Crash: One of Worst Oscar Winners (Why?)

Artistically speaking, Crash is not a bad movie, just mediocre. When the movie came out, I gave it a mixed review and graded it as B-. Enlisting it in Rotten Tomatoes, I could have gone either way, since B- qualifies as fresh (positive) or rotten (negative).

According to Rotten Tomatoes, Crash has 77 percent rate of approval. Of the 173 reviews posted, 130 are positive and 43 are negative. Of all five Best Picture nominees, Crash has the lowest percentage. In comparison, Munich gets 78 percent, Brokeback Mountain 86, Capote 91, and Good Night and Good Luck is the best-reviewed film, with 94 percent of the reviews fresh (and 6 percent rotten).

I stand by my initial review, which was posted back in May. However, now that Crash has won the Oscar, the most coveted film prize, allegedly given for the Best picture of the Year, here is a second look at the film with critical points that are arranged alphabetically, lest I forget.

Aggressive

The whole movie, not just its characters, are aggressive, a quality that in itself may be good, but not the way it’s utilized in the picture.

Bloated

While its wide canvas and large ensemble are admirable, the movie is bloated, though I could have used another adjective that begins with B, blatant

Contrived

Think of the scenes between Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton. What are the chances that a cop would encounter and save the life of the same woman he had earlier molested

Diagrammatic

Though meant to represent ordinary people, most of the characters don’t behave a realistic way. You could see the screenwriters sitting with a huge chart on their desk, arranging in a diagrammatic way the interactions and encounters between the multiple characters in a schematic way, so that each one faces a crisis.

Explosive

The subject of the film, racism in contemporary life, is potentially explosive, but the movie opts for easy solutions.

Facile

Crash represents facile fare, one that’s disturbing and provocative while watching it, but at the end, is meant to reassure us that a better future lies ahead, if we only open our hearts.

Grandiose

Grandiose describes the film’s ambition rather than level of execution or artistic achievement.

Hysterical

At least half of the characters, not just Thandie Newton, are on the verge of hysteria at one point or another.

Inflammatory

The film tackles a potentially inflammatory subject only to treat it in a conventional way.

Los Angeles

Director and co-writer Haggis is an Angeleno, who knows citys inner life better and from the inside. But unfortunately Crash doesnt utilize many distinctive locations of L.A., perhaps a function of the low budget. With the exception of some Highways scenes, the locales settings could have existed in any other city. In other words, Crash lacks a specific physical reality, which is a shortcoming since the film is not meant to be a symbolic allegory of urban life in general. Of course, racial intolerance and hate crimes prevail in most American cities, but Crash is grounded in L.A., a city that with its unique racial make-up, will be the first metropolitan where whites denizens will become a minority in the near future.

Middlebrow

Neither highbrow nor lowbrow, Crash represents the kind of middlebrow sensibility that defines most American movies, both mainstream Hollywood and indies.

Overt

Everything in the film is spelled out, from the narrative to plot points to conflicts and resolutions. Crash deals with racism that operates in over not covert way. It would have been a more intriguing, complex, and realistic film if it handled the issue of racism in a covert rather than overt, latent rather than manifest manner. Like sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and other ills, racism prevails in LA”and in American society”in a latent, covert way.

Politically Correct

By voting Crash Best Picture of the Year, the Academy voters wore their hearts on their sleeves, showing that they favor politically correct movies.

Safe

Despite ambitions and goals, ultimately Crash represents safe entertainment. Who would disagree with the message of the film

Unsubtle

The whole film is so heavy-handed that it hits the audience with a sledgehammer. Lack of subtlety defines every element of the picture, both narratively and visually.