November 25, 2009

The Blind Side

Football movies. They have emerged as a genre within themselves. As a non-sports fan, I tend not to express much interest in them, even though I have enjoyed the few I've seen (Remember the Titans and We Are Marshal come to mind). The Blind Side works because it's not the same old story about a team coming together and winning, but a close-up into the story of one individual, a shy, overlooked youth nicknamed Big Mike who is slipping through the cracks in every way imaginable until he finds an unexpected friend in Sandra Bullock, a wealthy, tough and funny Southern woman with a husband (who owns 85 Taco Bells) and two kids. Bullock has never been better, and director John Lee Hancock generally avoids indulging in too much sentiment, preferring to keep things a little more stable and realistic. The film is emotionally charged enough without sacrificing restraint. I was also impressed by Quentin Aaron's performance as "Big Mike" (Michael Oher, a real-life football player, as it turns out), whose performance relies much more on the subtleties of facial expressions and movement than on dialogue as he struggles to come out of his shell. Tim McGraw plays Bullock's husband, and Jae Head steals the show as their rambunctious and intelligent son. Very funny and poignant.

November 21, 2009

Primary Colors

Based on the book by Anonymous, Primary Colors (1998) is a roman a clef of the Clintons during their 1992 Whitehouse bid. John Travolta plays Southern governor Jack Stanton, Emma Thompson, his wife, Susan. Travolta dons the Bill Clinton-esque accent and that bullshit twinkle in his eye fairly well, but the supporting cast really makes this film come to life. Emma Thompson is superb--not just in concealing her English accent, but in embodying the aura of Susan Stanton (Hillary Clinton): cold enough to survive the nastiness of politics and the onslaught of scandals, smart enough to channel her ideas through her husband (who's better at connecting with the voters on an emotional level than on an intellectual one). In Short, Primary Colors offers a richly conceived glimpse at (and under) our political landscape. Sure, things have changed since 1992 particularly because of technology, but I think Primary Colors taps into a somewhat universal truth about the necessary cynicism one must have when approaching the subject of politics and politicians. Kathy Bates gives the most poignant--and frequently hilarious--performance as one of the Stantons' campaign advisers, who realizes--for the second time in her career--that ideals are lost in the political spectrum where appearances and behind-the- scenes deals carry more weight. While I was left feeling that this film was a bit of a love note to the Clintons (in spite of its frequently unflattering portrayals of them), I think it also captured the seeming hopelessness of politicians. People are constantly looking for someone to put their hope in, and if you can get that, you can do anything. ½