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'Blind Side' Won't Win, But We're Glad It's Nominated

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'Blind Side' Won't Win, But We're Glad It's Nominated

'Blind Side' Won't Win, But We're Glad It's Nominated

'Blind Side' Won't Win, But We're Glad It's Nominated

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/123281511/123287732" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Actress Sandra Bullock attends the premiere of The Blind Side at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Nov. 17, 2009, in New York City. The Blind Side has been nominated for Best Picture for the 2010 Oscars. Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Actress Sandra Bullock attends the premiere of The Blind Side at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Nov. 17, 2009, in New York City. The Blind Side has been nominated for Best Picture for the 2010 Oscars.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

For the first time since 1943, there are 10 Best Picture nominees instead of just five. Some of the movies that made it into the expanded field are drawing controversy, but NPR blogger Linda Holmes says there's no reason for panic.

Today's Best Picture nomination for The Blind Side, a crowd-pleasing but utterly conventional film featuring Sandra Bullock as a Southern firecracker mom, became an immediate lightning rod for awards watchers. You would think from the response that it single-handedly took Best Picture from a showcase for serious movies about self-discovery to a swamp of mass-produced, populist dreck.

That is a wild exaggeration. The Best Picture field used to make room for lots of popular movies that were there partly because they managed to land a kick right in the national solar plexus. Keep in mind that Jerry Maguire was nominated for Best Picture. So was Ghost. So were Fatal Attraction and Dead Poets Society.

The expansion of the Best Picture field to 10 nominees seems designed to restore some of that quality to the proceedings, and that's a good thing.

It's easy to argue — because it's true — that the nomination that went to The Blind Side could have gone to something better. But when the nominees were announced last year, viewers in many parts of the United States hadn't even had the opportunity to see most of them in theaters. It can feel like there's a message there, and the message is, "If you don't live in a city with an art-house theater, then what you liked, and saw, and talked about with your friends, doesn't matter." Your experiences were deemed irrelevant to the year's biggest debate about quality.

That's not the case this year. Even if the only big screens available to you are at mall multiplexes, you probably had your shot at seeing at least half the nominees: Avatar, The Blind Side, Inglourious Basterds, District 9 and Up. At least two or three of those would never have made a five-nominee list.

There's value in allowing space for a couple of hit movies — not instead of ambitious, less popular ones like Precious and The Hurt Locker, but alongside them — if only because it recognizes the choices that lots of American moviegoers actually face. If all you get in your town is what's in wide release, then you may not be presented with a parade of A-plus movies. You may be confronted with a B-plus movie — like The Blind Side — and a lot of movies that would be lucky to pull a C-minus.

If the prospect of elbowing its way into a bigger Best Picture field inspires a potential C-minus movie to aim for a B-plus, then the Oscars will have improved the quality of what people are shelling out money to see. The Blind Side isn't the best picture of the year — and don't worry, it won't win — but its nomination serves as a reminder that movies can be both art and mass entertainment, and it's nothing new for the Oscars to recognize both.

There's more about this year's nominations at NPR's pop-culture and entertainment blog, Monkey See, available at NPR.org.

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