November 28th, 2009


Holiday Football

Variation In Traditions

For quite a number of years, we've actually done our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday or even Saturday, and have gone out on Thanksgiving to see some movies. Now I can hear it now -- doesn't this make you a hypocrite after your rant about Thanksgiving shopping? If you like. But I consider going to entertainment a bit different than Christmas shopping or looking for bargains for yourself. After all, people are going out on Thanksgiving to those big football games and the Big Balloon parades, etc. And frankly, the alternative is that a lot of multiplexes are located in, wait for it, shopping malls. And come Black Friday, people who don't like to drive into crowded places (like us'ns) won't go to those cinemas.

This year, though, we had some company and ended up doing the Turkey, et al, on Thanksgiving. So it was that we drove off to a movie on Friday. Away from any malls. Otherwise, we might've gone to see Bright Star, a four-star Jane Campion movie about Yeats. And no, we weren't going off to see sparkly vampires.

The Blind Side [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre #7, 2pm, 4×$6.75

It seems like a movie we've seen before. Big, really big, black inner city underprivileged kid is looked upon as meat for the local high school football team. Try to show him a new life and tutor the hell out of him, and hope to feed him to the Great Southern God of Football. Maybe make him illiterate or with a big chip on his shoulder. Doesn't even have to be a football movie, it could be Drumline.

It would be easy to say that The Blind Side is that movie we've seen before. Except I think that would do a series of disservices to this film and -- since this is based on a true story -- a disservice to the real people involved. Predictable? Somewhat. But we found it damned entertaining. And though I hadn't heard the real story of Michael Oher, or of the book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis, I found the characters pretty realistic and compassionate in a way very different from most of the movies out there.

Quinton Aaron as "Big Mike" -- can we say he plays his role low key with enormous energy? Can we say his character is hiding in plain sight and we get to watch him blossom? Sure. But of course what the reviews are going to talk about is Sandra Bullock. Now I've watched her since she had to drive a bus in Speed and really enjoyed her quirky offbeat characters. As Leigh Anne Touhy, we get to watch Sandra Bullock playing a real grownup. A force of nature. Now realize, she's as foreign to my life as Michael is. Rich. Driven. Southern Republican. A former cheerleader. But she's sincere -- and she has doubts. And dammit, at least twice in the movie she admits she's made a mistake, which would be very hard for her character, and she sucks it up. The queen of a string of romantic/action comedy movies has made an admittedly lightweight serious feel-good movie -- and dammit, I suspect she's going to earn herself an Oscar nomination, if not a statue.

The little brother of the family nearly steals the show -- the kid is brilliant as the plugged in operator -- wonder who he is supposed to have inherited that from. (grin) And a whole slew of NCAA Division I Southern head football coaches play themselves, which is a real treat. The wheeling and dealing is a bit comic, but it's as close as I'll ever get to sitting across a coffee table from a major league recruiter. (double-grin) And in this film, the crack using mother who lost custody of all her children over the years, isn't trying to get money from the new mom, trading a son for drugs. It would be so easy to complain, and I'm not sure it isn't something of a legitimate complaint, that this is some sort of white saves black from themselves story. Except that this all is set in motion by a black man helping out his own son and someone else's son, followed by a simple desire to help someone in a cold rain wearing nothing but soaked T-shirt and shorts and soggy tennies.

Since this is based on real events, it is interesting that there are things they decided not to do, decisions I think were made to avoid being distracting. The real Michael Oher graduated from Old Miss in 2009. Back up four years and he graduated from high school in 2005. So the action in this movie probably starts in 2002-2004, though I don't think it says. That's not all that long ago, but at the same time I don't think they made any attempt to adjust for the time period. Prior to Obama's run for the White House last year, the only people doing fistbumps that I ever saw were with Howie Mandel. (grin) Like I said, no distracting period stuff. Second, while it is crucial that the school involved was a private Christian school, and Sandra wears a lovely not-so-simple gold cross all the time, we never see any church scenes. These are the things they didn't do, and yet the movie clocks in at a solid 128 minutes. This isn't some 79 minute hardly-a-movie.

If you go, stay for beginning of the credits. They end the movie with Michael being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens -- and this is real footage. We get to see the family and people, and they did a fine job of casting, especially Sandra Bullock's hair (grin) and Kathy Bates (who is in everything lately) as the tutor. And an interesting side note, given the big debate in Michigan about whether to continue the subsidies to filmmakers shooting in the state, this movie about Memphis and Old Miss was shot in Georgia under their state program.

I don't think you particularly have to be a sports fan to see this. Perhaps it's that rare breed that qualifies as a guy's sports triumph movie and a chick flick that isn't a romance. Go figure. Or at least go see The Blind Side.


Trailers: Invictus puts Morgan Freeman is as Nelson Mandela, trying to unify white and black South Africa, and picking on Matt Damon and the national rugby team to do it by winning the World Cup. I think South Africa will come out looking better than in District 9. Up In The Air, with George Clooney as a a busy traveler who swoops in to help fire employees -- will have to see the reviews of this one. We'll skip the life feed of Glenn Beck's The Christmas Sweater, trust me.

Dr. Phil