Bullock meets Palin in the right’s American dream
Liberal Hollywood will give its detractors a rare treat if Sandra Bullock gets an Oscar for The Blind Side
At Hollywood's glamorous pre-Oscar parties this week, the champagne buzz has been about the vicious last-minute rows that have enveloped The Hurt Locker, the front-runner in the Oscar race. In the past few days, the makers of the Iraq war movie have been sued for allegedly basing the film on a bomb-squad technician without his permission; other soldiers have called the movie laughable "Hollywood hokum"; and one of the film's producers has been banned from the Academy Awards ceremony for dissing its main competitor, Avatar.
But on Sunday night, with The Hurt Locker and Avatar set to divvy up the majority of the Oscars, the biggest surprise is likely to come from an altogether different quarter. Sandra Bullock is expected to pull off the unthinkable and beat perennial favourite Meryl Streep - nominated for Julie & Julia - to the best actress Oscar for her role in The Blind Side.
In a year when the Academy of Motion Pictures has tried to popularise the event by having 10 rather than five best picture nominees, Bullock would be a very popular winner. Popular, that is, with the huge numbers of people in America who have seen The Blind Side and turned it into the year's most surprising hit.
The Blind Side has taken nearly $250 million at the box office in north America. Contrast that with The Hurt Locker, which has managed to make a paltry $12.6 million.
What's really intriguing, though, is that Academy members, whose liberal politics is the stuff of legend, have been voting for Bullock knowing that a win would be popular with and would placate Hollywood's most vehement detractors: the Red State – predominently Republican - religious conservatives who usually despise everything that comes out of Tinseltown as the work of the devil.
And though Bullock ostensibly plays a character based on a real woman, her character's unapologetic right-wing politics, her strident Christian views and her love of guns, has her pegged for a pitch-perfect riff on Sarah Palin.
The Blind Side is based on the true story of Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock), a wealthy Southern housewife who takes a homeless black teenager into her home and pushes him until he becomes a successful American football player.
The film is schmaltzy and inspirational enough to play well in middle America, but Leigh Anne's Palin-esque politics are so far to the right they have the Red State crowds cheering in the aisles as fervently as if America had just nuked Iran.
"I'm in a prayer group with the District Attorney, I'm a member of the National Rifle Association, and I'm always packin'," Leigh Anne tells a bunch of gangbangers who are threatening her, to whoops from the audience.
The film's powerful conservative Christian pedigree has been vouchsafed by none other than movieguide.org, which critiques movies from a Christian perspective. "There is a very strong message of Christian faith in The Blind Side," says the reviewer. "They pray around the table and speak freely about their faith." Now that's what makes a great movie!
Some of those who love the film are stunned that liberal Hollywood has given it any Oscar nominations. In addition to Bullock's best actress nod, it has also got a best picture nomination, which it will surely not win.
"The Blind Side represents some of the values and interests of the formerly ignored 'fly-over states' which are so often deemed irrelevant by those judging film and assessing 'art'," according to a reader commenting on it on the New York Times website. "I am thrilled to see this honor for a movie that meant so much to my family and especially to my teenage sons."
Another person commented: "Leigh Anne Tuohy is a Conservative Republican. The entire family is. Real Christians too. They walk the walk and believe in showing their faith through their actions... which is how King Yeshua said it's supposed to be done."
Right-wing commentators have become ardent boosters of Sandra Bullock's Oscar hopes for playing a character almost indistinguishable from their idol, Sarah Palin. "Bullock not only deserves to win on the merits of her performance, but all of America will be rooting for her," says John Nolte, editor of the conservative review site, Big Hollywood. "That should count for something."
One hopes, for everyone's sake, it does. Hollywood's attempt to reach out to Red State America – some call it pandering – will be crushed if Sandra Bullock doesn't walk away with the best actress award on Sunday night. Still, Red Staters could then go back to doing what they love best, demonising Tinseltown.
'The Blind Side' opens on general release in the UK on March 26. ·
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