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Old 03-05-2006, 06:33 AM   #1
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In Defense of "Crash"

Tonight we'll find out whether "Crash" takes Best Picture. Personally, I doubt that it will. I was pleasantly surprised that it was nominated at all.

I'm finding that "Crash" is one of those movies that you either love or hate. I loved it, and in this post I will explain briefly why. I know everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I'm hoping that I might give people who've seen the movie something to think about, and encourage those who haven't seen it to view it with an open mind.

Perhaps the biggest criticism of "Crash" is that it is full of cliches. Now I realize it's virtually fruitless to try to convince someone that something is not cliche when they think it is, but I'm going to try.

"Crash" may appear cliche because prejudice IS cliche. Racial discrimination is always the "same old pathetic thing." In fact, this film purposely tugs at our own prejudices, those assumptions we all have about racial groups other than our own, and then contrary to what I hear so many people say, turns that assumption, that cliche, on it's head. For much of the movie you find yourself thinking you know what's going on--"who the good guys are"--and constantly the movie pulls the rug out from under you. (spoiler alert):

For example, LA cop harasses black couple. Obvious. Cliche. Now if they'd just painted Matt Dillon's character as the "bad guy" I could see the criticism. . .that's so one dimensional. But the film reveals that his story isn't so simple, and in fact, neither is he. Granted, his heroic turn later might seem predictable, but come on did anyone REALLy see that coming? And even if you did see that one, surely you couldn't have predicted Ryan Philippe's turn to the dark side near the end of the film. After all he's the "good guy", right? There's more: The Asian guy who gets run over that the film primes you to feel sorry for, the classic "victim", until you discover that he has a dark side of his own and is engaging in human trafficing. There's the Latino guy (virtually the only character in the movie that doesn't seem to have a dark side), who when his beeper goes off after he puts his daughter to sleep, you're sure actually is a drug dealer or gang-banger. Despite the fact that this is a "liberal, message movie" and you know it, you still find yourself expecting the characters to fall into the cliched racial stereotypes. And they consistently don't.

The reason I like this film so much is becaues it demonstrates a truth about humanity that rarely gets represented in film or anywhere else for that matter. That, humans are both remarkably good, and remarkably evil. We all harbor within us the ability to show great heroism and great depravity. Sometimes in the same day, sometimes in the same breath. This is an uncomfortable truth, one that doesn't fit with our neatly polarized culture where "Conservatives are evil facists and liberals are enlightened heroes," OR "liberals are amoral tools of Satan, and conservatives are square-jawed, white-hatted defenders of the right." The reality that people are human, complicated creatures is portrayed in "Crash" and sadly, that idea is hardly cliche. It should be, but it isn't.

I also like the film because it was superbly acted, beautifully shot, well-written, and had a gorgeous, affecting score. It might also help to know that background to the writing of "Crash." The screenwriter was carjacked by two thugs in L.A. a few years ago, and the script was born out of his dealing with that incident. He began to wonder what kind of people did this to him. What was their story? It's not surprising to me that he made the two characters somewhat sympathetic. I think it helped him make sense of a senseless crime, helped him heal. So this film wasn't written so that the writer could put out a "can't we all get along" liberalist, feel-good fantasy. It was written out of his own very real trauma.

So that's why I like "Crash". I've not yet heard a convincing argument diminishing the film, and I'm open to hearing one. But I don't expect I will.
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Old 03-05-2006, 08:55 AM   #2
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I liked it very much....

i dont get all the political crap you said.......I dont see what that has to do with the movie

but then again i dont understand politics a whole hell of alot anyway

what you said about the screenwriter was awesome.......he took something that terrorized him in his life and turned it into a masterpiece
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Old 03-05-2006, 11:25 AM   #3
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Reasons for not liking the film (for me, at least):

1) The film is racist, with a shockingly closed-minded portrayal of Middle Eastern culture and stereotypes. The pro-American sentiment is terrifying when taken in the context of a major release such as this one. These "cliches" are never undercut or engaged with in any kind of progressive way. They stand true. They are nauseating if you have a conscience. You can be a pseudo-rapist, you can be a jerk, you can be a thief, and you can be a racist-as-fuck asshole and still be redeemed. But, wait...you're from the Middle East...? Oh, sorry! You're worthless and evil! Didn't you get the memo? Haggis wrote it. FUCK.

2) The film is appallingly sexist, as well, reinforcing traditional cinematic/narrative tropes such as the woman-in-peril. I almost threw up when the sexually abused woman is narratively forced to submit to the redemptive authority of her attacker. Disgusting.

3) The intentional fallacy. It doesn't fucking matter what Haggis meant to say with the film. What matters is what he did and did not say. He screamed, "RACISM IS BAD!!!" about a million times during the film, but worked systematically (intentionally or not) to re-validate that very same racism. This is a shortcoming, regardless of what anybody might think. To briefly (and poorly, I guess) sum this up, this is the same problem which so many stupid-ass U2 fans seem to have in reading "Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own"--the song isn't good because Bono wanted to write about the death of his father. That shit is meaningless. The song is good because it's well-written and -executed. Anybody who does not recognize this is either an idiot or, MUCH more likely, just ignorant to the critical framework.

Here's an example of my own...a poem:

Racism is bad--
it smells not of roses.
I feel bad for those niggers,
with their big, ugly noses.

See how I say "racism is bad" and then continue to be racist? This is why the film sucks so bad.

4) The cinematography is not, for me, expert or classy. It is cheesy, sentimental, and cheaply cloying. Here is a key word: restraint. Crash has none in any way.

5) This film was a lot better when Robert Altman directed it and called it Short Cuts. In fact, it was also better when P.T. Anderson released it as Magnolia. But whatever.

I don't really plan on coming back to say much more about this. I've made my views clear on the film a number of times in recent months. As somebody who actively engages in issues of racial and gender representation in art (film, literature, music, painting, etc.) on every single day, perhaps I'm just approaching the film from a different place than the average filmgoer. This, though, is a problem. A film so racially subversive (in a bad way) is dangerous, because so-called average viewers obviously aren't recognizing the tripe they're being fed.

I guess the bottom line is that if somebody misreads the text and then uses it to examine him- or herself in relation to racial discourses, then it's done something good. It's too bad, though, that the only way for somebody to get something out of this abortion of a film is to misunderstand it. Ugh.

Sorry for ranting. I'm not trying to attack you in ANY way, but to attack the film. I don't see a lot of major Hollywood releases, these days, but this was easily the single worst film I saw, in person, in 2005...unless I'm forgetting something...and I don't think I am. The monkey movie was close (damn close), but whatever.

P.S. Sorry for the use of objectionable racist rhetoric. But at least I'm not making you watch Crash, and at least I'm not using it maliciously. If I've offended, then I'm truly sorry, but I'm only trying to be illustrative. If you really want to be offended, just watch this movie or King Kong. They've got a lot more to offer than I do, and their offerings are hardly for the greater good, as was my own.
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Old 03-05-2006, 12:07 PM   #4
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Wow. This is probably the best movie I saw in 2005 and you pretty much missed the entire point of maycocksean's post.

Quote:
For example, LA cop harasses black couple. Obvious. Cliche. Now if they'd just painted Matt Dillon's character as the "bad guy" I could see the criticism. . .that's so one dimensional. But the film reveals that his story isn't so simple, and in fact, neither is he. Granted, his heroic turn later might seem predictable, but come on did anyone REALLy see that coming? And even if you did see that one, surely you couldn't have predicted Ryan Philippe's turn to the dark side near the end of the film. After all he's the "good guy", right? There's more: The Asian guy who gets run over that the film primes you to feel sorry for, the classic "victim", until you discover that he has a dark side of his own and is engaging in human trafficing. There's the Latino guy (virtually the only character in the movie that doesn't seem to have a dark side), who when his beeper goes off after he puts his daughter to sleep, you're sure actually is a drug dealer or gang-banger. Despite the fact that this is a "liberal, message movie" and you know it, you still find yourself expecting the characters to fall into the cliched racial stereotypes. And they consistently don't.
That *is* the whole point of the movie. Everyone has been brought up with these stereotypes (not cliches, that's really the wrong word) and believes in them so much that they'd rather not look at the person but his/her appearance.

I don't see how the movie is sexist either. There were really only 2 woman as the main characters of the film, Sandra Bullock's who in the end gives up her backwards thought and realizes that she's built a wall around her and Thandie Newton's. Which I guess is the only one you can consider sexist or damsel in distress (I don't recall seeing Brendan Fraser running home to help his wife, she could pretty much handle it on her own) but it's there to prove a point. People deep down are good. Matt Dillon's character has to face his own demons when seeing her, and that's probably the easy part. But for TN's character to complete forgive him in that moment of time is something so incredibly huge. She had the bravery to do so, to let go. I think it's an important message, to forgive. I think it's one of the other messages behind this movie besides RACISM IS BAD. That's only a piece of a much bigger part.
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Old 03-05-2006, 02:43 PM   #5
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Great analysis PlaTheGreat.
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Old 03-05-2006, 02:59 PM   #6
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I totally agree with the above. The entire movie is one big cliche. It is taking every stereotype people have and bringing them to life and makes the viewers see in their faces the reacism that goes on in everyday life.

As far as saying that the middle east story line was not resolved in a good way you obviously did not watch the end of the movie. He realized that he was as racist as everyone else.

I found this movie extremely hard to get through and for that reason I love it. It opened your mind and brought to light feelings that everyone puts deep within themselves. How many times have I crossed a street to avoid two black men? How many times have I been on an airplane and seen men in turbans and attomacially assumed the worst? How many times have I treated people with accents like people somewhat below me? I sat and thought about this and realized that I would never caracterize myself as a racist but I am guilty of all things above. I was disgusted with myself.

The above statement to me was what Crash was all about. For the reason-the reason that it got people like me to think about themselves and the world that we live in is why this movie is so successful and pure genius.
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Old 03-05-2006, 11:28 PM   #7
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WOWEE!! BEST PICTURE!!
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Old 03-05-2006, 11:31 PM   #8
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:SUPERDANCE:

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Old 03-05-2006, 11:32 PM   #9
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The fact that this movie won best picture tells you how bad od a year at the movies this was.

A totally mediocre over-ambitious movie winning best picture.

Sad year for Hollywood. The box office speaks for itself.
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Old 03-05-2006, 11:34 PM   #10
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Of the three best picture noms I saw, I thought Crash was the least deserving.

(Others were Brokeback and Munich)
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Old 03-05-2006, 11:36 PM   #11
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Old 03-05-2006, 11:36 PM   #12
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Not horribly surprised. If "Brokeback Mountain" (or "Capote," for that matter) had won "Best Picture," as expected, Hollywood would have taken a lot of heat for pushing an alleged "homosexual agenda." And Israel already condemned "Munich," so it never had a chance. So they went with the safest choice out of the bunch.

Oh well...I spent Oscar night watching "'F' for Fake" (1976), Orson Welles' eccentric final film. What a fantastic movie.

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Old 03-05-2006, 11:36 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by inmyplace13
Of the three best picture noms I saw, I thought Crash was the least deserving.

(Others were Brokeback and Munich)
It's a mediocre movie. No wonder it did poorly when it opened up at the theaters and after the nomination everyone was hyping as the next best thing...

I think this is probably the first time when I think a movie I completely disliked (or did not mean a thing to me) won best picture.
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Old 03-05-2006, 11:38 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by PlaTheGreat
:SUPERDANCE:

ebert & roeper (tm)

It was a great movie. I think you are right with your forgiveness analysis. There's almost a kind of U2, let's-get-along-despite-our-differences vibe that worked very well.
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Old 03-05-2006, 11:40 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by angelordevil


ebert & roeper (tm)

It was a great movie. I think you are right with your forgiveness analysis. There's almost a kind of U2, let's-get-along-despite-our-differences vibe that worked very well.
The movie exaggerates everything, come on, it is not believable at all...

Sad, sad year for Hollywood. Thank God it is over.
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