Monday, March 06, 2006

Crash and Burn

Ugh. Oh well.

As usual, I must borrow my words from the more eloquent. The veteran LA Times film critic Kenneth Turan sums up exactly my disappointment at Crash's success.

"I do not for one minute question the sincerity and integrity of the people who made "Crash," and I do not question their commitment to wanting a more equal society. But I do question the film they've made. It may be true, as producer Cathy Schulman said in accepting the Oscar for best picture, that this was "one of the most breathtaking and stunning maverick years in American history," but "Crash" is not an example of that.

I don't care how much trouble "Crash" had getting financing or getting people on board, the reality of this film, the reason it won the best picture Oscar, is that it is, at its core, a standard Hollywood movie, as manipulative and unrealistic as the day is long. And something more.

For "Crash's" biggest asset is its ability to give people a carload of those standard Hollywood satisfactions but make them think they are seeing something groundbreaking and daring. It is, in some ways, a feel-good film about racism, a film you could see and feel like a better person, a film that could make you believe that you had done your moral duty and examined your soul when in fact you were just getting your buttons pushed and your preconceptions reconfirmed."

Couldn't have said it better myself. And believe me, I tried.


At 6:16 PM, Blogger Unsane said...

AS much as I expected. There is little tolerance for what is truly radical or groundbreaking these days. We tread carefully and commercially.

At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Pocket said...

I have nothing against "message" movies, so long as the get the message across in an interesting, novel way that doesn't feel manipulative. "Crash" on the other hand, was like the third grade teacher explaining "Racism is bad" to a bunch of three year olds with frontal lobotomies, repeating the line over and over and over again. Perhaps I'm just too cynical to enjoy it -- but I bet lobotomized kids would love it.

Okay, it's too late at night for me to be writing comments.

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

yaay! Glad we're on the same page on this one, Pocket.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger wunelle said...

Here I am, the fly that is freed and makes a beeline right back to the ointment.

I just think this reviewer put a lot more push behind the movie's meanings than even the writers / director did. Is there a "message" to this movie? I didn't quite get that. Race exists as an issue; race buttons getting pushed is certainly no less valid--and no less innovative--a plot point than than adultery or mistaken identity or sexual tension or anything else that makes up the 11 standard stories from which every other movie is made.

I agree that this is not a great movie, and not worth an Oscar. But since when did the Academy's opinion provide a real yardstick for movie lovers? (Though I must say that the numbers of awards won by, say, Silence of the Lambs, given its genre and the Academy's history, is enough to cause me to take notice.) Was "Brokeback" a better choice? I suppose one could just as easily say that it makes us feel good by showing us that "gays are people too" and "gay love is just like straight love" and so on. One could change a few words of his review and we'd be in the same place.

Anyway, I don't mean to say a person can't like the movie. For my part, I think "Crash" was worth watching in that it set things up in a rather predictable way and then played them out rather against type. Maybe that's also predictable to people cleverer than me, but I was kept wondering.

Just my two cents.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

Wunelle- don't know how long ago you posted- I've been living to work lately, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, to respond:
I think Crash was definitely a message movie. You can't make a movie about race in an American city without it being "message" because race is such a loaded concept here. You just can't divorce the idea from its context and history. Esp. in LA, with the history of the Rodney King riots and general race tensions that exist here.
The reason so many other movies take on adultery etc. is because those concepts aren't loaded like race is. They're easier. When you do take on race in America in movie form, you are taking on all the baggage that Race In America implies.
True that Brokeback takes on just as loaded a topic. I haven't seen it (SHAME) so I can't speak to it, but from what I've heard Brokeback takes on that loaded idea and makes a great movie with it. Crash... not so much. Obviously, that's opinion. But I think the reviewer is right on in that the Academy voters picked the safe "message" movie- one that tries to tackle a tough subject but in the end leaves you with not much to reflect on or worry about or be uncomfortable with (and here's where you and I differ- I think that the characters were very predictable and cliched).

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

And something more:
I think that we're right now with homosexuality where we were with race in the 60s. Over the past 10 years, gays in America have made progress on the rights and liberties front (not nearly enough- but let's remember where we live and what party is in power). Up until the 1980's, you simply couldn't address the issue of homosexuality in mainstream movies (did you ever see "Celluloid Closet"? interesting study of this). "Brokeback" is the first semi-mainstream movie to take two well-known actors, cast them as homosexual, mix the homosexuality up with that quintessential American guy's guy, the cowboy, and manage to make a good movie out of it all.
We've been sitting with race in this country for a long time. We haven't made much progress at all, of course, which was one of the points Crash was trying to make- but we've been dealing with race in American mainstream culture for a long time. So to make a movie like Crash, now, after 40 years of dealing (poorly) with race- a movie that says little, if anything, new or innovative, is not such an interesting move, to me. And definitely not an award-winning move.

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Cheetarah1980 said...

This country has been dealing poorly with race for more than 40 years. Race filters into everything in our lives whether we like to admit it or not. Crash may have been stereotypical, but it was true all the same.


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