OMGWTFLOL: Making Sense of a World Where Sandra Bullock Wins Oscars
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 9, 2010
OK, so first and foremost, let’s not act like this is the first time that this has happened. Plenty of Academy Award winners throughout history have had past lives that made their newfound prestige almost impossible to reconcile. Sean Penn was once just the stoner from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Halle Berry starred in Swordfish immediately before Monster’s Ball, and if you had told someone in 1985 that Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner would both win Oscars for directing before Martin Scorsese got his, they’d bash your skull in with a vinyl copy of Brothers in Arms. Part of the fine legacy or the Oscar is its ability to make the unfathomable not only possible, but downright normative–which is why six months from now, absolutely no one will give a second’s thought as to how the chick who made Point Break and K-19: The Widowmaker was able to capture one of film making’s highest honors. It’s part of the process, and we’re all certainly used to it by now–we’ve even come to expect it, to a certain extent.
And yet, this one still manages to shock. Back when I was a young’n in the mid-90s, for reasons that perhaps never actually made sense, I always associated Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock together. They didn’t look alike, they didn’t act alike, but they were the two actresses at the time that if they were starring in a new movie–a comedy, a thriller, whatever–chances are that the movie was gonna be a pretty big deal. But as Julia Roberts’ star continued to shine through the 90s and into the 00s, with each career move seeming like the absolute right one, Bullock’s petered out, her starring vehicles becoming less and less relevant, her glamor fading into the ordinary. The battle–which, to my knowledge, still only existed in the minds of me and my brother (who shares the same association, though he can’t explain why either)–appeared to have been won beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Now, I haven’t seen The Blind Side, and I don’t mean to cast aspersions on it. Michael Oher seems like a solid enough dude, and I’m willing to buy that his story might have a smidge of inspiration to it. But I know one thing, and that’s how I reacted when I first saw the trailer in the theaters. The thing appeared to be moving towards a particular direction, but still technically could have ended up anywhere, until it got to a little dialogue exchanged between Bullock and one of her southern belle-type acquaintances. “You’re changing that boy’s life!” isnists SBTA. “No,” replies Bullock. “He’s changing mine.” OK, that’s it, then. No need for further elaboration, I’ve got what I came for here: This is another Sandra Bullock movie. It is a movie starring Sandra Bullock, featuring Sandra Bullock in a starring role. It is part of the blood line with Forces of Nature, 28 Days, Two Weeks Notice, The Lake House and The Proposal. And it never even occurred to me that anyone would ever try to convince me otherwise.
The thing that one really has to remember when considering Bullock’s career is this: For the entirety of the 2000s leading up to The Blind Side, every movie she starred in seemed like it would be her last. With each new goofball romantic comedy or ill-advised delve into Seriousness, the response was the same: “They’re still letting Sandra Bullock star in movies???” Keep in mind that this was never an actress tabbed as a particular talent or even a world-class charmer, this was basically a woman who had built a decade and a half’s worth of mainstream credit solely by looking cute wrapped around a subway pole with Keanu Reevees. (All right, While You Were Sleeping was OK too). Until this year, only one movie since then that Bullock starred in since then (Crash doesn’t count, since I bet 75% of the people that saw that movie don’t even remember that she was in it) could be considered an unqualified hit, and Miss Congeniality certainly wasn’t the sort of runaway success that automatically extends its lead’s career another decade. In the meantime, we were treated to Murder By Numbers, to The Lake House, to Premonition. To borrow a Bill Simmons cliche, if you were having a fantasy draft in 2000 of established stars that would NOT win an Oscar in the 00s, Bullock would have been a second-rounder at the absolute latest.
But this is one of the other wonky things about the Academy Awards–it was this very unlikelihood that likely resulted in Bullock’s Oscar win more than anything. The sheer implausibility of Sandra Bullock being nominated for on Oscar led to her becoming a weird kind of underdog favorite among voters, like the fact that she apparently gave a performance that didn’t suck in a movie that apparently wasn’t terrible. made them wonder if maybe she had actually gone underappreciated among their kind all these years. And Bullock helped her own cause considerably by playing the role of the Surprised Nominee with pitch-perfect humility and humor, as if she were just as aware as we were (and hell, maybe she actually was) about how fucking strange this entire thing was. She even acknowledged the haters by showing up to accept her own Razzie for recent superflop All About Steve, the ensuing clip an impressively good-humored and straight-faced attempt to defend her flick’s honor while also semi-acknowledging her own culpability in the movie’s piss-poor reception. She suddenly seemed graceful, poised….likeable. Meanwhile, Carey Mulligan was off gallivanting with Shia LaBoeuf and Oliver Stone, winning no favor with anyone. Perhaps the result was something close to inevitable.
So what now for Sandy? Does she officially reclaim her spot above Julia Roberts in the America’s Sweetheart depth chart? Does she attempt a career third act as a character actress and/or indie darling? Or does she age gracefully into more mother/supporting-type roles? Don’t know for sure, but if I was a betting man, with Bullock’s financial credit now fully restored, I’d be putting all my chips on another decade of senseless critical flops and box office mediocrities. I’ll look forward to the trailers, at least.