Inaugurating Wrap-Up Season 2012 (oh, also, I watched the Blind Side!)

I am unapologetic in my love of all the yearly roundups that people post on their blogs at around this time of year, and ever since 2010, I’ve conducted my own month-long navel-gazing extravaganza called Wrap-Up Season. Typically, I begin by talking about the books I’ve read in the year. I divide these books into four categories: Predictably Good; Surprisingly Good; Books About Which I Have Mixed Feelings; and BAAAAAAAD (although somehow I never seem to get around to posting about the last category…that sort of thing just doesn’t enthuse me). Then I usually conduct some kind of blog round-up, looking at what kind of stuff I’ve posted in the last year. And finally, around December 20th (the day from which I date the beginning of my writing career), I write about the year’s writing statistics and accomplishments. Then, at the very end of the year, I post some personal stuff.

This year, I’m also thinking about posting a little (in a very nonspecific way) about my slush-reading gig (which is coming to a close), about my first semester of teaching, and about the MFA experience. So, yeah, that’s that. Here are links to my previous Wrap-Up Seasons. I think that this one will be the biggest and most complete of them all!

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In other news, I watched The Blind Side yesterday. It was ermazing. And kind of a milestone for me, since it’s the first movie that I’ve completed in well over a year (I think the last time I watched a whole movie was when my brother and father and I made a family outing to Santa Barbara last Thanksgiving). Somehow, I’ve just lost the attention span for long-form audiovisual entertainment.

But I’d read the The Blind Side (by Michael Lewis) earlier in the year, and found it to be extremely excellent: one of the finest books I’ve read this year. And I love Sandra Bullock and tear-jerkers and inspirational sports movies. In fact, I love everything about sports (except watching sports games). Watching Sandra Bullock impersonate a gun-toting super Christian millionaire do-gooder was hilarious.

The Blind Side is my favorite kind of movie: the kind with no antagonist. There are no bad people in The Blind Side. There’s very little conflict of any sort, actually. The whole film is just about well-meaning people trying to reach out to this very closed-off young man.

I understand why people see this movie as having weird racial undertones. There is some really weird stuff going on here. For instance, the subject of the film–Michael Oher–is literally silent throughout most of the film. He does not speak. He is mostly ventriloquized by Sandra Bullock’s tough (but empathetic) character. Obviously, this is kind of a problem. Additionally, he’s portrayed as something of a tabula rasa. He’s a Lenny–a huge child (in fact, his deepest connection is with the Bullock character’s 9 year old son)–who is slowly filled up with knowledge and manners and even athletic skills by the savvy people who surround him.

In the book, these elements were not quite as overwhelming, because the primary story of the book was about how a person with little-to-no football experience can suddenly, after just a few high school games, come to be seen, by virtue of his outstanding physicality, as one of the year’s hottest recruiting prospects. That’s not really how it’s supposed to work: big guys are supposed to be a dime-a-dozen; it’s the training and the mental game and the discipline that’re supposed to raise them above the herd. But at least as it’s written in the book, it seems like being really big and really strong and really fast is enough, by itself, for Oher to be really exciting to a whole bunch of coaches.

Anyway, that’s not really what the movie is about. The movie is kind of poverty porn. It’s about how crazy it is that there can be a kid who no one cares about, who doesn’t even have a foster family, who has completely slipped through every crack, and who is completely adrift at age sixteen. Oh yeah, and it’s about exploiting the sheer visual craziness of his adoption by a family of white millionaires.

But…umm…well…it’s kind of impossible to justify this movie.

Still, it was really fun to watch.

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