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General Interest => General Discussion => Topic started by: George Potter on December 06, 2006, 12:58:23 pm

Title: Crash
Post by: George Potter on December 06, 2006, 12:58:23 pm

I approached this film with a wary eye and mind. A star-studded major Hollywood production about racial issues in daily life? Had the potential to drown me in a sea of bleeding heart nonsense, I supposed. The rave reviews and Oscar attention increased my wariness and suspicion. I know the racial politics of that set, and ...

...well, was I way off the freakin' mark.

An absolutely riveting, haunting, emotionally effective film. Beautifully (and subtly and painfully honestly) written, directed with style and skill, labored over by every actor and technician on the set and after.

There are a lot of racists in this film. Of every color and creed. But what sets this film apart is that the racism is seen -- not as some incredibly evil character flaw -- but often simply fallible people reacting to an easy target in times of stress and anger. Racism as excuse and justification to be rude and nasty and confrontive. I've rarely seen that in film and never in an American film.

Paul Haggis would probably have been crucified if his film hadn't been so ridiculously good.

What I really loved about the movie though is that it (unintentionally, most likely) perfectly illustrates my point that we already live in anarchy. The entire structure of the film, the way the huge cast almost secretly interacts -- helping and harming each other in turn, all based on choices and actions -- illustrates that point.  Hammering it home is that even the servants of the state are caught in this anarchistic web of daily life with us. Matt Dillon will probably never get another scene as powerful and beautiful as the 'wreck' scene.

See it if you haven't. Beyond the philosophical points, beyond the for-once-well-handled social issues CRASH is simply a riveting, entertaining, moving and often very funny piece of cinema.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Erin on December 06, 2006, 01:10:30 pm
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Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Claire on December 06, 2006, 01:12:20 pm
You know, I hate to disagree with you, George my fellow movie snob. And as I recall I'm also disaggreeing with PSM, who saw this movie and praised it highly when it came out. But I thought "Crash" was laughable trash. Yes, it was intricately constructed. But everybody in it acted like cartoon racists -- hurling racial insults, bullets, and carjackings at each other willy-nilly, as if that were the standard way the world does business. Even the "poor victims" of racisim turned out to be -- slave traders. Jesus &^%$ing christ. The message -- if you could dignify it with the word --  was the intellectual equivalent of a cream pie in the face.

That's not the way most racism works. Racism is so poisonous precisely because so much of it is so subtle and hidden behind politeness. But you'd hardly know that from watching "Crash."

It actually embarrassed me to watch it -- and not because (as the filmmakers and NPR reviewers apparently intended) because I was horrified to be confronted with my own inner bigotry blahdeblahdeblah. I was embarrassed that anything so grotesquely cartoonish managed to get itself passed off as a Film of Major Import.

When it won Best Picture I justabout gagged.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Erin on December 06, 2006, 01:15:47 pm
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Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Claire on December 06, 2006, 01:19:44 pm
That's not the way most racism works. Racism is so poisonous precisely because so much of it is so subtle and hidden behind politeness.

Not most of the racism I've observed in the world.

Well, overt racism is what's most easily observable. I'm not claiming it doesn't exist. But Haggis presented a world in which every single person -- educated, rich, uneducated, poor, of every race -- just went about hurling insults and sneers at everybody of every other race, inviting confrontations, deliberately getting in each other's faces (all but one Mexican guy -- and why Haggis decided to make him the only innocent in the film, I dunno).

Is that the way the world looks to you?
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: George Potter on December 06, 2006, 01:21:07 pm
You know, I hate to disagree with you, George my fellow movie snob. And as I recall I'm also disaggreeing with PSM, who saw this movie and praised it highly when it came out. But I thought "Crash" was laughable trash. Yes, it was intricately constructed. But everybody in it acted like cartoon racists -- hurling racial insults, bullets, and carjackings at each other willy-nilly, as if that were the standard way the world does business. Even the "poor victims" of racisim turned out to be -- slave traders. Jesus &^%$ing christ. The message -- if you could dignify it with the word --  was the intellectual equivalent of a cream pie in the face.

That's not the way most racism works. Racism is so poisonous precisely because so much of it is so subtle and hidden behind politeness. But you'd hardly know that from watching "Crash."

It actually embarrassed me to watch it -- and not because (as the filmmakers and NPR reviewers apparently intended) because I was horrified to be confronted with my own inner bigotry blahdeblahdeblah. I was embarrassed that anything so grotesquely cartoonish managed to get itself passed off as a Film of Major Import.

When it won Best Picture I justabout gagged.

You know, this may be the first time you and I have ever fundamentally disagreed on anything. And considering how opinionated we both are, that's pretty amazing. :D

I can only think of one logical reason. You just hate Joss Whedon!  :angry:

(Sorry -- couldn't resist!) :laugh:
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: septithol on December 06, 2006, 01:37:54 pm
I think the government is the largest force, at least nowadays, behind most racism in the US. I don't know what the original intention of the Affirmative Action laws was. I somewhat idealistically hope that it was to give *equal* rights to all races. However, the actually manner in which the law is being enforced, is to give *preferential* treatment to certain races. This increases racism. A black employee (or whatever minority race race of the week employee), who is actually incompetent to do their job, can't be fired, because the company will be accused of being 'racist' against him. So the incompetent black employee gets to keep their job, and the work they can't do is expected to be done, generally without any compensation, by other more competent employees, of whatever race. Naturally, this leads to resentment against any incompetent employees who are able to retain their jobs because of their race, and resentment against their race in general, even those who are not incompetent, for being the recipient of special protection from the government, at the expense of everyone else.

I'm not certain, but I have a very strong suspicion that the degree to which any race is generally accepted and liked by most whites in this country bears a direct relationship to how many special priveleges they DON'T get under the affirmative action program. I have a further suspicion that the degree to which any race tends to succeed in the academic and financial world ALSO bears the same direct relationship to how many special priveleges they DON'T get under affirmative action, since those priveleges tend to reward and protect incompetence in the short term, but at the necessary expense of long term meaningful success. If people like Jesse Jackson REALLY wanted to help blacks, they'd demand the repeal of Affirmative Action and other such crutches.

As for the government's goals, I think they are doing this deliberately and knowingly, as a smoke and mirrors tecnique, to keep people's minds focussed on racial issues (that is, when they are not focussed on sexual issues, another smoke and mirrors technique), rather than on the source of where most of the real problems in this country originate from, namely GOVERNMENTAL ISSUES. Take a good looky at the nice smog job they've done with the 92 year old woman who was shot to death by FBI thugs breaking into her apartment. They've managed to spin that nicely into a racial issue, rather than the drug war issue that it ought to be.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Erin on December 06, 2006, 01:43:59 pm
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Title: Re: Crash
Post by: septithol on December 06, 2006, 01:54:26 pm
A lot of movies and books are symbolic in nature, and have characters and situations who might not be very realistic, but are symbolic of issues that do really exist in our real world. Don't know how many of you have read the first 8 chapters of my story, 'Incomparable', but that features some rather unrealistic characters, such as degenerated mutants, who are both physical and 'psychic' cannibals. And yes, they are symbolic of certain people, situations, and institutions that actually exist in our world! But if you start out by complaining that there are no such things as leech-mouthed mutants with the superficial appearance of angels, or people who have shrunk to a height of less than 6 inches tall, then you probably won't enjoy my story all that much.

Some things are not meant to be taken 100% literally.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Scarmiglione' on December 06, 2006, 02:13:23 pm
FILM FIGHT!

/popcorn all around
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Claire on December 06, 2006, 02:32:25 pm
Why on earth would they make a film about racism and then NOT feature folks displaying such traits, and being on both the giving and receiving end of it?  I mean, if you make a film where the message is about cute fluffy bunnies, you better show a damn bunny somewhere in the movie.

Well, if you're making a film about cute fluffy bunnies, then they should in some way look or act like genuine cute, fluffy bunnies. They might act like Fiver in "Watership Down." They wouldn't (unless the movie was "Bunny of Chuckie") have giant pointy teeth and eat children.

If you're making a movie about racism -- that aims to show something about how racism operates in the real world -- then IMHO your message will be more effective if the racist behavior in the movie reflects racist behavior in real life. To make every, single character but one a racist is cartoonish. To make every, single racist an in-your-face, name-calling, kid-shooting, white-slaving, etc. etc. overt bigot is cartoonish.  Of course movies exaggerate and selectively show certain things and ignore others. But much real racism is subtle and pernicious. Wasn't an ounce of sublety anywhere in that film, from opening to closing credits.

As a highly exaggerated black comedy about racism, "Crash" would have worked. As a tragic social commentary -- which it aimed to be -- it fails because it says little or nothing about real society. I submit that 10 years from now a lot of folks who thought the movie was so great will cringe at how silly it looks in retrospect.

It's as if somebody made a movie about the freedom movement and populated it entirely with white-supremacist tin-foil hat wearers. I found it that unrealistic.


Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Claire on December 06, 2006, 02:35:09 pm
I can only think of one logical reason. You just hate Joss Whedon!  :angry:

(Sorry -- couldn't resist!) :laugh:

 :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: THAT'S RIGHT! And "If you're not with Paul Haggis you're with the [insert villain of choice]!"
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Fish on December 06, 2006, 02:44:50 pm
Why on earth would they make a film about racism and then NOT feature folks displaying such traits, and being on both the giving and receiving end of it?  I mean, if you make a film where the message is about cute fluffy bunnies, you better show a damn bunny somewhere in the movie.

Well, if you're making a film about cute fluffy bunnies, then they should in some way look or act like genuine cute, fluffy bunnies. They might act like Fiver in "Watership Down." They wouldn't (unless the movie was "Bunny of Chuckie") have giant pointy teeth and eat children.

Unless you're in the world of Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail and whatnot  :laugh:
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: dgg9 on December 06, 2006, 02:45:41 pm
To make every, single character but one a racist is cartoonish. To make every, single racist an in-your-face, name-calling, kid-shooting, white-slaving, etc. etc. overt bigot is cartoonish. 

It would be, except I don't see that in the movie at all.  Who, other than the Matt Dillon character fits that description?  Most of the characters were finely attuned to racism displayed against their own type (as befits our modern cult of victim-identity politics), but not as attuned to it directed elsewhere (which was something of the point).

Chance encounters like the fender bender elicit, under anger, casual stereotyping.  Fear elicits other stereotyping.  Is that so unreal?  How much time do you spend in cities?  Strong emotion often causes the intellectual shorthand of stereotyping.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: George Potter on December 06, 2006, 02:47:11 pm
This might sound crazy, but the whole racial aspect of the film was secondary to me. The film could have just as easily been about 'corruption' or the drug trade. To me the racial aspect existed simply to represent conflict in connected lives.

I think the Mexican (?) kid was portrayed as the most innocent of the characters because he had turned his back on dangerous collective effort (gangbanging -- yes, those were gang tattoos on his neck) to focus on a safer way to do what he discovered was his most important job: raising his daughter.

Claire:

You seriously were not moved during the aforementioned 'wreck' scene? Or the conclusion of the little girl and her impenetrable cloak? I certainly was.

Another positive to the movie is that it dealt with guns in a non-judgmental light, if only briefly. The daughter's objection to her father's purchase was because he was ignorant of gun protocol. The 'right' to own a gun is plainly stated. Even when said gun is used in a wrongheaded, immoral way, it's made clear that the fault lies with the user, not the tool.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Claire on December 06, 2006, 02:52:56 pm
Chance encounters like the fender bender elicit, under anger, casual stereotyping.  Fear elicits other stereotyping.  Is that so unreal?  How much time do you spend in cities?  Strong emotion often causes the intellectual shorthand of stereotyping.

I spend as little time as possible in cities. But racism isn't exclusive to cities. I live in a mixed-race community & I haven't observed women screaming racial epithets at each other over fender benders. Haven't seen a single Asian "victim of racism" who turned out to be a slave-labor importer.

Again, I'm not saying that racism doesn't exist and isn't sometimes overtly expressed. I'm merely saying I found Haggis' treatment of it exaggerated to the point that it lost all validity as a reflection of racism in the real world.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Mr. Dare on December 06, 2006, 02:55:36 pm
Guess I'm going to have to watch this movie and find out what all the hub-bub's about... Interesting points on both sides to me who hasn't seen it yet.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: dgg9 on December 06, 2006, 02:58:09 pm
I spend as little time as possible in cities. But racism isn't exclusive to cities.

No, but it, like other social pathologies is vastly increased and overheated.  Racial tensions in cities are palpable in many areas.  There's an unmistakable tightening and wariness.  Your "mixed-race community" does not necessarily give you infallible insight into LA.

I think you're letting the degree (which has to be amplified to make a movie about it) be the central point in your review.  I think the movie was more about how we act when when we encounter other people, especially in cities, in unpleasant ways.  It's easier to let the stereotypes go into autopilot.  We see it clearly when we're the victim, not so clearly when we do it to others.  Everyone's reacting too quickly and automatically to slow down and see the actual person they're bumping into.

Putting aside this consideration for the moment, didn't you find the movie well-acted, well-directed and moving at least in parts?
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Claire on December 06, 2006, 03:01:07 pm
You seriously were not moved during the aforementioned 'wreck' scene? Or the conclusion of the little girl and her impenetrable cloak? I certainly was.

I recognized that Haggis intended viewers to be moved by the scene with the little girl. I feel that in a better movie, that would have been a tremendously powerful moment. It was the only moment in the film where I actually did, for a few seconds, feel something -- quite a bit of something, actually -- for the characters. But by that point I was so numbed by Haggis's overkill that I was mainly feeling wary of being manipulated any further.

And no, the "wreck" scene never seemed anything but -- sorry to use this word again -- cartoonish to me.

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Another positive to the movie is that it dealt with guns in a non-judgmental light, if only briefly. The daughter's objection to her father's purchase was because he was ignorant of gun protocol. The 'right' to own a gun is plainly stated. Even when said gun is used in a wrongheaded, immoral way, it's made clear that the fault lies with the user, not the tool.

It's been about a year since I saw the movie and I honestly don't remember this aspect one way or another. I'm glad if any movie takes that stance, given how many simply treat guns as EEEvil. But it's not something I can get too excited about in the context of this film.

That said, taste in movies is subjective & I don't think anything's going to be gained here by me continuously shouting "cartoon!" So unless some new aspect of discussion comes up, I think I'll just sit back and watch now.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: George Potter on December 06, 2006, 03:01:16 pm
Guess I'm going to have to watch this movie and find out what all the hub-bub's about... Interesting points on both sides to me who hasn't seen it yet.

Even if you end up sharing Claire's opinion, I think it's a worthwhile watch, if only for the cinematography that manages to be realistic and dreamlike in turn without clashing, the excellent editing, overall structure, and fine performances.

Also, keep in mind my point about the film illustrating that we already live in anarchy. :)
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: dgg9 on December 06, 2006, 03:03:27 pm
But by that point I was so numbed by Haggis's overkill that I was mainly feeling wary of being manipulated any further.

All I can say is, in the kinds of cities this movie takes place in, it's not really overkill.  IMO, it's more accurate to say you didn't relate to it -- which is fine -- than that the movie was outlandish.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Erin on December 06, 2006, 03:04:58 pm
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Title: Re: Crash
Post by: Claire on December 06, 2006, 03:14:29 pm
Okay, one more comment since dgg9 asked me a direct question ...  :rolleyes:

We see it clearly when we're the victim, not so clearly when we do it to others.

I think that's very true. We even saw it here recently in a thread where some (apparently) white folks were going on about all the anti-white racism they'd seen from blacks while blissfully denying ever having seen similar racism from whites to blacks.

That said, though -- while we react in various hasty ways when provoked, racism isn't necessarily the only or predominant reaction, as it was in the film.

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Putting aside this consideration for the moment, didn't you find the movie well-acted, well-directed and moving at least in parts?

Sigh. I hate to say it. But no, I did not. I admit I'm a skeptic about the current  fad for movies that tell stories in non-linear fashion. Sometimes that technique can be very, very effective, as with Inarritu's "Amores Perros" (superb movie). But my first response on encountering fragmented storytelling is, "What plot weaknesses are the writer and director trying to hide?" I can't suspend disbelief until I'm sure there's solid storytelling and character development behind all the twists, and with "Crash," I never was able to.

"Crash" featured some of my favorite actors -- in some of their weakest, stiffest, most unbelievable performances.

And the single moving moment was, as per my exchange with George, the climactic scene with the little girl in her "cloak."

It's fair enough to say I didn't relate to it. But if you and Erin are correct that people of all races, sexes, education levels, and social classes really do treat each other that way in cities, then I'll just be glad to stay out of cities and leave the rest of the movie discussion to you folks who share Haggis' ghastly worldview.
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: dgg9 on December 06, 2006, 03:27:47 pm
It's been my observation that the closer together you cram people, the less they're likely or able they are to shroud their racism in politeness.

And it's not clear if it's really "racism" as we understand the term.  Maybe "tribalism."  Maybe something else/more.  There's the people we hang out with, work with, are comfortable with.  And there's everyone else.  When compressed, there's ...tension.  You can feel it, when in the wrong neighborhood.  I'm not convinced it's strictly "racism."
Title: Re: Crash
Post by: dgg9 on December 06, 2006, 03:33:38 pm
That said, though -- while we react in various hasty ways when provoked, racism isn't necessarily the only or predominant reaction, as it was in the film.

Maybe I'm reading more into the film, but I don't think I am: IMO, the point was not that all those people were "racists."  I think the point, to some degree, is that when irate, angry, rushed, provoked, etc, we can all lapse into the pre-canned insults and rationale that are easy.  In short, a lot of "racism" is not actually felt racial prejudice, just ...saying whatever is hateful and easy to come up with at the moment, via intellectual laziness.  IOW, what comes out as a racist remark isn't 100% "racism."

It's hard to read exactly what the director and screenwrite are getting at, but I think there's more to it than "everyone's a vile racist."  A lot of people -- most people -- in the movie weren't vile.  They just lapse into autopilot when in reactive mode.  And politics and circumstances can box into roles.