"The characters' stories were nicely, complexly interwoven. I liked it — even when it skewed melodramatic. I liked that you were kept on your toes about which characters to love or hate, to respect or revile."
That's something I blogged in February 2006, after watching the movie "Crash," which had just been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
The movie went on to win that Oscar, a fact I'm contemplating this morning because I'm reading "The Oscars always get it wrong. Here are the real best pictures of the past 45 years" (Washington Post). Here's the entry for that year:
Nominees: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich
Best Picture winner: Crash
The actual best picture: Brokeback Mountain
Your tolerance for “Crash” may vary, but let’s face it: It won because it employed a dozen well-liked B-listers, and it was filmed in the neighborhoods where all the academy voters live. A sensitive and groundbreaking film whose catchphrase (“I wish I knew how to quit you”) still haunts, “Brokeback” was robbed.
That's not new writing. It's something WaPo published in 2016 and is now republishing along with new material to cover more recent movies. This republication had to be updated for full disclosure: "We published this fine quarrel in 2016, but they just keep on handing out Oscars to the wrong movies, so we have updated it for your further education."
The word "education" — though facetious — takes the position that opinion is stable and what they said 5 years ago about "Crash" is the same thing they'd say today.
But in 2016, anti-homophobia was predominant, and overheated worry over racial discord may have seemed passé. WaPo ought to have updated its opinion! Maybe "Brokeback Mountain" seemed better than it was because of the issue it hit, and the Academy voters were prescient to give the prize to " Crash."
Here's what I wrote the morning after "Crash" won the Oscar:
I haven't read the newspaper commentary yet, but I assume there will be a lot of analysis of why "Crash" beat out "Brokeback Mountain."... What about the possibility that "Crash" is actually a better movie? But maybe the voters really did think it was a good idea to express their social consciousness in the anti-racism mode rather than the anti-homophobia mode, because America's caught up on the proposition that racism is wrong.
So I was saying Hollywood plays it safe, and anti-racism is especially safe, even safer than anti-homophobia. I certainly wasn't predicting that 5 years later we'd be having a heyday of anti-racism, and real life would become a surreal depiction in which racism is concentrated everywhere and the approved elite cultural belief would be that everyone is racist.
FROM THE EMAIL: Temujin writes:
I liked 'Crash' very much the first time around for the reasons you nailed in your commentary from back in 2006. The idea that you weren't sure who to like or hate in this movie, that behavior was fluid- as fluid as human interaction can be. And it did a fine job in showing us all as human. In that sense it was a very real movie. And yes, it skewed melodramatic, but even those parts were so well acted, that it held you. And in its way it believably portrayed the racism built into LA society at that time. Yes, American society too, but LA had (has?) a particularly interesting way of doing it, with so much immense wealth across so many different types of people who interact with each other daily. And the LA cops had a racist reputation long before it became in vogue. They actually practiced it.
That said, to another point you made, I never did see 'Brokeback Mountain'. Why? Not because I'm homophobic. But because, at that time, the talk of gayness was so pervasive, so unrelenting, and so over the top that I was just tired of it. I had had enough and did not care to swoon over it in a movie theater. I got enough second-hand swooning just being around other people. I was over the entire thing.
Ha ha. I too never saw that movie. For just about exactly that reason. Plus, it bothered me that people were straining so hard to be pro-gay that they had nothing much to say about the plight of the wife who got stuck in a marriage to a man who loved someone else. The love between then men had to be exalted. That annoyed me.
And that's where I find myself today when it comes to the subject of race. Today they want us to believe that the US is the most racist it's ever been and the most evilly racist nation in history, that all of us are racists and the only way to purify ourselves is to send all of our cash immediately to them. Then die. They tell us this that from $80K per year universities, 7-figure TV contracts, and millionaire sports events. CEOs of major corporations are pointing at their customers and shaming them for being. Just for being. So if 'Crash' came out today, I would probably not go see it, much like I avoided 'Brokeback Mountain' years ago. I'm over it. It's as if the entirety of our nation is swooning over racism now.
I'm no swooner. And I can smell a bandwagon cause from a mile away.