If you don't have a drink by your side, I think you should take a minute to get one, because this year in review is best read (and salivated over) a bit tipsy...or outright wasted! Yes, we've reached the pivotal year in our 4 Ways a Best Picture discussions where we can basically bitch all over every single film that won (unless you're Kevin) because it's 2005, and 2005 (judging on wins here) SUCKS!!!
We have the shortest discussion (like, no one had words for how awful a win that one was) and our longest discussion (by almost DOUBLE any other discussion) because this year would do that to us. So, get a drink or two or seven (I don't care if it isn't breakfast yet, you owe it to yourself to start this Tuesday shitfaced) and indulge. I promise it's all worth it!
Before you do, get re-aquanted with our panel:
Britt from Rambling Film
Drew (me, duh) from A Fistful of Films
Jeffery from jdbrecords
Kevin from Speaks in Movie Lines
Wendell from Dell on Movies
Drew: The year has come that all my bloggers roundtable dreams were made of. I’m so excited! It’s time for 2005!!! So, let’s start things off with The March of the Meh…I mean Penguins!
Britt: The reception of this doc always fascinated me. People went batshit for it. My local theater even showed it, when it previously only showed Fahrenheit 911, which was I guess the first doc it showed in years. Never underestimate how much people love penguins, apparently.
Drew: I love penguins. They are my favorite animal. I have a penguin keychain. I’ve had it for years and I’ll never get rid of it. This movie is so pedestrian it’s not even funny. Like, this is a glorified National Geographic special.
Britt: Hahahaha I love that you have a penguin keychain. I didn’t mind this doc as a whole, even though I didn’t learn anything new. Docs about animals are touch, because they all feel like Nat Geo specials. Freeman’s narration made this feel a little bit better. I didn’t hate it, it was nice, but I was rooting for Murderball. LOL.
Kevin: For real, though. When did they start giving Oscars to the Discovery Channel?
Kevin: Not that DC is bad. It just doesn’t have anything important to say other than, “Look at these cute and amazing creatures and all the shit they go through.” It doesn’t require the cinema to get that across. And Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is the best documentary I’ve ever seen…period. Morgan Freeman’s voice helped this one. I think this was the height of that as a discussion. And nature photography is impressive to me, especially in those sorts of conditions.
Britt: If it were another narrator, it probably wouldn’t have been as popular. I actually threw Enron in my Netflix queue when you mentioned it before. Haven’t gotten to it yet, though.
Drew: I haven’t seen Enron, but I’ve heard wonderful things about it. This was also the year that Grizzly Man was snubbed at the Oscars. Now THAT is how you make a documentary about…animals.
Britt: Grizzly Man was crazy. How did that get snubbed? Herzog must have rubbed people the wrong way.
Kevin: Yeah, Herzog scares the Hollywood elite. He’s too unhinged. You never know when he might do something bizarre. Grizzly Man is a great movie.
Drew: We talked a little last week about the lack of ‘point’ with a film like Born Into Brothels (although I think by the time we finished talking that one out we all agreed it had a point), but I think that notion rests here and sticks since…like…this seemed so pointless. Cute, I guess, but pointless.
Britt: The point is penguins are adorable and marketable! And Morgan Freeman’s voice (like I said last week) will elevate anything.
Drew: Lol, I guess.
Britt: The most unfortunate thing about all of this is that it led to Farce of the Penguins, and I actually watched that out of curiosity.
Drew: Bob Saget has issues.
Jeffery: I kept drifting off from this. Maybe works best in a theater where you’re forced to watch? The narration attempted to be more emotional than scientific. Beautiful filming, but a little dull.
Wendell: This is cute and all, but I’m like Britt…I have no idea how everyone went so crazy over this. To be honest, cute is just a description of the penguins. As beautiful as Morgan Freeman’s voice work was, it was hardly cute. It seemed like he ended every paragraph with “and many perish” or something to that effect. Oh, here’s one, “Eventually some, usually the older ones, will simply fall asleep and disappear. Now it is dark almost all the time.” No shit, Morgan. Way to make a brother feel bad. Then again, since it’s Morgan Freeman, it’s like the most soothing death report in the history of the world.
Kevin: Haha! He didn’t write it, after all. At least, I don’t think he did.
Drew: What better way to drift off into death than to have Morgan Freeman sing you a culling song!
Drew: Al Gore should have hired Morgan Freeman for his power point presentation.
Wendell: Couldn’t have hurt.
Drew: Morgan speaks, the world listens.
Wendell: I haven’t seen Murderball, Grizzly Man, and I’ve only watched parts of Enron. I’m sure any of the three were more Oscar worthy than this.
Drew: That’s my biggest complaint with this win…is that this movie is practically a NON movie…like, there is barely enough content here to fill a thirty minute kids show. There is just no mean, just repetitive moments and visuals and that voice…over and over. It’s nice, but it’s also nothing. But I guess it doesn’t have the whole ‘aging rapidly due to social climate changing’ issues that the political docs have, since like, penguins will be cute and then will dies until the end of time…so in a way, this doc is timeless!
Kevin: I didn’t re-watch it for this. Once was enough. I don’t exactly think it was nothing, but it certainly isn’t special. Just a fad that’s faded.
Wendell: Timeless, but to what point? And that’s the problem with this win. It’s kinda interesting and presents us with some fascinating info, but like Drew said, there doesn’t appear to be any meat on that bone.
Drew: LOL, that timeless comment was pure sarcasm.
Wendell: I know it was sarcasm, but I couldn’t help myself.
Kevin: This win is obviously part of the penguin trend of the time. Isn’t Happy Feet next year?
Drew: OMG yes! Fucking Happy Feet. Spare me. 2005 and 2006 made such a mockery of the greatest animals ever.
Wendell: Hmmm…can’t wait to talk Happy Feet.
Kevin: I’m pretty sure I could’ve gone to the Knoxville Zoo, shot some penguins and won an Oscar in ’06. I probably should re-watch Happy Feet, but I’m not gonna.
Wendell: I’ve seen it several times. Wasn’t going to, but might over the next night or two, just to sharpen the knives. Last year, I worked at a summer camp and one of our trips was to see Island of the Lemurs in IMAX, narrated by Morgan Freeman. That didn’t sniff an Oscar nom. I don’t see where March of the Penguins was that much better.
Drew: LOL, we saw that Lemurs movie at our local IMAX a few months back. It was cute…but like Penguins…there just isn’t much there. At least Island of the Lemurs didn’t have all the death.
Britt: Talking about this doc is making me think of Meerkat Manor and how I was not prepared for that show.
Jeffery: Interesting that there’s so many different versions of this.
Drew: Different versions?
Jeffery: Yes! There are international versions. The movie is actually in French and had different narration (more like first person voices for the penguins). Morgan Freeman’s narration was for the American version.
Drew: OMG! I want to watch the French version if that actually has…talking penguins!
Jeffery: Yes! Sounds interesting. I think there was some mild controversy about the Americanized version. The penguin Oscar speech by the filmmakers was pretty endearing.
Wendell: For March of the Penguins, it’s a C-
Kevin: Same. C-
Drew: I’m not that low on March of the Penguins, despite my bitching. I’d give it a C+. I mean, it is timeless!
Kevin: I’m so low due to the extreme bitterness over what it beat out.
Wendell: My minus isn’t because it’s that bad, but because it’s really unworthy of its win.
Kevin: Yes. What Dell said.
Britt: I give it a B-. It wasn’t boring, it just wasn’t outstanding. I’d still take it over some of the other docs we’ve seen.
FINAL SCORE: 44/100
Drew: Ok guys, it’s time to talk about Tsotsi. I fucking loathe this movie. I’m going to leave it at that for the moment…I kind of want to see where y’all stand on this before I unload.
Britt: Now I’m afraid. I thought it had moments of brilliance, but the film definitely made me uncomfortable at times.
Wendell: I had a feeling this would be a polarizing movie. I like it, but it can certainly be tough to watch.
Kevin: By the end of this thing, I was quite moved. Yet, I spaced out a lot along the way. I’m right with you, Britt. A lot of discomfort and opposing emotions.
Drew: Fuck that ending. Dude…FUCK that ending! This is when manipulation of emotions fails because it tries to make us get on the side of someone unworthy of that said manipulation. David is an utter piece of shit. Like, the lowest of scum and someone that no one should ever ‘feel sorry for’, especially the parents of that poor child, and so trying to dispel all of David’s disgusting-ness with the swift climax of tears and pleading is just so…gross. David is a person that makes absolutely no sense. There is no development of this monster…just terrible traits and actions heaped one upon the other. I mean, you have this piece of shit steal a baby (albeit by accident) and then decide to parent it (in the worst way) and in the process he tracks down the PARENTS OF THE CHILD in order to rob them so that he can then CARE FOR THEIR BABY instead of just giving it back…WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK! Then…then he delivers the baby to the parents and like has a fucking breakdown and you are presented with a conclusion that actually asks you to feel sorry for this piece of shit. FUCKING NO! Hood presents David’s eventual decision as if it were the eraser taken to his actions, as if he was redeeming himself by presenting this baby to his parents. Actions speak louder than words, Gavin Hood…and David’s actions prove he’s nothing more than a heartless monster and so FUCK YOU for trying to make me forgive him!
Britt: I didn’t view it as a redemption but more of an epiphany on Tsotsi for realizing he can’t use his own fucked up childhood as an excuse to keep this kid. I never fully sympathized with him to begin with.
Wendell: The question each viewer has to answer is, “Do you think the movie established Tsotsi as too much of a monster? Does this make him irredeemable?” I guess that’s 2 questions, but you get the point. No matter which side you fall on, it clearly evokes a visceral reaction.
Drew: I’ll give it that. You know my answer to both of those.
Wendell: I actually have the same answers, but I still appreciate the stance Hood and the movie are taking. I fall more in line with Britt in thinking that this isn’t about redemption, but realization. Even this thoroughly evil guy has a line he can’t cross. Until the events of this movie, he had no idea where that line was. He finds it, and it totally rocks his world. When he gets there, he wants to do the right thing, but has no idea how. He’s relying on himself, mostly, for guidance. That’s obviously a bad idea, but it’s all he’s ever done. There are also emotions stirring within him that he’s never dealt with. His entire existence has been about suppressing those feelings and even the slightest hint of vulnerability that comes from them.
Drew: I can accept what Hood was attempting, but in my eyes, he failed. I never got a sense that David was anything more than a monster until that ‘forgive me’ finale, which honestly was too little too late BUT portrayed as so much at the right time, and the way his ‘redemption’ (I guess that is debatable) is handled, especially from the parents standpoint (like, NO!) feels so forced and heavy handed. This reminds me of my reaction to Prisoners. Everyone was so stupid. I have an aversion to stupid people. I find David to be a complete contradiction. He’s a menace, but he’s sentimental, but he’s evil, yet he’s moral, but he’s corrupt and yet he does the right thing…? I’m sorry, I’ll stop for a minute and let y’all talk.
Kevin: I don’t think he wants us to forgive him. I think he wants us to deal with him. To deal with THE FACT that people like this exist.
Britt: Yeah, he was very aware that what he was doing was wrong. I don’t think he wanted sympathy. Maybe he wanted help, but he was unapologetic in his behaviors.
Drew: I’m glad y’all could look at it that way. This just rubbed me SO WRONG.
Britt: Oh, I get it. Films just do that sometimes (as you all will see in my case, eventually lol).
Kevin: Drew, I think the emotions you have in dealing with this movie are precisely the point of it. That is the whole thing; can an absolute ‘monster’ be changed by the purest love, that of a child? Does it succeed? You definitely don’t think so. I don’t really either, but I definitely don’t hate this movie the way you do. I admire the assuredness in Hood’s direction and in Presley Chwenayagae’s performance. Both are merciless in their goals here. I certainly have some qualms with this as a narrative. It doesn’t make sense, really, the he kept the baby to begin with. Tsotsi/David, especially in the beginning, did not strike me as the type of criminal willing to hold a child for ransom. His motivation to keep the baby did not make sense to me at all. But as the bits of his backstory come to light, it makes sense. I thought there was also enough development to make us feel real emotion. I only felt manipulated during the scene with the old man in the wheelchair. That was a totally unnecessary, heavy-handed scene. And I don’t get that interlude at all. I wanted a bit more from the film overall, even still. It sagged for me in the middle. I kept wanting him to fucking do something with that baby. He just left the damn kid in his shack and went aimlessly wandering about, right? My memory has dwindled a bit. Been a while since I watched this one.
Drew: Yes, the plot here itself didn’t make sense. Why keep this baby? Why even attempt this? I see no reason for this, and so I’m already at a disconnect from David because his actions make no sense to me…and then they continue to make no sense for the rest of the movie. I agree that Chwenayagae gives a very strong performance. He IS David…but David is a piece of shit, so… Also, that scene when he leaves the baby with the can of condensed milk or whatever and he comes back to it covered in ants made me near vomit.
Kevin: I was so about to comment on that scene myself. So awful! I wanted to kill that SOB at that point. Then, he creeps on that young mother for breast milk. What the hell, man? For me, though, that’s the whole deal. This movie is exploring the motivations of a straight up thug and by the end I had seen enough of a change through the presence of the baby that the young mother. He was forced to seek out kindness through them. He let good enter, and he changed, even if just a minute amount. This movie is a rare case for me, where the first act totally turned me off and then I, like, straight up fell in love with the story in the third act. So odd. That baby’s parents offered David sympathy, something nobody else ever did, that’s powerful shit, man.
Drew: It may be powerful shit…but it’s BULLshit.
Wendell: I get that. In this case, I think it wasn’t necessarily about whether or not the parents make the right, or even the believable decision. It’s more about the compassion, itself.
Drew: Anyone steals my car and my kid and then robs my house in order to care for my kid INSTEAD of returning him is going to get beat the fuck up, NOT forgiven. Sorry…you don’t fuck with my kids, ever. I find out my kid was covered in ants on your watch and you’ll wish that you were dead. I will fuck you up. Sorry…I’m venting. SEE WHAT THIS MOVIE DOES TO ME!!!
Kevin: But this has precedence, man. Nathan Arizona forgave H.I. and Ed. Just let it out, man. Let it out!
Drew: But he had, like, five babies! There’s a difference!
Kevin: Maybe Tsotsi just thought one was “more than they can handle”. This movie could’ve benefited from some yodeled Beethoven and John Goodman screaming. I’ll stop now.
Drew: This movie could have benefited from not having been made.
Kevin: LOL, you’re killing me, man. I admire your passion. I’m very in the meh mood on this one.
Britt: I’m speechless, LOL!
Drew: I’m just letting everyone know now, this is my absolute least favorite film of all the films we will be discussing. Very few films actually piss me off. Like, my words on Crash a little later are going to come off like rainbows and roses compared to this.
Wendell: I think the movie has less to do with what happens and more to do with how it tells its story. Thanks to Hood and the performances, this is an endlessly compelling film. I also see much of it as metaphoric, bringing our focus solely on to this character. I think Tsotsi’s choice to kill Butcher is particularly symbolic. To go Freudian on you, David is our focus, the ego. Butcher is merely his id. He knows no boundaries and acts purely on an instinctual level. When David (or Tsotsi, so I don’t confuse readers) kills Butcher, he is in effect trying to shut that savage part of himself down. As the ego he is the more organized, somewhat more rational version of the id. However devious they may be, there are thoughts behind his actions. This leaves the baby as his super-ego, the one who understands things like rules, consequences, sympathy, empathy. David is just hearing that voice for what seems like the first time. It’s an extremely tough thing for someone who has governed himself with no regard for the well-being of others to suddenly be compelled to try and civilize himself. From the standpoint of it being an examination of its main character, I’d say the movie is a smashing success. However, the things Drew brings up have to be addressed, too. As deep and metaphoric as I want to make it, it has to function on a literal level, also. Here is where the movie starts to fail. In other words, I agree that there are a lot of stupid and/or unbelievable decisions being made. For that finale, I switch back to figurative mode. When he raises his hands, it’s not that we in the audience or the parents should forgive him, it’s David coming to terms with himself.
Drew: The story you tell, Wendell, sounds fantastic. I wish that was the story I saw. I can see where you’re coming from, too, and like I said, I can appreciate Hood’s intentions here, but like you pointed out, the two storytelling tones don’t really mesh here. If you want to be symbolic in your character exploration, you afford yourself extremes and unbelievable scenarios, but you also forgo the right to try and establish a ‘reality’ that we can relate to. You can’t be unbelievable and believable at the same time. For me, Tsotsi tried to feed us symbolism through a story we were supposed to accept as ‘real’, and it felt unreal. But, I can clearly see the intentions of story you are bringing up, Wendell, which is why I love these discussions we’re having!
Wendell: I totally get that and that’s why I certainly don’t consider it a masterpiece. I do see it as an intriguing watch with a lot to delve into. And yes, delving into it is so much fun!
Jeffery: I thought the movie was fairly strong (well-acted), and I also liked the vivid, goldish-tinted photography. I agree that some of the plot points and motivations felt manipulative and forced. The film seems skimpy on South African history, but its context seems relevant to the struggles within the story. I personally liked the ending and found the last image powerful. Also, the music was beautiful when he goes up alone on the hill with the baby. The film was a nice length too, not too long, as the storyline was fairly simple.
Britt: I did hold a bit of a grudge against this movie at first because I thought Paradise Now was going to win.
Drew: I wasn’t really a fan of Paradise Now, but it was much better than this. Paradise Now was possibly too topical for Oscar voters. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days should have won, hands down. But really, Cache getting snubbed due to some weird ineligibility rule was BS.
Britt: Oh yes, whatever the fuck that was. Cache was brilliant.
Wendell: Straight up B.
Drew: I’d say F for Fuck it, but that’s taken. How about F for FAIL!
Britt: B from me!
Kevin: I’m a B-
Drew: Ew, guys! I feel like such a grump here, LOL.
Kevin: Here we go again
Britt: Tsotsi wants a sequel? In all seriousness, I hope no one got hurt.
Drew: I hope the car thief gets punched in the throat! #justicefortsotsi
FINAL SCORE: 50/100
Drew: Wallace, Gromit, a giant carrot, a giant rabbit…Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Kevin: I zoned out for a good half an hour on this one, had to go back, then zoned out again. Then, with half an hour left, I fell asleep. There is nothing remotely engaging to me about this movie, except maybe the British accents.
Drew: The last 30 minutes, that whole big grand finale, is hilarious and exciting and kind of awesome…but getting there was a fucking chore. This is so shockingly dull.
Kevin: Yeah, I wish I could’ve made it. In my notes on the movie, I commented on some of the fun humor. Really, some funny, witty stuff here. But then I asked, “Why can’t this movie hold my attention?”
Drew: This would have made a great 30 minute Saturday Morning Cartoon, like one of those short stories thrown into the Looney Tunes mix or something like that.
Kevin: I just didn’t connect to it or care, I think. It didn’t have my kind of laughs or plot or really visual aesthetic. Yeah, it reminded me of something for kids that I most likely wouldn’t have even watched when I was a kid.
Britt: I’m in meetings all day and then I have a plane to catch, so it was boring. This was a bad year for animated films in general.
Drew: LOL, that pretty much sums this up though.
Britt: It wasn’t even the strongest stop motion film that year, Corpse Bride was better, though that film wasn’t great either.
Drew: I haven’t seen any of the others in contention…but Madagascar wasn’t even nominated, and that was MUCH better than this mess. I’ll agree though, that the year for animated films was really…bad. Like, Chicken Little, Robots and Valiant were the only notable omissions and they weren’t really notable. HUGE step down from the years we’ve already discussed.
Wendell: This movie lacked ‘oomph’. It just went on its way for an hour and change, pleasantly, but unexciting and then kicked it into high gear for a few minutes at the end. I didn’t hate it, though. The script was rather witty and a lot of references were snuck in there. I enjoyed those, but unfortunately, it was never laugh out loud funny. It was more like a bunch of cute jokes that I recognized as smart, but nothing to write home about.
Kevin: I am so right in line with you, Wendell. I kept waiting for this movie to get to something. Fell asleep before it apparently did. It really was cute, and at times very witty.
Wendell: Agreed, getting to that ending was a chore. The setup was way too long. A 30 minute Saturday morning spot would work nicely, maybe even an hour special, since that’s really about 45 minutes worth of material to make room for commercials and all. But, there just wasn’t enough there for a full-length feature to work. I wouldn’t have watched this as a kid, either. Pretty sure I would have cut this off pretty fast. I will own up to loving the visuals of everything EXCEPT the characters. I mean, the settings were perfect to me. It’s the characters that are hideous. I haven’t seen Howl’s Moving Castle, so I can’t compare it to that, but I have seen Corpse Bride. I really like Corpse Bride. This, not so much.
Kevin: I didn’t totally hate it visually either. I loved the gizmos and inventions in Wallace’s house. This movie has fun and it’s heart in the right place, I’m sure, it just wasn’t made for me no matter my age.
Jeffery: I’m so bored with animated films of the era. Sure, it had some fun, clever visuals but I’m with Drew. Zzzzzzz
Wendell: Jeff, I think it was a bad two year stretch for animated films. ’05 and ’06 were pretty brutal.
Jeffery: Oh man, I forgot about next year’s!
Wendell: Yeah, I’ll just say I’m not so “Happy” with that one.
Jeffery: After this bore, I’m not sure I can handle re-watching this year’s Best Picture winner. Might need a plate cleanser, or a drink, or two.
Wendell: It’s okay to use a drink as a palate cleanser.
Drew: The only appropriate way to watch Crash is trashed.
Britt: Nah, the only appropriate way is not at all!
Drew: I’m at a C-, but like that’s only because the entire film is practically an F until the B+ finale.
Kevin: Not enough there. Very boring. D
Wendell: I’ll split the difference between you two. C-
FINAL SCORE: 30/100
Drew: I hope everyone is drunk, because it’s time to talk about Crash!!!
Britt: Brokeback Mountain for life.
Kevin: It’s funny. Who would’ve thought the Academy would be branded “pansies” for not picking Brokeback Mountain? By the way, I’m about to defend this movie (not this win) to the death.
Britt: I don’t hate Crash. It’s not a bad film. It definitely wasn’t high on my list of favorites that year, but my main issues will always be that it didn’t deserve to win Best Picture. Not over Brokeback. Not even over Munich or Capote (never saw Good Night and Good Luck).
Drew: Eh, I think that’s the misconception most people have with this, that the haters simply hate on this because it beat BBM…er, no, we hate because it’s a cliché ridden, overcomplicated, half-baked MESS of a movie that is actually pretty fucking offensive to the cause it claims to be fighting for.
Kevin: Overcomplicated is a good assessment of this movie’s shortcomings. I agree with nothing else you said. You’re gonna have to argue your point that it’s “offensive”.
Drew: LOL, I’m so fun this week.
Kevin: You are, man.
Britt: For me, I just don’t see what is so special about it, other than the actors give good performances. Everything else was pretty standard.
Drew: IT’S OFFENSIVE BECAUSE I SAY IT IS! LOL, no, I’ll explain, but in a way I just did. Crash is not a film that believes in subtle honesty, it is far too blunt and outlandish with its race propaganda that it paints every occurrence throughout the day to be a race related issue, and we all know that is just not the case. It basically says "we are all racist because I said so" or more aptly... "WE ARE ALL RACIST BECAUSE I SAID SO!" The script never allows the audience to soak up the real issues because we are too focused on the overly contrived scenarios. I may be able to get behind the idea or concept that each and every human, at least in the America's, has a sliver of ingrown racism. This of course is due to the ever popular tradition of stereotyping and the heavy push the media gives to cementing those stereotypes into our heads. It's a sad predicament, but it's one that everyone is for the most part aware of. That said it was a shame that Paul Haggis couldn't have approached this film with a little more grace so as to make his statement truly effective. If he had just reigned in his constant barrage of racial slurs and stereotypes himself then maybe I could have walked away from this film feeling like it would make an impact, open some eyes maybe, but in the end I don't feel it could do that. And, the fact that every single character in the film is basically summed up within the stereotypes that we should be actively trying to disprove makes this film offensive. There is no balance in character development. The white people are all the same, the black people are all the same, the Asians (my GOD, that was cringe worthy offensive) are all the same, the Middle Easterns, the Latinos...it's like Haggis basically said, "This is what the media paints race as, so let's just shove that preconceived notion in EVERYONE'S FACE!" The acting is fine, sometimes great (Pena should have been the Oscar nominee, IMHO) but it can't save this mess. And the miraculous turnabout for some of these characters (LOL at that car wreck scene) is just so messy. There is no context here, no real development at all. It's like these characters are not real people, they are mere ideas of a singular aspect of people. Haggis's biggest mistake was making this a tapestry film. He weaved WAY TOO MANY characters and ideas into one film. If he had focused on one set of issues and really developed those characters, this could have worked. It would have felt complete or at least well thought out. Instead, he chose to show us everyone's worst and then show us glimpses of change with nothing to back it up. It just happens. And LOL at Ryan Phillippe's character arc. There Haggis is, telling us once again that no matter what you say or do, "YOU ARE RACIST!" Ok, I'm done for now.
Kevin: I'll start at the bottom and work my way up. First, Phillippe. I like him here, and I like his arc. The shocking finale in which he commits that awful mistake works. Not because HE IS RACIST. But because he is afraid. This movie is not totally about racism. It's more about stereotypes and how we fear what we don't know. This movie isn't grounded in the real world. It's a morality play. There is no way any of this would all happen at the same time. Haggis chose to weave a tapestry, a mosaic of life in LA. Maybe that was a mistake on his part. Surely, not all parts of this thing work. I re-watched this movie for this project. I knew I needed to. I was affected by it in the theater on first viewing. Very much so. I was not totally disappointed with its Oscar win...at the time. And then over the past decade I've heard nothing but negativity from the movie buff communities. I LOVED watching this movie again. I was able to see its flaws and admire its successes. I'm going to line up a few bitches about this movie in question form and answer them with my gut reactions I wrote down after my re-watch. Is Crash a bit thin narratively? Yes. For me, the best of this movie is in the dynamic between the Terrence Howard/Thandie Newton and Matt Dillion/Ryan Phillippe characters. This is the meat of the story for me. Where it thins out too much is in the story of the Persian storekeeper and his family. That dude is unlike any human being that has ever lived. Sorry, dude. Get over it, and stop yelling at people. The Sandra Bullock character is totally ridiculous and unnecessary but not totally unrealistic. I know spoiled rich bitches with that sort of mania. Michael Pena, yes, you are right, Drew, gives the finest performance in this film and was just not given nearly enough to work with.
Drew: His blanket scene, not the big "OMG he just got imaginary shot overreaction moment" but the quiet one with his daughter in her room is beautiful.
Kevin: It really is, man. He is great here. But so is Matt Dillon. It's his best work as an actor since The Outsiders. Not that I've seen that much of his work. But his character is so totally believable to me. He is more than racist to the point that he's not racist. He is angry and afraid and jaded and burnt out. I bought into all of the emotion he brings to this role and to this movie.
Drew: I'll never take issue with the performances, only the characters. Even Sandra Bullock, in all her "AHHHH, I'm falling down the stairs...please love me!" moments was compelling.
Kevin: All of the acting is top notch here. Every bit of it. You are right. Some of the characters don't work. Dillon's cop character does. Bullock's rich housewife does not.
Drew: I love broad emotions. Dude, I pimp the hell out of Mommy and Dolan in general ALL THE TIME and he's all about theatrics, but his theatrics feel grounded in an honesty I can totally sympathize with and understand. Here, this is just so over-the-top in a way that feels grounded in a complete misunderstanding of the actual point.
Kevin: That's where we're different. I think its point is to get the audience to understand their own prejudices and be frustrated by them. It works in that way. Totally. It's not telling us that we shouldn't be racist. It's telling us that we already are to some degree and that makes this world a sad place. Is this movie heavy-handed and over-the-top? Without a doubt. And maybe Haggis' inexperience as a film director hurt him here.
Drew: Oh, I agree with you on what it's saying...I just take offense to the way it's saying it.
Kevin: He did ground this movie in a very realistic Los Angeles, which I'd say hurts the sort of wish this movie has or suspension of disbelief.
Drew: When approaching the controversial subject of race relations one needs to use tact and discernment, not to avoid stepping on toes but to make the situations realistic. His depiction of Los Angeles probably also won him the Oscar, since Oscar voters probably saw themselves. And I fail to see where a film like this or a topic like this benefits from suspension of disbelief.
Kevin: I think is asks for it in the fact that not all of these things could possibly happen in such a short period of time. Too much coincidence for real life.
Drew: This was the issue I took with Tsotsi too, and Wendell and I talked a bit about this, but you can't ask us to believe you and not believe you. You either want us to suspend our disbelief or you want us to take you for face value, and I think Haggis expects both, and it just doesn't work like that. By the way, this is BY FAR my favorite year of discussions.
Kevin: I see your point. But I don't think he wants us to believe anything. He just wants to depict the actions of people based on their own fears and prejudices. Fears and prejudices that I sure as shit have as a sheltered little Southern boy, and that I would wager everyone has to an extent. I was raised to be extremely tolerant of all people, all races, sexual orientations, etc. That is rare where I'm from. Yet I still have unsubstantiated fears about people of difference.
Drew: Oh, I’m right there with you. I get that. Like I said, we all have it, especially here in the America’s. It’s just fact. He’s right.
Kevin: There is truth in this movie.
Drew: But that's why I'm so aggravated that he didn't make an effort to make this feel more human, more honest. He never explores WHY, he just tells us what we already know. For me, Crash is all surface. It's talking at us, telling us about what we all can already see on the surface, but it never gets under that to tell us what it is we don't fully understand.
Kevin: It is frustrating in that it doesn't offer any answers for any sort of satisfying explanation.
Drew: BOOM! You just said it. For me, that is a serious cause to fight, but it never once offers us any insight on HOW to fight that cause. is also a reason why this is offensive. Like, tell me something I don't already know. Yup, you're racist or afraid to be racist but know that you're kind of racist...but, like, I got nothing to tell you to do about it or begin to tell you WHY you're racist, you just are.
Kevin: Honestly, though, Drew, I can't think of any other movie that brought this sort of message to such huge audiences in such a classical way. Maybe Haggis felt this didn’t need subtlety. He obviously wanted to hit us over the head with it.
Drew: He accomplished that.
Kevin: And that just doesn’t bother me. I enjoyed watching this movie this time, my third viewing. And I didn't notice in my original viewings how great this movie looks. There are scenes of just incredible power here. I literally got chills in that scene where Matt Dillon saves Thandie Newton from the burning car. It is just great filmmaking to me, that scene. The gasoline, the smoke, the fire, the silence, the loudness, the tears, the screams, that music. There is more that works for me in this movie that doesn't. Even though, at times, I really do wish that some of the subplots had been taken out. As a mosaic piece, this movie fails. P.T. Anderson's Magnolia is contrived but it works because it's so highly stylized and overtly nonsensical. With more focus, Crash is a masterpiece. With more focus and style, I should say. I "soaked up real issues" out of this movie. I "felt something," as Don Cheadle's character states at one point. It hit me over the head and I liked it.
Britt: I wish I had more to add to the discussion you two are having, because it’s excellent. When I was watching this film, I was focusing on trying to find the hype, because everyone around me raved about it. Like Drew said, it didn’t really get under the surface. This film just kind of exists for me. Even though it was supposed to have an important message, it didn’t really get beyond that. When I think about it now, I only think of the Oscar it shouldn’t have won and nothing about what the film had to say.
Kevin: I don’t have a problem with it being nominated. It just wasn’t nearly as good as Brokeback Mountain. That movie is perfect! I’ve seen all the nominees from this year. I’d rank Crash above only Capote. That shit put me to sleep, no matter how good Phil Hoffman was.
Britt: Crash definitely wouldn’t even crack my Top 10 that year. Maybe even Top 20. When it comes to strictly Oscar nominated films, Brokeback, Capote, Munich, Walk The Line, A History of Violence, Junebug, Pride and Prejudice, Constant Gardener, Batman Begins, Memoirs of a Geisha, Tsotsi, Paradise Now, King Kong, War of the Worlds, Narnia, Goblet of Fire, Squid and the Whale are all better. Breakfast on Pluto came out this year as well, another one of my favs.
Kevin: It’s not in my Top Ten of that year either. The best of that year, for me, was The Squid and the Whale.
Drew: Brokeback Mountain, Cache, Pride and Prejudice, 2046 and L'Enfant make up my personal ballot, and in that order. I also loved Capote, which was so haunting (what Foxcatcher should have been).
Kevin: Both are fucking snoozefests for me. Bennett Miller's only good when his movie is about baseball.
Drew: I also loved Squid and the Whale, and Jarhead, and Cinderella Man and Match Point, Sophie Scholl and Junebug, which would probably round out my Top 12.
Kevin: I've got Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room at 2. Then The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and Match Point.
Wendell: Sigh. Here we go.
Drew: Bring it Wendell!!!
Wendell: I have to actually go back to '05 (early '06 more accurately) when I saw this for the first time to show where I am now. Back then, I saw it and was blown away by it. I loved it. At first. A few months went past and I liked it a little less each time I thought about, but still felt it was a solid movie. I wasn't thrilled with it, but I didn't hate it's Oscar win. I'll get back to that later. I watched Crash again a few months later and felt pretty much the same. Haven't watched it since, but I have defended it all over the place as not being so bad, and not a terrible Oscar win. Then this project came up. Time to rewatch it. Remember, the last time I watched it was definitely in my infancy as a discerning movie buff. Checking it out with more seasoned eyes...
Kevin: I’m on edge.
Drew: I feel like someone needs to say, “Wait for it”
Wendell: I’ll oblige…wait for it…wait for it…WOAH! We’ve got some problems!
Drew: I love when Wendell comes in at the end of the day and is like, "BOOM, this is how it is!"
Wendell: Haggis totally screwed the pooch on the big message he was going for. Actually, what the hell was the message he was going for?
Wendell: Does WE'RE ALL RACIST AND WE ALL SUCK qualify as a message? That's pretty much what I got out of "that" part of the movie. I'll explain the quotation marks, later. On the race thing, it's just a complete mess. A lot of that has to do with something Drew said.
Drew: Tears, tears, Wendell! This won't be another Tsotsi moment for me! Someone agrees!!!
Wendell: Just about every character, and I stress CHARACTER because I'm not sure these are people, is made up entirely of stereotypes. Even worse, every one of them views every character of a different race in the broadest stereotypical terms possible. More than that, they aren't shy about being assholes either. I mean, Bullock's character has to know Pena's character can hear her on the phone making the comments about selling her keys to his homies. Dillon feeling up Thandie Newton and blatantly belittling Terence Howard on the basis of race is just all sorts of uncomfortable. Ludacris purposely living out every stereotype he spends the entire movie railing about is silly. And on and on and on. What we end up is a bunch of unlikable people who get a moment of supposed redemption that just doesn't work. I realize I might sound a bit hypocritical after not slamming Tsotsi for essentially the same thing. The difference for me, being that we only focus on one character which allows for a deeper examination and multiple interpretations of what's going on. This is a bunch of people we're never afforded any opportunity to connect to go from being complete jerks to heroes in an instant.
Drew: Exactly. This movie has what I like to call 'Forrest Gump Syndrome', where it can't decide which cliches or stereotypes to embrace, so it embraces all of them.
Wendell: Yes! Forrest Gump syndrome! I like that! When all of them have their big moments, whether they're positive or negative, I don't know what to make of them. Am I supposed to forgive Dillon's overt racism because he pulled a black woman from a burning car. Really? Should I applaud Luda because he decided not to sell a bunch of people into slavery. People he refers to as "Chinamen," btw. Nice. And this is after being completely willing to just toss a man aside after running over him in a stolen vehicle. Am I believe Bullock will suddenly embrace Hispanics because her Hispanic maid got her to the hospital? Doubt it.
Drew: Lol, poor Sandra Bullock and that mess of a character!
Wendell: Yeah, Bullock’s character is a complete mess. And I have no clue what to think of that scene with Ryan Phillippe and Larenz Tate.
Drew: Yes! Thank you! That scene defines this movie for me, in the worst way.
Wendell: It just doesn't make any sense, whatsoever. You have two guys sitting in a car, both approaching a situation in the worst way possible. No fucking wonder it didn't work out so hot. And don't even get me started on the Persian shop owner. That dude was just itching to kill up some shit right from jump.
Drew: I find it funny you mention loving this when you first saw it because, I did too. I was even happy it won the Oscar. I was also 20 at the time and it was before I got into really digging into these movies. It's weird how perceptions can change the more you weigh on things.
Wendell: Exactly. Having time and multiple viewings has certainly changed my perceptions on "Crash."
Drew: I almost mentioned on the outset that I loved it initially, and then I was like...with what I'm about to say, no one would believe me.
Wendell: I feel your pain. I will say that I still don't find this to be a total failure. That's because I find the parts of the movie that don't directly deal with race to be successful. BTW, this is my explanation of my quotation marks on "that part" of the movie. The relationships between people who actually knew each other worked pretty well and were even enjoyable. Dillon and his dad, Cheadle and both his mom and his girlfriend, Howard and Newton, Pena and his daughter, these all worked for me. The last one was particularly well done.
Drew: Pena's segment, Persian aside, was the best part of the movie.
Wendell: I'm with you, Drew. That first scene with his daughter is absolutely beautiful. Pena is strong all the way through. In fact, all of the acting is strong. Unfortunately, it's strong acting of bad material. Agreed. Pena's segment, Persian aside, was the best part. Sadly, we can't pretend the imaginary shot thing didn't happen. I will say that the daughter's reaction to that was wonderful so I don't completely hate that moment.
Drew: I'll admit, I ugly face cry during that scene...every time. Damn you Haggis!
Wendell: LOL. As far as it's win goes, obviously it's a bad one. However, I also hate Brokeback Mountain. It's an Ang Lee made another slow as hell, overrated movie thing, not a gay-hate thing. Of the noms, Good Night, and Good Luck is my top choice. There were two other "alternative lifestyle" movies from that same year I found far superior to Brokeback: Mysterious Skin and TransAmerica.
Drew: Mysterious Skin makes me physically sick, but that's another discussion entirely.
Kevin: Mysterious Skin is a great movie. Tough watch. But great. Anyway, Crash just works for me. I find it entertaining and maddening and well-made and over-the-top, etc., all at the same time and I just can’t help but like it.
Wendell: It can be entertaining and certainly maddening and over-the-top. I guess well-made in the sense that it is a gorgeous looking movie, but it is certainly not deserving of its statuette. Like I said, though, I won't call it a complete failure.
Britt: Mysterious Skin is an excellent film. That and Breakfast on Pluto; two great films that year that got no love.
Jeffery: Mawkish and manipulative. The actors do their best, Matt Dillon might be the standout (?). Bullock is Razzie-worthy. Her staircase slip is hilarious. I appreciate films that deal with race but found this one pretty short-sided. That it was made by a Scientologist (at the time of filming) makes sense. It's kind of like a campy all-star disaster movie from the 70s except it's dealing with subject matter that should be handled with more perception. I saw the film in the summer and never thought it would get any Oscar noms. Brokeback would have def. been my choice. Its loss still kind of stings but I think most people see the Crash win now as a mistake. I agree with Brittani that there were so many better films that year too, including all the ones in the lineup. I think there was a bit of Brokeback fatigue by the time Oscar night rolled around. That's one problem with Oscars in recent years. The campaigns are so long and exhausting and there are so many precursors that get a lot more attention than they used to.
Drew: I totally agree about BBM fatigue. I don't think it helped that BBM became a running joke everywhere. All the parodies leading up to Oscar night really dampened the respect for the film. It's a shame. I LOVE that you compared this to a campy 70's disaster movie! You're so right!!!
Wendell: Never thought about that disaster flick angle, but in retrospect it's very apropos.
Drew: It's such an astute observation! I'm getting such Towering Inferno flashbacks right now.
Jeffery: But yeah, D.
Kevin: A- Brokeback Mountain and Munich are A+ and A, respectively and have stood for me as the ones that should have won instead.
Drew: I'm at a D. I was going to say "F this shit" but, Kevin's love for this has softened me from being a complete dick. But, I'm giving it a Double D, just so we're clear.
Kevin: Glad I could lighten you up a bit, man.
Britt: I'm going C. The "Meh" is strong with this one.
Wendell: Due to the great acting and the scenes of familial relationships I'm going to give it the rarely used D+
Drew: That like my double D? It's still only 5 points!
FINAL SCORE: 39/100
YEAR SCORE: 163/400
1) Tsotsi (50 Points)
2) March of the Penguins (44 Points)
3) Crash (39 Points)
4) Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (30 Points)
Drew: This gif perfectly sums up this year!
Britt: LOL, fitting for this year. How did a year that actually turned out some excellent films have such shitty Best Pic winners?
Drew: There was no helping Animated Film, but it looks like AMPAS just straight fucked up everywhere else.
Kevin: They really shit the bed on the Doc.
Drew: The doc was ironically my favorite of all the winners, which isn’t saying much at all (since I gave it a C+)…lol at that being my highest grade this year! C+, C-, D and F…holy crap!
Wendell: AMPAS was really asleep at the wheel. Other than the Animated Pic, the wins make collective sense when you think about how they normally operate. They went for pics that were clearly trying to make some sort of statement. Not defending them, ‘cuz this group of winners sucked. Just sayin’.
Britt: This also sums it up.
Drew: That gif!
Britt: Why, AMPAS? You were given a lot of great films to choose from this year, though you didn’t even nominate some of them. Why did you give us such shitty Best Picture winners? A penguin documentary should never be the best thing you have to award.
Kevin: March of the Penguins is a fine movie, but for TV. Enron is vastly superior. And would’ve been a much ballsier Oscar winner. Tsotsi I liked better than a couple of you, I think. It’s far from great. Wallace and Gromit is a joke. Crash is a great movie for the populous that somehow got a lot of awards love. It is not worthy of an Oscar, but on its own terms, because it entertains and moves me, I gave it a high grade. 2005 missed many great movies even as BP nominees. That’s just how it works most years, I’ve come to understand. 2005 is the best example of Oscar’s misunderstanding of what we film fans really love.
Jeffery: A lot of the movies that have been winning are kind of flat. Crash is probably the worst Best Picture I can think of.
Let's Get TRENDY!
This week, our hashtag was inspired by Britt's comment regarding Crash, which pretty much sums up our feelings on the whole year; #TheMehIsStong Get trending with that on Twitter, talk us up and PLEASE comment here to tell us what you think about our thoughts on 2005!