Oh my, even NYTs gets Blind Sided

Honest, I tried.

I have tried to avoid writing — again — about the interesting, and very late, mini-surge of interesting, nuanced mainstream coverage of the hit movie “The Blind Side.”

You may recall that I praised the work of the Los Angeles Times on this story, which is logical in light of its zip code, after all. Now, even the New York Times is on the story as we march toward the Oscars. I decided to wait on this one, rather than stack “The Blind Side” posts one atop another.

You could, of course, say that the New York Times is chasing all of those Los Angeles Times stories. You could say that. I would simply like to say that the East Coast crew got the story — one way or another. Progress is progress.

So what is the story? No, it isn’t that this little hit movie that turned into a blockbuster is important because of its respect for religious faith. This is not about some niche, contemporary Christian movie approach to the marketplace. That is not the story. The story is precisely the opposite and it took time for journalists to see that. Thus, the headline: “‘Blind Side’ Finds a Path to the Oscars by Running Up the Middle.” And the top of the story says:

LOS ANGELES – The whoops and giggles, heard at 5:42 a.m. on Tuesday as Anne Hathaway announced that “The Blind Side” was in the pool of 10 best picture nominees at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, were the sound of Hollywood surprising itself.

The film’s makers had created a deeply earnest picture aimed less at tastemakers than at people in the middle: sports fans, families, churchgoers and do-gooders.

Ouch. Faint praise indeed, but that’s accurate.

Unexpectedly, those middle-of-the-road fans had turned the movie into not merely a smash hit — … “The Blind Side” had taken in more than $238 million at the domestic box office and was still playing in about 1,750 theaters — but a genuine Oscar contender. Both the film and its lead actress, Sandra Bullock, received nominations. And even some of its backers were left puzzling over a question that has not often troubled the movie business lately: What went right?

The movie is the true story of Michael Oher and his rise from the bad streets of Memphis to the Baltimore Ravens, with the help of a Christian school and a rich Christian family that walked its talks. But the story of the movie focuses on writer-director John Lee Hancock, superstar Sandra Bullock and some entrepreneurs you have never heard of — unless you know quite a bit about Christians in the world of Bible Belt business.

Then again, the big story may be that unusual list of fans who bought the tickets.

Later on in the story, the Times team has to admit that women played a major role in the success of this movie. Apparently, lots of women who are willing to buy movie tickets go to church. Who knew?

Also, it seems that African-Americans go to church and the movies, especially intact black families. Who knew?

Read the story. And like I said, after you have read it, ponder the implications of this quiet success story on the challenges facing executives in other forms of mass media. If Hollywood can make millions appealing to the “normal” American middle, might other entrenched media elites?

Just asking. Again.

Photo: The writer-director and the star.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Chip Smith

    The thing that strikes me most about the story is that there is no mention whatsoever of the artistic merit of the film. I have not seen it, so I don’t have an opinion on that one way or the other, but the article seems to be saying that the film is an Oscar contender because it hits these various marketing groups and it made a lot of money, not because it was well made or featured compelling performances or told the story skillfully. Sandra Bullock’s comments about her own performance were fascinating. I suppose the entire point of expanding the number of Oscar nominations is to make sure that blockbusters are included in the best picture category to drive ratings for the broadcast, not so much to ensure that the best artistic works are included.

    And like I said, after you have read it, ponder the implications of this quiet success story on the challenges facing executives in other forms of mass media. If Hollywood can make millions appealing to the “normal” American middle, might other entrenched media elites?

    What about the question of whether the entrenched media elite ought to see their job simply as making as much money as possible? I wish that the news media elite saw their job primarily to do the best job possible of informing their audience.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Unless a media outlet is part of a non-profit, the managers of the media outlet have a duty and a responsibility to maximize profits for the shareholders.


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