But the fact is, the Academy did double the Best Picture ballot for 2009, with the implicit hope (desire? wish? prayer?) that a movie like 'The Blind Side' -- a big audience picture with vast riches in box office returns and a mega-star (Sandra Bullock) who makes wide-open hearts flutter -- would make the list and draw more viewers to the Mar. 7 telecast. Is that now, gulp, a possibility? The Golden Gurus panel over at David Poland's Movie City News have just weighed in with its most recent collective opinion of the year's most likely Best Picture nominees and among the 17 titles mentioned, 'The Blind Side' is nowhere to be seen. In a normal year -- that is, in any of the 65 years since 'Casablanca' triumphed in the last Oscar race with 10 nominees -- no one would have expected it to appear. It is a broad-audience entertainment with no ambition beyond commercial success.
But the fact is, the Academy did double the Best Picture ballot for 2009, with the implicit hope (desire? wish? prayer?) that a movie like 'The Blind Side' -- a big audience picture with vast riches in box office returns and a mega-star (Sandra Bullock) who makes wide-open hearts flutter -- would make the list and draw more viewers to the March 7 telecast. Is that now, gulp, a possibility?
For that to happen, the Academy voters are going to need a little help. Not from critics; God knows, they aren't going to support a movie that paying customers like. But it would be helpful in convincing Academy voters to suspend their traditional Oscar standards if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association were to nominate the picture and Sandra Bullock for Golden Globe awards. The nominees will be announced Tuesday, Dec. 15.
I believe they will get some help from the foreign press, if the voters there can agree that 'Blind Side' belongs in the Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical category. Though the film, about an affluent southern family that takes in a homeless black teenager and mentors him all the way to a career in the NFL, is based on the true story of Baltimore Ravens' rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher, it plays as either a comedy or a fantasy, take your pick. But it's not serious enough to be considered a drama.
'Blind Side' follows Hollywood's classic formula of taking a true story and retelling it in a way that is unbelievable. Bullock and transitioning country singer Tim McGraw play Lee Anne and Sean Tuohy, a pair of University of Mississippi alumns/boosters who open their home and hearts to young Big Mike (Quinton Aaron), an athletic 6'10" behemoth from the other side of the heroine tracks. They and their 1950s TV sitcom-perfect children adore Big Mike and make him feel so much a part of the family that when the couple, considering becoming his legal guardians, ask him if he wants to be part of the family, he answers, "I thought I already was."
Though the film takes us into the grubby, drug-infested 'hood where Mike was born, for a big action scene that could only occur in the mind of a screenwriter, the one sop to the culture clash of affluent whites nurturing a ghetto black in the Deep South comes by way of a tutor (Kathy Bates) who, before taking the job, insists on revealing to Lee Anne that she's a Democrat. This ironic note is repeated by Sean in the film's worst line: "Who knew we've have a black kid with a Democrat tutor?" Something like that.
You're right, I didn't much care for the movie and wouldn't be discussing it as an Oscar contender if it weren't for this year's bloated Best Picture ballot. In the end, I believe it's possible that Bullock could get a nomination, but only because the list of compelling lead actress performances this year is not that long. The problem facing the movie is greater. Academy members will vote for a movie that over-dramatizes its subject, but only if its subject is so powerful, a little patronization won't hurt.
I think that's the rule that will put Clint Eastwood's 'Invictus' in the Best Picture field. That movie, opening tomorrow in select theaters, tells the story of newly-elected, post-Apartheid South African President Nelson Mandela's use of the country's rugby team and an upcoming World Cup tournament to unite the deeply-divided country on a common purpose. There are scenes of blacks and whites in post-game hugs that seem a mighty stretch of reality. Yet, the gambit did pay off, in the long haul, and a little dramatic hyperbole doesn't hurt it.
In 'The Blind Side,' the hyperbole is beyond the pale. Whatever happened between the Tuohys and Michael Oher, you can be pretty sure 'The Blind Side' doesn't capture it. For that, it likely will not be rewarded with an Oscar nomination.
Kelly Woo | AOL Television and Moviefone | firstname.lastname@example.org | 212.652.6433