Monday, January 25, 2010


So Sandra Bullock won the SAG Award for best actress in a movie. Kind of unexpected. Meryl Streep was looking like a shoo-in for JULIE & JULIA. But Bullock's win mirrored Jeff Bridges win for best male actor for his portrayal of a drunk country singer in CRAZY HEART.

In a way they were both winning for a career full of terrific acting that mostly went unrecognized. Bridges I've always considered one of our greatest and most underrated film actors. Bullock I have to admit I usually ended up admiring for being able to play such a broad range of blockbuster movie characters from comic to action etc.

But it wasn't until I saw her in CRASH a few years ago that I realized first of all she had some range I wasn't even aware of and that she was willing to subordinate her star status for an ensemble piece in which she didn't even have one of the bigger roles.

Interestingly she mentioned that role in CRASH as the turning point in her career after her decision to chuck the star stuff and actually audition for a role in what she referred to as a small or little movie or maybe she said independent. Whatever. It was clear in her remarks at the SAG Awards that she changed direction in order to prove her chops in serious drama and CRASH was the first step, THE BLIND SIDE some kind of culmination, or at least fulfillment.

I only saw BLIND SIDE last week and was moved to tears by a story I already knew from reading the NY Times Sunday Magazine article (as I remember it) that the book was based on that led to the movie. It's a moving story. Homeless impoverished basically abandoned young African-American boy is taken in by upper middle-class Southern Christian white family and the diminutive mom sets about getting him a good education and the chance to become an NFL star.

The article was better than the movie in some places. There's a lot of smugness in Bullock's character that I found a little irritating at times, and in the script and direction (is it me or are strong, independent successful working black women becoming some kind of target for revenge or at least judgement in a lot of otherwise on-the-surface more tolerant flicks?), especially when it came to the self-righteousness of Bullock's character and the scapegoating of an entire community (lower class "blacks").

But Bullock is such a good actress, or performer maybe, that she pulls it off because she gets you to believe her motives are pure even when the movie itself implies they might not be entirely. It is a terrific performance. And a pretty accomplished transformation. It's easy to accept Bullock as a strong-willed woman, and a successful business woman, but a Southern, blond, politically conservative doyenne of her household turned surrogate mom for an adolescent black giant? To make us believe that, she has to be a terrific actress.

But the real revelation here is Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher, the eventual NFL star. He uses his bulk and his capacity for childlike innocence in the face of enormous emotional trauma so well it's hard to remember he's acting in a movie and not the real Oher.

Jae Head as the littlest wheeler and dealer of the white household Oher becomes a part of is also pretty interesting to watch, even when you get the feeling this kid is almost as "on" as Mickey Rooney always seemed to be. It's still impressive to see a kid work that hard and make that much happen on screen when he's playing off Bullock's experience and talent and Aaron's imposing presence and obvious talent as well.

It's definitely worth seeing, and Bullock deserves some nominations for what she's accomplished in this role, but beating out Streep, let alone so many other women who gave great performances this year that were much deeper and showed an even wider range, not for my taste.


Elisabeth said...

This sounds like a terrific movie, Michael. Thanks for the review. You bring it to life - the actors, the issues and the story.

AlamedaTom said...

Hey, I just love Sandra. As you know, I'm just a big sucker for a good romantic comedy and these days (and in the past years) no one does it better than Bullock. One of my favorites, and most overlooked, in that genre is "Two Weeks Notice." If you haven't seen it, check it out.

Lally said...

Thanks E. and Tom, I definitely will.