"I take orders from the Octoboss."

The Blind Side

tn_blindsideI wasn’t planning to see THE BLIND SIDE, but I’d seen 8 out of the 10 best picture nominees already, and I heard it wasn’t that bad. So what the hell. Figured I could start filling out the checklist and have a review for Super Bowl Sunday.

Adapted from part of a Michael Lewis football book, this is the true story of how a completely uneducated homeless kid in Tennessee who barely spoke and didn’t know what an ocean was got brought into a private Christian school, adopted by rich white people, learned how to play football and got his grades up enough for a college football scholarship. He was Michael Oher, now an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens.

mp_blindsideQuinton Aaron plays Michael, Sandra Bullock (having been cured of racism by falling on her ass in CRASH) plays Leigh Ann Tuohy, the wealthy white woman who sees him walking around in the cold without a coat on and decides to let him sleep on her couch. She’s a takes-no-shit interior decorator with a love of tacky sunglasses and a nice husband (Tim McGraw) who owns dozens of Taco Bells. They have plenty of money and they like to help people. So they help him.

This is a well-tread formula and pretty transparent audience manipulation, but I didn’t hate it. What I like about it is that it’s about nice people doing good things. I like nice people, I like good things. I’m especially a sucker for a non-traditional family. I mean we’ve been seeing this since Dif’rent Strokes, but still. You don’t expect a Republican family in the South to invite a black homeless kid into their home and then adopt him, so it activates an automatic heart-warmth reflex. Sadly, Christianity is no longer always about being Jesus-like and helping poor people, so although they play down the religious angle in the movie (I bet the real family went to church at least once) it’s a good example for the people who go around shouting about Jesus but are more worried about lowering their taxes than, say, feeding the hungry. Which was one of Jesus’s biggest passions, in my opinion. These people follow through on their Jesus, so good for them.

I read an article that’s some kind of excerpt/adaptation from the book, and it seems like they stuck pretty close to the true story. Unfortunately it still has more the feel of Hollywood bullshit than of reality. It’s not like, say, ERIN BROCKOVICH, where Steve Soderbergh had a pretty traditional Hollywood stick-it-to-the-man feel good story but found some kind of unexpected honesty in the performances, cinematography and the little details of the screenplay. No, this is the type of movie that goes for lots of underlining and nudging.

When Michael first arrives at the Christian school there’s a long establishing shot of a stone archway with an engraving that says, “WIth man this is possible. With God all things are possible.” Then there’s another shot of Michael coming up and reading the engraving. So you get two shots in a row to read it. It’s a little thing, but representative of the movie as a whole. When Leigh Ann explains and then reads “Ferdinand the Bull” to Michael they’re not gonna take any chances that you don’t pick up on it being a parallel to him, so they later have her say out loud “He’s Ferdinand the Bull.” You get it? That’s why we keep talking about that book. Because it’s him! Do you see?

Michael barely talks. When people ask him a question he usually answers “I ‘on’t know.” His new little brother has to teach him how to smile. This is why he’s an interesting character, and Aaron is very good in the role, giving us some subtle signs of life behind the enigmatic shell. But subtle’s no good, what if the audience wants to know specifically what he’s thinking about? Oh, look here, that’s convenient. His teacher found a piece of paper in the garbage where he wrote out his deepest inner thoughts!

(if that’s in the book then I guess I’ll give it a pass, but from here it looks like the laziest screenwriting shortcut of all time)

But, you know, most of the movie’s better than that. I’d say it’s stronger than some of the other watchable-but-should-be-so-much-better-feel-good-true-story-football-movies like GRIDIRON GANG and THE LONGSHOTS. And after you get used to her accent Sandra Bullock is good in it. But the best stuff is with the family, and when it gets more into the football (admittedly a smaller section of the movie than in those others) it seems to forget all about believability. The way it’s portrayed Michael is terrible at football until Leigh Ann comes out during practice and tells him to pretend that the other players are her and her family and he needs to protect them. This one pep talk magically transforms him into a great player.

Still, when there’s a game the team is losing badly. Then the asshole coach says that he would protect Michael like a son, so Michael is magically switched on, the game turns around and from this they suddenly have a DVD full of incredible highlights that attracts a swarm of college football recruiters to this previously unexplored school.

(The funny part where he picks up an asshole from the other team and carries him all the way off the field toward the bus he came in on is actually true. I was happy to read that.)

Obviously the real Michael Oher has an unusual personality and way of learning, but the way his inspiration gets boiled down into movie form kind of makes him seem like an imbecile. I know movies can’t reproduce the complexities of life, but you gotta be careful. At least leave out the jokey scene where Kathy Bates (who comes in late in the movie as his tutor) scares the bejesus out of him by telling him there are body parts buried under the playing field at the Tennessee college and they might grab him. He believes her and she never tells him she’s joking. Suddenly they’re acting like he’s retarded.

So, yes, this is a type of story white people like to see, where the nice white people help the unfortunate others. So it’s not that surprising that it gets a best picture nomination. Overall it’s been well received but I know there are some criticisms of it being patronizing or what have you. The part that makes me uncomfortable is the way it contrasts his new family with his old. The nice black people in the movie are his friend, his friend’s dad, and his brother – all of them are seen briefly in the beginning and never mentioned again. There’s also a menacing ethics investigator from the NCAA who makes him feel bad about himself. Otherwise all the black characters are crack smoking, 40 drinking, gun toting, sexually harassing, call-in-a-suspicious-persons-report-to-Steven-Seagal types. The movie accidentally portrays other black people as a bad influence that Michael needs to stay away from.

I also didn’t like the scene where Leigh Anne threatens a gangster GRAN TORINO style, bragging about being an NRA member. Not that he didn’t deserve it, but because the idea of it being an effective threat is such a dumb fantasy. The guy even swallows. He looks terrified. I don’t buy it. Maybe I would if they seemed more like real people and not like one-dimensional movie villains.

Still, I think good intentions count for something. The fact that it’s based on a true story makes it more palatable. What, should the white lady have found a white kid to help so it wouldn’t be patronizing? Come on. Give her credit for what she did. This family just figures that’s what you’re supposed to do, so they do it. If I ever own a Taco Bell I’ll follow their lead.

So I will let the movie off from charges of racism, but I do want to bring up one thing about the best picture nominations. The next time somebody tries to tell me Hollywood is too politically correct I’m gonna throw this one at them:

In the first Oscars of the Obama administration there are two best picture nominees about black people – but they’re both about teaching them how to read. They didn’t nominate INVICTUS, the one about the leadership genius of a black man. They chose the white lady inspiring the black kid to sports glory with her words over the black leader inspiring the white man to sports glory with his words.

I mean, you know… just an observation. There are other movies I’d want to see nominated before INVICTUS, but I liked it better than BLIND SIDE and PRECIOUS, and it’s interesting to me that it’s the one that was overlooked. I guess to be honest I don’t expect people to talk much about any of these five years from now. But I’d pick Clint’s movie as the one more representative of the times we’re living in. What are you gonna do, I guess. People love to see black kids get tutored, according to these nominations.

(Or depicted as aliens, come to think of it.)

And here’s another thing to keep in mind: 2 (two) of this year’s best picture nominees, THE BLIND SIDE and UP IN THE AIR, have a major turning point scene based around Young MC’s song “Bust a Move.” Actually, I haven’t seen AN EDUCATION yet so it’s possible there are three, but most likely two “Bust a Move” scenes nominated for best picture. Think about that.

Food for thought, huh? I’m not sure what kind of thought. But I’m pretty sure it’s food for thought. Let it simmer for a while.

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 7th, 2010 at 1:04 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

61 Responses to “The Blind Side”

  1. caruso_stalker217

    February 7th, 2010 at 1:16 am

    The best picture nominations are such bullshit this year.

    And I hate Sandra Bullock with a passion, so I guess I won’t be seeing this.

  2. Next week on Fox News: “Hollywood is liberal propaganda!”

    “But THE BLIND SIDE got a Best Picture nomination.”

    “…….Hollywood is liberal propaganda!”

  3. The real Michael is not happy with how he is portrayed in this film but that is Hollywood for you.

    This movie could so easily be on the Hallmark Channel but since it reinforces stereotypes, it gets nominated for all kinds of awards.

  4. pheteesh – Yeah I think it’s always interesting how the NeoCons whine about Hollywood “leftist propaganda,” but how much of the movies is dedicated in reforcing stereotypes and bullshit? Many stars and filmmakers may be lefty, but the industry is conservative in their business plans for the public. Michael Bay anyone?

    To put it another way, I think some of us had talked once upon a time of how surprisingly nobody in (or out of) Hollywood have gone Billy Jack/Shaft/Bruce Lee/Machete action exploitation and have a gay action hero.

    The only one I know* of was Val Kilmer in KISS KISS BANG BANG as the awesome-guy-you-wanted-to-be-as-awesome-as. So Shane Black, you’re a progressive. Sean Penn, you’re a wanker.

    *=I was going to add the Jason Statham character in THE TRANSPORTER, except #1 and #3 contradict that joke/subtext in #2. It would make complete sense considering how much Statham takes his shirt off, get dirty and greasy while pounding guys constantly.

  5. “Bust A Move” just makes everything better. Even the only memorable scene of the atrocious 6th Season of “Scrubs” is about it! (Yes, I’m talking about “Old MC”).

  6. I remember a long time ago neocons saying on CNN that FORREST GUMP was realistic. Because it portrayed hippies as bad and getting rich as a reward for good people no matter how ‘mentally challenged they were. A few years later George Bush the 2nd was elected.

    These movies are not harmless. My guess is they are preparing the US and the world (I dont live in the US, I live in the world; the choice of president is not unimportant to us) for the presidential campaign for 2012 where they’re slogan will be that only a mainstream christian (‘ahem’ this has nothing to do with the colour of skin) can set things right, because they are so good at setting things right.

    Only by promoting more realistic depictions like BLACK DYNAMITE (ignored for oscars; another reason why oscars are irrelevant) can the presidency be saved.

  7. anyway, great review Vern. You’re like Ebert, reading you is just as interesting when it’s about a movie I’m never going to see in my lifetime.

  8. But Ebert (although not among the worst) is not trained in the classical school of spoilerism, which is really annoying. He completely ruined the ending of Basterds for me. Vern’s reviews on the other hand, one can read before seing the actual film. How about that.

  9. Sorry Epleterte, It wasn’t my intention to put Ebert and Vern in the same category for all aspects of filmatist criticism. Vern’s penchant for the finer points of badass-ism is sometimes missing in Ebert; though it was Ebert who sang the praise of the nude female nipples exhibited in BLACK DYNAMITE.

    But what the hell do I know. I only read Vern and Ebert because all the other critics I’ve tried to read have bored me to death with their celebrity stories, box office reports, endless praise for movies who don’t need any more praise, awe for fake comic book toughness etc…

    So if any of you fellow posters can advice me on a good web writer on filmatism (no overt geek-ism please. ) I’d be happy to investigate.

    On youtube there is this guy Rob Ager who has impossibly elaborate interpretations of films by Kubrick and other assorted filmatists. I like him as well.


  10. Hey Vern, on my way to Haiti for a charity video and just read this in the airport. AMAZING. And its true, Bust A Move is the definitive white catharsis anthem. We can officially retire the entire Huey Lewis library.

  11. Mr. Kahn, perhaps in your haste to prepare for your journey you forgot a little song called “Walking On Sunshine.”

  12. RRA-“To put it another way, I think some of us had talked once upon a time of how surprisingly nobody in (or out of) Hollywood have gone Billy Jack/Shaft/Bruce Lee/Machete action exploitation and have a gay action hero.”
    I’ve heard of an action-comedy movie called “Best Men” where Dean Cain plays a gay bank robber who’s an ex-Green Beret.

  13. Another example of racist nominations is BLOOD AND BONE getting snubbed, obviously because it’s about a Black man dominating a fighting circuit, and beating the white champion (in spirit, if not technically) of a white group of rich assholes. Incidentally, over here, the UK DVD box’s sole quote is from Vern’s review, but just credits it to Aint It Cool.

  14. Stu – I guess that’s a start.

    I just think we might have missed something this past decade, right time right place.

    I mean let’s admit it, SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG isn’t necessarily that sharp in filmatics, but there was something satisfy to many people at that time when the black guy puts a foot up the “Man’s” ass. And doesn’t die at the end. Or Billy Jack the ass-kicking tolerant hippie, or Bruce Lee teaching everyone beyond the grave to contract and expand.

    Or in reverse, but part of the same trend, DIRTY HARRY: The guy who’ll blow through the bullshit because nobody else can or will.

  15. One Guy From Andromeda

    February 7th, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Man, Vern, you go pretty easy on this terrible piece of garbage. It’s a long way from “striving for excellence” to “good intentions count for something”.

  16. Zeez – Sure, yet the (known) 2012 contenders are lacking. Huckabee took a hard black eye when he pardoned that guy who then shot those cops up. His people will shit on Palin for her quitting on a term of office. I can even see this great ad: “If she can’t even run her own house affairs in order, you want her running the white house?”

    This could very well give Romney an opening, which would be sorta funny that a Mormon slips through, since those Evangelicals have been preached and taught how “fraudulent” the Mormon Church is. Nevermind the same Romney who helped implement the same Healthcare system in his state that the GOP base is rapid foam-in-mouth opposing.

    Dark horse?

    I would vote Eastwood ’12.

  17. Eastwood is too old. Well, he looks too old anyway.

    The Republicans are screwed for the next 10 years or so because Palin is too egocentric to get out of the way. She will dominate their public agenda until her fanbase abandons her, to the detriment of the entire party. Schwarzenegger will be president long before her.

  18. I’m with RRA on the gay action heroes.

    However, Hollywood should take note that on The Wire (yes, we’ll keep bringing it up, until you watch it, Vern), the closest think to a badass action hero is the very gay Omar Little. Indeed.

  19. I was thinking the same thing the other day . Man ,these movies are so fucking full of stereotypes , it’s almost embarassing . You’ve got the white , rich , christian family teaching an African-American omelette ( pictured as mildly retarded ) how to read and how to be a football star , and I’m sorry , maybe the intentions are good , but that is a sure way to piss me off . Then you’ve got Precious , and here we see the African-American sexual harassment-filled degrading environment ( a stereotype also portrayed in The Blind Side ) and not only that , but also the overweight woman eating a bucket of fried chicken! Way to go , Oscars , this seems like a race to fill the nominations with all the stereotypes in the universe . Then , wait , we need more ? Yes we need the Holocaust/WW2 movie , but this year we don’t have The Reader , so , I guess , it will be Inglorious Basterds ( and don’t get me wrong , I loved it , but I sincerely think that the time period of the movie was an important factor in the nomination ). So I will still root for The Hurt Locker , the message is similar to other movies , but I think in this time and age is more relevant than ever .

  20. Holy fuck , did I just wrote omelette ? Sorry guys , it’s African-American HOMELESS…. That’s both embarassing and delicious .

  21. You guys ever read Joe Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard series? That’ll satisfy your need for gay badassery. Hap is a good ol’ boy turned revolutionary turned shiftless layabout, but his best friend Leonard is a gay black Vietnam vet who likes country music. Both of them know hapkido and kick ungodly amounts of ass in the backwoods of East Texas, but Leonard is portrayed as a force of fucking nature. You got a problem with his blackness, his gayness, or his taste in music, you’re gonna be dealing with some fairly hefty medical bills in your near future. I really can’t recommend these books enough. They’re hilarious, tough as tungsten, and kind of sweet when you get right down to it.

  22. And I’m all for gay action heroes , or anti-heroes . Remember Gay Perry from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang ? That’s a fantastic gay character , and one of my favorite characters ever ! “I’m knee-deep in pussy. I just like the name so much, I can’t get rid of it. ” . Plus it’s also perfect for Vern’s Badass Theory . But I bet that , in most cases , if they try to film a badass gay action hero , they will fuck it up by having him dress like a woman or some other stupid stereotype like that .

  23. CallMeKermit – I actually think “omelette” worked in context, in a non-sequitur kind of way. Omelette as metaphor for retard, a la those “this is your brain on drugs” commercials.

    This is the only Best Picture candidate I haven’t seen yet. Not sure if I want to, at this point I can safely predict what the experience will be I think.

  24. Because I have not yet made my thoughts on the matter known, I will say that THE WIRE is the greatest television show ever made, and I think it would change Vern’s life.

  25. Mr. Majestyk : I recently finished “Dead in the West ” by Lansdale , and it was pretty fucking intense , but I always like a good horror-western . I’ve tried to get more of his books , but they’re hard to find here in Italy . I know that Savage Season , the first of the Collins and Pine books is translated here , literally , as “Stagione Selvaggia” , but I can’t find it . The good thing is , it’s relatively easy to read his stuff , because , from time to time , some short stories are posted on his website, for free . Great guy .

  26. In Frank Miller’s ‘Hell and Back’ Sin City book the main character Wallace at one point is assisted by a pair of superhumanly badass (as Frank Miller characters are wont to be) ex-Black Ops super soldiers who are also a loving gay couple. That progressive as fuck coming from the guy who wrote 300.

  27. Joseph – Thanks. I thought you might like this one. I was wondering if you’d write about this or Precious on your blog.

    Stu – They really quoted me on Blood and Bone? What was the quote? I’m very proud to be quoted on two different Michael Jai White movies.

    everybody – It still seems to me like Dolph is supposed to be gay in BLACKJACK, but like I said before the screenwriter didn’t respond when I tried to email him for verification. I know I saw a DVD of some tv movies or series about a gay detective made for the gay channel, but I forget who starred in it.

  28. Brendan – I spit-take back in the day when I read that scene in 300 with the Spartan bitching at “the boy lovers” in Athens. That’s like the French complaining someone of being rude.

    Though to be fair, 300 (as insane as that shit was) the book was meant to be hyperbole nationalist propaganda mythmaking. Subtext which Zach Snyder the Retard missed and took serious quite literally.

    CallMeKermit – Reminds me of that scene in UNDERCOVER BROTHER where Dave Chappelle deconstructs the “Magic Negro” stereotype. For the supposed crackpot militant, he’s quite dead-on.

    Mathias/Gwai Lo – Can we mix things up and pimp another HBO series too just to keep shit fresh? Yes err umm…GARY SHANDLING, great great program. Yeah.

    rainman – I saw this Ellen episode on YouTube w/ Eastwood and she brings out these photos of these animals Clint had rescued. Which was news to me. Parrots, pigs, cats, dogs…sadly no monkeys. Documented badass juxtaposition.

    And I go, you think Sarah Palin would ever bother with anything like that inbetween her Fox News work, ’12 campaign speeches, and running her family*? Hell no. She shoots wolves from helicopters. I would say that is a pussy thing to do, but since she’s a woman…yeah it is a pussy thing to do.

    *=That joke never gets old.

  29. Vern – I’m surprised you didn’t review BLACK SUNDAY today.

  30. It’s interesting how certain recent television shows keep coming up in discussions about movies, like THE WIRE and THE SOPRANOS. That never would have happened 20 years ago. No one was comparing THE LAST EMPEROR to FALCON CREST.

    The television show that I kept thinking of during THE BLIND SIDE was WEEDS, or, more specifically, Elizabeth Perkins’ character on that show. I didn’t see anything in Bullock’s performance that wasn’t done better by Perkins, and that’s kind of a sad indictment when you consider that WEEDS is a comedy with only modest aspirations to profound character work (no offense to Kevin Nealon, who is brilliant on that show, but he ain’t written like Raskolnikov).

  31. Gwai Lo : Yeah , that was , uhm…, my intention all along , see ? I’m a master in the field of metaphors . Especially food metaphors . Or maybe , I’m just hungry .
    Man , I’m always hungry these days.

    RRA : I haven’t seen UNDERCOVER BROTHER , but the problem here is that there’s a lot of people still thinking that NORBIT and MEET DAVE are good movies with Black themes . Or Big Momma for that matter . The fight for the abolition of every stereotype , especially regarding African-Americans , is still on . I always wonder what a Eddie Murphy or Martin Lawrence thinks when he’s reading the script for his next fat-suit , racially offensive , white-guy-directed movie.

  32. I raved about the book for a long time at work. Now that the movie is out people think I have no taste.

  33. Zeez,

    I know what you mean about movie bloggers being too obsessed with celebrity stories, box office reports, etc. Drew McWeeny (aka Moriarty) is an excellent film writer whose talent is largely being wasted at HitFix.com, and I find myself skipping more and more of his posts because they come across more as advertising rather than analysis. I’ve pretty much given up on Ain’t It Cool as well, especially since their best writer (Moriarty) left. Maybe after reading AICN since 1996, I’ve gotten my lifetime supply of glowing set reports and hatred-filled talkbacks? Still, Quint’s stuff is usually good, particularly his reviews of classic films, and of course I’ll head over there whenever Vern’s work gets posted.

    One thing I can thank Drew for is pointing out (usually via his “Morning Read” column) some other film writers that are definitely worth my time. David Bordwell’s blog (http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/) is my favorite of the ones Drew often links to. You will be hard-pressed to find any celebrity hype stories or box office puff pieces there. Give it a try!

    And thanks for the link to the Rob Ager link. I will investigate it as soon as I can.

    Mike V.

  34. Vern- The quote was “I demand Blood and Bone 2”.

  35. I think I’ve given up on Moriarty. First of all I hate HitFix, every time I load a new page it freezes the browser for about 60 seconds. I get this with multiple browsers on multiple computers so I have to conclude the site just sucks. I hate the name “HitFix”, and I’m not too hot on “Motion/Captured” either. I’m not interested in anything on the site besides Drew’s writing, but even that has changed a lot in the last few years. Drew used to be capable of really sharp, edgy criticism but now with his screenwriting career it just seems like he’s always careful not to piss anyone off. He’s moved permanently into that fawning, hyperbolic style he does where he sermonizes about how much he loves movies and how they change him “on a chemical level” every second Tuesday, like Brundlefly. Which is fine in measured doses, but too much of it just makes me feel like I’m being lectured or that I’m listening to a pitch for snake oil. It feels like he’s holding back some of his nerd rage to be this slick corporate huckster now. But in a sense all of the old guards of the internet film critic community are almost too bogged down in their e-personas to objectively review film anymore. Hard to keep the outsider perspective when you’ve gradually become an insider. Harry, Faraci, Nunziata, Quint, etc. Vern is practically the only guy from that generation still keeping it real, and it’s mostly because he doesn’t do the fourth tier celebrity thing. None of us know much about who Vern is in real life, he’s not out there doing set visits and reporting on the goings-on of Zac Efron or Channing Tatum, he’s not friends with a bunch of working filmmakers and stars, he doesn’t spend all day twittering about the minuteae of his life. We know that he wants Nolte or Kristofferson to play him if there’s a VERN: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, we know that he had a little run in with the law and a trip to the big house, we know he attends Seagal concerts and political demonstrations in Seattle, but that’s almost it. And Vern is like Bigfoot, who knows if any of this is true or if it’s all just an elaborate ruse. But that’s kinda why I still trust the guy to turn in honest, unbiased, unmanipulated reviews. He writes for himself, not to gain insider access. Thanks big guy.

  36. “Omelette” is a Freudian slip of some kind.

    You think homeless people are like cooked eggs. You’re not necessarily a racist or unfeeling, but you are most likely a surrealist.

    Goddam surrealists. They’re everywhere these days.

  37. I think it’s more of an age thing. They aren’t angry young twenty somethings spending all their time hunting scoops and railing against the failures of the studio systems, their thirtysomethings with wives and kids who only watch stuff their more likely to enjoy and are more selective. I think Drew and Quint are becoming much, much stronger writers, it’s just they’ve mellowed, so we don’t get any epic takedowns like Moriarty’s Superman script freakout.

    If you want an example of some of Moriarty’s lingering rage, read his Gamer review which is just as angry as Vern’s in places.

  38. frankbooth : You KNOW that I’m not a racist in any way , shape or form .But I think you’re right when you say that there’s something psychological in my use of the word omelette . But instead of Freud , I think that Proust is the right example . After all “Remembrance of Things Past” was written because he was always thinking about madeleine cakes , and it’s the perfect example of involuntary memory. That , or maybe I’m the stereotypical Italian surrealist obsessed with food .

  39. wow, i never noticed the director of TORQUE hung out here!

  40. CallMeKermiT: Hey, it’s perfectly habanero with me, you big coelacanth.

  41. Vern,

    It’s common knowledge white people are far more critical of black racial stereotypes than black people are.

    It’s also becoming common knowledge that Obama’s election was a bigger coup for whites than it was for blacks.

    Which is probably why you devoted an entire blog to his election.


  42. Mike V,

    thanks for the David Bordwell link. That’s one for the bookmark.

  43. I saw An Education the other night Vern, I think you’ll like it. Not by any rational frame of reference, except knowing you’re a big softie, really.

  44. Simulacrum – If you mean the “common knowledge” found at Fox News libraries, then yeah you would be right.

    And blacks don’t care about prejudice? Then what the hell was that silly fight over that silly South Carolina* flag anyway some years back? Or anytime a celebrity says something they probably shouldn’t have in public? Just ask Michael Richards.

    *=At least we Tennesseeans weren’t dumb enough to plant Stars & Bars icon on our flag.

  45. Simulacrum, I think I get your point, but my white guilt aside what does this all mean? Should I as a white dude not point out “hey look, they nominated two movies about illiterate black people over a better movie about the genius leadership of Nelson Mandela”? And if white people are more critical of the stereotypes (which I’m not disagreeing with you on) then why does the largely white academy love these types of movies but not, for example, anything that Spike Lee has ever made in his entire brilliant career?

    If you’re implying that I’m one of those people who wants to use Obama’s presidency as proof of the end of racism or something then that’s not me. For one thing we have a whole movement of people so scared of a black president they’re trying to prove he must be some kind of a foreigner somehow. And that’s just the people who are against him. Still, his election is undeniably a landmark in our history, and whatever it means it’s interesting to me that the best picture nominees don’t seem to fall in line with whatever progress we would like to think we might have.

    And yeah, I was happy to have a black president, but my writing a blog about his election had more to do with ending 8 years of Bush than with anything else.

    Anyway, my feelings about both of these movies are complicated. Overall I enjoyed both of them (more Precious than Blindside) but I also think those are issues they bring up that are worth thinking about. I’d be interested in more detailed thoughts from you if you ever have the time.

    thanks Simulacrum

  46. Man, Vern, you’re taking a beating for these reviews. You’re either too racist or not racist enough. You can’t win.

  47. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I for one think Vern’s reviews are just the right amount of racist.

  48. okay director of TORQUE and now roger ebert on the same thread. could walter b and demon dave be around the corner?

  49. just some a-hole (har!)

    February 8th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    While we’re at it, what’s with the bigoted comments about christians Vern? There’s not a single christian who loves Clint Eastwood movies, or Bruce Willis movies, or Outlaw Vern reviews for that matter?
    I mean, you felt it necessary to virtually provide a disclaimer stating that while this movie depicts a seemingly, vaguely Hollywood-watered down christian family, evidently based on an actual christian family who did something halfway decent, most christians are (worldwide?) really nefarious Tea Party Protesters (who must be rich because they’re ignoring Jesus’ biggest passion, and yet appear as white cracker trash with illiterate signs).
    That’s called being on some bullshit Vern.
    And fuck christians and whatever, but go easy on the biblical exegesis in your reviews. If you refreshed your memory with the Jesus of the gospels I think you’d be surprised at how little you agreed with anything he had to say, including his avowed motivations for helping the poor and feeding the hungry.
    These comments are made in good faith (no pun). You’re pretty brilliant, Vern. Your reviews recently inspired me to enjoy the entire Dirty Harry saga for example. Also, you remain one of the chief elucidators on the torture porn debate, among other hot film contentions. The list goes on. But recently, what the fuck?

  50. just some a-hole (har!) – i’m not really sure what it was that offended you so much in this review. in fact, it seems to me that vern went out of his way to not make blanket statements:

    “Sadly, Christianity is no longer always about being Jesus-like and helping poor people” [note the “always”].

    “it’s a good example for the people who go around shouting about Jesus but are more worried about… ”

    he’s only talking about some christians, not all. and i don’t know how you get from those moderate statements to “There’s not a single christian who loves Clint Eastwood movies, or Bruce Willis movies, or Outlaw Vern reviews for that matter.”

    anyway, i’m sure vern will defend himself when he gets a chance and do so with ample erudition.

  51. You completely misread me, Mr. Har. The part of the movie I liked most was that it was about people really living by their religious convictions. I even thought that it was kind of lame that the movie played down the fact that the family’s religious beliefs probly played into the decisions they made. I think I was clear in holding them up as a good example. I don’t see how you can turn “more people should be like these Christians” into anti–Christian bias. In fact I thought some people might think this review was too preachy.

    Also I didn’t write or imply anything that remotely had to do with Tea parties or any of that other stuff you wrote, and don’t remember touching on any of those topics in an awful long time.

  52. p.s. in the very early days of my geocities sight most of the hate mail I got was criticizing me for pushing Jesus on everybody. Or for being illiterate.

  53. Also, just some a-hole (har!), I believe Vern has professed to being a Christian himself. Unless that was a joke. Only him and Jesus know for sure.

  54. Wrote reply before I saw Vern’s. Sorry.

  55. Vern, you’ll be carrying that “probaly” around with you for the rest of your life. It is the Playboy photos you posed for before winning the Miss America contest. It is the YouTube clip that gets you kicked off the olympic team. If you run for political office, it will be dragged out by your opponents in an attempt to discredit you.

  56. <>

    I have to point out that “The Blind Side” represents the first time two black producers were nominated for Best Picture. Lee Daniels is the first black director to earn a best picture nomination. In other words, black people were responsible for those films. So you should ask them why their films were nominated over the film produced and directed by old crusty white guys. Bringing white guilt back to the table, it bears repeating that if white people are more sensitive to the stereotypes they will do what they can to avoid them (and in the case you are making, avoiding it would be casting a black guy as a genius leader). This example supports my theory quite well.


    Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X? I thought those were nominated. Spike was nominated for best writing for Do The Right Thing. I’m really hoping that Inside Man 2 is what gets him that honorary oscar though.


    This is interesting. Perhaps you are suggesting some new kind of genre. “Progressive films”. They could be counter programmed against the Christian films that are playing in churches.


    I appreciate you responding, Vern.

    Indeed those films are complicated. In closing I will say what my personal thoughts are regarding the reason the academy did choose those films. Firstly, I think nobody was very surprised to see Morgan Freeman play Nelson Mandela. If you asked anybody it was just a matter of time. He was born to play him. Now compare that to Sandra Bullock, who I think surprised many people with her performance. People respond well to films that take us to unexpected places. That is why a film about an obese fat black girl with HIV who was raped by her dad makes us sit up and watch. It is being rewarded for the risk it took. I think Morgan Freeman is not as risky of a proposition. Sandra carrying a dramatic film on her own was also a risk. I would say those two films were leaps of faith with the potential for disastrous results. And they turned out okay.


  57. That’s just like you to come back at me with a bunch of good points and make me look wrong. thanks alot, pal.

    I didn’t know that about Blindside having black producers, and it didn’t occur to me that Daniels was the first black director to have his movie nominated for best picture. But yeah, neither Do The Right Thing or Malcolm X was nominated for best picture, believe it or not. In addition to stereotypes I’m sensitive to symbolism, and it still bugs me that Driving Miss Daisy won best picture in a year Do The Right Thing wasn’t even nominated. Also, I always wished Denzel got best actor for playing Malcolm X instead of a scenery chewing corrupt cop. But you’re right, that was more of a surprise to people. (maybe Book of Eli next year? I never thought he’d do sword fights.)

    Honestly I’m not trying to make a big issue about any of these things. Which movies win the Oscar isn’t really the most important thing in the world, and I don’t think a movie needs to be a positive representation of something in order to be acknowledged. For example, I wouldn’t have complained if they gave the Irving G. Thalberg to Rudy Ray Moore. But when they keep making the same sort of choices I think it should at least be mentioned. I’m not trying to be like Charlton Heston saying “You bastards!” but more like Roddy Piper in They Live saying “It figures it would be something like this.”

    Still unsure about that bucket of chicken in Precious though.

    thanks Ebert

  58. Vern,
    As a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I can confirm that there are in fact many dead body parts underneath the stadium: that’s where the Anthropology department is situated, and I have seen firsthand the many, MANY boxes of skulls and other ex-people parts hanging out there (which is what I think Kathy Bates was initially referring to). Now, whether they’re going to get up and rudely interrupt a football game, we’ll just have to wait and see

  59. Spoiler, spoiler, spoiler.

    My issue which I take against THE BLIND SIDE (aside from all the annoying everything) is the surprise car crash, which isn’t a surprise because I now expect an SCC (surprise car crash) everytime I see a person in a movie or a TV show drive in a car. The first SCC I recall in this era of the SCC as an 100% expected movie trope is the one in ADAPTATION, which really did horrify me. I also liked the one in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE THE BEGINNING, but I didn’t like it’s duplicate in HALLOWEEN II. When I saw MACHETE there was a preview for a Zack Efron movie wherein he was driving in a car in the rain with his little brother, and I said to my friends, “they’re gonna have a car crash”, and my friends just shrugged, but I was right.

    So, in THE BLIND SIDE, when the kindly protective black kid and spunky little white kid go for a drive, I was just like, “Oh, great, here we go…” and then when they turned on the radio and started singing and dancing, I was like “goddammit,” and I started counting to 10 to see how high I could get before a surprise, out of nowhere car crash that I was expecting would surprise me, and I got to seven.

    It’s just not surprising! And it makes me nervous when people in cars in movies drive to places.

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