Almost three years ago to the day I posted on my blog an open letter to my long-time crush object Sandra Bullock. The news was not good. Read on…
I’m afraid it’s time to have a serious talk about our relationship. Your latest film, Premonition, got off to an OK start at the boxoffice, but you didn’t have to be clairvoyant to foresee the reviews (“sloppy and absent-minded,” raved The New York Times). I must confess to you that I skipped the press screenings, and won’t be a paying customer. I haven’t even dropped it into my Netflix queue, where your last unstuck-in-time whackadoodle, The Lake House, currently languishes near the bottom of the pile.
Sandra, what happened to us?
We started off so well. I remember where it all began, in L.A., fall 1993, where, with a few hours to kill, I went to see Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes slug it out in Demolition Man. There you were, so perky, so delightful, reciting TV commercial jingles, stealing the film—and my heart. I don’t swoon easily, but your girl-next-door persona was captivating.
Better was to come. You hooked me in Speed. Driving that bus, and animating for a couple of hours the human woodcut known as Keanu Reeves–wow. I saw it three times at the movies, owned the laserdisc, own the DVD, and can never tear myself away when it turns up on TV. You were on a roll, Sandra. We were on a roll.
Then, the inevitable turn to romantic comedies, challenging Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, in 1995’s While You Were Sleeping. Another big score, in a cute, innocuous movie. Not really my bag, Sandra, and I knew what was in store. Maybe you did, too. You now wore the mantle of America’s Sweetheart–but you wore the crown uneasily, as if you knew you could do better but couldn’t bring yourself to rage against the popcorn machine. The wholesome-image thing was tough to overcome, and the bad guys who threatened in The Net and A Time to Kill couldn’t beat it out of you. So you played along, in successful films that went in one eye and out the other–Hope Floats, Forces of Nature, etc. The very title of Miss Congeniality summed up your predicament, and that was the biggest money-spinner of them all.
Once you neared 40, however, you decided, enough was enough. You put on the happy face one last time, with the male you, Hugh Grant, in 2002’s Two Weeks Notice…you had no way of knowing, but the very last scene of the film was shot two blocks from my old place, on First Avenue and 84th Street in Manhattan. I looked for you and Hugh, and saw only your lighting doubles. I was a little disappointed, but, let’s face it, we had grown apart.
While relieved that you had unburdened yourself from movie romance–though your lengthy offscreen fling with Murder By Numbers co-star Ryan Gosling was a cradle-robbing surprise, Sandra, you saucy minx!–your choice in material remained questionable. After a fast start you had underachieved, an A-level star in C-movies like In Love and War and Gun Shy. You have sought to reinvent yourself as a character actress, tucking yourself away in an ensemble picture like Crash (so mean you were to your maid!) while taking the lead in pictures like Premonition–which, I fear, wipes out those gains. I’m avoiding the new film, despite the co-starring presence of the dastardly nip/tucker Julian McMahon, so as not to erase the pleasant memory of your limpid and lovely Harper Lee in last year’s Infamous. It wasn’t your fault that the other Capote picture stole your quiet thunder.
Sandra, I could go on. But it may be best for us to part, if only temporarily, on this more upbeat note. The Internet Movie Database shows no upcoming credits for you. Perhaps you are settling into wedded bliss with your twice-married TV biker husband “Jesse James,” and, yes, you sense my concern as I write that (what is it with you and your Practical Magic co-star Nicole Kidman and your choice of men? I see neither practicality nor magic in these associations). This hasn’t been easy for me to write. But I am cautiously optimistic for you. And for us.
A pall fell over what we once shared. Maybe it was the dig at her hubby, a union that has survived a child custody suit with Mr. James’ porn star ex. (We’ve all been there.) Maybe it was that I ignored her first, delayed response to me, in the form of last summer’s hit, The Proposal. Sandra, I’m sorry, I could care less as you rolled in the rom-com hay with another barely legal Ryan, Reynolds. I tried to remain positive, yet a certain trust had been broken—so much so that I missed your biggest, age-defying success as you retreated to the salt mines of kissy-face antics.
That is, until the next juggernaut rolled around, at Thanksgiving. Believe me, under normal circumstances, I would have bypassed The Blind Side, too. Sandra, my dear, doing these kinds of pictures isn’t going to get me out of the house (Speed 3, with you in an even stringier bikini, maybe). Then the shock, the awe—a Best Picture nomination for the film, and—they like me, they really like me—a Best Actress nomination for you. Even more of a head-turner was that my in-laws, who never go to the movies, went to see it. That tore it. I had to man up, put aside our differences, and do right by you.
Here’s what I wrote:
“The Blind Side may be the most banal film ever nominated for Best Picture. Even lightweights like Chocolat, and musicals from the 30s, have a little flavor to them. The Blind Side is basically the Glinda to the Elphaba of Precious. Where Precious offers a measure of relief The Blind Side is in a constant ecstasy of mild uplift. But it’s clever about it. The antebellum Taco Bell Republicans are gun-toting Christians, which the movie soft-shoes for audience identification if you relate and an easy, unbiased laugh if you don’t. To reassure blue-staters Sandra Bullock and her family separate themselves from the prejudiced “rednecks” who run amok at the big game (and Kathy Bates, supplying the energy that the usually bubbly Bullock is gingerly repressing, plays an enthusiastic tutor, a card-carrying Democrat). The gentle giant they’re nurturing, meanwhile, seems to materialize from District 9, Memphis projects so terrible they couldn’t possibly exist in the real world (right?).
The movie is a little too lazy to have strategized this, I think. (No one seems to be acquainted with the DVD concept of “deleted scenes,” so every repetitive sequence of Bullock’s family meeting with coaches is included.) It’s the kind of film that passes through you like a case of the sniffles, never turning into anything else—which can win over a huge audience at holiday time and, this year, tug at the heartstrings of voters in Oscar’s new order. If only this popcorn came with a little salt.”
All of this I said with love, Sandra (though I forgive you if you gave me one of those adorable rom-com slaps of yours. I would enjoy it, in fact). You are fine in the film, if, regrettably, you don’t get to show even a quarter of the sass that Roberts brought to her Oscar winner, Erin Brockovich. It’s almost like the Academy was rewarding you for dimming the lights and lowering the wattage, as if your stardom were tied to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Still, color me impressed.
Sandra, where do we go from here? If I were you, and in semi-likely possession of Oscar gold (such a leap from Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous five years ago!), I’d give the Hughs and Ryans a rest and concentrate on Blind Side-type parts, ones with more vim and vigor, though. Oscar need not be a hairshirt. But you are a lady of distinction now. Take the Meryl Streep route, mix it up in different genres, and revisit the girl parts when you’re 60, when they’re a surprise. (Meryl will not be playing them at 75…I don’t think.)
I understand that you’re taking another hiatus, and looking at the titles of your in-development credits on IMDb—The Sprinkler Queen, Kiss & Tango, One of the Guys, and Jingle—I think you won’t be going with my advice. I can’t blame you. I spurned you, I jilted you, I broke faith with you as you ascend to Olympian heights and I grasp at whatever stray bit of stardust falls from your Oscar gown.
There are comforting signs that what I liked best about pre-nom, non-rom-com Sandra is still around, as she reaches a peak plateau in her climb up the glass mountain of success, to quote the 1966 camp classic The Oscar (cheekily counter-programmed by TCM Sunday night, by the way). I do hope you kept your promise and attended the Razzies, where last year’s discredit, All About Steve, was up for honors. As you told Entertainment Weekly, “I do everything 100 percent. I’m more comfortable with criticism than I am with goodwill, because I’m more familiar with it, and I’ve made friends with it. And the Razzies are a great honor.” Sounds like the girl I fell in love with.
Hey, folks, don’t adjust that dial…it’s Sandra speaking German as she picks up a Bambi Award in 2006. (Her mother was a German opera singer.) I’d love it if all the Oscar winners accepted their awards in languages other than English. Ich bin ein Bullock-er!