Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Spinning the Globes

Oscar misfire: ‘Crash’ and burn
The Academy takes yet another step toward irrelevance with its latest pick

My reaction to Sunday night's events--which I watched again last night on DVR when I returned from San Francisco to confirm that they were real--is probably predictable to most of you. I gasped in shock, then slumped in my chair in despair when I realized that Jack Nicholson wasn't kidding.

Now, don't get me wrong; I enjoyed Crash when I saw it. But it never occurred to me then that I should be considering whether it warranted a Best Picture nomination, much less the trophy; it's clearly not that good. Constant Gardener, yes--that felt like a movie worth honoring, and I would have given it the Crash slot in the Best Picture race. But Crash? Never gave it a thought.

The article to which I've linked makes many arguments, all of them successful, against our latest Best Picture winner, so I won't do that here. It's a cute little morality play, but definitely not the sort of movie that one takes so seriously as to rank it among the great films of our time. All five movies nominated in 2003, four of the movies in 2002, all of the films from 2001, and at least four of last year's nominees are more deserving of such a spot in the pantheon. Look at 1994! Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, Quiz Show, and Four Weddings and a Funeral--not a movie that lost to Forrest Gump that year wouldn't be more worthy of having the words "Best Picture" next to it for all time than Crash.

Which brings us to Brokeback Mountain. Time will prove me right; this was the movie that defined the year, and the movie that should have defined Sunday night. The fact that it didn't--that Hollywood instead chose a formulaic movie deemed daring only because its characterizations were so willfully unrealistic--will embarrass many in the years to come.

And to respond to my friend, Jon, who came out as a Crash supporter after it won: I do not deny that there is a place for a film that "deals with the core of America's problems. Racism and bigotry." And I don't deny that Crash accomplishes this, albeit in clunky fashion. But watch Brokeback. (How many times must I exhort you thus?) Then watch Crash again. If you're still not sure, watch Brokeback a second time, and give yourself the freedom to really inhabit it. If you walk away from that experience and still believe the Academy picked the right movie, I'll eat my hat--the one I still have because Brokeback is clearly on track to top $80 million by Monday.

I wish I could explain to non-gay readers what a painful thing this is--to see a clear path to having an honest, realistic, and devastating depiction of one's way of life on film recognized as the pinnacle achievement for the year and then have that path obstructed by an undeserving usurper. The Academy has toyed with my heart before, twice snubbing Annette Bening for Hilary Swank, nominating Julianne Moore four times and sending her home empty-handed, and leaving The Hours practically out in the cold. Through it all, I've remained loyal to my gay Super Bowl. This makes it a lot harder for me to see the point.

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