of the Thanksgiving Challenge.
Today, I am thankful that I had the opportunity this afternoon to see one of the most remarkable movies I've ever seen. The Blind Side is the incredible true story of Michael Oher, former Ole Miss Rebel and first round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 draft. Born on 28 May 1986 in Memphis, Tennessee, Oher grew up in as tough a situation as any young man can face: a broken home, public housing in Memphis' Hurt Village (which, remarkably, was built in the 1950's as an all-white development), a crack-addicted mother, separated from his "family" as a young child, Oher was on a familiar path to nowhere. Blessed (or cursed) with tremendous size, Michael is befriended by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy white family and strident Ole Miss fans. The movie follows Michael as he goes from homelessness to standing on the stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
I won't get into a great deal of detail about the movie, because you owe it to yourself to see it. But I do want to point out a few of the things that made this movie, which certainly could have been a trite, contrived tearjerker, a must see.
Sandra Bullock (besides being unspeakably HOT) delivers one of the best performances (grade her on a curve, folks) I've ever seen from her as Leigh Ann Tuohy. She nails the woman who faces down a street thug who thought it would be okay to call her a "bitch," informing him that she is "in a Bible Study with the DA, a member of the NRA, and ALWAYS packin!" (her next line is a great one, too) Luckiest man on earth goes to Sean Tuohy. What man wouldn't dream of having Tim McGraw chosen to play him? (BTW, Tim McGraw: Hair Club for Men client? YOU be the judge)
Stealing scenes right and left, the Tuohy's son "S.J." is played by Jae Head. He is pure gold as Michael's "agent" as he is recruited by a bevy of SEC coaches making cameos as themselves, including former Arkansas head coach and current Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt. None of the coaches (incredibly) do a terribly convincing job playing themselves, but you'll notice that Nutt's filmography contains only one entry. There's a reason.
Adriane Lenox turns in a brief but gritty, emotional performance as Oher's mother, meeting Leigh Anne Tuohy for the first time as Leigh Anne tries to find out more about a young man who seems to have gone unnoticed and unmissed for his first 16 years.
But the best performance of the movie has to be little-known actor Quinton Aaron, who plays the starring role, in spite of the top billing Sandra Bullock receives. Aaron is a raw nerve throughout the movie as he moves from homeless castaway to NFL millionaire. He NAILS the shy vulnerability of a young man sleeping on a "friend's" couch, overhearing the family argument that spells the end of his stay with them, and the beginning of actual homelessness. Without a word, he is amazing as he washes his one spare shirt in the sink at a coin-op laundry and sneaks it into another woman's dryer load.
One of the most emotional moments in the film occurs when Michael takes S.J. to the store to get a video game, going old school with Young MC's 1989 hit "Busta Move." What happens next, after paramedics explain to Leigh Anne that S.J. is lucky to be alive, must been seen to be appreciated.
As a lifelong Ole Miss Rebel fan, one of my great regrets is that, despite living only 70 or so miles from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, I never made time to attend a home game, or to experience the incomparable tailgating experience of The Grove (a situation unlikely to be corrected, exiled as I am now in Oregon). Today, I added a regret to my list: that I slept through Michael Oher's career at Ole Miss, knowing they had phenomenal left tackle, but not knowing they had a phenomenal young man.