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November 25, 2009 - Rick Chatenever
Her name won’t come up in many prayers around Thanksgiving tables today, but Sandra Bullock is something to be thankful for.
A lot of movies are inspiring these sorts of warm, fuzzy reactions these days. But of course — it’s awards season! We’re on the eve of the time for handing out little statues signifying “the best” the movies have to offer … whatever that means.
What makes awards season special isn’t the prizes. It’s that at holiday time, movies start being about people — as opposed to computer wizardry, box office grosses or tabloid headlines. True, it won’t last for long, but instead of TV dramas being the place where the people live — as they do for the other 11 months — this is the movies’ chance to remind us that they’re in that business, too.
At this time of year, even the trailers are little gems. Steve Martin, Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in “It’s Complicated,” for example, have the audience cracking up in 30 seconds.
Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon in Clint Eastwood’s stirring “Invictus” take about that long to raise chicken skin, recalling a different kind of fight —this one on the rugby field —in Nelson Mandela’s South Africa.
Then there’s George Clooney, “Up in the Air” with a midlife crisis. FirstLight is getting a jump on this likely Oscar-contender with a Friday night screening in Castle Theater.
My favorite trailer, surprisingly enough, is for Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker’s dysfunctional romantic comedy, “Did You Hear About the Morgans?”
With Hugh Grant as this millennium’s answer to Cary Grant, it’s like a throwback to the breezy wit of the movies’ golden ages, when glamorous movie stars ruled the world — or at least our fantasies of it —instead of having to spend their lives dodging the paparazzi.
Which brings us back to Sandra Bullock. She, too, falls under the heading of movie star —as opposed to taking herself too seriously as an actress —which may be one of the reasons it’s so much fun watching her act. It all seems so effortless.
“The Blind Side’s” Leigh Anne Touhy is her latest big-screen incarnation. A perfectly coiffed, Southern-drawling, wealthy Memphis socialite and interior designer, she makes her husband (Tim McGraw) and family quake, and the screen crackle, with her sheer refusal to put up with nonsense.
In another actress’s hands, this trait would not be flattering. There’s a word for it ... yes, right, that one. When Sandra Bullock does it, it’s lovable.
The very real Leigh Anne Touhy is a gun-toting, Republican-voting, Old Miss-supporting, devout Christian who got the crazy notion of rehabilitating a very large, mentally challenged black kid, Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a homeless student at her children’s school.
While bringing Michael into her home and family was the Christian thing to do, essentially rescuing him from the inevitable dead end in the drug-and-crime-riddled projects, the very large part shouldn’t be overlooked. Because under his dismal IQ and seemingly no-hope academic record lurked an athlete — a very large athlete — of prodigious potential.
She provides an unlikely “momma” for the misunderstood kid, and Bullock’s brassy performance speaks a universal language understood in both red and blue states. Ironically, while “The Blind Side’s” inspirational message clicks with audiences, scoring higher in studio marketing surveys than the week’s box-office-busting “Twilight” sequel, Bullock’s pluckiness outshines, and outlasts, Michael’s eventual triumphs.
While the real Michael did make it to the NFL, it feels like the movie whitewashed the story just a bit. You’ll find something a lot more like the real thing in the similarly themed “Precious.”
Based on the best-selling novel “Push” by Sapphire, this gritty drama follows an overweight, black Harlem teen (Gabourney Sidibe), pregnant with her second child. Her child’s father is her father, in a life of constant abuse, carried out just as much by her mother (Mo’Nique in a thankless, Oscar-worthy star turn).
That Precious survives would be enough; that she finds ways of shining is nothing short of remarkable. Director Lee Daniels ventures into unlikely, scary territory to find the richest veins of humanity, wonderfully portrayed by a cast stretching out of their own comfort zones, including Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz and Paula Patton, along with Sidibe and Mo’Nique.
The movie is aptly dedicated to all the Precious girls — one more thing to add to the prayers on this warm, fuzzy day of thanks.
• Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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