"Who would've thought we'd have a black son before we met a Democrat?"

I read The Blind Side by Michael Lewis (amazon) a while ago, and I remember thinking that when it was made into a movie, they would have two opportunities to mess it up. The first would be finding the right person to play Michael Oher. The second would be finding the right person to play Leigh Anne Tuohy. When I heard they’d cast Sandra Bullock I pretty much gave up hope of it being anything but a disaster.

However, award buzz for Bullock began almost immediately after the movie (imdb | rotten tomatoes) came out and I wondered if she’d prove me wrong. We finally watched it yesterday. And she did. She played it pretty much as I expected her to be played. Likewise, the actor who portrayed Michael Oher (even if he was more baby-faced than Oher) played it pretty much as I’d expected.

Overall the whole thing had more of a predictable, feel-good pattern to it, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s the kind of thing that keeps a movie from being particularly memorable. If you’ve read Lewis’ books before you might have expected a colder, more analytical view of the events, but Lewis does admit in his book that he knows the Tuohy family, and I suspect that affected how he told the story. It’s an entertaining enough little slice of a day, just don’t expect any surprises.

"Yuens, you guys are my infantry. One of you dies, God gave me another one."

Last night I recovered from my long movie-watching drought (I watched a single new movie in the month of February: Couples Retreat, which we shall never mention again) with a couple of dark ones.

I’m glad I didn’t go in to Observe And Report (imdb | rotten tomatoes) thinking it was a typically goofy Seth Rogen vehicle. That shit was dark. Bizarre, awkwardly funny and, uh…yeah, dark. I can’t quite figure out if it was terrible or brilliant, but Jody Hill is quickly creating a signature style. Like a funny car crash. With dicks.

Polytechnique (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was a whole other kind of dark. It could hardly be otherwise, given the subject matter, I suppose. There could be nothing pleasant about that film, but it was at least pleasing, if I can use that word, to see how well the story was handled. I was on edge the entire 77 minutes. The black and white cinematography served as a reminder for the binary world Marc Lepine saw, and as a stark companion to his cold attack. The film portrayed that well, as it probably actually happened, instead of applying dramatic flourishes signaling the coming violence. There was no swelling music, no artistic preamble. There were no rousing speeches or heroic stands. There was just shock, shooting and aftermath.

That should have been a bingo.

Last night I won my Oscar pool when The Hurt Locker (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was named best picture. I wasn’t picking with my heart, mind you, I simply played the odds and picked the film which had won the Producer’s, Director’s and Writer’s Guild award. Only eight times has a film won all three of those awards, and seven of those eight films went on to win the best picture Oscar.

However, as I said, I didn’t pick what I wanted to win, I picked what I thought would win. It’s not that I disliked The Hurt Locker, but after a second viewing Friday night I could confirm what I felt upon first seeing it some 18 months ago: that it was good, but not great. That it had some terrific moments, but that it also veered into a tone-deaf section (which at the time I called “the John Wayne factor”) and glossed over the psychological impacts. That it just didn’t rock me back the way Slumdog or No Country did.

True, there were few other films which could have legitimately challenged for the best picture title. Up was a sure thing in the animated feature category. The Blind Side, An Education, District 9 and Up In The Air were too light. A Serious Man was too obscure and Precious was too not. And Avatar…no way. Stunning as it was to watch, there’s no way that thing should be feted as a standout film. It should just win every technical award up for grabs.

That leaves the film I think should have won it all: Inglourious Basterds. From eight nominations it took one award — Christoph Waltz, a no-brainer for best supporting actor — but in my opinion it got robbed on original screenplay. I don’t think they were ever really in it for best picture though. Maybe the academy doesn’t consider Tarantino a worthy Oscar winner, or maybe they just didn’t want a remade/re-imagined film to win the big prize. Or maybe it just didn’t have the votes. Whatever the case I wish they’d reconsidered. I found it far more epic, inventive, entertaining and memorable than The Hurt Locker, and would’ve liked to see the Bear Jew climb onstage and take his victory.

Vancouver 2010

So, uh, that happened.

Sorry for the delayed editorial response, but it’s basically taken me a week to recover from the off-key shit show that was the closing ceremonies. With that cleansed from my memory (a simple what now?) I find myself looking back fondly at what were, for me anyway, the greatest winter games ever. Highlights for me:

  • Alex Bilodeau, naturally, winning the first Canadian gold medal on home soil
  • Ashleigh Macivor, who seemed to win gold and take to the spotlight like it was predetermined
  • The women’s hockey team, who steamrolled the field on their way to yet another gold medal. Bonus points for awesome celebrations and exposing the inherent sexism in expected athletic conduct
  • Maelle Ricker, on whom I have a Blackcomb-sized crush
  • Jasey-Jay Anderson, who we watched come from way behind in the final race to win gold, capping off a long, brilliant career
  • Clara Hughes winning yet another medal, cementing her position as the greatest all-around athlete this country has ever fielded
  • Multiple-medal wins by the speed skaters, but especially Charles Hamelin & Marianne St-Gelais. The video of St-Gelais watching her boyfriend finally win gold at these games was one of the purest, and most adorable, moments of excitement and joy I’ve ever seen.
  • Joannie Rochette. Full stop. Honestly, I give less than half a shit about figure skating and don’t care if I never watch it again, but c’mon…to compete just days after your mother dies, and to do so (nearly) flawlessly, as a tribute to her, and to top it all off to win an Olympic medal? Unreal. She’s my new hero.
  • And, of course, the cap-off memory from the games was the cap-off event: the men’s gold medal hockey game. We got to see a game that will go down as one of the all-time classics between Canada and their new chief rival, one that went to overtime to decide the gold medal after some last-second heroics by the US. And we got to see the new torchbearer of Canadian hockey score the golden goal. After that goal was scored Nellie and I ran out to the balcony, and we could hear the entire city erupt (just like Vancouver). We took to the streets to join the celebration, which wasn’t just about hockey. It was that oh-so-rare Canadian moment, an outpouring of patriotic pride…which typically just happen to be centered around hockey.

My one regret about these games was that we weren’t there in Vancouver to experience them. If I knew in 2003 what I know now I would have started buying tickets and booking flights immediately upon the games being awarded to Vancouver-Whistler. I’m not sure when Canada will ever have another games (Toronto seems to have used up its chances at landing the summer games and isn’t a viable venue for winter sports; Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver have all had their recent go. I suspect Quebec City is our only hope now.) and so I worry that I’ve missed my chance. But it’s become so commonplace to watch live events on TV that we sometimes forget how lucky we are to be able to witness such events in real time, along with two thirds of the country, and jump up and cheer and, in our case, run up the middle of the world’s longest street high-fiving strangers. That doesn’t happen every day.

Now, a week later, I miss that feeling terribly.

I hope I never stop.

Editor's note

[Ed: please pardon’s Dan’s absence as he’s currently occupied with other things. You remember that scene in Return of the Jedi where Jabba drops Luke (and that poor Gamorrean guard) down the shaft into the Rancor pit? And Luke has to run around and hide under ledges and bash the Rancor’s scaly fingernail with a rock and throw a skull at a button way across the room (instead of using his Jedi telekinesis or whatev) to finally drop an iron gate on its neck? Yeah, well, it’s like that, except he’s in an office building. And it’s worse. But he’ll be back soon.]