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arsaib4
05-06-2005, 12:59 AM
Sparks start flying early on in Crash, Paul Haggisí remarkable feature debut, as we hear the film's most enigmatic character muse, "Weíre always behind this metal and glass," and he continues by staring at the alternating lights at a scene of a crime, "Itís the sense of touch. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something." It may sound ostentatious, but it doesnít take long for one to realize that he ainít kiddiní! Canadian Born Haggis is a veteran of television shows like L.A. Law, EZ Streets, and thirtysomething; shows known for their running commentary on issues such as race relations and social justice. Last year was certainly his breakthrough as he wrote the Oscar nominated screenplay for Million Dollar Baby. While race and class structures certainly played in a part in Eastwoodís film, here theyíre heightened to a point of absurdity, yet itís astonishing how intelligently the material is handled.

Following the ground work laid out by films like Short Cuts, Magnolia, and the lesser-known Grand Canyon (all set in L.A.), Crash follows several different characters as they go about their lives in about a 36-hr period. After detailing the initial crime scene where we find a righteous police detective (Don Cheadle), with his partner/girlfriend, (Jennifer Esposito), the film loops back in time to show how it all transpired. The introductory sequences are important for more than one reason. They vividly expose the anger bubbling underneath the surface, which eventually pours over; from an Asian woman berating Espositoís character because her vehicle is in front, and since sheís brown skinned, she must be a Mexican who doesnít know how to drive (a similar comment by Cheadle makes her bark back that her mother is Puerto Rican and her father is El Salvadorian) - to a perennially bitchy Brentwood housewife (Sandra Bullock) of a DA (Brendan Fraser) who is paranoid about anyone non-white (including her maid and a Hispanic locksmith simply doing their jobs) after their SUV was stolen at gunpoint by two young black men (Larenz Tate, and rap artist Chris "Ludacris" Bridges). Almost everyone is angry and Crash slowly establishes the reasons why.

These tension filled vignettes come fast and fluid and the characters in them are mostly judged by their most obvious feature: the color of their skin. The locksmith (Michael PeŮa) also gets involved with an Iranian store owner (Shaun Toub) who, by his post-9/11 ideology, thinks that everyone is out to get him (and goes out to shop for bullets with his daughter); and in arguably the most crucial of all, a cop who knows that heís racist (Matt Dillon), stops another SUV (knowing full well that it isnít the stolen one). While his young partner (Ryan Phillippe) looks on in disgust, he humiliates a black television director (Terrence Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton) who in return is enraged by the fact that her husband didnít speak out against the cop. (We later see Dillonís character with his father whoís in pain due to his mistreated prostate, but the helpless Dillon canít get a straight answer from a black supervisor at their HMO because he insulted her earlier.) Many of the aforementioned situations involve some sort of an automobile, and it seems like Haggis has used them to validate whatís spoken about earlier in the film: the isolation and the sense of touch which is missing. Navigating the vast landscape of Los Angeles, these vehicles become the perfect metaphor for people in Crash, usually going about their own ways but crashing into each other just to see if theyíre alive.

The screenplay written by Haggis himself, along with his partner Bobby Moresco, is at once both humane and tough as steel. Sam Fuller mightíve spoken about spraying bullets at his audience to have them feel what real war is like, but in Crash, itís the words that do the trick (there were certainly a few "casualties" early on in a screening I attended last week). Crash doesnít just try to be provocative, but like the best films of Larry Clark, itís self-consciously intelligent about the way it goes about its business. I donít recall the last time an American film was so brave and blunt with the words spoken by its characters. Most of those hit the intended target. The aim isnít the main issue with the ones who donít, but itís rather an ambiguous objective. Amid this warfare, however, Haggis steps aside to observe a tender moment between PeŮa and his daughter as she talks about the bullet which went through her window in the old neighborhood. Haggis, who earlier established another father and daughter (the Iranians), comes around to have the daughters become the guardian angels for their fathers and itís just one example of the interrelations the screenplay expertly establishes between various characters.

Crash marches on, building towards a moment of clarity; it comes about a halfway through and Haggis gives it everything he has as if the whole film rested on it. As Mark Ishamís evocative score reaches its crescendo, the downtrodden Newton finds herself stuck underneath her car only to be helped by Dillonís character who assaulted her the night before. Newton fights him off while Dillon tries to calm her down, knowing that he needs her as much as she needs him. Itís a moment so breathtakingly vibrant and honest that even the best passages of Magnolia seem less in comparison. After that, there's no doubt regarding where the film wants to go and itís a good place to be.

Don Cheadle, who also serves as a producer, recently stated that Paul Haggis was involved in an accident himself in the early-90ís, and that incident became the catalyzing factor for the story. As for any film dealing with serious issues, Haggis had trouble coming up with the money. But the budget of roughly $7 million was raised eventually, and independently, after a few people came on board, - and what a cast Haggis has assembled for a film, which regardless of its budget, seems epic in every sense. A solid screenplay can make a lot of actors look good, but in a multi-character study like Crash, where the characters being inhabited for short periods of time are complex human beings, the onus falls on the actors. Sandra Bullock, in about half a dozen scenes, surpasses everything sheís ever done in her career; Matt Dillon and Ryan Phillippe have never been better; Thandie Newton, one of my favorite performers, is brilliant once again which begs the question why she isnít employed more often (although one reason is pretty obvious); Don Cheadle brings a quiet intensity to his performance and thatís fast becoming his trademark. From Jennifer Esposito to Brendan Fraser, from William Fichtner to "Ludacris" - everyone is worthy of praise.

Crash may not be covering any new ground, but it comments on an amalgam of issues with force and conviction. Itís also a compassionate and deeply-felt meditation on hope and redemption in the face of doubt and despair. Frankly, in societies where thereís true dialogue on racial politics and all of its manifestations, a film like Crash would be deemed irrelevant, but it shouldnít be a news to anyone that ours isnít one of them. We live in a "melting-pot" where nothing seems to be melting anymore. By trying to be politically correct, we have not only become detached from everything and everyone around us, but most importantly, from ourselves. Crash shows humanity in all of its glory and shame, where one act can break a cycle of anger and hate. In a world where paranoia roams freely, two wrongs certainly donít make a right.

CRASH - Grade: A-


*CRASH will be released by Lion's Gate Films on May 6th.

Chris Knipp
05-06-2005, 03:01 AM
Cannot comment yet but am very curious to see Crash and will report when I can. I'm glad you bring in Grand Canyon as well as Magnolia and Short Cuts, which print reviewers i've seen so far have strangely failed to mention. (Interesting also your mention of Sam Fuller and Larry Clark.) This is an interesting discussion though in your enthusiasm you may have revealed a bit more of the plot than I would have liked as one who has not yet seen the movie.

As you may have noticed, A.O.Scott and David Denby have gone overboard -- in opposite directions -- Denby over-the-top in his admiration, Scott doing an intense demoliton job. Both reviews were too extreme to convince me, but Scott seems to have some good points that I want to be able to answer--for starters, that (in his phrasing) "Bigotry as the Outer Side of Inner Angst" is a pat and artificial generalization. http://movies2.nytimes.com/2005/05/06/movies/x06cras.html?8mu&emc=mu Would you care to reply to that, or to Scott's review in general?

Your own statement about Crash that in it "race and class sturctures" are "heightened to a point of absurdity, yet itís astonishing how intelligently the material is handled," seems a non-sequitur, but this is more or less what I got from Denby's review.

I like the idea of the actors being cast against type -- Matt Dillon as a racist, Ryan Philippe as a tough cop, Brendan Fraser in a serious role, etc. etc.-- and will be interested to see how that works. I don't guess Don Cheadle gets to play bad guy, though.

Don't take this as challenging your review; I can't; I haven't seen the movie. I want it to be good, but I'm getting different and very conflicting signals.

arsaib4
05-06-2005, 12:20 PM
Originally posted by Chris Knipp
As you may have noticed, A.O.Scott and David Denby have gone overboard -- in opposite directions -- Denby over-the-top in his admiration, Scott doing an intense demoliton job. Both reviews were too extreme to convince me, but Scott seems to have some good points that I want to be able to answer--for starters, that (in his phrasing) "Bigotry as the Outer Side of Inner Angst" is a pat and artificial generalization. http://movies2.nytimes.com/2005/05/06/movies/x06cras.html?8mu&emc=mu Would you care to reply to that, or to Scott's review in general?

I wouldn't call Scott's review "an intense demolition job" because like a responsible critic, he has also commented on some of the film's virtures. Having said that, his personality usually becomes intrusive in his writing. I've met the guy and he's one of the most gentle and soft-spoken people you'll ever meet, but a film critic should examine every film by its own face value, and its a rarity that Scott is seen championing a rigorously complex, challenging work. It's very obvious in his opening when he mentions films like 21 Grams and House of Sand and Fog in a negative light. I usually don't make generalized statements regarding others and whether they'd like a film or not, but in this case if one didn't like the aforementioned films then there's a good chance that they won't think much of Crash either. I honor films where a ray of hope has to fight through to manifest itself compared to feel good extravaganzas where everyone leaves satisfied with the status-quo.

As I briefly mentioned in my comments (and you quoted me about the situations being "heightened"), Haggis' characters are almost hyper-realistic. This is where Larry Clark comes in also. He creates a sort of a bubble around his characters and doesn't pretend that they are your average teenagers; they are very specific to their location among other factors. So if one says after watching Crash that "real people don't talk like that," then I think that person is simply missing the point. Scott's comment, "Bigotry as the Outer Side of Inner Angst," relates to that.

As you know, I prefer to discuss personal comments rather than what or why a certain critic, who isn't present here, has said something. I do skim over reviews before I see the film, although, in the case of Crash there weren't many available when I saw it. (It may sound weird but I prefer to read more carefully about films I know I'm not about to see anytime soon e.g.: I've read many more reviews of Kingdom of Heaven than Crash.) But from what I've read, Ella Taylor in LA Weekly has done a fine job capturing the film. However, the best thing written about a film is not necessarily a review but a few comments published by a USC student, also in LA Weekly (http://www.laweekly.com/ink/05/24/film-mitchell.php) (please try to read the whole article after watching the film).

I know what other critics have to say interests you as much as the film itself, but I hope you haven't read too much about the film already, and you're able to judge it w/out any outside influence, however subconscious.

Chris Knipp
05-06-2005, 04:10 PM
I probably shouldn't say anything more since I still haven't seen Crash. I've said too much already, though I'm glad I got more out of you. I still have no opinion about Crash, pro or con. I only cited Denby (whom you seem not to have read? Since you don't mention him) and Scott because they are so opposed as to cancel each other out. This whole business of how reading a review is going to influence one's evaluation in advance is silly, I think. It may help me observe a movie better, and it certainly shows me arguments pro and con I need to be aware of in writing a review. I'd like to write my reviews before anybody else but I don't usually get to advance screenings. Given that there may be a lot of reviews already out there when I write mine, I need to be aware of them. The idea that I'd be swayed in my opinion even unconsciously assumes I'm not very stubborn or independent minded, but it's my stubbornness and independence that makes me want to write movie criticism in the first place. It's not correct that I give reviews and movies equal value. That's comparing apples and oranges. We need both. A great movie is more interesting than anything you could write about it, and a great review might be more interesting that the lousy movie it's written about, but this is not a choice, and not an equation, that we have to make and I don't make it myself. I question your assumption that films that are serious, rigorous, or challenging, are somehow ipso facto more important than frivolous films or comedies. Each one has to be judged on its individual merits. In talking about House of Sand and Fog and 21 Grams and making prior assumptions about viewers who like them not liking Crash you're falling into Scott's fallacy. There's no reason why one can't like one of these and not the others and I don't even see why they should be lumped together. I can see the relevance of Magnolia and Short Cuts. Obviously Crash can be accused of being over-ambitious but so can Magnolia, which I happen to admire a lot. Short Cuts doesn't seem quite as fine but it's still very interesting. If Crash is as good as Short Cuts, then I'll be glad.

arsaib4
05-06-2005, 06:38 PM
I'm also glad that I got a little more out of you and you took some time to explain yourself. I enjoy light-fearted fare also - but the kind which is well made (a somewhat decent example among recent releases would be A Lot Like Love, starring your dream date). Looking forward to your comments on Crash.

Chris Knipp
05-06-2005, 07:08 PM
I'm pleased at your favorable evaluation of the new Ashton movie, which I have not yet seen, and am glad you leave open the possibility that lightheartedness may be of cinematic worth as well as rigor and challenges. I see Crash is showing in Berkeley, so I can see it soon.

tabuno
05-08-2005, 12:58 AM
arsaib4 must have been in a state of crash trauma after seeing this movie. In his movie review he definitely gives away too much, much to the detriment of those who have not seen the film. I hope that he restrains himself in the future for the sake of audiences everywhere who read this website.

tabuno
05-08-2005, 01:03 AM
Just as with Dogville last year, along comes Crash that such scorches the screen with its heated language and blistering performances involving racial hatred and anger that almost becomes a tangible physical presence in the theater. Crash is a fantastic experience that wraps the audience up with an ear-full of tormenting words and expressions and doesn't let go. This ensemble cast with great directing and a non-instrusive score offers multiple punches of emotional anger, sadness, tenderness that easily can fold a person over with pain and hope. This is likely to be one of the best movies of the year, one that is a serious attempt at real drama that has social significance that hopefully will shake the foundation of our humanity in the United States and around the world. This movie could not have come at a better time.

arsaib4
05-08-2005, 01:12 AM
Originally posted by tabuno
arsaib4 must have been in a state of crash trauma after seeing this movie. In his movie review he definitely gives away too much, much to the detriment of those who have not seen the film. I hope that he restrains himself in the future for the sake of audiences everywhere who read this website.

No, I wasn't in a state of "crash trauma" but thanks for the sentiment. I'm always very careful in that regard and I don't believe I've detailed anything which isn't already out there.

I'm glad you liked the film.

HorseradishTree
05-08-2005, 03:11 AM
This film is the best film I've seen in 2005 and 2004. It impacted me on such a deep level that only a select few films do. It is beautiful and disturbing. Paul Haggis managed to make me actually enjoy a performance by Sandra Bullock, not to mention the whole ensemble of mezmerizing characters. I think Crash is about the notion that no one is innocent, and that we're all just a giant community not trying very hard to stay together. If this flick slips under the radar, I will eat my own trachia.

arsaib4
05-08-2005, 11:45 AM
Originally posted by HorseradishTree
This film is the best film I've seen in 2005 and 2004. It impacted me on such a deep level that only a select few films do. It is beautiful and disturbing. Paul Haggis managed to make me actually enjoy a performance by Sandra Bullock, not to mention the whole ensemble of mezmerizing characters.

It's great to see such strong responses so far; I hope more people go out to see it. I'm not the biggest Bullock fan either, but she was great here.

I think Crash is about the notion that no one is innocent, and that we're all just a giant community not trying very hard to stay together. If this flick slips under the radar, I will eat my own trachia.


That's a good point, HorseradishTree. The film straddles the line between good and evil which is in all of us, and it doesn't condemns us for that, rather, it asks us to step back once in a while and see who we are.
Lion's Gate Films paid a hefty sum ($4 million) for it last year in Toronto, where Crash premiered. They've decided to go wide with it early on, which is a risky move at this time of the year, but it looks like it'll pay off. Good reviews have certainly helped.

tabuno
05-08-2005, 01:48 PM
arsaib4 "I'm always very careful in that regard and I don't believe I've detailed anything which isn't already out there."

tabuno: The assumption that people know what is "already out there" about this movie is a bold statement. If I had read your your plot summary concerning Matt Dillon's experience towards the end of the movie before having seen it, I would be quite mad because I recall when seeing the movie this weekend and not knowing much about it that led up to that point and then the actual experience was an emotional traumatic moment that felt almost as if I had been physically stunned. But to have the twist revealed earlier by somebody on the internet before I had seen the movie really, really must be considered in terms as equivalent having had somebody give away the ending The Sixth Sense, The Crying Game, or The Usual Suspects. It's major.

Chris Knipp
05-08-2005, 02:01 PM
That makes two of us who feel you told too much, arsaib, since I said in the beginning
This is an interesting discussion though in your enthusiasm you may have revealed a bit more of the plot than I would have liked as one who has not yet seen the movie.
Since I rarely worry about that, you may have cause to take notice, and I second TabUno's point about "what's out there" and would add that you advised me to eschew "what's out there" till I see the movie.

tabuno
05-08-2005, 02:41 PM
I believe that arsaib4 became a victim of crash by the movie's very intensity. The movie just begins with a slow burning fuse and the suddenly takes the audience on a continuous whirlwind until the end. arsaib4 in writing his review may have taken the same whirlwind ride when recalling the movie. It's hard to know when to get off, there's so much emotion, so much thought, it's difficult to quit. Just as with the characters in the movie, we all seemed to have become wrapped inside the movie and we continue to try and reach out touch someone. With arsaib4, he really touched our cognitive brain matter with his overly detailed movie review. Hopefully after six months or a year, one will be able to come back to arsaib4 original first review, if need be, to refresh ourselves over what we experienced and perhaps forgotten as a general reference summary (it's that good).

arsaib4
05-08-2005, 03:25 PM
Chris: You haven't even seen the film yet so I'm not sure what you're talking about. I only warned you about that one article, which isn't a review.

Tabuno: The sequence between Dillon and Newton, comes at about the midway point, and it's been much discussed. I actually wish I had gone in length about a few more characters. Crash contains quite a few surprising twists and turns, and it's the kind of film which can be discussed in detail because it doesn't depend on a particular strand.

JustaFied
05-08-2005, 04:13 PM
My impression of this film: I need it think about it a little longer, and possibly see it again, but my initial impression coming out of the theater was that it was manipulative and unconvincing. First of all, the heavy-handed musical score was oppressive and unbearable. It was a large distraction, and I found it really disappointing that a director setting out to make such a serious, "important" film would resort to overwhelming us with such stuff.

Secondly, I was disappointed that every scene and character was overblown with self-importance and self-seriousness. In that regard, it reminded me of "Magnolia", another film I didn't particularly like. I agree with Arsaib4 that the race and class structures are "heightened to a point of absurdity", but I disagree with his conclusion that "itís astonishing how intelligently the material is handled." The film seems to give little credence to issues of cause and effect in its taking on the issue of racism in our society. Yes, racism and prejudice are bad, and yes, we should all just get along, but how is it that in a matter of 36 hours in this film all the problems in society are solved? For example, we see in Sandra Bullock's character that she realizes that her life is superficial and her prejudices were wrong, but why didn't she realize this a week, or a month, or a year before? How is it that every character in the story has a moment of revelation during this same 36 hour period? What was the basis of their previously-held prejudices, and why did they not challenge these beliefs earlier? This is a major flaw in the film, in my opinion, and why I view it alongside "Magnolia" as a failure in its storyline. I much prefer "Short Cuts", a slice-of-life film with no need to provide the audience with easy, feel-good answers.

arsaib4
05-08-2005, 04:49 PM
Interesting remarks, JustaFied. You're certainly not the only one who feels this way but I think we needed an opposing view here (I know you aren't totally against it). Many do feel that some of the occurences are a bit too coincidental, if not clichťd, and I think I know where they're coming from, but I also believe that the film is self-consciously aware of this and overcomes it by being as honest as possible. A more simple answer would be that's just the way Haggis wrote the screenplay and he relied upon his cinematization skills.

I don't think the message (if there is any) necessarily is for all to "get along," but rather be more cognizant of your surroundings and the feelings of others. I didn't find the proceedings to be all that hopeful or that they provided easy answers for the participants. It recognized that we're all capable of good and evil depending on the situation.

tabuno
05-08-2005, 04:52 PM
arsaib4: "The sequence between Dillon and Newton, comes at about the midway point, and it's been much discussed. I actually wish I had gone in length about a few more characters. Crash contains quite a few surprising twists and turns, and it's the kind of film which can be discussed in detail because it doesn't depend on a particular strand."

tabuno: Perhaps if you are referring to the regular subscribers to this website you may have a point about having more leeway in talking about details from a movie. However, it think the "spoiler" warning in any post still pertains for those people, particularly guests, who haven't seen or know about the movie. It is ironic though that since this is more of the more intelligent discussion boards regarding movies, it would be pretty idiotic if we couldn't actually discuss in really great detail movies we've seen. What would be the point, if we couldn't?

tabuno
05-08-2005, 05:19 PM
JustaFied: "First of all, the heavy-handed musical score was oppressive and unbearable. It was a large distraction, and I found it really disappointing that a director setting out to make such a serious, "important" film would resort to overwhelming us with such stuff. "

tabuno: Mark Isham's score (who is also known for the great sound in The Cooler) and who is perhaps a true artist when it comes to music, was actually much more mellow and subdued than I had anticipated and, if anything, almost too imperceptible. When I saw in the initial credits that Isham had done the music, I paid more attention to the music in this movie than usual. I found it flowing and contributory to the scenes and setting. I felt the music was lightly refreshing and captured the mood of the scenes. Compared The Cooler, Mark's music was much more in the background and didn't call attention to itself at all (compare the opening The Cooler credits - now that's powerful and upfront music). In Crash, Isham's music was background, not foreground at all. Actually I appreciated the melody as it lent a much needed handrail for me to hold onto while the drama was unfolding in the movie.

JustaFied "I was disappointed that every scene and character was overblown with self-importance and self-seriousness. In that regard, it reminded me of "Magnolia", another film I didn't particularly like. I agree with Arsaib4 that the race and class structures are "heightened to a point of absurdity", but I disagree with his conclusion that "itís astonishing how intelligently the material is handled." The film seems to give little credence to issues of cause and effect in its taking on the issue of racism in our society. Yes, racism and prejudice are bad, and yes, we should all just get along, but how is it that in a matter of 36 hours in this film all the problems in society are solved?"

tabuno: When it comes to hate and intolerance, one doesn't need to go into deep psychoanalysis and assume that the deep mental Freudian unconscious ego states of childhood must somehow be tapped into to enjoy and feel how significant this movie really is. I can understand some reservations about this movie and at the very beginning I too was for a moment going to go down the same path of "overblown with self-importance and self-seriousness." Yet I pulled back my reservations, especially regarding the two women who seem to just off on some raging, feminine chemical imbalance at first. But rage, anger, intolerance are just such emotions that most everyone can relate to. The overblown self-importance and self-seriousness are exactly the nature of such emotions and as these emotions (in part as result of repression, shame, hurt and pain) actually can focus one's attention on one's own diminished importance and lack of seriousness that others around them seem to belittle others with). It is just this importance and seriousness that each of these scenes portrays with such vivid realism because it is what we actually feel in the moment. Sometimes it is hard to accept for we ourselves can deny harboring such of these feelings. Negative projection of this film may actually say more about ourselves than the movie itself.

The answers to this movie actually are presenting in simple but analog not digital terms. Again, $125 per hour therapy for three to five years cannot be equated to a two hour movie, yet the underlying themes, the emotional catharsis can reawaken our senses just as with Matt Dillon or the attempted shooting of people in this movie. I felt both wanting to commit violence and the revulsion of my own eagerness to at times to "bleep" that bastard. Were there any "feel good answers" in this movie, I think not. Instead, this movie forced us to witness something in everyone of us and to experience possible emotional traumas that may awaken within us something good.

JustaFied
05-08-2005, 07:39 PM
Originally posted by arsaib4
I don't think the message (if there is any) necessarily is for all to "get along," but rather be more cognizant of your surroundings and the feelings of others. I didn't find the proceedings to be all that hopeful or that they provided easy answers for the participants. It recognized that we're all capable of good and evil depending on the situation.

My use of the expression "everyone just get along" was an allusion to a quote from Rodney King, a somewhat enduring symbol of the shaky race relations present in L.A. I'm sure Haggis meant for his film to have a broader message than that.

Also, in everday life, one's actions generally can't be broken down into "good" versus "evil". Life, and human behavior, are more complex than that. I didn't think the movie did a very good job of showing this point. I like this quote from A.O. Scott, "Mr. Haggis is eager to show the complexities of his many characters, which means that each one will show exactly two sides." I agree with much of what's he's written in his review (which I read more thoroughly after seeing the film), and he obviously is a better writer than I am, so I'll stop now with the generalizations.

JustaFied
05-08-2005, 08:12 PM
Response to tabuno's points:

Regarding the music: My opinion is that in taking on such ostensibly serious subject matter, the filmmaker should rely primarily on his script and his actors. Race relations in America is serious stuff, and any script taking on this subject better be sharp. I thought Haggis went overboard with the melodramic music as a way of convincing the audience that a particular scene was really, really serious. He used it as a crutch. For instance, the scene with Matt Dillon and the burning car was really overdone in my opinion. It sounded like a symphony was reaching full crescendo at the peak moment, and I think that's a cheap way of adding thematic importance. Most of the film followed this trend.

<When it comes to hate and intolerance, one doesn't need to go into deep psychoanalysis and assume that the deep mental Freudian unconscious ego states of childhood must somehow be tapped into to enjoy and feel how significant this movie really is.>

This movie really doesn't stand up to a good psychological, sociological, or historical analysis. It doesn't really say much at all, and I don't consider it to be significant. Another example: the black television director is pulled over by white cops, and he has no idea of how to react. It's as if he and his wife have never dealt with (or never discussed) the racist elements present in society. Likewise, when his T.V. actor (great cameo by Tony Danza, by the way) makes compromising comments, it's as if he's never dealt with such a situation. He is a 35 year old black man in America; it would have been much more interesting (and relevent) if the filmmakers hadn't portrayed him as a blank slate.

<Sometimes it is hard to accept for we ourselves can deny harboring such of these feelings. Negative projection of this film may actually say more about ourselves than the movie itself.>

No, I have no problem critiquing my own actions in life, and like I said earlier I think "Short Cuts" by Altman is a beautifully poetic pessimistic view of how we live our lives, but it's also much more profound and incisive than "Crash".

Again, my problem with this film is the "cause and effect" involved. We are told to accept that everyone here in L.A. hates each other, but what was the basis of this discord to begin with? And how presumptious is it to assume that this 36 hour period is sufficient to change people's outlooks and viewpoints?

<Were there any "feel good answers" in this movie, I think not. >

Yes there were. The movie tell us to better understand and empathize with others' points of view. But didn't we know that before? And, quite possibly, it's the failure of such an approach to take root in our society that has us where we are. But the movie doesn't get that far...

tabuno
05-09-2005, 12:00 AM
JustaFied: "Regarding the music: My opinion is that in taking on such ostensibly serious subject matter, the filmmaker should rely primarily on his script and his actors. Race relations in America is serious stuff, and any script taking on this subject better be sharp. I thought Haggis went overboard with the melodramic music as a way of convincing the audience that a particular scene was really, really serious. He used it as a crutch. For instance, the scene with Matt Dillon and the burning car was really overdone in my opinion. It sounded like a symphony was reaching full crescendo at the peak moment, and I think that's a cheap way of adding thematic importance. Most of the film followed this trend."

Tab Uno: I didn't find the music in Crash at all melodramatic. In fact as a I mentioned earlier I found it more supportive and background instead as you seem to have experienced Mark Isham's music. I didn't find the music as attempting to "convince" the audience of anything. The scenes in the movie along with the biting dialogue are sufficient to do this. For me Haggis was perfect in his use of music because I didn't find the music pushy or intrusive as if it was trying to convey anything that the scene wasn't already doing. The music didn't seem to be a crutch where the movie would fall apart or down without it. I found the music as supportive as a mellow outlet to soothe and reflect on what I was experiencing rather than to hinder or become obnoxious in anyway. Your specific reference to Matt Dillon and the burning car is a good reference (thank you for offering up something to focus on, unlike many posters). Unfortunately, I was blown away by this scene with emotional suffocation and I didn't even notice the music thus inferring that the music wasn't as overdone by anymeans. If I see this movie again, I'll make a note of it.

JustaFied: "This movie really doesn't stand up to a good psychological, sociological, or historical analysis. It doesn't really say much at all, and I don't consider it to be significant. Another example: the black television director is pulled over by white cops, and he has no idea of how to react. It's as if he and his wife have never dealt with (or never discussed) the racist elements present in society. Likewise, when his T.V. actor (great cameo by Tony Danza, by the way) makes compromising comments, it's as if he's never dealt with such a situation. He is a 35 year old black man in America; it would have been much more interesting (and relevent) if the filmmakers hadn't portrayed him as a blank slate."

Tab Uno: We don't need to analyze this movie for scientific purity. For me this movie was enjoyable for the crashing of the emotional senses. It was amazing without analysis. I don't think that on the level of emotions that we need to probe deeply. As I attempted to explain earlier in my previous discussion, the primal, emotional state of intense feelings almost dictates distorted thinking and behavior, maginified actions and reactions. As you say yourself you don't consider such analysis to be "significant" therefore your examples need to be taken in the context of what the movie is about, not about how such and such a black television director acted in such a situation. I am not taken aback by the supposed action of this black television director, I felt for him being boxed in by both the police and his wife. What was fascinating about this movie wasn't the blank slate, but that most of us would probably become blank slates as emotions clouded our judgments and we faced anger, rage, and hate under similar circumstances. I found these tense, emotional encounters symbolic in a much dramatic and blunt way that have needed to come out for a long time.

JustaFied: "No, I have no problem critiquing my own actions in life, and like I said earlier I think "Short Cuts" by Altman is a beautifully poetic pessimistic view of how we live our lives, but it's also much more profound and incisive than "Crash"."

Tab Uno: In response, this is a most difficult topic in which to reply tactfully. But I will try, nonetheless. Your reaction to this film may imply something about your own internal emotions and how you project them onto others and this movie. It would be interesting to see what your own experiences have been regarding intolerance, racial hatred, anger, and rage.

JustaFied: "Again, my problem with this film is the "cause and effect" involved. We are told to accept that everyone here in L.A. hates each other, but what was the basis of this discord to begin with? And how presumptious is it to assume that this 36 hour period is sufficient to change people's outlooks and viewpoints?"

Tab Uno: The chance encounters (which I am beginning to believe based on my own life of the many coincidences that occurred over the past five years) and the cause and effect may exist in reality. The original cause need not be present in any situation, only the results of that cause, the most recent effect that ultimately becomes the cause of the of the final effect is necessary for a particular scene to work and to have meaning. It is not necessary nor even in some therapeutic models to concern ourselves with the psychological analysis of these people and the causes of their conflict that you yourself mentioned are "not signficiant." Instead the focus on this movie can be on the experience, the hotflash points that up until now have been muted in most other mainstream movies. There is no presumptions that this 36-hour period during which this movie takes place that people's outlooks and viewpoints must necessarily change. Except for Sandra Bullock who interestingly enough doesn't have a direct role in the major subplots in most of the movie, the change of the characters in the 36-hour period are more layered and reflective. In fact with the young cop's character who is supposedly the most likely hero in this movie actually turns your critism on its head as this movie supports your own position about the skepticism about change in such a short period of time.

JustaFied: "Yes there were (feel good answers). The movie tell us to better understand and empathize with others' points of view. But didn't we know that before? And, quite possibly, it's the failure of such an approach to take root in our society that has us where we are. But the movie doesn't get that far..."

Tab Uno: I thought the movie was much more ambiguous on the feel good answers. I never felt that the movie "told" us anything about understanding and empathizing with others' points of view. What this movie accomplishes, and does it well, is to take "Lost in Translation" and the Bill Murray experience and brings home to us in graphic and raw language the physical blows of verbal and physical threats to our integrity - waking us up to the possibility of the exposure of our own being to hatred and the threat of death. In an intense emotional traumatic way, this movie pushes was further and further than any movie into the realm of touching our core selves when it comes to racial intolerance and stereotyping. It goes as far as a movie can without having the actors jump out of the screen and actually threaten us. There is a big difference between knowing something and actually become a witness to something, feeling it, and experiencing it. This is what this movie manages to instill in a number of people who have experienced it. If so, this movie has gone beyond just an entertaining, musically distracting, overblown, blank slate movie to become an strong societal catalyst as a wake-up call to reflection, one of the best movies that I've experienced in my opinion.

arsaib4
05-09-2005, 12:57 AM
I brought up Larry Clark in my initial post on the film, but not much has been said since then. (Chris Knipp is a big fan so I hope he understands where I'm coming from after watching the film.) If anyone has seen the likes of Kids and Bully, then I think the consensus would be that Clark has "heightened" the situations in order to observe and interpret his characters, yet at the same time the films are realistic, more or less. I do see some similarities with what Haggis has done in Crash. It isn't supposed to be overtly objective, or, at least, I think that isn't the intention. By bottling up time and space, Haggis has also been able to get a purchase on the emotional landscape of his narrative, something Clark has also done very well in the past.

Chris Knipp
05-10-2005, 04:30 AM
A Review of Paul Haggis' CRASH

Shock corridors

by Chris Knipp

Screenwriter Paul Haggis' American directorial debut, Crash, is over-ambitious, but so are Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia and Robert Altman's Short Cuts, two films Crash resembles in being set in L.A. and spinning out multiple story lines interwoven in a complex and thought-provoking way over the course of a few intense days of screen action.

Haggis's ambition isn't limited to his involving us in a couple dozen characters. It's also seen in the way he tackles the topics of identity, alienation and racism in American cities (or is it just L.A.?).

Where Short Cuts was based on the quirky, specific short stories of Raymond Carver and Magnolia goes into rich emotional depth in exploring its main characters (even the shallow ones like Tom Cruise's Frank T.J. Mackey are devastatingly laid bare), Haggis's characters in Crash tend to be generic and two-dimensional.

The two dimensions do, however, provide the rounding effect of contrast. As one character's remark suggests, these people don't know who they are; they have to "crash" to be jolted into knowing, and the movie shocks and jolts us too with opposing qualities that are schematic, but also quite thought-provoking.

The inhabitants of Haggis's L.A. are both racists and victims of racism and most of them have some other major opposing aspect. The racist Officer Ryan -- Matt Dillon, for once using his Irishness in a blunt, unflattering way -- humiliates and abuses a well-off, accomplished black man and his wife, Cameron and Christine (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton), but he tenderly cares for his ailing father at night, and later rescues a black woman in mortal danger. Graham (Don Cheadle), the bookend and stage manager of the movie, is quick to spot the racism of others, yet crudely stereotypes his Latina girlfriend. Another character is first pathetically self abasing, then later suicidally aggressive. Ryan's unwilling partner, Officer Hanson (Ryan Phillippe), gets reassigned to avoid the racism, but himself commits an act of racist violence. A young black man with corn rows named Anthony (Ludacris) chatters on perceptively with his pal Peter (Larenz Tate) about how they're stereotyped as ghetto toughs when they really look like UCLA students; but in fact they're car-jackers. And so on. However simplistically, the characters are all given dimensionality through having opposing characteristics. Even the endlessly bitchy wife Jean (Sandra Bullock) of D.A. Rick (Brendan Fraser), who seems without a single redeeming feature, is finally jolted into the arms of her Latina housekeeper and thereby gains an air of humanity.

None of this has the depth of Magnolia or the specificity of Short Cuts, but it has undeniable power. Crash is relentless in pouring out calamity after calamity and isn't much fun to watch. The racist clashes, the slurs, the name-calling, the hostility are in your face from the first scene, where Graham and his girlfriend Ria (Jennifer Esposito) are rear-ended on a highway by a car full of Asians and Ria and an Asian lady immediately get out and start yelling epithets at each other.

Oddly, since he seems to be both a peacemaker and a cop, Graham does nothing to mitigate this disaster and merely wanders off to examine a crime or accident scene by the side of the road, which perhaps is what they're there for. From here the movie goes back over the events that led up to this moment.

Crash's stereotypes can be grating, particularly a mean Iranian man named Farhad (Shaun Toub) with a pathetic little convenience store who is bent on shooting somebody and calls everybody he meets up with a "cheater." He isn't any better than the prejudiced (and probably frightened) gun shop owner who calls him "Osama" and throws 9/11 in his face, unaware that an Iranian isn't an Arab.

One of the most appealing characters is the Mexican-American repairman Daniel (Michael PeŮa) who's called in to fix the Iranian's door. He points out that the new lock won't provide any protection till the whole door is replaced, whereupon the shopkeeper calls him a "cheater." The Iranian's mistrust leads to his shop being broken into and trashed and when the insurers won't pay he tries to take out his revenge on the repairman. The resulting shock sequence has been condemned by viewers and critics for being tricky and exploitive. It is, but an earlier scene between Daniel and his little daughter is the movie's sweetest moment and the only time when a resonant metaphor is born.

There are other good things. Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton are fine together as the affluent black couple, even if their action seems pushed to the breaking point. Ludacris and Larenz Tate have a good rhythm as the young, not-really-ghetto carjackers. In fact the black actors are more convincing and rich in their portrayals than the white ones. Maybe that's because they're the ones who know best what racism is all about. You can argue endlessly about whether Haggis's screenplay is too schematic or doctrinaire. He obviously is not the filmmaking talent Altman and Anderson are. But Crash is a pretty original, striking piece of work nonetheless. It's provocative and causes extreme reactions, so people tend to say it's a masterpiece or pure junk, but the fact is that it's simply a good, but imperfect movie.
Posted on Chris Knipp website. (http://www.chrisknipp.com/writing/viewtopic.php?t=419)

arsaib4
05-10-2005, 04:31 AM
Originally posted by Chris Knipp

Shock corridors

In fact the black actors are more convincing and rich in their portrayals than the white ones. Maybe that's because they're the ones who know best what racism is all about.



This is a valid point. However, the exception would be Dillon's character, which is well-written.

I want to correct you and myself (along with many others "out there")...Crash is not the directorial debut for Mr. Haggis; he directed a Canadian film in 1993 called Red Hot.

Chris Knipp
05-10-2005, 11:43 AM
Thanks, I'll change it to "American directorial debut".

tabuno
05-10-2005, 09:26 PM
Chris' review as usual has comprehensive clarity. His standards for good movies are relatively elevated perhaps due to his extensive viewing habits of hundreds of movies. Nevertheless, Chris may be "overly ambitious" in his approach to movie perfection.

Chris Knipps: "Screenwriter Paul Haggis' American directorial debut, Crash, is over-ambitious."

Tab Uno: Because the movie resonated so well with me, I found Paul Haggis' efforts balanced in ambition and accomplishment and not "over-ambitious." I believe that Crash has produced the intended substantive, qualitative impact on its audience regarding stereotypes, prejudice, bias, and hatred. Crash would have been overly-ambitious if Haggis had attempted to create what Chris sees as a possible weakness of two-dimensional characters (though balanced by its opposite two-dimensional counterpart) three-dimensional characters hoping for some deep character development study of psychological proportions. Ambition needs to be compared to what the intended outcome of a movie is. Lost in Translation was an excellent movie because it had at is essence a experiential and character study of the moment. In Crash we are provided the external experience of deeply traumatic moments that have great significance to the state of human relations in our society today. No more, no less. We don't need such extensive backgrounds of these characters. The whole concept of intolerance, prejudice is the superficial, two-dimensional aspect of emotional reactions to other people. What Haggis achieved was dead on.

From Knipps review, it is almost as if he has to go out of his way to find weaknesses in this movie and has difficulty finding any. If one takes the substantial majority of what Knipps has to say, overall, his review speaks very well of this movie, in fact, more so than he himself realizes.

Chris Knipps: "The racist clashes, the slurs, the name-calling, the hostility are in your face from the first scene, where Graham and his girlfriend Ria (Jennifer Esposito) are rear-ended on a highway by a car full of Asians and Ria and an Asian lady immediately get out and start yelling epithets at each other. Oddly, since he seems to be both a peacemaker and a cop, Graham does nothing to mitigate this disaster and merely wanders off to examine a crime or accident scene by the side of the road, which perhaps is what they're there for."

Tab Uno: Like a performance gone sour at the beginning that leaves a bad residual taste, Chris' first inital experience appears to have been somewhat discomfitting in terms of realistic, understandable actions whereby Graham does something he should have and two women seem to be going off without sufficient provocation. It's possible on a second viewing, the two-dimensional generic behaviors of these people may be more understandable in a three-dimensional way once the entire movie has been played through and the audience finally begins to see more of the full display of humanity of these people.

Chris Knipp: "But Crash is a pretty original, striking piece of work nonetheless. It's provocative and causes extreme reactions, so people tend to say it's a masterpiece or pure junk, but the fact is that it's simply a good, but imperfect movie."

Tab Uno: I would have to see original, stirking, provocative, causing extreme reactions is a pretty good basis for making a perfect movie. If one defines a masterpiece as one where everyone agrees, where everyone's intention and ambition have been made, it will never occur. For me masterpieces are works that will last the test of time and surely, this movie stands out high among the crowd of movies this year and last year - a fairly good indicator of its initial brilliance. Whether that brilliance will last we will have to see. But based on the emotional outburst and depth of its penetrating storyline, performance, it meets the necessary requirements for masterpiece - whether its sufficient time will tell.

hengcs
05-13-2005, 11:15 PM
I think the movie has a very well written script.

In essence, it challenges all of us,
-- You think you know who you are ... until something happens ... and maybe we are not all that different after all ... (with all pun intended in this very line)
;)

arsaib4
05-13-2005, 11:23 PM
I'm glad you liked it, hengcs. That's a good point.

JustaFied
05-14-2005, 08:15 AM
Further responses to Tabuno's comments:

I guess your point is that this is a "symbolic" and "emotional" film, and thus "was amazing without analysis". I have trouble with this approach. You state that you were "blown away by this scene with emotional suffocation". My opinion is that the filmmakers created artificial and unnatural situations and characters in order to easily manipulate such emotions of the audience. In effect, they were masking the fact that the storyline of the film and the "analysis" of the subject matter (race relations in America) were pretty bland. Essentially, it's a film that's full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

My "cause and effect" comments refer to a broader time period than just the 36 hours in the film. My point is that the filmmakers treat these characters as if they're "blank slates", when in reality these characters have probably been involved in similar situations for their entire lives. What's so unique about the events of these 36 hours? How are we to believe that these events can change these characters from the directions they were previously headed. So yes, I do believe it is "necessary nor even in some therapeutic models to concern ourselves with the psychological analysis of these people and the causes of their conflict"

Curiously, you keep making the comment that perhaps my negative reaction to this film is based in some underlying refusal to confront my own feelings and thoughts about the subject matter (i.e. my own prejudices?). In this case, this film is not simply an example of an experience "cutting too close to the bone"; my problem with the film is that it's just not very interesting or thought-provoking. A personal observation about a recent "experience" with race-relations: I live in Houston, which is a huge, diverse, sprawling metropolitan area, not altogether different from L.A. (as shown in "Crash"). I was summoned to jury duty this past week, and the initial instructions to the potential jurors were read in English, then Spanish, and then in Vietnamese. I noticed a white couple snickering during the reading of the Vietnamese. Then, there were 60 of us taken into a criminal courtroom for jury selection. 12 of us would be selected, the remaining 48 could go home. We were a diverse group, with about 50% men and 50% women. The defendant was a black male, probably about 25 years old. His attorney was black. The prosecutor from the D.A.'s office was a white woman. They grilled us for over an hour about our histories, our potential biases (prejudices?) to such cases, and then they struck jurors to come up with the final 12 jurors. Of these 12 jurors, there are 10 white males (myself included), 1 black woman, and 1 hispanic woman. The trial starts on Monday. This entire experience was much more "insightful" and "significant" as to the subject of race relations than the film was. Certainly not to say that the medium of film can't take broad steps in this area, but I just think that "Crash" doesn't accomplish much. Probably what's most true about race-relations in our society today is the complexities and the subtleties involved, and "Crash" is neither complex nor subtle. Yes, it's emotional, so it's got that going for it.

tabuno
05-15-2005, 02:17 AM
JustaFied: "I guess your point is that this is a "symbolic" and "emotional" film, and thus "was amazing without analysis". I have trouble with this approach. You state that you were "blown away by this scene with emotional suffocation". My opinion is that the filmmakers created artificial and unnatural situations and characters in order to easily manipulate such emotions of the audience. In effect, they were masking the fact that the storyline of the film and the "analysis" of the subject matter (race relations in America) were pretty bland. Essentially, it's a film that's full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Tab Uno: Race relations as portrayed in all its sound and fury signified everything in this movie and in America as well as around the world, particularly, in terms of life and death matters with thousands of people being murdered because of it. The emotional punch in the face for the viewers is an amazing, one-two punch that definitely raises this movie up to the top levels of impact. I don't see artificial and unnatural situations because you just have to turn on the television news and read it in the newspapers, except what is left out of reality is the full extend of the emotional trauma and the real flesh and blood that such emotional encounters actually represent and become. What the filmmakers have accomplished is the synthesis and compilation of likely real scenarios that can be easily found in real life in any city or town in America and allowed the audience to truly experience the total reality of the damage, the hurt, the pain that actually exists and is unfortunately stripped away and ignored in actual news coverage because its likely interpretation as sensationalism. What is special about Crash is its unmasking not masking of the underbelly of racial hate and intolerance and I found the message and the pain not bland but revealing, relevant, and an essential important message that must be heard at this point in our turbulent society. To be in search of something deeper in Crash means that you have missed the essence of this movie - the emotional, pure hate that screams across the entire length and breadth of this movie and perhaps the need for reflective thought that occurs at the end. Yes, it's a simple message, but a crucial one that requires no psychoanalysis. Sometimes simple is better than convoluted and overly intellectual movies that require deep thought. This movie turns such movie critic assumptions on their heads and only asks us to feel the movie and instead of reflecting deeply on the movie to reflect deeply on ourselves instead. My what an idea for a change.

JustaFied: My "cause and effect" comments refer to a broader time period than just the 36 hours in the film. My point is that the filmmakers treat these characters as if they're "blank slates", when in reality these characters have probably been involved in similar situations for their entire lives. What's so unique about the events of these 36 hours? How are we to believe that these events can change these characters from the directions they were previously headed. So yes, I do believe it is "necessary nor even in some therapeutic models to concern ourselves with the psychological analysis of these people and the causes of their conflict"

Tab Uno: There is no intention in this movie to believe that everyone of these characters will have been changed in their directions. In fact, it is overtly evident in this movie that change is difficult and hard as we experienced with the young, naive police officer. Anybody asking for a therapeutic model or psychological analysis is looking for something not required in this movie because it is a drama, not a documentary nor educational science film shown to college students. This movie is great for the singular ability to make its audience feel negative emotions and the negative spiral of hate that can envelope an individual even in a short period of time. However, to automatically dismiss that even in 36 hours, nothing substantive can happen, that no "light bulb" moment of singular clarity might occur is also dubious. At some point there can occur, simultaneously in fact moments of creative thought and revelation (occurring in separate parts of the globe, independently on important issues and problems of history). It seems that some people are asking for so much, over-reaching in their arguments in order to use blanket bullets to defend something that can really be defended. It's like hoping to put up a black sheet of glass so that no light can get through, but with a single fisted punch it can shatter into little bits.

JustaFied: Curiously, you keep making the comment that perhaps my negative reaction to this film is based in some underlying refusal to confront my own feelings and thoughts about the subject matter (i.e. my own prejudices?). In this case, this film is not simply an example of an experience "cutting too close to the bone"; my problem with the film is that it's just not very interesting or thought-provoking. A personal observation about a recent "experience" with race-relations: I live in Houston, which is a huge, diverse, sprawling metropolitan area, not altogether different from L.A. (as shown in "Crash"). I was summoned to jury duty this past week, and the initial instructions to the potential jurors were read in English, then Spanish, and then in Vietnamese. I noticed a white couple snickering during the reading of the Vietnamese. Then, there were 60 of us taken into a criminal courtroom for jury selection. 12 of us would be selected, the remaining 48 could go home. We were a diverse group, with about 50% men and 50% women. The defendant was a black male, probably about 25 years old. His attorney was black. The prosecutor from the D.A.'s office was a white woman. They grilled us for over an hour about our histories, our potential biases (prejudices?) to such cases, and then they struck jurors to come up with the final 12 jurors. Of these 12 jurors, there are 10 white males (myself included), 1 black woman, and 1 hispanic woman. The trial starts on Monday. This entire experience was much more "insightful" and "significant" as to the subject of race relations than the film was. Certainly not to say that the medium of film can't take broad steps in this area, but I just think that "Crash" doesn't accomplish much. Probably what's most true about race-relations in our society today is the complexities and the subtleties involved, and "Crash" is neither complex nor subtle. Yes, it's emotional, so it's got that going for it.

Tab Uno: Thank you for allowing some of your personal life to be published on this thread. Yet, as a white male (as I am Japanese American whose parents were placed in detention centers in World War II), your jury experience doesn't quite fit what I was looking for in terms of face-to-face experience with hatred, racial prejudice, and intolerance. There are many where I live in their nice homes, fancy cars, predominant religion who never experience nor exposed to the raw, primitive, negative emotional abuse and trauma that seeps into the underbelly of various sectors of our society. It would be very easy for these people to deny what they see in Crash and to project negative on the film in hopes that it will all go away. It is the eggs thrown against my father's home when I was a child that I'm talking about - the direct verbal and physical assault upon our persons due to the color, religion, or some other fundamental core element of our humanity. If only Crash could achieve this awakening, it would be a monumental achievement. However, for you, it seems that it was jury duty that nudged you towards some racial experience, yet the real horrors that abound outside the court room walls may have eluded you.

JustaFied
05-15-2005, 09:19 AM
Tabuno, your story is very moving. I do indeed see where you're coming from now, and I'll try to explain my perspective briefly. We are approaching this film from two different perspectives. Perhaps I'm viewing the film and its subject matter from a more "clinical" or detached (intellectual?) perspective. Perhaps this perspective on this film, as opposed to a raw emotional one, is more natural to me as a white male. I realize as a white male in this society that I get the benefit of the doubt in many situations. I realize I probably haven't been on the receiving end of racial hostility as frequently for this reason. So I'm probably less sensitive to the approach of the film than you are.

My example of jury duty is just one of many situations in life in which I've been exposed to the effects of race relations. It was just one example I gave, and frankly it didn't "nudge me towards a racial experience" because it's impossible to live in this society without having "racial experiences" on a day-to-day basis. I'm 30 years old with a post-graduate degree, so in my life I've lived, studied, and been exposed to racism in our society. As I said, perhaps I view it from a more detached or "clinical" point of view because I'm not as often directly involved. This is my problem with Crash; in my opinion it doesn't hold up nearly as well from such a sociological perspective. For example, in my jury situation, why is that black males make up a large majority of the prison population (as I said, the defendant in this case is black)? Of the diverse jury pool, how did it end up that 10 of the 12 jurors are white males, and what does that say about how they view me that I was chosen? Like I said before, much of the racist and prejudiced element in our society today exists just under the surface. It's subtle. We live and work together in diverse environments, and yet on some level, differing races and classes often don't really seem to trust one other. I felt that the film overdramatized this situation by having everyone yelling racial slurs at each other. This isn't necessarily what you see on a day-to-day basis, and yet racism is still largely present in our society. I wish the film had done a better job of approaching the subject from this angle.

I agree with you that if this film creates more self-reflection and dialogue on the subject, then it's succeeded in what it set out to do. I certainly hope that it has such an effect.

tabuno
05-15-2005, 12:10 PM
Wow! I understand now. My light-bulb moment.

JustaFied
05-15-2005, 12:31 PM
Originally posted by JustaFied
Perhaps this perspective on this film, as opposed to a raw emotional one, is more natural to me as a white male

First off, I want to correct this sentence. It would have been better to say "is more natural to me based on my own life's experiences". I certainly didn't mean to imply that "white males" tend to have more analytical, as opposed to emotional, viewpoints on issues. It was just that on this particular issue, I probably don't have the raw, emotional life experiences that others (including Tabuno) do, and this indeed may partly be the result of being a white male.

JustaFied
05-15-2005, 12:38 PM
Originally posted by tabuno
Wow! I understand now. My light-bulb moment.

Okay, I can't tell if you're being sarcastic. I truly sympathize with your family's situation. The time of the Japanese internment camps was one of the darkest moments in the 20th century in this country.

I am also looking forward to viewing (and discussing) with an open mind Lars Van Trier's provocative (to say the least) new film, Manderlay. Arsaib4 originally posted the trailer link on another thread; here it is again:
http://www.play.dk/manderlay
This looks interesting....particularly in that it's evidently set in the 1930's. Like I said, it'll certainly be provocative and controversial...will there be any discussion of any responsibility on his part in making such a film?

tabuno
05-15-2005, 12:58 PM
JustaFied: "Okay, I can't tell if you're being sarcastic."

Tab Uno: I'll attempt to provide the full description of my response to your earlier response since this form of communication has its limits. [Anybody that knows me in person, I'm a person who is pretty dry without much common humor (though some would say I have a very dry wit]. I really didn't want to waste your time in writing about non-movie stuff.

Wow! I understand now. My light-bulb moment - translated means:

I actually can relate and understand where you're coming from and it really makes sense to me now. This realization of your perspective was like one of those final pieces of the puzzle that fits and like Crash (within the 36 hours of the movie time frame), I to came to feel very comfortable with how your description of the movie connects and what you have expressed is so consistent with your experience. I can appreciate your perspective and your experience and I admire your efforts to offer some your own personal history in connection to how you saw this movie. I'm writing this pretty fast because my wife has gone out and begun mowing the lawn (which probably means she's going to be mad at me).

JustaFied
05-16-2005, 12:47 AM
Thanks Tabuno. I always enjoy engaging in a detailed, open-minded discussion on a topic like this. I can now understand your point of view in approaching and appreciating this film. I'm sure at some point I'll see it again to try to better understand the filmmaker's point of view.

oscar jubis
05-29-2005, 10:49 AM
So much has been written about this ensembler here that it's possible to build a review mostly from comments by others. Comes as no surprise to me, based on affinities that became obvious to me long ago, that most of my quotes would come from Justafied's and C. Knipp's posts. I am not surprised that the bulk of the reaction is positive but I am definitely taken aback by tabuno's "one of my top films of all time" and H. Tree's "best film I've seen in 2005 and 2004".

I must conceed that the film succeeds as an emotional provocation, "deeply-felt" (arsaib4) and well-intentioned (the need to "better empathize with others' p.o.v." as tab states). This is as far as I could go in praise of Crash, other than highlighting a couple of well-observed affecting scenes: one involving story-telling to relieve a 5 year-old's fears (mentioned by arsaib and others), and the cross-ethnic, cross-class embrace between a woman and her newly-discovered best friend.

Overall, what strikes me most are the narrative contrivances (Justafied's "how is it than in a matter of 36 hours...") and characterizations that are gratingly stereotypical_particularly "a mean Iranian man"(Knipp), reductive (Justafied's "one's actions generally can't be broken down...") and simplistic (Justafied's "what was the basis of their previously held prejudices?"). The schematic script attempts to achieve pathos and poignancy based largely on coincidences, a few of which demand too much suspension of disbelief. Arsaib's comment that Haggis "overcomes this by being as honest as possible" doesn't resonate with me but I'll continue to mull it over.
I find Crash "over-ambitious" in relation to its writer/director's skills, "obviously not the film talent Altman and Anderson are" and agree that none of it "has the depth of Magnolia or the specificity of Short Cuts" (quotes by Knipp). A minor issue is the musical score which Justified called "heavy-handed" and "oppressive". I also felt that it aggressively dictates how one should feel when viewing this movie. I reserve my most negative reaction to the grossly manipulative, overwrought scene of a shooting with blanks, with its slo-mo theatrics and its close-ups of faces in twisted, pained agony. I reserve my most positive reaction to the acting from the whole ensemble.

Chris Knipp
05-29-2005, 01:02 PM
Thank you for pulling things together so thoroughly; I don't think you could have done this any better. You don't add much of your own, because you are kind enough to say that we have covered the field for you; it's also true that this is a film that, despite its clear virtues -- and no doubt you're right to underline the ensemble acting as chief among these -- it's so spdcific in what it asks us to look at, and how it asks us to react. I don't mean to say it's manipulative; it's too complex a piece fo feel that way, despite the stereotyping of some characters. But it contrasts a lot with Magnolia, for instance, whose interwoven stories are so complex and original that they leave room for each of us to have our own varied interpretations and reactions which may continue to change on repeated viewings. I hope the same may prove true of Crash.... But I don't know.

tabuno
05-31-2005, 04:49 PM
oscar jubis: "The schematic script attempts to achieve pathos and poignancy based largely on coincidences, a few of which demand too much suspension of disbelief."

tabuno: Perhaps in time you might have an opportunity to experience the strange phenomenon of coincidences. For me as well as a number of other acquaintainces, coincidences in real life have all too often accumulcated and been experienced by myself and others. Such schmatic script attempts based on coincidences as shot in this movie do not call for much suspension of disbelief, if any at all, for those who have experienced the weird, almost too much to be believed randomly spaced events that seem to have at their core some connection in space and time. Without becoming religious, it becames at times, very hard to dismiss the possibility of some sort of cosmic hand in all of these events that seem to be tied together that I have experienced, small events, nothing earth-shattering, but curious, and sometimes, unbelievable when counted together.

oscar jubis: "I reserve my most negative reaction to the grossly manipulative, overwrought scene of a shooting with blanks, with its slo-mo theatrics and its close-ups of faces in twisted, pained agony."

tabuno: Where does reality and fantasy divide? When does what is experienced on screen become manipulative and overwrought versus a realistic and emotionally authentic experience? Has not time slowed down, perhaps even stopped from a personal perspective with some traumatic event. Are not some images and scenes etched in our memories forever while other details seem just to vanish. It is as easy to argue the shooting blanks scene is as much or more accurate than any scene that has been shot, it all depends from whose vantage point. And for the purpose of Crash, the audience being able to experience this scene from the psychological vantage point, but objective, emotionaless, technical lense and timer vantage point is much more valuable I believe. For those who feel this is manipulative, then it is possible that Crash is beyond the fabric of time and space of your universe to comprehend and understand.

Chris Knipp
05-31-2005, 07:27 PM
I'm not sure what you're getting at, but as I said, the blanks scene that Oscar objected too has been objected to by a number of people. It just feels too tricky. Reality is hands down stranger than any fiction, but in judging a movie that is fiction, we have to consider what works in an art form, and certain rules of believability apply. If it doesn't work with the audience, or with critical viewers, if it seems manipulative,then how possible it is in the whole realm of things doesn't help. One does not say that a certain real event was "manipulative, " bathetic, melodramatic, etc. Different rules apply. In the universe anything goes. In movies, anything goes that works artistically and with a critical audience, anything that doesn't, has to be considered a misfire.

tabuno
06-01-2005, 12:24 AM
Chris Knipp: I'm not sure what you're getting at, but as I said, the blanks scene that Oscar objected too has been objected to by a number of people. It just feels too tricky.

tabuno: It's unfortunate that people feel that they were manipulated by this scene. Perhaps some people feel that in real life they are also manipulated, taunted, and controlled. It happens every day from the time we get up to go to work, by our spouses, by our parents, by multi-million dollar advertising, by the news media, by drug companies, by the drug cartels, even by God.

Just when a scene comes along that actually has a message, manipulated or not they miss "it." I only smiled with thank godness in this scene as the Red Box of blank bullets were chosen by the woman in an earlier scene. The audience felt cheated that the Middle Eastern guy didn't blow a big hole in some guy's body? Wow! I guess, the audience has been programmed for certain artistic rules for uncertainty, unpredictability, for something novel and new, for something creatively amazing, not something that is meaningful, important, or even plausible. Instead we have to label it manipulative. It's better that a movie actually manipulative us without us knowing about it? What about subliminal messages instead?

For me this whole thing about manipulation in the movies is over-rated. Jaws is manipulation. The fancy scenes in Revenge of the Sith is manipulation. Most great movies are manipulative, it's just that we hope that somehow we're too ignorant or smart enough to care about it. Any twist in any more, The Sixth Sense, is manipulative. Any time I cry or laugh in any more, I've been manipulated, do I complain? I wish people would quit complaining about what I felt was a "real" not "manipulation." The shooting blanks scene was "real" because taking in the circumstances, the psychological elements of heightened senses, fear, adrenaline, the time sense, the perspective of the self changes as did appropriately I thought the director and the way this scene was shot. I guess more people need to have something life-threatening to them happen in order to understand this scene the way it was meant to be experienced.

wpqx
06-04-2005, 06:49 PM
Jesus this thread has gotten some life. Pardon me but I've run out of time to read ALL of your comments.

I don't think arsaib gave away too much in his review. I saw the film last night, and there was a lot of details missing from his review, but that gets to be a problem with reviewing films. On the one hand you should discuss everything involved, including endings and revelations, but when it's a new film, it's hard to get someone to see a movie after telling them everything.

As for the film in question, I loved it. I admired the redemptive nature of the film. Some characters change, some don't, but they all seem to have an opportunity for self discovery and change. It is humanistic in nature, and there are no good or bad guys here. But I was able to cheer and laugh, and feel during the picture. It was epic in scope without being epic in length. Comparing it to Magnolia and Short Cuts is relevant, but Crash is far shorter than those films.

Some loose ends weren't really tied up, like the money in the Mercedes, and I don't think enough was done with Jennifer Espisito's character. As far as Sandra Bullock, I wasn't a fan of her performance here. Perhaps I had too much contempt for the character, but I didn't really feel anything for her or the performance.

I think the race involved is what makes the film really hold true. Racism is not confined to the deep south and doesn't hide under a white hood and a burning cross. People can feel racism without being racist, and even the most "liberal" of people wind up hypocrites in certain situations. A case in point would be Phillipe's car ride towards the end of the film. Highly recommended though, and I'm glad I got to get to a theater, I blame Fan of Kubrick's ongoing rant about drops in ticket sales.

arsaib4
06-04-2005, 11:13 PM
Originally posted by wpqx
I don't think arsaib gave away too much in his review. I saw the film last night, and there was a lot of details missing from his review,...

Thanks. At least you saw the film before commenting on it.

As for the film in question, I loved it. I admired the redemptive nature of the film. Some characters change, some don't, but they all seem to have an opportunity for self discovery and change. It is humanistic in nature, and there are no good or bad guys here. But I was able to cheer and laugh, and feel during the picture. It was epic in scope without being epic in length. Comparing it to Magnolia and Short Cuts is relevant, but Crash is far shorter than those films.

I agree. It's much more tightly wound than Magnolia, a film I don't dislike, but P.T. Anderson simply lost control on a few occasions.

As far as Sandra Bullock, I wasn't a fan of her performance here. Perhaps I had too much contempt for the character, but I didn't really feel anything for her or the performance.

Maybe her character did cause some reservations for you. I thought her performance was one of the better ones.

I think the race involved is what makes the film really hold true. Racism is not confined to the deep south and doesn't hide under a white hood and a burning cross. People can feel racism without being racist, and even the most "liberal" of people wind up hypocrites in certain situations. A case in point would be Phillipe's car ride towards the end of the film. .

I couldn't have said it any better. Great point.

Chris Knipp
06-04-2005, 11:32 PM
I'm glad I got to get to a theater, I blame Fan of Kubrick's ongoing rant about drops in ticket sales.
Better to light one candle than to sit and curse the darkness.

tabuno
06-05-2005, 01:03 AM
wpqx: "I don't think arsaib gave away too much in his review."

tabuno: Overall I believe that arsaib did a great job in his review with one big exception when he states [specific spoiler]:

"the downtrodden Newton finds herself stuck underneath her car only to be helped by Dillonís character who assaulted her the night before. Newton fights him off while Dillon tries to calm her down, knowing that he needs her as much as she needs him. Itís a moment so breathtakingly vibrant and honest that even the best passages of Magnolia seem less in comparison."

For me, I would definitely not wanted to have somebody reveal this twist if I hadn't already seen the movie. The psychological impact of this scene of an already intense movie was a great addition to the coincidences revealed in 36 hours (something that really isn't that far fetched). When I experienced this scene "fresh" the whole impact of the movie so far really hit me in the gut anew and made the scene all that more poignant in the moment. I really think that arsaib overstepped himself on this specific revelation.

wpqx
06-05-2005, 10:56 AM
Yeah I did notice that detail, but hardly giving away the film, and that moment occurs with plenty of time for more twists and turns, not already mentioned. I suppose he just had to wet your appetite.

tabuno
06-05-2005, 11:39 AM
I think you've mentioned the delicate balance on a film discussion board (as opposed to a movie critic board) that is difficult to maintain between revealing plot details for good film discussion versus spoiling the movie going experience which also may in turn inappropriately influence the film discussion.

I guess what I fear is that the saving traffic accident woman scene was one of the most powerful scenes relating to one of the strongest subplots of the movie and by mentioning this scene with individual detail would have spoiled a major portion of having experienced the movie if I had not already seen it previously. I can only perhaps say that a spoiler warning at the very least in this one instance would have been really recommended in the posting.

Chris Knipp
06-28-2005, 07:09 PM
I have recently consulted Jonathan Rosenbaum's review of Crash and find that it pretty well jibes with my remark that "It's provocative and causes extreme reactions, so people tend to say it's a masterpiece or pure junk, but the fact is that it's simply a good, but imperfect movie" (my words, not Mr. Rosenbaum's). He says its plot stretches the limits of how much artificiality he can take and still regard a movie as believable or "real" because Crash is "blatantly contrived." But in the end he decided after a second viewing that this did not undermine the movie's "larger social message."
I decided that it didn't, because I valued the truth of that message -- that, for instance, a racist cop is perfectly capable of saving a black person's life -- over the falsity of the plotting, and because I decided that this falsity was intended to articulate other truths.In other words, Haggis wins through good intentions, though he tries too hard and visibly loads the dice. Rosenbaum also notes that the extreme racist language tends to seem "real" to the audience because it's usually screened out of dialogue; moreover it gains added conviction because the acting and direction are well above average:
we're likely to accept the profusion of insults as unusually candid or real, particularly given the spirited and talented ensemble cast, which Haggis directs with sensitivityThis is a particularly interesting Rosenbaum review which explains how he arrives at his ratings. For Crash he describes this trajectory:
In my reviews I try to describe the paths that lead to my subjective response so that readers can decide whether some part of my path might be theirs too. In the case of Crash I may blanch at Haggis's narrative contrivances and think two stars, though I did enjoy them (three stars). But the vision of Los Angeles that they're designed to express strikes me as just and vital (four stars). So I wind up with an average of three. Viewers who find the vision uninteresting and the narrative contrivances acceptable but unenjoyable will come up with ratings of their own -- or arrive at the same rating for entirely different reasons. He fleshes out this revealing picture of his rating process (which led to his calling Crash "a must-see"--rating: 4) by giving trajectories he went through in evaluating two other movies, Mindhunters ("worth seeing"--rating: 3) and Monster-in-Law ("Has redeeming facet"--rating: 2) and he explains what he meant when he called Star Wars III "worthless" (rating: 1). His top rating, given out a bit too often for my taste but perhaps sensible in view of his role in getting people to go to good movies, is "masterpiece" (rating: 5). I would recommend this review (http://www.chicagoreader.com/movies/archives/2005/0505/050513.html) to anyone interested in working out a valid rating system of their own and to any fan of the admirable Mr. Rosenbaum, whose critical methods clearly emerge here as both rational and emotionally honest.

oscar jubis
06-28-2005, 07:51 PM
Nice post, Chris. Two mistakes though. One is Rosenbaum's star ratings. They are as follows:

4=Masterpiece
3=A Must See
2=Worth-Seeing
1=Has Redeeming Facet
0=Worthless

Second, Rosenbaum did not review Star Wars III. J.R. Jones did: 3 Stars or "A Must See". The Star Wars movie Rosenbaum found worthless was the Special Edition re-release (in 1997) of the very first Star Wars, also known as Episode IV. This is the highly criticized version technologically "up-dated" by Mr. Lucas for re-release.

Chris Knipp
06-29-2005, 12:44 AM
I stand corrected. The main points are still valid, though, I guess, whether it's 0-4 or 1-5, the same principles apply. I read too fast about Star Wars-- I see he says
I was taken aback recently when I received a couple of e-mails from Star Wars fans asking how I could have concluded eight years ago that the "special edition" rerelease of that film was "worthless" when it gave so much pleasure to so many people. I jumped to the conclusion that it was a review of the recent release and overlooked the fact that it all happened "eight years ago." A pretty gross oversight on my part, partly due to my lack of specific interest in or knowledge of the Star Wars series.

I hope, though, that people will get the substance of Rosenbaum's review and my summary above about averaging together one's different personal reactions to the various aspects of any given movie to achieve an overall personal rating that makes both emotional and rational sense for one as a viewer.

That was the point. I think it's great that Rosenbaum is sure enough of himself and honest enough so that he shows the inner workings of his thought process in arriving at ratings. Very different from the kind of reviewers, who are legion, who seek to entertain and/or impress -- The New Yorker's Denby and Lane are of this type, and I would never write them off because they do entertain and they do impress -- they both write very well and Rosenbaum has repeatedly said that he admires how Denby writes (I admire even more how Lane writes, how amusing and witty he is, while still presenting quite sensible evaluations of movies 85% of the time) -- these guys don't want you to see the humbler aspects of their working methods; not really, anyway (though they may pretend to). And hence they entertain more than they instruct. One is amused, but one doesn't learn much.

And above all I also wanted to note that Rosenbaum, as I did, found the plot of Crash extremely contrived, but concluded, as I would, that the damaging effect of that was balanced against good work and good intentions, though it doesn't leave one with a "masterpiece," rather, with the next best thing, a "must-see.".