Monday, February 8, 2010

Just Seen: The Blind Side

Caught The Blind Side Saturday, which ups my tally of seen Best Picture nominated films to seven-- a personal record, if you think about it.

It was quite enjoyable, a solid offering in the Inspirational Sports genre. It reminded me a lot of Invincible and The Rookie: well-made, patently inoffensive family fare which show exceptionally talented, gifted athletes as ordinary, struggling folks like you and me. What's not to like?

Sandra Bullock will no doubt get the "she's due" Best Actress Oscar. Between this film and The Proposal, She probably made as much money for the studios this year than any number of foldable robots. She does a great job-- the most notable part of her performance is she sounds nothing like herself. She either payed very close attention to her vocal coach or just lapsed back to a native accent (she's from Georgia).

A few notes:

• This is the second 2009 blockbuster Sandra Bullock film that Julia Roberts was offered first-- and passed on. But Roberts did say yes to Valentine's Day, the Garry Marshall day-player-fest which opens next week. Perhaps it was the ensemble aspect: it was no doubt a fairly effortless commitment, a short gig on an LA shoot.

• The film's third act complication is strange (and believe me, if you are at all familiar with the Inspirational Sports genre I ain't giving anything away here). The Blind Side tells the story of Michael Oher, a young man of impoverished means who, with the help of the Tuohy family, gets the help he needs to not only graduate from high school, but also become an excellent football player. The complication comes in the form of an NCAA rep who asks Oher if he was adopted solely so he could play ball for Ole Miss, the Tuohy's alma mater. Because the film portrays him as having no skill at football before he met the Tuohy family or attended private school, his adoptive family is exonerated. But if the semi-reliable sources in the IMDb and Wikipedia are correct, in reality Oher was an "experienced" football player in public school before he met the Tuohys, and his transfer to private school was recommended by his public-school coach, not a family friend as depicted. This fact, and the fact Oher's private-school football coach gained a job at Ole Miss at roughly the same time Oher enrolled, tells me that the NCAA actually had a pretty good handle on the facts at the time.

This whitewashing (pardon the entendre) for narrative clarity is a consistent flaw of the Inspirational Sports genre: the true stories they tell have to be morally unambiguous, and facts are usually sacrificed to that end.

• The audience demographic was mostly older women. Like my experience attending the Metropolitan Opera HD simulcast, I was one of the youngest people in there, which never happens anymore.

• Seated just behind us was an External Monologuist. I outlined various types of of Movie Talkers on our previous blog, and she was classic example of someone who never had a thought she doesn't say out loud. Repeatedly. Normally, I would have shut her up, but my wife and I found her amusing. After all, there was nothing particularly challenging about the plot of The Blind Side, so she wasn't exactly ruining it for us. After a while we discerned a pattern to her yammering: Expressing Her Feelings (Saying "oh my God" about 10,000 times) and Being Utterly Confused ("Did he graduate?" "Where did he go?" "Who is that? His father?"). She also needed everything that showed up on screen in text explained to her by her (very patient) family members.

She was the ultimate claque: every major scene ending was accompanied with clear utterances like "What's going to happen now?" or "boy, she sure is mad!" Maybe she wasn't there at all, and what I was hearing was a surround-channel audio program: Audio Assistance For The Narratively Impaired.

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