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David Poland

By David Poland

Is Crash A Powerful Take On Race Or Patronizing Glop?

It’s generated a lot of e-mail at The Hot Button this week… I hated Crash.
And in this case, the anger expressed by readers is as based on race and politics as some of you guys can make… well, anything.
So have at it… and if you want to call someone a name, just think about a bigger target and make it less personal… please.

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36 Responses to “Is Crash A Powerful Take On Race Or Patronizing Glop?”

  1. Stella's Boy says:

    Crash has a great cast and some interesting ideas/moments, but overall I didn’t care for it too much and definitely think it’s being overpraised. It’s way too contrived and preachy, and the characters are all one-dimensional. But most people I talk to go on and on about its brilliance.

  2. bicycle bob says:

    its being praised for all the wrong reasons. dave ur right. it made magnolia look like the best film in years

  3. joefitz84 says:

    I just have no desire to see Crash. It looks terrible and David’s review means its a definate no go til the video season.

  4. Terence D says:

    David, what was the hatred for your review like from people? Did people even see this film before they spewed their venom on you?

  5. jeffmcm says:

    That’s interesting, for all the political diatribes this blog has endured lately, the movie that is about politics and race front-and-center is getting little blog attention at all. Does anyone out there want to support it?

  6. Mark says:

    If its a good movie or even interesting, I’d be more than happy to go out and see it. But from what i hear it is just a little too prententious. Not worth the money in the theatre. Waste of a good cast too.

  7. alison says:

    your dislike of the film is nothing on armond white ( — as is somewhat typical, he devotes more time to the critical response to the film than to the film itself. he dedicates most of the review to bashing david denby.

  8. Lota says:

    Crash was, if anything, simply not Real people for the most part. So many possibilities, but, maybe an inner city Angelino from a blue-collar or mixed descent background would have had a greater handle on Perceptions of folk from different hoods and walks of life. As an inner city formerly public housing kid, I didn’t “buy” it but some things were nearly there–it was disappointing.
    In comparison, I think Grand Canyon was more accurate on perceptions/preconceptions/misconceptions and ‘modern’ angst. ANother comparable modern angst film was Short Cuts which dealt more with Class than ethnicity etc.
    Both SHort Cuts and Grand Canyon to me are better discussion counterpoints to Crash than Magnolia where i see very little to compare. But that’s just me.

  9. spliff says:

    I read your review the other day and perhaps I missed something, but I never came across why you didn’t like it. There was no real insight or specific piece of evidence, just a lot of vague feelings of distrust. And now I’m looking over the responses and they’re largely just bland agreeing or disagreeing–nobody is actually saying anything about the movie! I liked the movie and I’m not telling you why. So there.

  10. jeffmcm says:

    How about this: it’s a contrived, melodramatic piece of fakery that thinks it’s getting to the core of race in Los Angeles (and by extension, America) when in fact it’s just a lot of blustery liberal platitudes.

  11. belmont boy says:

    “There is no such thing as uniquely conservative art, uniquely liberal art, or any art that is uniquely of any persuation. Art is too complex for that and I’ve been repeating it over and over again.” — Posted by: jeffmcm at May 11, 2005 08:15 PM
    One week later talking about CRASH: “How about this: it’s a contrived, melodramatic piece of fakery that thinks it’s getting to the core of race in Los Angeles (and by extension, America) when in fact it’s just a lot of blustery liberal platitudes.” — Posted by: jeffmcm at May 18, 2005 04:36 PM

  12. jeffmcm says:

    Yeah, so? This is bad art. It’s simplistic and not very good. What’s your point?

  13. jeffmcm says:

    Let me elaborate, I’m on the liberal side of politics. My problem is that this movie is evidence of bad liberal movie-making, being empty-headed and preachy. Go take a look at Armond White’s review for more details.

  14. belmont boy says:

    You say CRASH is nothing more than a display of liberal platitudes. That means it is a uniquely liberal work.
    You then describe CRASH as bad art. That would make CRASH a uniquely liberal work of bad art.
    Bad art is still art, though. Thus CRASH by your own words is a uniquely liberal work of art.
    Yet just a week ago you argued with angry intensity that there can be no such thing as a uniquely liberal work of art.
    See the problem?
    I hope so because I’m not going to waste a second more of my valuable time on this just because you refuse to eat your own words.

  15. jeffmcm says:

    Oh, it’s you again?
    Just because the movie is on the liberal side doesn’t make it uniquely, by which I believe you mean exclusively, liberal.
    A uniquely/exclusively/truly liberal movie would have female characters in it who are more than sex partners, domestic servants, or shrill harpies. That is not the case in this movie. There are other details but they are beside the point.
    You, and Paul Haggis, are both intent on simplifying and reducing everything to a ridiculous degree. That’s why the movie fails and why your intent to create these harsh liberal/conservative binaries are pointless and destructive.
    I still don’t understand what you’re arguing about…I’m arguing against absolutism. Is that what you’re in favor of?

  16. SpamDooley says:

    Saying something untrue and contrary just for the attention is so grade school.
    Grow up.
    I am Spam Dooley and I use Garnier Fructis!

  17. KamikazeCamel says:

    well, all I know is is that I liked the movie. I liked the performances (particular shout outs to Thandie Newton, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon and Don Cheadle), the score, the cinematography and the structure. Some of the dialogue was a bit too topheavy “YOU’RE RACIST”
    But that was my only complaint. I give it a B+
    I find it hilarious though that people (on here) complain SO MUCH about the crap movies that they release this time of the year and then when one comes along that actually gets good reviews and sounds well-liked they are sceptical and don’t bother to see it (yet will see movies they think looks awful!)
    …or, ya know, they talk about these bad movies that they say a awful but probably didn’t actually see it.

  18. whahoppa says:

    I agree. Whether or not it’s good, it’s still obviously worthy of being seen and discussed. It might even be more interesting that Star Wars, but all you fanboy victims of arrested development couldn’t handle that, could you.
    Palindromes was one of the best movies of the year and has it seen more than a peep out of this movie-loving blog?

  19. JT says:

    I liked Matt Dillon. He was very good in this picture and his performance is the best thing about hte picture. Cheadle remains one of the more fascinating actors to watch. God, his eyes are so expressive. He could sell me anything, he is that convincing when he is onscreen. I understand why DP didn’t like the film, but i thought that Dillon, Cheadle and even Bill Fitchner (?) were worth slapping down a few bucks. I’ve seen better and i have seen A LOT worse.

  20. Stella's Boy says:

    Yes, we should all just shut up and like Crash because it aspires to be something better than the usual crap. Nevermind its numerous flaws. It has ambition, and therefore it deserves Best Picture.

  21. lota says:

    I didn’t hate crash, I just think it would have rung a little more truthfully had it been at least partly written by an inner city person. I liked Matt Dillon’s acting and always like Loretta Devine. Most of the female characters were cardboard. It’s by no means the owrst movie of the year, I’d give it a B-.

  22. jjo says:

    You’re right. Crash is slight. The fact is it’s television, plain and simple; right down to the fragmented stories, coming together conveniently once or twice; the overwrought acting; and topped off by the incomplete ending so you’ll be sure to tune in next week. Haggis is TV….but sadly, that’s what seems to be happening to the movie business.

  23. Mark says:

    You’re not going to force 95% of people to like a crappy movie. It won’t happen. But I respect the effort.

  24. Chester says:

    belmont boy, I thank you for nailing down something so flagrant and obvious. Having said that, I’d kick myself if I didn’t ask you this – are you Dion? I ask because your name and URL point that way.

  25. jeffmcm says:

    I thought Belmont Boy and Chester were the same person. My apologies for that.

  26. KamikazeCamel says:

    Oy vie.
    Seriously Stella, you need to stop exaggurating everything.
    I was not saying it should be Best Picture (nor was anyone else I believe) or that everyone must like it, I was merely saying that people are constantly complaining about shitty Jennifer Lopez movies, shitty Vin Diesel movies, shitty Ice Cube movies, shitty movies in general yet one comes along that has gotten good-to-excellent reviews and some people seem so skeptical about it that they would rather go see a movie they know is going to be bad.
    It’s just strange.

  27. bicycle bob says:

    so people should see this because theres enough vin deisel movies out there? i don’t get it. did u read daves review?

  28. Terence D says:

    Because it tries so hard and aspires to greater things we should all see it this weekend and make it number 1.

  29. KamikazeCamel says:

    Again, that’s not what I was saying. I was merely saying that according to people on here we get forcefed shit after shit in cinemas and then one movie comes along that, hey, quite a few people like and everyone acts all “oh, it’s not gonna be good. I won’t bother”
    I start to lose sympathy for people who see movies they know they won’t like (like how certain people see almost every movie at their multiplex?!).
    I’m not saying people who didn’t like it are wrong, I’m merely saying it’s strange that people would just flippantly disregard it because of David’s review.
    “did u read daves review?”
    Did you read Roger Ebert’s?

  30. joefitz84 says:

    Just because it wants to be good, doesn’t mean it is good.

  31. Sloan says:

    The real racism that Haggis should be trying to get at isn’t expressed in the movie. Instead, we get self-involved, flimsy characters pontificating and complaining.
    I grew up in Detroit and live in LA. I know so-called racist people. They either talk about their bigotry in the safety of their own group, or they never utter a word about it (they let their actions do the talking). And these people aren’t necessarily bad. When they are forced into dealing with another race, they almost always find common ground. I know Haggis was trying to show that, but he used caricatures to do it. When’s the last time you saw people yelling racial epithets at each other? How could anyone with a brain relate to the characters in Crash or even understand them?
    People who are stupid enough to be public racists are beyond help. The racism Haggis have addressed are the closet racists, not idiots like the Sandra Bullock character (which was a 3 scene version of the woman in Spanglish). A little subtlety goes a long way. Take a look at HBO’s “The Wire” (better than any movie in a long time) for a complex story about what’s really wrong with American cities.
    With all that said, the final scene with Dillon & Newton was almost transcendent. But Crash ain’t worth one scene.

  32. Stella's Boy says:

    Amen Sloan. 10 minutes of The Wire is infinitely superior to Crash.

  33. KamikazeCamel says:

    Well go watch The Wire then, please.
    It needs the viewers.

  34. Stella's Boy says:

    Pretty testy about this aren’t we? Really strikes a nerve? I see plenty of shit, like all (or at least most) of us do. I appreciated the ambition in Crash. That doesn’t mean I have to like it or can’t complain about it. It just didn’t do it for me.

  35. BluStealer says:

    The opening credits of The Wire is better than Crash.

  36. KamikazeCamel says:

    Okay, seriously, let me lay this out for you.
    This entire thread, has not been even remotely directed at you Stella or anyone else who has seen Crash and didn’t like it.
    My comments were directed at the people who complain week in week out about bad movies that they know look bad yet they still see them (or, at least they talk like they do) and then don’t see one of the only films released this year that critics and audiences are responding to in a big way.
    To use an analogy from another thread.
    It’s like a person knowing that McDonalds, KFC, Red Rooster and Wendys is bad for you yet you still eat there. And then a Subway opens up across the street and a lot of people are saying it’s really good and way healthier than Maccas yet they won’t go there because one man says on a website says it’s bad.
    …”I saw every single horror movie released this year, even after they all got bad reviews, and they ALL SUCKED, but apparently this “Crash” movie is good and getting raves from a whole bunch of critics… I’ll pass”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

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I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

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