Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Note on the Oscars

I was glad to see Crash win the Oscar for Best Picture. I gave it 5 plus stars, one of the few movies I have ever rated above the top of my zero to five scale. With the exception of Roger Ebert, who thought Crash would and should win, apparently the critical consensus was that Brokeback Mountain was the best picture of the year. Many of the newspapers talked about the "upset" win of Crash. I won't rehash the arguments I made in an earlier report on Brokeback. Time will tell whether it is an "issue" movie that will fade when the issue fades, or a timeless story. But I take issue with the critics (many of whom, Ebert excepted, apparently just read each other's reviews and then repackage the conventional wisdom as their own insights) who say that Crash was just a liberal guilt trip about race relations. The appeal of Crash, to me, was in showing in a way that no movie that I have ever seen, the good and the bad in all of us. None of the characters in Crash were completely sympathetic, nor were any without redeeming qualities. I think Crash is a great work of art that will be shown long after Brokeback Mountain has been forgotten.

I like Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Our cable package does not include The Comedy Channel, but I look at clips occasionally on the internet. I thought he was out of his element as host of the Oscars. His schtick is political news, and there was apparently an attempt to make sure that he was not too overtly political as host of the Oscars. Other than a line about the audience finally getting to vote for a winner, an oblique reference to the commonly-held belief that most Hollywood artists are Democrats, there were no political jokes. It was like putting Don Rickles up there and telling him he can't insult anyone; it just didn't work.

I was not impressed with the length of time devoted to snippets of old films. The show was too long by half, and the film segments added nothing of interest. I thought the best presentation and the best laughs were by Lily Tomlin and Merl Streep, although I could have been prejudiced because they are two of my favorite actresses.

I don't think I ever before have watched the Oscars from beginning to end. I did Sunday night because we hosted an Oscar-watching party with a few friends. The party was a bust with everyone heading out by 9:30. I think next year we'll skip both the party and watching the Oscars. I could have read 100 pages in a good book during the time I wasted watching the Oscars and found out the results the next morning anyway. (Not to say that my friends weren't good company, I just think we would have had a more enjoyable evening without our faces glued to the television screen.)

7 comments:

rdl said...

I still haven't seen either but will definitely see Crash on your recommendation.

PG said...

Ha ha ha ha ha. I love it when you are satirical.

Dan S said...

I think you're right that Jon Stewart was out of his element, but the reviews I've seen on him have been a lot more harsh than necessary. He opened slowly, but gained momentum during the night. I especially liked his crack about 3-8 Mafia having more oscars than Martin Scorcese.

I haven't see Brokeback yet, so I can't compare, but I think that Crash, while very good, just isn't of "Best Picture" quality. The problem with it is that the movie did not have characters so much as stereotypes. This is OK, since the main theme was that stereotypes are misleading, and everyone is much more complicated than we think they are. But still, using stereotypes instead of characters causes the drama to suffer. It's a good "discussion" movie, but I'm not sure the fact that a moview generates good discussions makes it a great movie in itself.

Amishlaw said...

Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Debra Hope said...

I thought "Crash" was the one of the best movies I've seen in years, partly because I will never forget how it made me squirm . . . An Oscar gives me hope that some people, at least, suspect, maybe even recognize, that we're far from resolving our racial problems in this country.

Anonymous said...

Crash was terrific. I think that the characters were portrayed as stereotypes intentionally, allowing viewers to both identify with and distance themselves from the intensity. We all must acknowledge that some degree of rage arises when we have an accident, near miss or other "collision" with others, especially when we perceive the other person(s)to be different and more likely to be misunderstood. When the movie first came out here our Police Chief required everyone in the department to see it and there were community discussions. What an opportunity ! Becky

Dan S said...

I think it's great that Crash has been so effective at getting people to talk about race and about stereotypes. As John alluded to, one of the best things about it is that it challenges our assumptions about who people are - no one was completely sympathetic or completely depraved (except maybe the guy who was selling those people into slavery).

I guess I judge movies (as movies) on how well they put me in the story and in the moment with the characters, and not necessarily for the discussion that follows. I compare this to a good Robert Altman film, although somehow Altman is able to make all his myriad characters in his films feel like real, alive people, and Crash didn't quite have that feel to me. But, it did do what it attempted to do, which was get people talking about race, and that's a good thing.