Monday, January 30, 2017

Decade of Best Pictures: CRASH

Welcome back to the first DECADE OF BEST PICTURES series of reviews where we will be taking a look at a decade of Best Picture winners over the course of 10 days. In this series we will be looking at the decade of Best Pictures from 2005-2015 in reverse chronological order! This final entry will be for the 2005 Best Picture winner CRASH!

Crash was the Best Picture winner at the 2005 Academy Awards. Directed by Paul Haggis, this film tells a bunch of interweaving stories about people living and battling racism in Los Angeles. The film has a massive ensemble cast including, Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Michael Peña, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Nona Gaye, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, and Thandie Newton.

Crash is widely considered one of the worst films to win Best Picture and I agree with that wholeheartedly. This film takes an interesting and complex subject and boils it down to laughable melodrama that carries no actual emotional weight. In most of these I haven’t discussed better options, but in a year where both Brokeback Mountain and Munich came out I am pretty aghast that this is where the Academy went with its pick.

Not everything is bad in Crash. The film is competently shot, has an interesting setup, and tackles a challenging topic. These are all chances for this film to be successful, interesting, and effective. The other major positive with the film is Michael Peña. He really delivers a great performance in this film that moved me emotionally (and certainly much more than anyone else in the film). There is no performer in the film that is bad, they’re just mostly ok. That is, I suppose, another thing that can be said in Crash’s favor.

Nothing else worked for me though. The biggest problem for this film is that the emotional moments all fail in this film because they become hokey melodrama, rather than real or functional. No one in this film feels real. It’s not that there aren’t loads of racist people out there, or even people as overtly racist as a number of people in this film, but none of the character in the film felt believable. They all felt like over the top characters which drained any emotional ties the audience had as an audience member. The film also has some moments that are beyond ridiculous (one involving a gunshot and a child, in particular) that makes you feel like you’re watching a big budget Hallmark movie than something that belongs in the history of cinema.

On top of silly melodrama, I don’t think that this film fulfilled any of its promise or purpose either. There is no one that watches Crash and learns anything. You don’t gain a greater understanding. You don’t learn that racism is wrong. The film certainly tries to do these things but neither happen. Failing at your core idea is maybe the biggest failure any film can do and Crash has that distinct issue.

Overall, it is a travesty that this is a Best Picture winner. In a collection of great films this one doesn’t belong. Outside of a good performance by Michael Peña there is nothing remarkable about this film. Everything boils down to eye-roll-inducing melodrama that leaves you asking “why do people like this?”

Ryan’s Score: 4/10

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