Sunday, November 30, 2008

the best movie named "crash"

I like to pride myself on my knowledge of the cinema, but sometimes I don't see movies as promptly as I should. When possible, I try to rectify that via DVD. So last night I watched "Crash," winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2005.

My thoughts: well, my first thought was, "How did this thing win Best Picture?" Director/screenwriter Paul Haggis certainly meant well, aiming to expose the cultural and racial stereotypes that prevail in daily life in LA, and their sometimes tragic consequences. Also, I'm a big fan of Don Cheadle, so it was good to see him. And watching the tandem of Terrence Howard and Ludacris, it was easy to see why they'd work so well together later in "Hustle and Flow."

But sweet Jesus, how did this thing win Best Picture? It's only been out a few years, and already it feels incredibly dated. Like someone's delayed response to the Rodney King trial and the LA riots, made with the earnest conviction that it would actually create lasting racial harmony in LA. Here's kind of how the scenes went: Asian woman and Hispanic woman insult each other. White man and black man insult each other. White man and Asian woman talk about Jewish people. Jewish man and Aboriginal woman make love. Aboriginal man, black man, and white woman have a 3-way argument. Asian teen and Latino grandmother reconcile. Black cop shoots mixed-race pedestrian. Multi-ethnic group hug. And repeat.

(I'm sorry. It just felt very contrived and unrealistic to me. I'm sorry if you're someone who liked the movie. Feel free to make fun of one of my favorite movies, like "Scorpion King II: Rise of a Warrior.")

But you know what's really sad about "Crash?" The fact that it stole the title from a much better movie. I'm referring to David Cronenberg's 1996 adaptation of the J.G. Ballard book about people who are sexually aroused by car crashes. Do you remember all the controversy when that movie came out? Probably not. Because when you think of movies named "Crash" now, you probably think first of the Paul Haggis one.

But as with many movies that provoke controversy and outrage among people who never actually see said movie, there was so much to like about the other "Crash." To begin with, you've got David Cronenberg directing and James Spader in the lead role. Come on! That's awesome. They were both in their primes, too. Deborah Kara Unger proved to be one of the sexiest beasts to ever grace the silver screen; and Holly Hunter, Rosanna Arquette, and Elias Koteas also turn in strong performances. The creepy soundtrack by Howard Shore is absolutely riveting, the perfect counterpart to the dark psychodrama that unfolds.

I don't even know how to characterize this dang movie! Was it science fiction? Film noir? A dark psychodrama? A foreign film? (It's set in Toronto.) Auto erotica? I just don't know. If I was a video store clerk, I don't know where I would put this movie. All I know is, it was creepy and beautiful and ultimately ... uplifting. If you're the kind of person who's only uplifted by "Beaches," maybe it's not for you. But as for me, I was strangely uplifted.

P.S. I don't really like "Scorpion King II: Rise of a Warrior."

1 comment:

Steve Rider said...

I know! Crash by David Cronenberg was *so* much better. Cronenberg rocks.