Monday, March 06, 2006

Crash Wins

I can't say I'm thrilled about Crash winning Best Picture.  I was definitely thrilled to see how it unfolded.  It was a huge surprise, as we'd all assumed by that point that Brokeback Mountain had an award locked up.  But as far as what the Oscar means... bleh.  It's not that Brokeback necessarily deserved to win, just that Crash wasn't very deserving either.

Crash divides people too much, and not because of its subject matter... it just isn't made very well.  There are a lot of people who believe that the worst of the nominated films won.  And I can't really disagree with that assessment... I don't hate the film, but I certainly don't love it.  It's clearly being rewarded for what it tried to do, not what it actually did.  There are worse biases to have, but this one looks particularly silly to me.

I've dealt with my feelings on Crash in the past, here and here.  In ten words or less, Crash is a white Spike Lee movie.  Brilliant more often than not, but just as often flawed, inconsistent, and perhaps even misanthropic.  The negatives end up weighing down the positives; for me, Do The Right Thing is the only movie that rises above its negatives.  Crash is more like Bamboozled; as inspired a commentary on the state of black entertainment as you'll ever find (pre-Boondocks, that is) but the problems with that movie, which is excellent, are too numerous to list.  Convincing shades of grey amongst the black characters, utter one-dimensionality amongst the white characters, and sudden, jolting character shifts.  A film similar to Bamboozled that portrayed its white characters with more depth might have said something truly profound; instead, it's just jarring.

Same with Crash.  If it actually understood its black characters as well as it understood its white ones, Crash would have deserved its Oscar.  Unfortunately, the film we have is well-meaning, but ultimately ridiculous and unsatisfying.  Its failures in authenticity are excused by the filmmakers, who have essentially said, "we only wanted this film to inspire conversation."  A white dude screaming the N-word at the top of his lungs in Harlem inspires conversation too, but should we give the guy a Nobel Peace Prize?  Of course not.  Gotta say somethnig true, or the whole enterprise is phony.  You can't pull the pin on a grenade, throw it straight up in the air, hope the wind takes it away from you, and then not take responsibility for it later.  I mean, you can, but you shouldn't.

The key difference for me is that Spike Lee doesn't aim for universality.  When he deals with race, he speaks from a black perspective, and for a black perspective.  If his statement says something universal, that's collateral... which is fine, because Spike knows that, and the rest of us do too.  On the other hand, Crash claims universality, doesn't deliver it, and fails in its mission.

Ugh.  Too much time wasted on this movie.  Go watch Bamboozled if you really want something to talk about.

No comments:

Post a Comment