The Ciceronian’s last post makes me actually want to see “The Blind Side.” Yes, I still think that its best picture selection owes more to populism than anything else, but the Ciceronian’s review points to a rather unexpected attribute as the reason for its success: “The Blind Side” explains the New South to America in a complex and responsible way.

As Gordon Hutner explains in What America Read, the dominant genre of American literature from the 1920s through 1950s was realism (despite the advent of modernism) and one of the primary goals of realist fiction was to describe the changing social and economic conditions of the United States. The growing bourgeoisie wanted the Talking Heads’ age-old question answered: “Well, how did I get here?” I’ll go so far as to say that the success of “The Blind Side” is due to accepting this aspect of realist fiction.

After all, that’s why last Monday’s episode of “House” worked.

Yes, “House,” the doctor-cum-detective show whose love of formulas knows no bounds, and whose general message seems to be: be patient; doctors will mess up repeatedly before they actually solve your problem.

Monday’s episode, ‘5 to 9’ (an homage to Agnes Varda’s “Cleo 5 to 7”?), focused on the hospital administrator and her quest to have it all: family, love, and the career. It allowed her to stretch a little–even if that stretching meant channeling Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton,” practicing her big meeting while dressing in front of the mirror.

Yet it also focused on the health care industry as industry, showing some complexity: the challenges facing hospitals trying to ensure that their doctors get paid reasonably while also dealing with insurance companies trying to grow through cost-cutting. There were also subplots about patients suing for malpractice since the insurance company considers the procedure (reattaching a severed thumb) inessential, and another patient trying to get a prescription for breast milk so the insurance company would pay. It’s almost as if someone on the “House” writing staff listened to the “Planet Money” episodes about health care economics and used it as the basis for a drama.

In other words, it’s proof of the continued vitality of middlebrow realism, even if contemporary literature has abandoned that thread.

Long-time readers know that one of our regular features is best picture predictions. This year we went 8/10, guessing that “Invictus” would be the apartheid movie nominated (it wasn’t; “District 9” was), and that “The Hangover” would be the movie picked to tell the mainstream, “Hey–we’re still cool” (it wasn’t; “The Blind Side” was). Since I just defended the melodrama yesterday, it will sound rather hypocritical of me to attack the selection of “The Blind Side,” but….there’s no reason that this movie should have been nominated for Best Picture, and its inclusion can only be considered as another attempt by dandified cosmopolitans to embrace tea party values.

Now, I like Sandra Bullock; “Speed” is easily one of the best action movies of the ’90s, and “The Net” truly captured the potential pratfalls of the internet age and our subsequent loss of privacy. I’m glad she was nominated for an Academy Award for leading actress since she clearly elevated what would have been a poor man’s “The Express” into a cultural phenomenon. But I can’t escape the feeling that one of three not-very-good-reasons led to TBS’ nomination: 1) academy members don’t watch enough movies to vote fully informed; 2) Hollywood is patting itself on the back for continuing to recycle plots and further their dominance of archetypal mythology; 3) An ill-founded embrace of populism.

Nominating “The Blind Side” is like Obama’s bank tax: you can defend it as smart policy given the circumstances, but the timing suggests an appeal to crowds for the sake of an appeal to crowds. Will more people watch the Oscars now? Probably–though the inclusion of movies like “Inglourious Basterds,” “Up,” and “Avatar” would have helped anyway. The Academy seems to be going full-press, hoping that a turn to big box-office films will salvage the midterms.