March 6, 2006

Why Crash is a Bad Movie

Last night after watching the Academy Awards I told a friend that I explicitly did not want to take the time or effort to explain why Crash understands race-relations in America at a pre-Rodney King level, or why Paul Haggis is more of a hack than Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. But then the fucking thing won Best Picture. Suddenly I felt compelled to undertake such an explanation.

Thankfully, LA Weekly critic Scott Foundas has already illustrated, in no uncertain terms, why Crash is a veritable P.O.S. In a response to critic Roger Ebert's contrarily-titled "In Defense of the Worst Movie of the Year," where Ebert defends Crash as his pick as 2005's best movie, Foundas rips both the film and the fake progressives who champion it. I had a hard time limiting myself to only a few quotes from this response to Ebert, and an earlier piece he contributed to a movie roundtable at Slate also includes some perfectly-elucidated points (search for "abomination" on the page and you'll find the discussion about Crash). I recommend you skip the following excerpts and just click on the above links, if you aren't absolutely clear as to why Crash sucks. Hats off to Scott Foundas.

Here is some of what he had to say:

The characters in Crash don't feel like three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood human beings so much as calculated "types" plugged by Haggis into a schematic thesis about how we are all, in the course of any given day, the perpetrators and the victims of some racial prejudice. (Nobody in Haggis' universe is allowed to be merely one or the other.) They have no inner lives. They fail to exist independently of whatever stereotype they're on hand to embody and/or debunk. Erudite carjackers? A man who can't remember his own girlfriend's ethnicity? You may see such things as "parables," but I call it sloppy, sanctimonious screenwriting of the kind that, as one colleague recently suggested, should be studied in film classes as a prime example of what not to do.


Crash is an Important Film About the Times in Which We Live, which is another way of saying that it's one of those self-congratulatory liberal jerk-off movies that rolls around every once in a while to remind us of how white people suffer too, how nobody is without his prejudices, and how, when the going gets tough, even the white supremacist cop who gets his kicks from sexually harassing innocent black motorists is capable of rising to the occasion. How touching.


Not since Spanglish--which, alas, wasn't that long ago--has a movie been so chock-a-block with risible minority caricatures or done such a handy job of sanctioning the very stereotypes it ostensibly debunks. Welcome to the best movie of the year for people who like to say, "A lot of my best friends are black."

He's a little tough on Spanglish there, but he has a point: Ebert's argument about it being "useful to be aware of the ways in which real people see real films" is the modern-day equivalent of Marie Antoinette writing an 18th-century blog post about the flavors of cake preferred by proletariat Parisians.

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I had trouble getting through Crash. It was a predictable, cliched movie trying really hard not to be predictable and cliched. Frankly, I see far more interesting perspectives on race on King of the Hill.

RUTH: Look, Connie's a really smart Asian girl, but I've got a boatload of them -- pardon the expression. She's not black, she's not hispanic, or even white. I mean, good Lord, give me a white kid from a public school with Connie's specs, and that kid could waltz in here.
KAHN: You telling me Connie didn't get in because she's an overachieving Asian? That's discrimination!
RUTH: In a way, it's flattering, isn't it? Look, maybe there's something you left off Connie's application, some kind of hook. Has she ever had to play that violin of hers on the street to buy her strung-out mother just one more hit?
RUTH: Well, that would have helped.

I had similar feelings on Syriana. I thought this review nailed it:

March 6, 2006 at 4:28PM, Edited September 4, 7:14AM


A lot of slings and arrows and proclamations of 'hacks' coming from the director of the hot steaming pile of garbage that was Amateur.

August 21, 2019 at 7:45PM