

Note: Amy Adams was interviewed about the movie on Good Morning America today. The publicity around the film is heavy.