The Blind Side Film Review: Was It Really a Deserving Academy Award Nominee?

The Blind Side grabbed a lot of media attention when it first came out in November 2009, and then garnered even more buzz when Oscar time came around. Thanks to the expansion of the nomination list for the Best Picture category for the Academy Awards, The Blind Side ended up becoming a nominee, which lead to huge DVD sales and for the film to be cemented in pop culture. Now, nobody ever thought it had a chance of winning the Best Picture award, but the nomination established it as one of the top films of the year.

The major reason that The Blind Side was given the nomination and bestowed massive amount of media attention was the performance of Sandra Bullock. Bullock was a long time staple of the romantic comedy genre (along with the occasional sassy female lead for action films) who was largely liked among Hollywood and pretty popular with the movie going audience (she is probably considered one of the bigger female box office draws). But she was never really considered an Academy Award contender, even though she was so likable and the academy surely would have liked to hand one out if her work ever merited it. So, we have The Blind Side that was given largely favourable reviews and had many critics raving about Bullock's performance. She was finally given a meaty role and many felt she delivered amazingly. She instantly became a favourite to win the Best Actress Oscar and then ended up fulfilling that very destiny.

I have to say I was shocked when I heard that Sandra Bullock was nominated for an Academy Award and even more stunned when she won the award (well, maybe more stunned that she was such a heavy favourite). I was also surprised that The Blind Side was nominated and getting such critical praise, because the trailers never seemed like a masterpiece in film making (not to say that every Best Picture nod has to automatically qualify as a masterpiece). I quickly realized the acclaim for the film was largely due to Bullock's performance, and also partly because everyone likes their underdog stories (especially the Academy -- Rocky and Slumdog Millionaire both former Best Picture winners).

I started wondering if part of the critical gushing over Bullock's performance was partly due to the fact she was such a likable person. The committee knew that in all likelihood this would be this wonderful human beings one big chance of getting the mini golden man statue. I was sure that Bullock put in a solid performance, but I questioned if it was the best female performance of the entire year. Was the critical praise and awards because everyone liked Bullock and they wanted her to finally have this moment? Was it a case of a solid performance being viewed as a career maker, because that is what people really wanted? Or was I just not giving Bullock her due?

I liked The Blind Side. I thought Sandra Bullock did a mighty fine acting job. In the end, I personally didn't see the performance or film as Oscar worthy (but what I see and what the Academy sees are often different -- Titanic anyone?). Both were good and really well done, but I also felt they didn't really leave any major lasting impact on me. I watched it, and then moved on and promptly forgot most of it. I'd consider that the recipe for your usual decent movie, not your best film and performance of the entire year.

The Blind Side is a film that is based off the book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis. The story is about Michael Oher (played by Quinton Aaron) who is homeless and without a family, but is taken in by the wealthy Tuohy family. They eventually become his family, and the mother, Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Sandra Bullock) becomes his motivator and supporter who pushes him for success in his high school football career and beyond. The movie chronicles Oher's time playing football for Wingate Christian school and the challenges he faces to try to meet academic standing so he can be recruited to colleges to continue to play ball. If you're a football fan, then you likely know that Oher finally goes on to play offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.

One of the main criticisms I've heard waged, is that the film isn't entirely historically accurate. In the film, Sean Tuohy (played by Tim McGraw) has a small role in Oher's development, while his wife is actively involved -- which many have pointed out isn't a fair representation of the facts. There is also discrepancies in how Oher actually got eligibility and how the actual football season went along. But I actually don't really see those as major flaws to hold against the film, and actually, I wouldn't even consider them flaws. The film is 'based' on a true story, and by now, most movie audiences should understand what that means. Most films based off true stories are not aiming to be solid history lessons. It is trying to tell a good story. This means it will often distort and change facts to make that story more engaging. I think, there isn't any problem with that, and anyone who does have a problem, is clearly oblivious to the majority of 'historical' film's accuracy. It is also similar to when avid readers complain about films based on novels. The fact is the film is just the take on an established story, and it shouldn't be expected to have to follow it perfectly. Two of my favourite films are Braveheart and Jaws, and neither do the best job of faithfully following their source material. Th Scottish didn't wear kilts during the time period of Braveheart, and Jaws the film completely ignored the mobster subplot of the novel. Both films are considered classics, and so I think that is evidence enough that a movie shouldn't be dinged for not being completely faithful to it original source when the story is still good.

The story of The Blind Side is just fine. It brings a strong level of emotion an feeling, and you may have times when you need a tissue. It has moments where it looks at some really thought provoking and powerful subject matter, such as the disparity between Oher's old neighbourhood and the one lived by the Tuohys. For an underdog story, it is a strong one and you invest in Oher's outcomes, but it also isn't overly original for that type of Hollywood fare (with the fact it is based on a true story giving it the extra cred).

My criticism is that the film plays out a bit like a Disney Sunday evening family movie, but with bit more adult content. It only briefly touched upon the interesting elements of the story such as where Oher grew up and the obvious tension between the classes and races. Instead, it focuses on Oher's sudden rise to prominence in football, and handles it as if his talent and skill magically appears after a pep talk. My issues is that things are over simplified in the film. This is made even more obvious by the fact many of the characters are fairly one dimensional. The Tuohys are a rich and happy family, and that is about it. There isn't too much depth and development. The majority of the film is filled with roles rather than developed characters or people -- the mean drug dealer, the srtong indepenedent women, the long suffering coach, the snotty teacher, the goofy young boy. The film has a message and it quickly rushes through issues and plot points to get there. For a decent family movie with a solid message, the film works just fine. As a powerful drama nominated for Best Picture, it falls a little short.

My criticisms come from raised expectations. The praise of this film and the gushing reviews of Bullock's performance made me believe there was going to be something much more powerful and magical. What I saw, was a decent little movie that missed out on the potential to be much more. I really do think this had the elements to be an intriguing picture. It decided to play it safe and be slightly formulaic instead. And as stated before, it resolved certain issues in a very children film type route (but not being an actual children film).

The acting is good, and I don't want to make it seem like I believe otherwise. It was one of Bullock's best performances. She did a solid job. I just don't feel the script or story (as it came on the screen) allowed for a award winning performance. At the same time. Bullock is a likable person and it was one of her best performances of her career. It did prove she had solid acting chops. So, even if I didn't feel it was Oscar worthy, I honestly don't think it was the biggest travesty known to man that she won. I'm happy for her and this was the best movie for her to win it.

The Blind Side is a decent movie about a riveting true story. It is a film that had potential to be something unique, but decided to follow the usual mold for this type of fare. It is that fact that made the film slightly disappointing. I think, this is also a film that doesn't necessarily stand up well to time. In the years to come, people may wonder why it was considered one of the best films of 2009. I do think it will be remembered as a decent little movie with a great message, and it is a good harder edged 'Disney' family type film.

Comments

  1. Anonymous2:50 pm

    I like the write up on this film. I found myself shocked when I found out that it was nominated for those awards (I found out five minutes ago as I was reading this... I don't think I know much of the Oscars these days).

    I think the thing that held me back from really loving this movie was the fact that it seemed to be the definition of formula sports related movies. All the key elements for this were present, and I actually found myself getting a bit frustrated while watching it because the formula was followed so closely. Not that I hate formulaic movies, I just get frustrated from time to time when movies follow too closely to it. Oh well...

    Hey, want to watch the original Bourne Identity sometime? I bought it some time ago, and have yet to see it... the run time has me a bit scared, but apparently it follows the novel fairly well.

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