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Peter T Chattaway

Crash

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Fuuniest line from a XXX: State of the Union review I've seen so far....

XXX  "is so primitive, it must have been written in lizard blood on animal skin."

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Thanks, Jeffrey. Sounds as if this is a film with great potential--especially with this remarkable cast, but without the depth of vision of a director like P.T. Anderson, it will probably leave me (at least) disappointed.


There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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I saw Crash over the weekend.

It reminds me more of the mediocre 2 Days in the Valley rather than Magnolia. It was an interesting screenwriting exercise, but the subplots don't mesh into a cohesive whole. They are supposedly tied together by a theme, racism, but at only two hours, the film barely skims the surface. Maybe if this were a three-hour film like Magnolia, these subplots could have been given more depth and the characters could have been developed to the extent that they become believable. Or better yet, this film could have been the pilot episode for a television series, where we would have the time to develop these storylines. On the plus side, the acting was excellent throughout the film. And the scenes involving the locksmith and his daughter were touching emotionally. But overall, the film presents a self-important facade, but the structure of the story isn't strong enough to support the ideas at which it hints.

And as always, Jeffrey's review was excellent.

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kenmorefield wrote:

: P.S. I'll add here that I'm not a big Magnolia fan, either . . .

FWIW, neither am I: "There are several other characters, but their stories all follow similar themes. Indeed, they are almost too similar for a film of such scope, length, and artistic ambition. More than one character has to deal with cancer, confessions of adultery, strained parent-child relations and the like, but none of these episodes sheds all that much light on the others." I have long figured that the film was a bit too redundant in this regard and that it never really justified its length. It wasn't until Punch-Drunk Love -- which was half the length of Magnolia, and thus nowhere near as indulgent -- that P.T. Anderson finally really impressed me.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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My reflection. Really not a review per se.

This is the 2nd film this year that I think is likely to make it to my year end top films list (the other is Millions). This is could be the best film on racism ever (Do the Right Thing may be as good.)


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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My favorite thing about Crash is the complexity of the characters.

Just as you yourself start to judge someone, Haggis turns that on its head and says it isn't like that. There is more to this man then his hate.

And although I agree Jeffrey in that he doesn't look outward or upward, he does look inward. Each character looks inward, even when they aren't prepared to.

I think this pic dillon newton captures the theme and strength of the movie. In Matt Dillons face, we see a man who is not sure of what he is doing or why he is doing it. He is almost surpised himself. But yet there is something inside himself that he can't stop. Something stronger and more powerful then his hate. And Thandies face says alot. Alot of why and how. Why are you doing this? And how is someone that is capable of so much evil also capable of so much good?


"I am quietly judging you" - Magnolia

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Spoon wrote:

: My favorite thing about Crash is the complexity of the characters.

Ah, well, on THAT point, allow me to quote myself:

Alas, more rugs are about to be pulled out from under us. But while I won't give them away, I can safely say that nearly every stereotype -- whether of victim or villain -- that this film raises is eventually twisted around, as if Haggis was constantly trying to remind us, "Hey! People are more complicated than you think!"

We certainly are, we certainly are. But you know, I can't say that two hours of watching random people talk about stereotypes as they coincidentally keep bumping into each other does all that much for me. If you changed all the racial topics to religious topics, I would probably still find the film a little dull. I find these sorts of issues more interesting when they lurk within a film's
subtext
; I like being able to pull at them and unravel them and see where they go. When these sorts of issues are brought to the fore and spelled out within the text itself, it doesn't work so well -- especially when a film is so ambitious as to throw dozens of relatively minor characters at us and so diligently fair-minded as to try to show how complex
all
of them can be.

Any one of these movie's subplots might have made an interesting story in its own right, if it had been fleshed out properly. Instead, it feels like Haggis is too busy tweaking the "types" and pushing our buttons that he didn't really care that he hadn't given himself much space to create actual
characters
. Whatever sympathy we feel for them is due entirely to the actors, and not to the script. (Why are Don Cheadle and Jennifer Esposito in bed together at one point? Simply so that she can get pissed off when he answers the phone and says he's having sex with a "white woman," and then she gets pissed off even more when he says he thought about calling her a "Mexican" instead, even though neither of her parents were from Mexico. As with them, so with every other character; the film shows zero interest in their relationship
as people
.)

From the blog link posted above.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I add our review of CRASH to the discussion.

One of the interesting things for me - (due to the fact that part of my responsibilities as clergy is to be Assistant Superintendent for our 70 some churches in Southern California. We now worship in 9 languages and our Anglo-majority churches are now less than 50% of our churches) - is that this is not my experience of racial life in LA. I have found the diverse populations to be a tremendous source of joy and enrichment.

It is true, though, that as pastors we get to see the "topside" of life, while police must observe the "bottom side" of life. So although this is a contrived film of racial stereotypes - its exaggeration does help us be more aware of the latent racial animosity within Southern California.

Denny


Since 1995 we have authored a commentary on film, cinema in focus. Though we enjoy cinema as an art form, our interests lie not so much in reviewing a film as in beginning a conversation about the social and spiritual values presented. We, therefore, often rate a film higher or lower due to its message rather than its quality of acting or film-making.

Cinema In Focus Website

Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara Website

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Ken, you said:

Denny:

This is a simplified response to a complex question (as is this movie), but I wonder to what extent the socio-economic position of the group you pastor mirrors character(s) in the film?

The last few times I've visited L.A. (I have relatives in that area), I've been more aware of people like the Sandra Bullock character, but then I've been in areas that are more white and rich. I do think our environment (church vs. other areas) effects how free we are with reactions we might otherwise hide or fight; I was/am surprised by how much freer some people were with venting their racial feelings than I was used to. Then again, I've seen a similar rise in parts of N.C., so it may not be strictly geographical.

Within our conference we have poor and rich. My congregation here in Santa Barbara would be the wealthiest grouping (mixed races - with all socio-economic, but predominantly upper middle to lower upper class), and then in varying economic levels throughout our churches in S.Cal we have Chinese, Ethiopian, Arabic, African-American, Caribbean Spanish, Mexican Spanish, etc. (We even have a chaplain to the Harley subculture called BLACK SHEEP.

So, yes we mirror the various socio-economic and racial characters of CRASH.

Yes, there is a tension that is mounting in Anglo culture and often expressed as anger. There are many theories, but I think a primary problem is the hectic lives we are living. (What a UCLA study calls the "non-stop American family." The research I've seen is that the "labor saving devises" and the internet - (and forums like this) are taking so much time that the average person has 9 hours less "free time" each week than we did 10 years ago. We all have "lost" the time we now spend on email, etc.

That the internet is enriching us is obvious - since I get to communicate with people like you and "mind sharpens mind" in the experience. But it also is ratcheting up the pressure on all of us. The result is intensity which causes more reactivity which causes us to be less "thoughtfully responsive" and more "immediately reactive." Rather than taking a week to consider a letter and writing a thoughtful response, we react to one another within minutes - as I am doing now - and give immediate responses.

But this is only the hectic side of it. The racial struggles and the stereotypical aspects of which races do which businesses and have cultural expressions that identify them beyond the color of their skin - is also true. This causes us to begin to create "categories" for which businesses are run by which races and we tend to not see the people as individuals but rather respond to "them" as a member of a race/culture/attitude/etc. I haven't actually seen a lot of "freedom" to be racist in my own interactions - but it is definitely a possible result of the way S.Cal is divided.

So in that way I think CRASH is a fascinating study.

Denny


Since 1995 we have authored a commentary on film, cinema in focus. Though we enjoy cinema as an art form, our interests lie not so much in reviewing a film as in beginning a conversation about the social and spiritual values presented. We, therefore, often rate a film higher or lower due to its message rather than its quality of acting or film-making.

Cinema In Focus Website

Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara Website

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Just caught this last night and I really liked it. On a "personal effect" scale it was one of the most profoundly moving films for me in the last three or four years.

I thought the ensemble cast was outstanding. And I while I thought the film brought up some very serious points, I was so impressed with the dialogue. All the scenes had the ring of truth about them even the ones that depicted wildly impropibable scenarios. And there was humor!

I know I'll take some heat on this one, but I felt it was far better than the "many- plot line" films we've seen recently (13 Conversations about One Thing, and Levity). Those films felt like LONG civics lectures to me.

spoilers1.gif

I was riveted by the gunshot scene and many twists and turns were not predictable. And I loved that the film (almost) ended with that scene that it began with. This "kid" murdered by the side of the road had a long, complex story that we all just witnessed.

I found two faults with the film:

1. The moment where Cheadle's character's mom chastizes him for "leaving them to do more important things" was an emotional impactful moment, but I felt it was off the beaten path of the film, and did nothing but turn the emotive volume "up to eleven."

2. There were a few too many endings.

But I was deeply impacted by the film and I was left with a better understanding of racism. Not because it taught me anything, but because it demonstrated truth powerfully and in an order that brought some clarity to an issue which generally makes me throw up my hands in confusion. The film reminded me of that statement "Art is life as it matters."

So many moments had me thinking, yeah, I think that way some time. And then when people from other races were depicted I assumed those depictions were equally realistic and that was an enlightening experience.

Edited by DanBuck

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Good question, Denny!

Alan Thomas wrote:

: In my viewing, the only way "divine intervention" could be argued is in some of the

: coincidences . . .

I think I see a very different author at work there ...


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Do you believe that faith was removed to show what our lives would be like if we had no spiritual power helping us to love one another, or do you believe its absence is how the filmmakers experience the world?

For me, the only "suoernatural" angle the film depicted was the faith of the little girl (in her Dad's cloak), and the faith of the man who shot her (in his guardian angel).

Both faith's were shown to be false by the deliberate choice of the daughter to buy blanks.

If, as a Christian you had been pulled from a car seconds before it exploded like this one did you would see God all over it, but I'm not sure that is how the filmmakers see it. To them religion is as false as the plastic religious "icons" that we encounter at various points. Which is why that closing God shot is so interesting. I ended my review looking at the way faith is presented in the film as follows:

The film, perhaps unwittingly, gives a hint towards the solution. There

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Matt,

I love your observation about the plastic religious memorabilia. Perhaps that is significant. I have to admit I missed that.

The problem, I suppose is whether plastic religious memorabilia would expect to be found among those groups. I would answer yes. I don't think they are trying to say their faith is plastic, but rather that is all they either can afford or want to spend on such items.

I agree somewhat with your analysis of the faith that is present. I agree that the daughter of the old man bought blanks, but I do not think that changes the faith of the little girl. She "saved" her father in more ways than just from the bullets. She brought

Edited by Denny Wayman

Since 1995 we have authored a commentary on film, cinema in focus. Though we enjoy cinema as an art form, our interests lie not so much in reviewing a film as in beginning a conversation about the social and spiritual values presented. We, therefore, often rate a film higher or lower due to its message rather than its quality of acting or film-making.

Cinema In Focus Website

Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara Website

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offtopic.gif

Actually, the Red Cross comes from reversing the colors from the Swiss flag.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Hi Denny,

Thanks for your comments. Regarding

The problem, I suppose is whether plastic religious memorabilia would expect to be found among those groups. I would answer yes. I don't think they are trying to say their faith is plastic, but rather that is all they either can afford or want to spend on such items.
One of the things I was referring to was the giant plastic nativity scene - likely - yes (sadly wink.gif ), "all they can afford" - I always imagined they were quite expensive.

But yeah I think your point holds.

Matt

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Darrell -

I stand corrected - at least technically.

I suppose the question would be where did the Swiss get theirwhite cross that was reversed for the red cross. At its core is the Christian power to overcome pain, sorrow, disease, disaster, etc.

Denny


Since 1995 we have authored a commentary on film, cinema in focus. Though we enjoy cinema as an art form, our interests lie not so much in reviewing a film as in beginning a conversation about the social and spiritual values presented. We, therefore, often rate a film higher or lower due to its message rather than its quality of acting or film-making.

Cinema In Focus Website

Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara Website

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Didn't God make DanBuck?

Willthis lead to a discussion on the goodness of God that we have to transfer to the religion area?


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Peter said,

"...But you know, I can't say that two hours of watching random people talk about stereotypes as they coincidentally keep bumping into each other does all that much for me. If you changed all the racial topics to religious topics, I would probably still find the film a little dull. I find these sorts of issues more interesting when they lurk within a film's subtext; I like being able to pull at them and unravel them and see where they go. When these sorts of issues are brought to the fore and spelled out within the text itself, it doesn't work so well -- especially when a film is so ambitious as to throw dozens of relatively minor characters at us and so diligently fair-minded as to try to show how complex all of them can be."

I want to respond to this because, on one level, I sympathesize with some of these views. I don't generally like films that seem to care more about giving a lecture on social relations more than developing an interesting story with interesting characters (See Spike Lee.) Moreover, I think there is some validity to the claim that Haggis didn't do a good job of creating characters.

However, on another level, I think the film does more than show that people are complex--specifically, that people are neither good nor bad, but a mixture of the two. Yes, the film shows us that, but it also explores stereotypes in a complex way, too--specifically, thinking in stereotypes is not necessarily bad. There are sound reasons for thinking in stereotypes: should we always prevent ourselves from thinking this way? Can we stop ourselves? The fact that Haggis does not give us a black-and-white answer to this issue is what makes this film special. I know I haven't seen this in any film.

But he doesn't stop there. He goes on to show that thinking this way--for sound or unsound reasons--really alienates people from each other. He shows the frustration that this causes in people and the difficulty of the situation. Sandra Bullock's character and situation really show this frustration and complexity. She doesn't want to think of the black characters in a stereotypical way, yet her gut tells her she should be on guard. She ignores that and gets mugged. We see her anger and frustration afterwards, and to me it was over this tough situation. Do you ignore your gut feelings and then put yourself at risk? Or do you act on your gut feelings and then feel guilty about that?

This complex situation causes alienation and frustration has explosive consequences (crashes). I also think the crash metaphor refers to the fact that we are so alienated from each other that we need a jarring event like a crash, to connect with one another. (I believe Don Cheadle's character says something to that effect in the beginning.)

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This arrived via Netflix yesterday and we watched it last night. Mostly it made me wish repeatedly that I was watching Do the Right Thing instead and marvelling anew at how good that movie is. In the race fable genre it's so difficult to make the characters more than mere automatons walking and talking only to fulfill their types and places in the narrative, and I'm even more amazed at how Lee did it after watching this film.

This film takes Chekhov's precept to absurd lengths. Not only is there a gun hanging on the wall in Act I, but there are neon signs around it pointing at it insistently. The tenderness of the invulnerability cloak scene was spoiled immediately thereafter by the realization that the character and the moment had occurred only so that later on my heartstrings would be tugged when she took a bullet.

Much of narrative is contrivance, I know, but for as sprawling as the film is, it shows the brushstrokes of that contrivance far too readily.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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