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Movie Review: Crash

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Yesterday I reviewed The Life Aquatic, a movie some critics – and Blogcritics.org members – loved but left me feeling seasick with frustration. It was ultimately like going fishing and catching no fish.

Today I thought I’d opine on the opposite experience I had with the movie Crash, a movie I know some hated based on the many sites that listed it as one of the worst movies of the year.

I beg to differ. It probably helped that I saw the movie while visiting Southern California, an experience that always reminds me of being in the L.A. area as the race riots broke out after the Rodney King verdicts were announced.

The movie is about race, discrimination, and stereotypes. Just about every character is flawed in belief ,with at least one stereotype of other races. A white woman thinks a Hispanic man with tattoos is a gang banger. The white cops don’t trust black men. All Asian characters are referred to as Chinese. And the list goes on.

The movie’s plot devices connecting multiple story lines and characters is what turns off some viewers, such as Slate’s David Edelstein. There is also the feeling of being patronized or, as Edelstein puts it, “It’s hard to feel morally elevated when you’re also feeling talked down to.”

But I am so excited about the reach, the attempts made, by the writer of this film to overlook such problems. Roger Ebert, in his review, took a similar position.

It’s worth noting that the movie’s writer/director, Paul Haggis, also wrote the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, another movie which wrestles with difficult issues in an intelligent way.

The movie tends to spark good discussions about race and how the characters in the movie – as in real life – have redeeming qualities making it harder to determine if a white cop, for example, can still be racist if he helps a black woman in distress.

I plan to use this movie for a film discussion I lead once I’ve watched it again. The mere fact I’m watching it twice demonstrates just how much I liked it.

In short, some think Crash is one big pile-up, repeatedly pointing out the obvious: We all hold some prejudices. While I agree that we all have prejudices, the movie’s handling of how those stereotypes affect our lives and attitudes and actions is fascinating and well worth exploring.

If you like thought-provoking, interesting story telling, this movie is deserving of your attention. Some questions you have about the movie will be answered in the commentary available on the DVD. Enjoy.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • rob

    This was the best film I saw last year. It was excellent and worth watching again. The undercurrent of anger and dread you feel throughout the film leaves you almost exhausted at the end of it all. Amazing.

  • Crash is certainly one of the best films of the year, if not the best. It will be a darn shame if it goes unnoticed by the Academy, because of its early release date. If it is not nominated, that is only proof that the Oscar voters only have a two-month memory.

    Read my review here.

  • Great film and review – I’ve linked to it from my blog

  • Scott Butki

    Thanks a lot. I am glad you liked it.

  • Good review.

    Crash is great film and it felt different from most of what I saw last year. I just watched it again, a couple of days ago and I still hope it gets an Oscar nomimation for Best Picture or Best Director. I look forward to the next project from Mr. Haggis!

  • RedTard

    OK film but not quite worthy of awards. I think this type of film is leading to the slump in Hollywood sales overall. It seems more and more films are trying to preach morals to the audience rather than entertain them.

  • Scott Butki

    I thought it was both entertaining while having a message of sorts.
    What exactly would you say the moral lesson of the film is?

  • I hated this movie, big time. Nothing more than a 2 hour lecture from some asshole in Hollywood. Apparently everyone in LA is a prejudiced asshole, and the results of such prejudice always lead to death and destruction. The goal of the film from the directors perspective was clearly to have us
    all leave the theater feeling really guilty. The effect it had on me was the desire to throw up all over the film reel.

    And it’s not just the content itself, which is hamhanded and not even remotely subtle in any way, but Haggis should stick to screenwriting, where he excels (Million Dollar Baby). Directing is not his thing. There isn’t a shred of nuance in this film. Everything is spoon fed to you like we’re all fucking retards.

    This movie should go completely unnoticed by the Academy and any other self-respecting award groups.

  • Scott Butki

    So I take it you’re not going to watch it again to help me figure out what the snow means/represents in the movie?

    Sounds like quite a violent reaction to the movie – maybe it’s some kind of allergy?

    And for the record I’d say that yes most people I know in L.A. – and I grew up in that region – does have a prejudice but no most don’t die of it just as most peope in the film didn’t die as a result of it – they just had unpleasant repercussions because of the slights done by them and to them.

    I see this and I think of the people I know who tell me of see people moving across the street when someone black walks near them, or yes assuming tattoos are gang signs or whatever.

  • Scott Butki

    I was thinking today of one of my favorite scenes which was great without even talking about the race issue.

    It is the scene in which the latino man goes under the bed to talk to the girl hiding under the bad and gives her the little pep talk. That dialogue, that acting, was amazing.

  • I saw this last night finally and I did enjoy it. I’m not going to fawn all over it like some internet folk but I did think it was at least good, maybe even great. I need to let it sit for a while because there’s A LOT going on, it’s hard to digest all the issues and form a coherent assesment. Yes, racism is a central issue but there are so many other themes and tangents all over the place.

    I agree, Scott, about the scene with the little girl. A touching moment.

  • reggie von woic

    I told my roomate there was something about that
    flake of snow that that Terrence wiped off his coat-he just looked at me like i was on something (i wasn’t).

    I think it meant that he was getting rid of the white that was oppressing him (the cop, and the guy at the movie he was directing) and finally embracing the black in him, or something to that tune.

    You brought it up Scott, what did you think it was it was about? comment # 9

  • I have no idea. Maybe that’s going to be an irregular day in LA where everything connects as symbolized by the rarity of snow in that region?

  • Scott Butki

    Hooray for winning so many awards!

  • tommyd

    Yet again, heaps of praise thrown on a film that celebrates the hypocrisy of “only Whites are capable of racism” bullshite. Blacks, hispanics and chinese are just misunderstood pooooooor wittle victims and if Whitey wasn’t so waysssssissst, mr minority could have even more peace. Whitey is always the hater in Hollywood.

    When is this shit gonna stop?

  • Scott Butki

    If you saw the movie as only showing whites as being prejudiced then you missed parts of the movie. I think every character in the movie shows some form of bias.

  • chantal stone

    “I think every character in the movie shows some form of bias.”

    i think that’s exactly the point of the movie, Scott……the point is that we all have preconceived notions of certain groups and ethnicities, and in many cases they lead to prejudice and blatant racism. i think the point of the movie is to show us that ALL ethnicities are guilty of this, that WE as a society are guilty of this, and it’s something that, if we are going to evolve as a society, we need to overcome.

    i loved BBM, but i’m glad this won the Oscar.

  • Scott Butki

    I can’t wait for the discussion of this movie we are going to have at my church in two weeks with me leading it.

  • i think the movie is very good..so good that icant think of its weakness…it shows reality and i agree that every ethnicity is guilty of being prejudice..

  • Scott Butki

    I’m gearing up for a discussion of this movie at church

  • v

    love this compelling drama film. i must say that this is one of those films which makes you ponder about it over and over again. lots of tension involved and also great acting skills by the cast. watching the movie is like an exhilarating adventure in itself! soundtrack was good too.

  • v

    heys guys! im doing an assignment on film review for CRASH. mind helping me out? who do you think is the target audience for this film? n what do you think are the weaknesses and strengths of the film? thks. 🙂

  • Ness Beverly

    The best movie ever. Did not want it to be over. All the cast had an equal roll and it was thrilling. It was months after that I got to see this movie and regret not seeing it sooner. I loved this movie. The twist and the plots and the acting was unbeliveable. Please do a sequeal to this movie. Job well done. Thank you for making this movie. It is diffently a purchase DVD. Thank you once again