A Second Time Around: Crash (2004)

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The year is 2006. I’m sitting in my private dorm room meant for 2 occupants. The envelope is opened to announce the 2006 Academy Award winner for best picture.

“And the Oscar for best picture goes to…CRASH!” “YES” I proclaim waving an affirming fist in the air, “The stupid gay cowboy movie didn’t win!” I was excited. So excited I blogged about Crash‘s win on my now defunct and emo-ful LiveJournal. It’s a good feeling when a movie you love wins any Oscars.

When I first watched Crash I thought it was ground breaking. A movie that grabs racism by the collar, pulls it in close and says “look at me, I exist!” I have an unhealthy obsession with racism and, even more so, racist people. It’s the reason I love websites like Stormfront and movies like Crash. Racism is funny and racist people are hilarious.

Who doesn’t like Crash? Racist people that’s who. Back then, I thought Crash tackled all the big issues including racism, prejudice, and bigotry. Yes all of those things tend to run into each other but dammit it’s about time someone brought these issues into the light. I became obsessed over the movie after just one viewing. I went to the IMDB boards (very much like I do now) and shot down any idiots that thought this movie was too self-involved, self-indulgent or self-fulfilling and I shot them down good.

How could anyone NOT like this movie, I thought? I had to have it. I could just make a duplicate of the Netflix copy I had (like I did with so many other movies) but no, I HAD to own this movie. I took the little bit of money my mom sent me every week and went a spendin’. I received the DVD and never actually viewed it. I continued to praise the name of Crash and it’s director Paul Haggis in the years that followed.

Fast forward to 2010. I’m flipping through my DVD wallet and and stop on Crash. “Hmm,” I think to myself, “It’s been so long since I’ve seen this movie. I should watch it again.”

Miss Swan say: What hell you rookin' at?

And I do. I pop in my never played copy of Crash and watched away. Within the first minute, we’re hit with our very first racially charged moment. A black man and Mexican woman get into a car accident with an Asian woman.

“Mexicans a no no (on) how to drive! Stop in middle of street? That’s a no no! You blake too fast!” yells the Asian woman in her thick accent.

“Oh I sorry you no see my “blake” light.” barks the Mexican woman mocking the Asian woman in her perfect American accent.

“You Mexican! I call immigration on you!”

“Officer please write down how shocked I am to be hit by an Asian driver.”

Now take this moment of characters reciting their stereotypes and gripes towards another race and multiply it by 116 minutes! This movie is one racial stereotype, remark, and situation after another. As I continued to watch, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I’m being beaten over the head by one giant PSA. Crash’s lesson seems to be that everyone is racist. EVERYONE! Haggis seemed to record a regular movie and then, after importing it into Final Cut Pro, he applied the “racial truth” filter which causes the actors to spill every single racist thought that’s in their head at every single moment of the movie. It really gets tiresome and redundant the first 10 times I hear someone complain about why something didn’t go right due to the other person’s race. You’d think with such an ironically diverse cast that someone, anyone would just say “yo chill the fuck out.” Even the one sane black character who manages to not spout a single racist epitaph still manages to be some type of stereotypical intellectual criminal.

The characters are all so one dimensional from Sandy Bullock as the over-privileged white woman who just hates that her Mexican house keeper didn’t empty the dish washer the day before to the typical racist cop (Matt Dillon) who generalizes and stereotype an entire race of people based on the people he arrests. Take Terrance Howard’s character. Howard’s character is an affluent black man who is directing a black television show. Somewhere in between him getting pulled over for being black and a producer telling him one of the characters in his show needs to act blacker, he snaps. Why? Who the hell knows. I’m only left to assume Haggis wants us to either figure it out or it’s supposed to be subliminally obvious. For some reason, Terrance Howard’s character is car jacked (by Ludacris [what a small town L.A is]) and, instead of telling the cops who pulled him over that he was being car jacked, he snaps out on the cop forcing them to almost shoot his dumb ass. Now one could say he wanted to protect Ludacris because he doesn’t want another black man to go jail or one could say it’s because this movie makes little sense.

Matt Dillon’s Troll Face

This movie tried so hard to make you “feel” for the characters. From the black guy police chief talking about how hard it is for a black man to get to his position to Ludacris spouting his pseudo philosophical rants about how white people stereotype black people as he proceeds to rob a white couple. It tries so very hard to make you sad and toss you into a pit of anger. I’ll admit,(spoiler) when the Persian shop owner shoots the little girl, I cried my eyes out the first viewing. The second viewing I saw it as a cheap way to bring down the viewer.

All the characters are just so frank about their racism. It seriously felt like a really long after school special that would air on The N or something. I’m not denying that people in this world aren’t racist nor will I even deny that I have my racial prejudice but this movie puts everyone’s bigotry on their sleeves. If we all said and acted out our racial prejudice, shit either wouldn’t get done or it’d make life a little more manageable. It’s hard to tell if this movie is telling us to not be racist or to just simply accept it.

Stairs: The #1 cure for racism!

Racism is funny and people are going to be racist. Racism is never going to die. I don’t care that racist people exist in the world. People are always going to have their hang ups about something. As long as you treat me with respect and not insult me by making movies that say I need racism spelled out to me then, we can be cool.

I wish I could fault Paul Haggis for his direction or writing but I can’t. The man is a great writer. If I cared to use the Oscars as an indication of greatness then I’d even say he has the 2 Oscars to back that statement up. Despite being a great writer, I still don’t like his movies. At the time of writing this, I have seen Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima and Quantum of Solace and I can honestly say I don’t like any of them. Again, not because they are bad movies but they, in my opinion, are just regular “whatever” movies.

RELAX! It's almost over...

In all of these movies Haggis does something I HATE that’s done too often in movies; he forces you to be sad. What I mean by this is the audience is forced to relate emotionally with a character just so something terrible can happen to said character thus, depressing the hell out of the audience and inducing tears. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a movie being sad but the sadness and the relatability always feels forced on the viewer in many of these movies. The average movie goer sees something sad happening on screen and, if they have a heart, they automatically empathize with a character. I just personally feel like this process should come naturally. I think a writer should AIM for the audience to side with a specific character instead of showing them as this super awesome, super dedicated, and super loving person. When someone see’s a character as almost perfect, you really have no choice but to side with the character.

I think Americans have fooled themselves about movies that address sensitive issues or just issues in general. This fact is evident when it comes to Crash‘s 2006 Academy Award competitor Brokeback Mountain. Brokeback Mountain also portrays a taboo issue, homosexuality, in a mainstream movie. Brokeback is a good and well put together movie but, as ALL Oscar nominees should be, it was nothing spectacular.

The media buzz leading up to it’s 2005 released talked about it’s controversial nature; a mainstream gay movie with 2 hunky ultra-butch mainstream actors depicting manly gays was ground breaking. Groundbreaking, maybe. Oscar worthy, no. I wish I had more examples of movies like this. My point is that just because a movie talks about important issues such as racism, sexuality, rape, abuse, bacon ect, does NOT automatically make it a good or Oscar worthy movie.

P.S- Movies like this make me HATE A.D.R.