Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Crash vs. Brokeback

This is such old news (it's funny how what happened just a week and a half ago is already considered 'old' news).

I'm referring to the shock/horror/astonishment at Crash taking the Best Picture Oscar at last week's Academy Awards, when Brokeback Mountain had been widely expected to clinch that.

I've watched both films. I liked Crash okay, though I did not think it was as great a movie as it was made out to be. The publicity machine is an incredible thing! The cast appeared on every conceivable program in the States to promote their movie - and promote it they did. Droves of people flocked to see Crash.

I saw Brokeback Mountain recently and really, really liked it. I thought that the two lead characters were portrayed with such sensitivity and rawness. And, no, I don't know any gay cowboys.

Annie E. Proulx, writer of the short story on which the film was based, lets loose her anger over the Oscar upset in this Guardian article. Phew! If it's any comfort, it is common knowledge that the decision of who to give awards to - and this is not just about the Oscars - is frequently motivated by so much more than an excellent performance.

14 comments:

mw said...

I read this on Saturday, and it's a pity, really. Annie Proulx should have had the graciousness to hold her peace, in public at least. To demean her great achievement of giving the world Brokeback Mountain by this rant, really is sad. She wrote a great short story that has led to to an important movie. Her part is done. Was she thinking the Oscar was hers too? Why should she take it for given that Brokeback Mountain would sweep the board? Didn't Hoffman who won Best Actor play a homosexual character?

It's not just the mean-spiritedness in Proulx's rant, it's the snobbery (note her comments on Three 6 Mafia and the description of Crash as 'Trash') regarding the whole show. So she thought Jon Stewart was too good for the show? I've got news for her, Stewart's jokes were mainly tedious tosh. I loved Brokeback Mountain, but I'm glad Annie Proulx is annoyed. An Oscar is not the God-given property of anyone.

Nkem said...

I thought the rant was funny if nothing. Not funny ha ha, but funny sad. I'm pleased Crash won, because it's a film that forces America to look in the mirror. I supposed Brokeback does this as well, but the people who need to see Brokeback probably won't.

yaye said...

Mmm I've seen both movies..and I have 2 say that I was impressed by both for various reasons. Crash was sharp, vivid,critical, different, the sequence btw the # story lines was incredible...I mean it was for me a masterpiece..I got off the movie thinking waouh....
I went to see Brokeback Mountain as well and was moved by the beautiful scenery the peace in the midst of this fire of passion that it reflected...
I have to say that i was trully happy to see Crash win but that's my personal opinion..I can understand how some other peeps were disapointed cos this subject was dear to them ...nevertheless for the author to dismiss this movie as just anything ...no class whatsoever...!!!

Ore said...

I agree that it was a mean-spirited piece.

Art is so subjective that giving out an award for the best picture of the year seems ridiculous to me. It's one thing to judge a movie from the technical point of view i.e. how well it was made, but great movies are much more than the technical craft that goes into making them. Certain subjects and ways of telling the story will always speak to some people more than others.

Ayoola said...

My brother and his friend from NYC were discussing Crash earlier this week and talking about how it's such a White people movie.

According to them, Hollywood likes to pat itself on the back for acknowledging the tough issues like race and White ppl also like to think that way as well. They called it overrated and smug. I've gotten a similar reaction from other Black people I've spoken to who've watched the film and they (my brother and his friend) said they don't know any Black people who really liked it (in Nigeria or New York City where my brother used to live and they know a lot of Black folks) .

I haven't seen the film myself but when I heard of the film and its premise, I knew I wasn't interested. I thought, "Another preachy production about race relations." because I have seen quite a few of those in the past.

I thought my bro's and his friend's views would be an interesting contrast to the others posted on this blog.

grace said...

Ayoola, I completely agree with your friends. Crash was a difficult and emotional movie to watch, and I really felt pain for some of the characters, but at the end of the day, I'm like- if you really want to see a movie about race relations go see Do the Right Thing. Compared to Spike Lee's occasionally inspired stuff, Crash was whack.

And I totally agree that it was a movie for white people (particularly white liberals). I am yet to see a movie done by blacks where a white person is racist and insulting to a black person, and the black person overlooks it or mildly dismisses them, or eventually comes to accept the white person. Yet you see this happening all the time in white movies, whether Crash, Angels in America, or that hilary swank boxing movie (can't recall the name right now), basically any movie Morgan Freeman is in. In white movies you always have this black person who is a victim of racism, and doesn't break some skulls (except breaking fellow black people's skulls, like in Crash).

Then there's the issue of class in Crash. The point where Terrence Howard tells Ludacris that he is an embarrassment to all of them, remember that? One of my friends pointed out that Ludacris could have said the exact same thing to TH, with his perm and ass-kissing job. Yet we are directed to relate to the middle class, mild-mannered black man, and the sincere white policemen.

mw said...

Ayoola may have a point, but what is missing, is a similar 'scoring' of Brokeback Mountain - as he/she has scored 'Crash' here, and found it wanting. Above all, I'd advise that he/she see both movies, before coming to his/her own conclusions.

Grace:
The treatment of 'blackness' and race in general in Crash, to me, is multi-faceted (obviously not far reaching enough for some). Terrence Howard's character & his wife are clearly mixed race (forget how they look, even in the story, they are mixed race) who mix in the white world more so than other blacks. They accuse themselves in their bedroom of not really knowing what it means to be black; the policeman at first mistakes her for a white woman 'doing the dirty' on a black man...

Besides, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges' character does go through some transformation in the movie... There is redemption for him as well as the racist policeman played by Dillon.

I do agree that Do The Right Thing is one of the best movies in this regard (of course the Academy ignored it). I should add, however, that the blacks in Spike Lee's film are also intolerant (though the viewer can understand why) to the Italians & the Koreans. Let's not forget.

Crash set itself a greater challenge than 'Do The Right Thing' because the Oscar winning film has a bigger canvas - dealing with a wide spectrum of racial identities in Los Angeles.

I thank Ore for the post that has generated this thread.
mw

Nkem said...

Have to weigh in again. All the characters in Crash were sympathetic in some way or another. Even though I felt some were irredeemable (such as Matt Dillon's), it had something to say. Grieviances from racism are not just suffered by black people but also by white people. TH's character could have been told he was an embarrassment but he realised that during the course of the film. He and TN might have been "passing" but the police saw no difference, and he was expendable at work.

As for RP's policeman, he was also a tragic character. His Good Samaritan deeds only emerged when he was in uniform. As soon he took off his uniform he like any white man in LA scared of black people.

Spike Lee's DTRT was a wonderful film about black people feeling like their neighbourhood was under siege. Crash, like MW said, is about much more than that.

yaye said...

Waouh...
I , for my part still think that Crash was a great piece, and it was also challeging..I think it was also about racism but I don't think that it was preaching any message..it was just depecting some reality...there was also some aspects of morality on which the movie touched...such as corruption, when the character of Don C was being manipulated by the system ..the cop who killed someone by accident and tried to conceal the truth...the hispanic who's trying what he has to do to support his family and who almost lost his daughter...the lonely woman who has everything to be happy and trully nothing at the same time and who actually is trully blind to other minorites..she's around them but don't seem them...the immigrant who's so bitter after taking the abuse daily, the stares who works so hard...lose everything and is angryyyy..the angry and all powerful white policeman who is powerful in his uniform but cant manage tog et medecine for his father....

I mean there are so many mamy layers to this movie..it's not just about racism , it's about us today this century human beings, our fear, hate, non-trust, between races, classes, oursevles ..just for example that coment btw Terrence and Luda..there's so much to say about that...and I think in a way that movie was made for that..and if u pay attention at the end of the movie they didn't give solutions...it was bitter-sweet and that's reality..I think for some people it opened them to some reality, to look into themselves...black peeps to black peeps, asian to white, poor to rich and vice verca....


Matter of fact, having said all of this I am now convinced that this move deserved to win:)

mw said...

Thank you, Yeye, for reminding me. That bit about the little girl accidentally un/shot by the desperate old man - is a little spot of pure magic for me in Crash. Transcendent, truly. And when you think that the girl believes she has an 'invisible cloak'... even the best magical realist could not have written it better.

Crash is also about the lives we live in the city and living in London, I can relate.

The point I keep coming back to in my mind, really, is that, whatever the merits of Brokeback Mountain vis-a-vis Crash, Annie Proulx should not have vented her spleen the way she did. In doing so, she betrayed some mild bigotries of her own. If Brokeback M is special because of what it says about gay people and the intolerance they suffer from others, how is Crash which is about the many intolerances untold people suffer any less worthy? She is not suggesting, that some intolerances are more bearable than others and therefore less worthy of our attention, is she?

And this is the lady whose work is supposed to lead us all to a higher place about aspects of our humanity.
mw

grace said...

I probably should add that I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain. But my post wasn't about comparing the two or choosing one over the other. It was a response to Ayoola's critique of Crash. I don't have an opinion on which movie is better, and which should have won the oscar. In fact the reason why I haven't seen Brokeback yet is that I was told that one of them dies in the end. Not being in the mood for another "Boys don't cry", I decided to wait that one out. So my issue is with what I consider to be the "white-washing" of Crash, not necessarily favoring Brokeback or Annie Proulx.

ngozi said...

crash was amazing!

Seke said...

To those who think that Crash is such a great and wise work about the interweaving layers of racism, classism and ethnic mistrust in America, I would suggest you take a look at two far superior (IMHO) movies by an American independent filmmaker named John Sayles: "City of Hope" (1991) and "Lone Star" (1996). Both of those movies deal with similar issues on a canvas as vast and expansive as that of "Crash" but do so with greater depth, subtlety (ie. fewer awkward and obviously contrived speechifying about the racial state of affairs), more rounded characters, and with a sense of the history that feeds into what prevails in the U.S. today. As for Spike Lee's "Do the right Thing" (which I also think is a great film) I would only add that sometimes you need narratives about reconcilliation and understanding but other times, you need 'angry' narratives that let us know why we need to sit up and take notice and reach out to each other in the first place.

It's Just My Opinion said...

I'd have to agree with you on this-I saw Brokeback, and while the deception bothered me, there is no doubt that this was a well produced, directed, and acted movie. Just from what I've seen of Crash, I was shocked when it beat out Brokeback for the highest honor.