Monday, March 06, 2006

Rewarding mediocrity.

You must all expect how angered I was by last night's Crash upset. My initial response to the film when I saw it in theatres back in April was "like", but not with any great sentiment to sway me into either loving or hating the film. Crash was simply mediocre, and very, very problematic. And I recognized that immediately. However, in April, it was on my top 10 list, though no where near the top 5. Now, the name fills me with rage and disappointment. Both at the same time.

We are asked to forgive a stupid rich bitch and a cop who doesn't follow protocols (in any sense of law and civil rights) simply because they have no friends and are taking care of their aging father. These are not reasons to forgive these characters. Furthermore, the issues presented in the film are overly stereotypical and, as we say in the business, very on-the-nose. I don't think a film that wins best picture should be so blatant and obvious. Think about how heavy handed the direction is, and the writing. And no, it's not a deus ex machina, or fate. Magnolia had that and did it well. Crash is a shallow movie that manages to pretend it has depth because it addresses so many issues inadequately.

It's a think peice for people who don't actually like to think.

I feel the following quote from Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan helps support my last point:

"Despite all the magazine covers it [Brokeback Mountain] graced, despite all the red-state theaters it made good money in, despite (or maybe because of) all the jokes late-night talk show hosts made about it, you could not take the pulse of the industry without realizing that 'Brokeback Mountain' made a number of people distinctly uncomfortable," he said, adding:

"So for people who were discomfited by 'Brokeback Mountain' but wanted to be able to look themselves in the mirror and feel like they were good, productive liberals, 'Crash' provided the perfect safe harbor."

That's exactly what Crash did. It allowed people to feel like they were involved in a deep social issue. It made audiences feel good about themselves because they, too, are not fans of racism.

I'm not a complete advocate in the "Brokeback Mountain should win Best Picture" camp, but I do feel that Crash robbed four very deserving films of the chance. Brokeback is revolutionary, and though I was moved by it, I would call it a love story that happens to be about men who have homosexual sex, because neither Jack Twist nor Ennis Delmar would have called themselves gay. (They'd be trade if anything and anyone who's queer knows it.) It's not a gay love story, but it is a love story and that, I feel, is the revolutionary bit. Brokeback is a love story about men--and that's what's new and different about it.

Good Night and Good Luck is about one of the most important figures in journalism; likewise, Capote is a film about a man who changed the face of 20th century literature. Munich was more about racism than Crash could ever hope to be. And I can tell that from the short clip they showed at last night's awards without having seen the film. Each of these films deserved to be in that category. Crash did not.

Rewarding a problematic film like Crash continues our longstanding American tradition of rewarding mediocrity.