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00629 – CRASH

Movie-Hype00629 – CRASH

I’m not sure why I resisted seeing CRASH when it came out last spring. Maybe it was the unfortunate coincidence to have the same title as one of the worst movies ever made (remind me to tell you the story some time of how I ended up seeing that debacle with my homophobic friend Carlos in the gayest theatre in Atlanta). Maybe it was the prominence of one Sandra Bullock in the trailer; Hyperion and serious Sandra no mix. Or maybe it was the fact that the writer/director was Paul Haggis, the scribe who penned the work MILLION DOLLAR BABY, and I was still angry over that film.

For whatever reason I didn’t go. This cost me some, as at the time I was interested in this girl Whitney who went on and on and on about the film. (This is not unheard of; my brother Achmed recently evinced the opinion that he would consider breaking up with a girl who didn’t like CRASH.)

On top of all that, CRASH has made quite a few Critics’ top ten lists, including Roger Ebert calling CRASH the best film of the year. With that high pedigree, I finally watched the film with my family. Initially I got the movie to watch with my dad, and I tried to get my mom to watch too. My sister tried to convince my mom CRASH was hyper-violent and too scary, but I guess my mom didn’t want to be left out and came to watch it anyway.

I mention all of that because you may have heard CRASH is a super-intense film. There is a bit of truth to that. The film is about race relations, which can often be ugly and uncomfortable. And, there was a fair amount of foul language, which some people will not be able to get past. That said, this movie was not too difficult to handle. If my mother can handle it, virtually any adult can.

Like I said, the film covers race relations, by showing a dozen characters whose lives interconnect over a 48 hour period. There are big names here, such as Hyperion-favorite Don Cheadle, Larenz Tate, the aforementioned Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Esposito, Ryan Phillipe, Brendan Fraser, Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, and Ludacris (a rapper who is amazingly good).

The performances are all good, although at times I felt like the characters existed to mouth racial “positions” rather than exist of their own merits. In that way (and also in the amazing coincidences one must swallow to believe the interconnections), CRASH is quite contrived. However, a movie is by nature contrived, since it’s fiction set up to give us a story. So, recognizing that, the coincidences of CRASH shouldn’t bother you too much.

Hyperion’s Rating System

Suspension of Disbelief: The attitudes were completely realistic, but the timing and coincidences are a huge stretch; 5.

Genre Grade: I suppose this is a high-concept message movie, examining a tough topic from multiple perspectives. TRAFFIC and SYRIANIA would go in the same genre. By that standard, CRASH gets a B+.

Sex/Violence: There is one scene of sex, though quick. There is another scene of sexuality that will bother some. And there is quite a few F-Bombs. That said, none of it is presented gratuitously or with malice. The Way I look at it, if my mother isn’t offended, nobody can be.

Pantheon Percentile: Hard to say. Sadly, CRASH’s attitudes and viewpoints aren’t going away any time soon. This means CRASH will date very well. I think if we got to the point that the ideas in CRASH were quaint or unreal, it would speak to the success of what they were trying to do in the first place. 85.

I’ll tell you what I really liked: several of the characters have severe prejudices, but they aren’t simplistically presented as evil or one-dimensional. Their actions weren’t excused, but at least an attempt was made to present why people might have racial animus who aren’t necessarily venal. Conversely, even the “good” guys have their own problems when it comes to the assumptions we all make every day.

CRASH doesn’t just look at white and black, but instead goes into several different racial areas, from Persian to Chinese to Latino. I don’t know if there is an agenda to the message, perhaps other than the simple fact that we all have prejudices within us, and those who pretend racism no longer exists are either willfully ignorant or criminally stupid.

It was fascinating to watch CRASH with the three people I did. They were my family, and presumably I know them better than anyone one Earth, and yet I was surprised at some of the stuff I heard. (Not bad, just…people never stop surprising you.) Afterwards we sat around and discussed, weighing the various viewpoints presented and reasons the characters reacted they way they did. In that vein I think CRASH would be a terrific movie to watch with a large group of people; especially if not every knows each other that well. You may be surprised at what you learn about people.

I want to get into more, here, and talk about categorizing, tribalism, racial profiling, black on black crime, and many other things, but I’m realizing all of that needs its own column. So, I will say that CRASH is a fine movie; not nearly as provocative as some might have led you to believe. I do think it’s almost criminal for Roger Ebert to declare it the best movie of 2005, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that CRASH was an outstanding way to spend two hours.

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