Best Picture Profile: Crash

Crash_ver2

Directed by: Paul Haggis

Written by: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco

Produced by: Don Cheadle, Paul Haggis, Mark R. Harris, Bobby Moresco, Cathy Schulman, Bob Yari

Runtime: 113 minutes

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Was it an easy win?

Even its supporters will say it did not have the easy way of winning it. Maybe because it’s not as well-received as the other nominees (though it definitely has some passionate audience) that some members have hesitated, but there is one thing that made its victory almost impossible: Brokeback Mountain.

That film took home every Best Picture available across the whole United States (except Chicago, where Roger Ebert heavily lobbied for Crash), but let’s just say it was easier to vote for a film tackling racial prejudice than homosexuality (a term so wrongfully associated with Brokeback. Ennis and Jack were bisexuals, for whoever’s sake!), topics that have been boggling Hollywood’s conservative community since time immemorial.

But, of course! It’s not just that. The film had some brilliant and very dedicated campaign, together with several screenings and even DVD screeners. The film has a lot of actors in it, and if you can get the actors’ vote in the Academy (the biggest part of the membership), then it would really be a big help. Roger Ebert surely added the extra kick the film needs for heightened buzz. It earned the vote of the cultural minorities inside the Academy, for some obvious reasons. And lastly, it’s a message movie – playing with the conscience of the audience does help a lot.

So surely, it was not an easy win, but for some reasons, it did.

The review:

The film starts with a car accident and a dead body at the side of the road, then the story jumps back to the day before the incident.

A Black investigator is having a relationship with a colleague he thinks is Mexican. He is asked by his mother to look for his son. He also gets involved with the district attorney whose car was stolen by two Black thugs. This causes panic to him as he might lose the vote of the Black community. This also terrifies his wife who immediately raises suspicion with the locksmith that fixed their door knobs. The locksmith had a rough time securing a deal with a naturalized Arab who owns a store because the man has doubt that he just cheats on him.

The two Black thugs run over a Chinese man, forcing them to leave him just outside a hospital. They have no idea that the man was in for trafficking Asians who were caged inside a van. One of them, the one that always carries a figurine of St. Michael, hitchhikes with a police officer. He was just had a new police partner because he cannot take his former partner who had molested a Black woman in front of his husband, a television director who has problems with some racial issues with the sitcom he handles. The police officer has a father suffering from urinary tract infection.

These different characters and stories collide with each other in the city of Los Angeles.

crash

Crash is composed of storylines that might seem to be lacking in complexity, with each characters composed of stereotypes and two-dimensional characters, but it is used by the story to push forward the insightful tragedy of all of the characters: that we all take each other granted, whether we know the person or not, whether he is the person of the same race or not. It is that tragedy that the film stages with utmost rawness that it is actually understandable if there are people who will see it as an oversimplification of racism.

Alas, those reviews are mere oversimplifications of what the film is. Yes, it uses racism as the instrument to channel the theme of prejudice to one another, but it was able to move away from that, introducing to us scenarios that exposes us the truth that we are distant from each other in ways beyond racism. The screenplay skilfully composes these said scenarios with the feeling that it puts the topic right in front of us for us to confront it with immediacy. The tension between the exchanges of words is perfectly executed with a very strong sense of urgency in each scene. There is a rousing energy that drives each scene to the next scene. It is a feeling that is too exhilarating to put to words. Either way, the film is excellently directed.

Upon repeated viewing, I realized the intelligence put in the cinematography. With almost each scene composed of heightened contrast of the dark and the bright, we are put to an uncomfortable position where the difference between the two are really in front of you, but it pushes the theme of differences forward, and it does so very effectively.

The editing aids the storytelling with specificity, making sure that each cut adds to the clockwork structure of the film. It is as if there is no turning back when you are already watching the film because each scene really leads to the next scene without any time to be wasted. It relentlessly pushes the film forward without making the film a tiring experience. It is also worthy to note that the music used in the film effectively conveys the ethnic diversity and the universality of the subject matter of the film.

As the film is an ensemble piece, the actors prove their worth by giving some really strong performances around.  Don Cheadle as the investigator who is missing a part of himself, Brendan Fraser as the district attorney whose political fears transcend to his own, Sandra Bullock as Fraser’s terrified wife, Matt Dillon as the abusive police officer, Thandie Newton and Terrence Howard as the harassed couple and especially Michael Peña as the hardworking locksmith, among others, all provide credible performances which populate this story.

Now, we reach the bottom line: the film is admittedly a message movie. It is all obvious in the film that it wants to say something about out misunderstandings and loss of connection even with the people that we live with, and it uses the topic of racial prejudice to channel this issue. And does it bother me? No. As long as I see a good movie, I will recognize it as it is no matter what it is about. But I even buy the whole “message”. I do think it is a great film and I hope that people will give this a second try.

For this, the film gets:

5

So, agree of disagree?

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