Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Blind Side

Alright, enough is enough.

I didn't write anything at first after seeing "The Blind Side" because it left my largely unaffected save for the same general annoyance given off by it's trailer, which I'd already covered. But seeing it blossom into some kind of real success, and now people are talking an OSCAR for Sandra Bullock (Sandra Bullock!!??) I'm compelled to get into this.

"The Blind Side" is fucking horrible. At first seemingly forgettable, but it HANGS there like a sore... I find myself coming back to it in my head, realizing just how awful certain aspects of it are. It's worse than worthless - it's an "anti-good" film; it's existance lessens the world around it.

It's based loosely on a sports book of the same name from the author "Moneyball," which details the rise to prominence of the Left Tackle position in professional football. The "human interest" aspect of the story focused on Michael Oher, an NFL pro who started out as a near-homeless teenager who's life turned around after a local rich family more-or-less adopted him. He's black, they're white, is the "hook." The film gives lip service to the sports-history context, but it opts to focus mainly on Oher's story... without actually focusing on him. Instead, it reworks itself into a star-vehicle for Bullock as the tuff-love matriarch who takes him in.

And that's the main problem - all "Blind Side's" other sins... the unoriginal structure, the formula "big" scenes, the treacly sentiment and the overall "feel-good-movie-matic" aura of the whole enterprise - might be forgivable if it weren't also such a smug, self-satisfied piece of white-guilt-reassurance. Oher is a specter in his own story: A one-dimensional "big lug with a heart" caricature who's only function is helping his benefactor's feel better about themselves. The plot is about how Oher escaped the dead-end of the ghetto with help from these people, but the STORY is about how encountering Michael and his world has made his adoptive mother a more enlightened, socially-aware human being. Fuck that shit.

And that's not even taking into account all the out-of-nowhere "the HELL!?" scenes. At one point, Oher gets to tear a bunch of his old-neighborhood crack dealers apart with his bare hands even though they've all got guns. No, really, and it's cut like something out of a Jason Statham movie. Later on, Bullock goes all Erin Brokovich on the same dealers, apparently able to cow them with sheer force of word. Please. The film also manages to sidestep the main note of moral-gray from the real events - there was some eyebrow-raising about Oher's adopted family, and tutor, and others involved in his redemption being financially-connected to the college he ended up signing with, do the math - by the old standby of placing the only dialogue questioning it into the mouths of a "mean" character. Earlier on, one of Bullock's "bitchy" friends asks her "is this some kind of white guilt thing?," which is meant to make curmudgeon's like me feel bad about mentioning the fact that it kinda IS.

It's a piece of shit, and the idea that it has any kind "momentum" right now is incredibly disturbing.

19 comments:

Alex Howard said...

Thanks for this, Bob. I read a NYTimes article describing this movie and Precious which took nearly a page before it ever got around to managing to calling The Blind Side out on its "What black people really need are rich white families" message. But the article was mostly like "This movie is Precious for red states (because it's about Texans and football)."

I'd also like to note that "whitey saves blacks from ghetto" is also a pretty formulaic model, so it's not even like there's much originality in content, either. Heck, the only movie I've seen that ever gets around to subverting that particular trope is Half-Nelson.

Rubbav1 said...

""The Blind Side" is fucking horrible". Profound.

I know I'm attacking you on this but once again, I feel your wrong. Not about the movie though, but about what truly makes a movie horrible. Is there a checklist? An idea? A message? What bridge does a film have to cross before it goes from being a bad yet harmless film to being a threat to all good films that might no longer be made.

Often I wonder the purpose of film critics. Are they even necessary? Are they purely entertainment? Or is it as Anton Ego claims? I not really sure if most modern days critics realize this might actually be a problem. Or I don't know, is it?

I may never have an answer to any of these questions but I do want you to ask yourself this. Is the movie truly bad or did you just find it offensive?

Anonymous said...

I think you hit the nail right on the head, where it needed to be hit. It's like Freedom Writers only less emphasis on the kids.

In response to the previous comment, I think Yatzee said most frankly, if we don't get criticized for our faults we can't evolve. (granted he said it with a lot more cursing but general idea is the same)

I think a movie is bad if its incredibly formulated and boring which this one was, and a lot are these days.

David said...

You know, just once I'd like to see the typical racial roles in these films reversed. Have a well to do black family adopt a white street kid. Of course then we'd have a whole nother bunch of baggage.

Smashmatt202 said...

You know what? My mom loved this movie so much, it moved her to tears, mostly because Michael Oher in that movie reminds her of me. I'm a big guy, I don't talk to people that much, I'm not that violent, and I do what people tell me to do, and that made her concerned about where I'm going in life.

I don't know, seeing you rip on the movie like that when my mother really liked the movie is...

Nevermind, it's opinion, and I'm sure that since you see movies all the time, you pick up on things my family doesn't. I didn't really see it from the mother's side, we were more focused on Oher.

Yeah, I was a bit surprised with the drug dealer parts, too, but to be honest, I didn't really care about them, I cared more about the emotion the movie had to offer... Even though I didn't want to see it to begin with. I'm not much of a movie-goer, to be honest. I'd be lucky to see maybe 3 movies in theaters a year.

So, sorry you didn't like it, but we liked it, so yeah...

Bob said...

Rubbav-

The fact is, for most critics the "purpose" is our own. We like to watch and write-about movies, and we're fortunate that a business-model exist to allow us to do something we'd probably do for fun anyway. I'm grateful for when I can point people toward something good, or away from something bad, or offer them a point they may not have considered; but mainly I'm in this for love of the game, and if other people find some "use" in what I do that's great... but I didn't set out to be "useful."

As to Anton Ego, my main answer would be entertainment, not "to find out what's good." Honestly, I think the only people who should "listen" to critics i.e. what should I be seeing are other critics and/or hardcore movie buffs - a film critic's experience at watching movies is so different from the average filmgoer as to be a different species. For example: Among the most damning things I can offer about "Blind Side" is that it's formulaic - that it's all stuff I've seen hundreds of times before. Now, if you're "into" movies, that matters a lot more than it does if you only see a movie or two every year.

None of this, however, changes the fact that "Blind Side" is fucking horrible ;)

Funky Al said...

A whole lot of people in my school want to see this particular movie. A whole lot of people at my school ALSO like Jay Leno and Jeff Dunham.
I have a suspicion they're idiots.

Phil said...

I read your preview commentary a week or two prior to seeing the film with my wife and in-laws. I sort of identified with your predictions, and I had them in the back of my mind while I watched this film.

There were some points where it did feel like a "its OK to be white" movie. That aspect of the film made me somewhat uncomfortable at times. I was able to look past it though. The one thing that really impressed me was that while there definitely was a Religious/Christian vibe going on during the film, the film didn't go all Kirk Cameron on us. The film didn't try to guilt trip the audience to get everyone to accept Jesus on the spot (Looking at YOU, Fireproof). I'm a Christian, but that kind of thing pisses me off to no end. I'm glad they left that preachy crap out.

tyra menendez said...

"the best performance of sandra bullock's career!" that's not saying much.

Sean said...

Another good summary, Bob. After I saw you tear into the Star Trek movie for all its formulaic nonsense, clumsy plotting and hack dialogue, I knew you were one of the few movie critics left I could trust to cut past the hype.

I hate when something like this hits critical popularity mass and nobody judges it for what it really is anymore. Maybe I'm just a lit/movie geek, but I expect more from a movie than the rush of hype that lasts about as long as bubbleyum flavor.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I liked it. I did some research before seeing the movie and the "white" family did take the big, black guy under their wing and changed his entire life. It is what it is...a feel good movie and some of us need just that very thing right now, especially with the idiots in the whitehouse determined to destroy our Republic.

Jon Ericson said...

I left a comment on your post about the trailer, so I was curious what you would say if and when you saw the whole film. Your response, if you forgive me for saying it, was entirely formulaic, film-snob criticism. Now I've seen neither The Blind Side nor The Virgin Spring so I'm speaking entirely from a point of ignorance. However, I'm pretty sure the later will be as offensive to my sensibilities as the former was to yours. And assuming I ever get around to watching your recommendation, my guess is that I will find it as interesting to watch as you find a "feel-good-movie-matic".

The thing is, I like this sort of paint-by-numbers movie for the same reason I the latest Mario platformer: I know exactly what I'm getting. Sometimes I want to go back to what I know and I don't want to be surprised. There's a place for this sort of entertainment.

On the other hand, the story according to the book is more complicated than what it sounds like the movie portrays. That's unfortunate since it's an interesting problem. I'd suggest putting yourself in the shoes of the rich, white family and ask yourself how you would have responded to discovering Michael Oher. Not many of us would be willing to take him in no matter what was in it for us.

I never did like Sandra Bullock, however.

Rubbav1 said...

Bob, that last comment is probably why print critics detest web-critics. No one likes to be told that his/her occupation doesn't matter.

Bob said...

Jon-
"The thing is, I like this sort of paint-by-numbers movie for the same reason I the latest Mario platformer: I know exactly what I'm getting. Sometimes I want to go back to what I know and I don't want to be surprised. There's a place for this sort of entertainment."

Jon, so do I. I don't object outright to familiarity or safety, only when it's poorly executed. This is a poorly-executed movie.

tyra menendez said...

i hate it when people insist on inject politics where there is none, with backhanded, snide remarks thrust in, where they don't belong.

Anonymous said...

You just hate this movie because it has a black person as the lead actor. Get over your fucking self. No one cause about your shitting fucking opinon. This film is great, and you are just a stupid idiot cumshot faggot.

Anonymous said...

FUCK YOU MOVIEBOB. YOUR OPINON IS FUCKING WRONG. I WILL DESTROY ALL YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING ANY MORE POPULAR.

AS I AM THE ULTRA FREAKIN' TROLL.


RESPOND, YOU MOTHERFUCKIN' COWARD.

tintaman said...

Ultratroll would be a great supervillain name.

.....

On a side note I wasn't going to see this movie anyway, now I want to see it even less.

Anonymous said...

You are correct. Just watched it and it's crap. Oscar? Really? I bet the other women in that category are pissed, as well they should be.