Hey everyone, this week we’ll be looking at the very controversial Best Picture winner Crash, which was released 9 years ago today. Directed by Paul Haggis, it stars Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle and Matt Dillon. It is rated R for language, sexual content and some violence
Set in a 36 hour period in Los Angeles, a number of different people’s lives intertwine as they experience the intense issue of race that plague the city. This involves a Caucasian DA and his racist white wife up against two black carjackers who use race as an excuse; a Caucasian police officer who uses his power to harass non-whites; a black film director who sometimes appears to act of his race, and his black wife, who is traumatized by an experience with the racist white cop; a Persian immigrant and a Hispanic locksmith; and partnered detectives, one black, one Hispanic. All of these characters lives come together in the end of a story that exposes racism and the stereotypes that come with it.
8.5 out of 10
It’s common knowledge that the critics of Crash are extremely split. I guess people hate it even more because it won Best Picture. And I guess it’s not really a Best Picture film by common standards. No standout performances, no concrete storyline. There’s nothing especially standout about it, and to me that’s okay. To the rest of the film world, I guess it just qualifies it as a decent film and not a Best Picture. Haters will hate.
Yes, there is no standout performance. The only Oscar Nominated actor from the movie was Matt Dillon and he was by no means incredible. The story and layout of the whole film does not really allow for any one actor to shine. There is no main arc and every actor in the ensemble cast gets equal time to display their own story. While this may not be appealing to common audiences, it helps the film accomplish its main purpose; exploit the racial tensions that rage through Los Angeles. Focusing on one story doesn’t allow for multiples stories and perspectives to be seen. and I think Crash does this in a way where it doesn’t hurt the film at all. In fact, it’s even better off without a single standout actor. It doesn’t draw focus from a single story. Everything is balanced, assuring that the audience doesn’t have to focus on one certain part of the story and instead looks= at the racism at a whole.
Like I just said, the main purpose of the film is to display the heavy racism in LA, and I think it’s very successful in doing so. It is powerful and emotionally dense, which is what helps make the film successful in my mind. The message is supported by tense sequences of action and dialogue scattered throughout, adding to the intensity and drama of the situation. There is a reality to it as well, a sense of fear that the setting creates. You’re scared for all of the characters, regardless of where they’re white, or black, or Hispanic, or Persian. You understand all of them and try and sympathize with what they’re dealing with. While you may not agree with some of their decisions, you can see they’re all human. The characters and the screenplay are interesting and captivating, which is part of the reason I really like this movie.
One of the criticism’s I’ve seen about this movie is how blatantly it tries to get it’s message across. I guess you could say that, but that really is the point of the movie. The movie is supposed to be an exploration of racism in Los Angeles, so why should it try to be anything else? In the end, what I received is a deep and impactful film that I really enjoyed, one that deserves more credit. I can honestly go as far to say without hesitation that it deserved Best Picture.
6.5 out of 10
Crash is a polarizer. You can tell that by just looking at the audience (Jack Nicholson’s!) reaction to it winning. 2004 was a heckuva a tight competition for movies and Crash became the dark, dark horse that miraculously jockeyed its way to being a Best Picture. People went crazy over it. People are still going crazy over it.
And I would be a liar if I said I didn’t see why. Crash is a cinematic anomaly that just keeps me scratching my head. Is it particularly bad? Nosir. Is it good? Yessir. Does it deserve to be ranked among any of the former Best Picture champs? Hell. No.
My main issue with Crash is that its saying a lot but what its saying has been said. Which absolutely isn’t a problem so long as it gets a handle on its ideas and puts a new spin on them. It doesn’t. Not in particular. Within the same few decades as Crash, we had The Color Purple and Hotel Rwanda both films about race that managed to find a new emotional perspective that kept the audience invested. If you would like to venture in to the same territory as Crash (i.e. racial pieces dealing with an urban atmosphere), then look no further than something like American History X.
All of the former films heavily commented on race. Race was a driving force behind their plots. But did race seep into how the characters acted in some inappropriate ways? No. Many had complex characters that were affected but not clearly defined by their race which, in fact, invites the audience too look in to race more.
Crash, as many have pointed out in an array of reviews and flame-wars, doesn’t boast a strong cast to me but instead gives some fleshed out racial caricatures. It doesn’t really give so much as it does smother. Every other scene is somehow forcing you to face that this is a movie about RACE. Some new, usually stereotype-ridden, figure is being reeled into the story constantly.
As I said a while ago, I would actually be far more intrigued if race was something that was noticeable but also insidious. Something that festers beneath the major plot points and lets the characters really develop in between. That way, it makes the topic more human, more communicable.
That said, it is well-acted, well tied together narrative. I get plenty of what its trying to get across but I doubt it has the spark to carry them effectively. With enough rewrites though, Crash could have made the shift from being an incendiary picture to being an unchallenged analysis of race; one that unquestionably deserved that coveted gold statue.
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%