Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"Crash" was a terrible movie. Apparently, I am the only one who thinks this.

Congratulations to the cast of "Crash," who took home the Screen Actors' Guild award for best performance of a cast in a motion picture. I actually mean that somewhat sincerely, because the actors in this movie were not the problem. They did the best they could with what they had.

On discovering this morning that "Crash" has been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, I felt I had to break my silence. This was, I thought, an embarrassingly terrible movie. There was no subtelty, no craft, no art, no scale- it was 2 hours (or whatever) of high pitched over the top maudlin melodrama. The best that can be said, and has been said, is that the picture is "earnest" and "sincere." (I think A.O. Scott of the NYTimes said that when he lambasted the movie (thankfully)- but I'm not entirely sure; still, someone said it.) Earnestness and sincerity are lovely qualities, and lovely qualities in a movie- but when coupled with ham-fisted writing and downright terrible directing, these attributes- which worked fairly well for Spielberg in "Munich"- sink a film like a lead weight.

I'm sorry. I know this picture was about race, and about racism, and about how we're all a bunch of racists, and about how there are only like 14 people who live in LA, and they're all racist, or something. No but seriously, it's true that there haven't been any good movies lately that have taken on the issue of race in America. But I sure as hell wish "Crash" hadn't stepped up to this particular plate. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" had more impact than "Crash." "Crash" is a movie that could have, and perhaps should have been made in the 1960's, when we were coming out of an era of institutionalized racism, and the blatant ways in which everyday people are everyday racist in their everyday lives needed to be beaten into people.

Now, however, we need a real movie with a real critical eye and real analysis that deals with race as a pervasive and ongoing issue in the US. This movie tries, but falls woefully, horribly short. By reducing those "everyday people" to an ensemble of cliches, the people who made this movie missed an opportunity to say something new and interesting; something that resonates.

There was not one character in this movie that didn't play into collective stereotypes and thus render the directors and writers either not particularly insightful or almost racist in their own right. And adding a little "depth" hardly mitigated this effect. For instance: Sandra Bullock as the rich DA' s wife. (I wasn't aware that DAs did so well in this town, by the way. Maybe I should look into that line of work). She grabs her pocketbook when she sees a black guy and complains that the hispanic dude fixing her locks is a gang member. Come on. Give me something more than that. Ok- she's got anxiety issues. Another cliche that doesn't give her any sort of depth of character. And Matt Dillon as the racist cop. Oh- he loves his father. He's so real.

For christ's sake- can't we have a new look at racism in this country that doesn't involve rich women and cops? And Ludacris as a "reverse racist" carjacker? And Ryan Phillipe as the young cop with the heart of gold? And whoever that dude was as the black screenwriter who isn't "black enough?" Come on. Jesus.

And yet, lots of very intelligent people, whose taste I respect and often share, loved this movie. Really loved it. It touched them. It was new, it was deep, it resonated. So, is it me? Have I turned into such a film snob that I can't appreciate a movie that doesn't deal in irony and subtle glances? Maybe.

I would honestly like to hear (or read) what others thought about this movie. I hate asking "please respond" questions like this because generally people don't actually respond, but I'd truly like to know. What am I missing? Why did everyone like this movie but me? (and A.O. Scott of the NY Times? And my husband?)

***Update: Carina Chocano of the LA Times hated it too. Thank god.


At 7:46 PM, Blogger wunelle said...

It's been a bit since I've seen it now, and I tend to forget things almost immediately. (So sorry if I get details wrong.)

I didn't love it, but I liked it. And I think this is because, in part, the stereotypes you hate did not play out as I, at least, expected. I think it's all well and good to feel distaste for a rich woman who distrusts a tattooed hispanic who is working in her house--her character is meant to be unsympathetic there--but to show that same woman giving not a thought to the issue is high-minded but false. She WOULD think these things, I'm afraid. I'd be lying if I said that a guy with gang tats in my house didn't give me a moment's pause. Is it racist? In my case, I'm concerned about the tats and the association rather than the race, but sometimes they are connected, like it or not.

And I think we were shown characters who were horrible and petty and monstrous, and then were something else in different circumstances; and I think that's real and something beyond stereotypes (even if the director is trying to throw a lasso around two opposed stereotypes, it's still not so cloyingly one-dimensional).

Maybe raising the issue of race in society is not in the least new, but the issue is still there, and it's instructive for us to see the experiences and responses of people outside our group, especially when the stories hit from both sides as they do here.

Just my two cents'.

At 10:45 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

No, Wunelle, that's awesome. An intelligent reaction. Just what I wanted. Thanks.
I'll respond tomorrow when I'm not high on two glasses of wine.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

Wunelle, sorry, I've been meaning to respond with a counterpoint, but you know, I'm just a lump of raw emo today, no idea why; anyway, your reasons for liking the movie make total sense. I don't know why I got so strident. I'm sick of being angry.

Goddamn, I'm a moody SOB.

At 9:53 PM, Blogger wunelle said...

Hey, no factor (aviation term for "traffic will not collide with us"). You're allowed to be as testy about a movie you didn't like on your own blog as you want! (Tho you didn't seem so strident to me.)

If I were out there in movie land I'd buy you a beer and you could rail to me in person about why the flick sucked!

Hope you feel better ;-)

At 12:51 AM, Blogger elisabeth said...

I haven't even seen the movie, but I consistently end up hating movies that everybody else loves... Like Amelie from Montmartre - ugh, what a bunch of cliches. Or The English Patient. PLEASE - the most BORING, LONG-WINDED SOB STORY ever invented! It seems that you, like me, are _allergic_ towards cliches. That's a good thing. Keep at it!! However I'll keep my mouth shut about Crash till I've seen it...

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Lynn said...

Bravo, bravo, bravo! I've been closeted on this issue for far too long and you have inspired me to come out to my Crash-loving friends. Thanks for more ammo. Wish me luck.

At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noisette, your review of Crash summed up exactly what I thought of it. You're not crazy for hating an incredibly bad movie. I'm also glad I wasn't the only one who hated it so much. Thanks

At 8:38 PM, Blogger Ashley said...

Thank you for writing exactly how I feel about that terrible, over-hyped movie. God I hate that movie.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger joe said...

Almost ten years later, it still drives me crazy that this movie won Best Picture, must less was nominated. Everything you said in your article is spot on. And in the end, it snows in LA. I actually threw popcorn at the screen-- I remember this vividly.


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