Sunday, January 12, 2014

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 2005

Once a movie has left its mark on your soul, there can be no going back - back to a time of where your thoughts could be entirely impartial.

I've seen Crash (at least) five times since its release eight years ago. It's a heavy movie to sit through each time (not as hard to watch as Precious, but up there), and I have many personal experiences tied to each viewing.

Pulling from the depths of my movie consuming memory, I watched it once among my pals in college, another time at an on campus screening, which followed with a discussion, and numerous times lounging in the living room with my family.

Three entirely different audiences means experiencing completely varied reactions. Only in this way did I discover the wide range of emotions this movie emotes in people.

Stiff debates about how the movie chose to depict race erupted, as they will do in college, between my friends in our dorm and classmates during the panel discussion lead by numerous professors. There was a lot of anger, but mostly a sense of my generation simply being unimpressed by the 2005 Best Picture Winner. Most felt it wasn't an accurate depiction of how people really treat each other. Maybe we were all just naive 18-year-old's, or maybe the movie is extreme, or maybe they were perturbed that Brokeback Mountain lost best picture that year (like I was).

On the complete other side, until Crash I had never seen my dad openly sob at a movie. My mom is the consistent movie cryer, which was genetically passed down to me, and while my dad is an open, expressing feelings kind of guy, this isn't just a single tear I'm talking about, he will get emotionally wrecked.

I'm talking face scrunched, eyes welled up and tightened, all at the sight of a woman getting saved from her overturned car that's on fire by a police officer who had assaulted her the day before. It is equally unsettling and impactful to witness.

If a movie makes my dad feel this way, how can it possibly be bad? There must be millions of others who were moved just as much by the story and characters.

Many would argue that pulling at people's heartstrings with well placed music and high end drama is a cheap ploy, and doesn't equal quality, but in this case I would disagree. While I sit somewhere in between the range of reactions (squarely between love and loathe) after watching it for the fifth time, with my dad in tow again, it is impossible for me to not follow his lead and get swept up in the undeniably powerful themes composed by writer/director Paul Haggis (of past Million Dollar Baby Oscar fame).

It is a frustrating tale that follows a day in the life of many different citizens of Los Angeles. In a formula we've seen in everything from Magnolia to Love Actually, it is revealed that all of the characters - police officers, thieves, a maintenance repair man, an upper-class stay at home mom - are connected to each other in a web of humanity. 

At times the connections seem too conveniently tied together, which can lead to some serious eye-rolling on my end, but that can be forgiven when the point is to confront us all with questions about awkward topics. It's a harsh, eye-opening reality, that in the end has a simple resolution; if we were only more patient with one another - all races, all social standings - it would be a hell of a lot happier world.

Building a huge cast to tell this elaborate story, with actors ranging from Sandra Bullock to Ludacris, sets the stage for no particular performance to stand out. There are some exceptions, as Matt Dillon was the only cast member to get an Academy Award nomination (for Best Supporting Actor), and Thandie Newton's heart-rending scenes could stick with anyone even 50 years from now. Mostly though, the plot is a well constructed, epic tragedy supported by a bunch of actors that are all good in their own way, but not fantastic.

The movie definitely has individual problems with some cheesy dialogue and lack of detail for some of the tales (Brendan Fraser's specifically), but those could be completely rendered void within the context of an overarching affecting story. There are several stand-alone images within the 112 minute running time that are unforgettable.

One in particular deals with a father and his 5-year old daughter.

Throwing emotional caution to the wind, because that's what this movie does, I'll mention that my dad once sent me a letter while I was away at college which referenced this scene.  Yes, a real letter that came with a stamp and everything. He wrote that he knew I would do the same for him. You think it sounds like the movie made him emotional? His sentiment completely leveled me.

For those who have seen the movie, I think you know which scene he was referring to. See why I  can't help but have a scroll length list of reasons to always have an undeniable appreciation for this film?

Even with the problems a vast number of movie aficionados can't ignore, the best movies leave an impression on the world and that's what makes Crash worthy of a Best Picture honor.

It made its mark on me and maybe it did for you too.

Next Up: Scorsese and DiCaprio before Wolf-ing up the box office - we're watching The Departed.

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