Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 51

Thread: Paul Haggis' CRASH

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Buffalo / NYC
    Posts
    1,116

    Paul Haggis' CRASH

    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.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    15,826
    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/2005/05/0...tml?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.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Buffalo / NYC
    Posts
    1,116
    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/2005/05/0...tml?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 (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.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    15,826
    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.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Buffalo / NYC
    Posts
    1,116
    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.
    Last edited by arsaib4; 05-07-2005 at 03:35 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    15,826
    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.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Utah, USA
    Posts
    1,650

    Too much given away!

    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.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Utah, USA
    Posts
    1,650

    One of my Top Films of All Time

    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.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Buffalo / NYC
    Posts
    1,116

    Re: Too much given away!

    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.
    Last edited by arsaib4; 05-08-2005 at 01:19 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Albuquerque, NM, USA
    Posts
    365
    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.
    "So I'm a heel, so what of it?"
    --Renaldo the Heel, from Crimewave

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Buffalo / NYC
    Posts
    1,116
    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.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Utah, USA
    Posts
    1,650

    The Give Away Scene

    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.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    15,826
    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.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Utah, USA
    Posts
    1,650

    arsaib4 became a victim of crash

    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).

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Buffalo / NYC
    Posts
    1,116
    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.

Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •