Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 1, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

OPEN ACADEMY AWARD THREAD....Of the five nominees for Best Picture, my favorite is Crash. A friend of mine thinks this is crazy, because (and I'm paraphrasing here), Crash is one of those irritatingly pseudo-profound movies that thinks it's saying something deep and thoughful when in reality it's just saying something banal and clichd. Racism is everywhere, we're all racists, even blacks can be racists, yada yada yada. Got it.

Oddly enough, I sympathize with that response. The movie worked for me, but it's balanced on a pretty thin knife edge, and I can easily see how it falls on the other side of the knife for some people. Matt Welch's complaint, however, I don't get:

The conceit of "Crash" and the Oscar-nominated L.A.-bashing movies it borrows liberally from ("Magnolia," "Short Cuts," "Grand Canyon") is that they have the guts to portray the real Los Angeles. In truth, they tell us far more about the neuroses of their directors and the prejudices of academy voters than about our actual city.

Matt seems to think that Crash was designed to show Los Angeles as a uniquely steaming hellbroth of racism and intolerance, whereas I saw Los Angeles as just a convenient backdrop. The movie could just as easily have been set in Detroit or New York or any other big American city. It wasn't really meant as a specific message about LA.

Anybody else feel the same way as Matt? Just curious. And just so everyone can have fun in comments mocking my taste in movies, here's my personal ranking of the five Best Movie nominees:

  1. Crash

  2. Capote

  3. Good Night, and Good Luck

  4. Brokeback Mountain

  5. Munich

Kevin Drum 6:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (175)

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Comments

If anyone is interested in a movie about LA, go enjoy The Big Lebowski. Foggy and steamy.

Posted by: Dude on March 1, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

The charge of banality can be levelled against any movie for after all it is just a movie.

I liked Crash, and if I remember right, your mention of in some previous blog prompted me to rent it.

Posted by: lib on March 1, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

The real ranking:

1. Munich
2. Good Night, and Good Luck
3. Crash
4. Brokeback Mountain
5. Capote.

And if those making the nominations had really been on the ball, you would have The Constant Gardener and A History of Violence nominated instead of Brokeback Mountain and Capote

Posted by: johnr on March 1, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Agree with 1-3, don't plan to see 4-5. I live in L.A. and Crash was my personal favorite with Capote a close second. Capote might have been first but I didn't get invited to the premiere even though I helped with the financing, so still pouting.

Posted by: TheMandarin on March 1, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'll let you know in about 6 months when all these movies are out on DVD, and I've had a chance to watch them. No sooner.

Big Lebowski was awesome, dude.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 1, 2006 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

Having seen all these films, Brokeback worked the bsst for me, followed by Crash, Munich, and Capote. I have to agree with the criticism of Crash -- it was so predictable after a few minutes -- like "Mississippi Burning." You knew that whatever you expected would be twisted, just like in Mississipi Burning you knew that any sympatheitc character would be lynched or trashed in some way.

Posted by: Rmullin on March 1, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with both Matt and your friend - Crash is irritatingly obvious, pseudo-profound, and meant to say things about LA that are banal at best. Yes, we're all in cars. Yes, we're all dying for human contact. Not.

Happy to help!

Posted by: craigie on March 1, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

'Munich'? Now *that* was banal: first you start killing the terrorists, then. . . you BECOME the terrorists!!

I'll represent for 'Syriana'. Also 'Constant Gardner'.

Posted by: Trent Lott's Hair on March 1, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

The left coasters in Hollywood will show how much they hate America by showering Brokeback Mountain with Oscars.

Posted by: Al on March 1, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

Big Lebowski was awesome, dude.

And don't forget LA Confidential. A movie I could watch and watch and watch. And I read the book, first. And I still like the movie! Amazing grace.

Posted by: craigie on March 1, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Al, America showed how much they hate America by making Brokeback Mountain a towering financial success. But deep in your twisted computer code, you knew that.

Posted by: craigie on March 1, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Every character in Crash got hurt or hurt someone else by making a decision based on stereotypes. I thought that was the message of the movie and that the LA location was incidental.

Matt's critique - which I read a few days ago - struck me as provincial and off-target.

Posted by: cmac on March 1, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

The best movie I saw last year was Casablanca, which I know has been honored with Oscars in the past. The rule is that this means it can't be honored again. It's a stupid rule.

Posted by: Zathras on March 1, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Capote might have been first but I didn't get invited to the premiere even though I helped with the financing, so still pouting.

Best LA remark this thread is likely to see!

Posted by: craigie on March 1, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, we're all in cars. Yes, we're all dying for human contact. Not.

It's that GODDAMNED VALET PARKING.

I loved Big Lebowski, but I had trouble with LA Confidential's rule-breaking's-great-if-your-intentions-are-good and sometimes-a-cheatin'-whore-deserves-a-good-smack themes. Plus it had Russell Crowe in it, yuck, but I loved the period/atmospheric aspects of it.

I never seem to have seen all five of the Oscar-nominated films beforehand, and I love movies. Some year I'll have to try that.

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Crash? Eh. Check out Cache. It's the movie Crash wants to be, if Crash had more talent. Dynamite, but watch out- you may not like yourself afterwards. Yeah, you.

Posted by: JB on March 1, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

The trouble with Capote was that the lead character was complex and unsympathetic. We wait for the movie to simply instruct us. Instead, we're shown a flawed human being dealing with stressful situations, sometimes well, and mostly not. Still, far and away the best movie of the year.

Posted by: walt on March 1, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

There's no arguing from taste, so here goes:

Kevin's friend is right about Crash being pseudo-profound.

Kevin is right about Matt's comment about movies about LA being wrong.

Virtually everyone here is wrong about Capote, which, along with Grizzly Man, was probably the most memorable movie I saw this year.

But virtually everyone is right in mocking Kevin's movie tastes, so let's all feel good about ourselves.

Posted by: crabshack on March 1, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the banal critique is a really interesting critique. I mean, that is such a banal criticism.

It's all been done before. It's all been said before. The question is, how was the execution?

I liked Crash for the effort, but I don't think it quite made it. I was not unhappy at having watched it.

I haven't seen any of the others yet, so I don't know how it compares.

Posted by: teece on March 1, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

In order of preference (leaving out Grizzly Man which might have been may fave of the year).

Munich - Some people think it's banal, I don't. First you're terrorized, then you terrorize - that is regretably the human condition. And it's also the basis of countless great films - from "The Searchers" to "Straw Dogs" to "Affliction" to "Munich." But damned if they didn't screw up by not nominating it for Best Cinematography.

Brokeback Mt. - Beautiful filmmaking - that Jim Schamus knows what he's doing. And the score's gonna win the little golden man.

Good Night and Good Luck - beautiful b&w, but that guy who played McCarthy was WAY over the top. (snark!) But it's like medicine - take it because you know it's good for you, but it still tastes crummy. Hats off to Participant for their involvement with GN&GL, North Country, Syriana and Murderball.

Crash - hats off to the guy above who helped with the financing. That script went to so many companies and so many people lacked the nuts to finance it. Saw it first hand.

Capote - great acting - yup. great movie - not so sure.

Posted by: dannyinla on March 1, 2006 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

It's that GODDAMNED VALET PARKING.

I knew I could lure you out into the open!

Posted by: craigie on March 1, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

The first letter to Ebert here explains my (slightly negative) thoughts on Crash:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060116/COMMENTARY/60116002

As for the rest, I liked Capote and GNGL very much, still haven't seen Munich, but Brokeback Mountain is my favorite. I was really surprised by it, expecting something heavy-handed and manipulative, and instead getting a film classic. What a great movie, with great performances. Film buffs who haven't seen this film yet are doing themselves a disservice, probably out of fear of the movie being romantic claptrap. It is quite the opposite.

Posted by: crazymonk on March 1, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Really liked Brokeback Mountain, would have made it number one. Kevin, you're usually right about these things. Sigh

Haven't actually seen the others. However, Crash; Good Night, and Good Luck; and Munich were all avoided because they sounded kinda pretentious, and faux deep. So, I'm going with Capote as number 2, which no one has told me anything about yet.

Posted by: MDtoMN on March 1, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

I loved Capote, but it's the only nominee I've seen so far (we've got a kid, we mainly wait until we can get the DVD from Netflix, though we did make it to a theater to see Capote).

I think Catherine Keener is a terrific actress, who's done tons of great work. But her performance in Capote isn't very exceptional, because the part doesn't give her much to do.

Posted by: Joe Buck on March 1, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

ometimes-a-cheatin'-whore-deserves-a-good-smack

That's interesting, I read it the exact opposite. And Russell Crowe wasn't a weenie then.

But yeah, it was mostly the atmosphere that I reacted to. And it's all location stuff, so you get this odd disconnect in time and space. Fab.

Posted by: craigie on March 1, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

I knew I could lure you out into the open!

You're infielder bait. Hmmm, does that reflect more poorly on you or on me? Best not to ponder it.

I don't see how we can continue this discussion without RDW Clavin here to tell us how real Americans don't go see movies without comic-book characters in them. That dude is WAY too obsessed with George Clooney, if you know what I mean, and yeah, I think you do.

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

And with that, it's into my car, the better to avoid other people.

Posted by: craigie on March 1, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

That's interesting, I read it the exact opposite.

I really want to emphasize that I don't go into movies looking for things to outrage my feminist sensibilities. I'm easy like a Sunday morning in that regard. But this one hit me in the face, if I may make such an analogy. Having seen the film several times, I also have a highly annoyed reaction each time to Spacey's extremely mannered performance in the scene where the captain plugs him in the kitchen. And I love Mr. Kevin.

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

That's interesting, I read it the exact opposite.

I really want to emphasize that I don't go into movies looking for things to outrage my feminist sensibilities. I'm easy like a Sunday morning in that regard. But this one hit me in the face, if I may make such an analogy. Having seen the film several times, I also have a highly annoyed reaction each time to Spacey's extremely mannered performance in the scene where the captain plugs him in the kitchen. And I love Mr. Kevin.

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

I do think Crash is intended as a uniquely LA story. The parallel emphasis on cars in the movie and the city are unmistakable, the portrayal of race is intended to be LA-centric (althought it's debatable how successful it is).

To say that Crash is a story that could fit in other cities would be like saying Woody Allen love stories could be set in any city. It might be true on some level, but it largely it misses the point. The same thing with Collateral. Sure, you could put that story in another city, but that's not the whole point of the movie. Collateral is definitely a movie about LA. I think Crash is the same way.

Posted by: TOTL on March 1, 2006 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Crash was annoying not because of it's pseudo-profundness. It was lame because it does the same thing that all bad hollywood dramas do: They trick you into falling in love with a character. Then once you're primed and ready, they knock the guy off. Crash was even worse, because they did it twice. First when the pretended to kill the little girl. Second when they killed the young cop.

I watched the whole movie in horror wondering when that cute little girl was going to get shot. It's a setup for the rubes and it drives me nuts because I fall for it every time.

Best movie of last year was "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"

Posted by: enozinho on March 1, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

I think Capote and Good Night made the same basic point: 50's NYC-based media elites discover that people in the heartland are getting killed, and they should/have to care.

(Spoiler warning - stop here if you haven't seen Capote & still want to see it:)

Good Night made the point in the first fifteen minutes, and elites care because what is killing people in the heartland could kill democracy in this country. The rest of the movie is devoted to what do they do to stop it, and the courage that this took.

Capote made the same point in the last fifteen minutes about its star (Harper Lee always cared, but the movie isn't about her book, and as indicated earlier, the actress playing her has very little to do), the killings in the heartland do not concern anyone else (vagrants kill farm family, vagrants get executed by the state) and Capote's discovery that he does care does nothing but ensure he never writes another book. Most of the movie is therefore filler. Capote was pleasanter company for the audience as a shallow narcissist, and more productive to boot. Maybe more subtle, but certainly not a better film.

Posted by: Diana on March 1, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

I found Crash unconvincing because the racism was so obvious and overt, and thus easy to deplore (and to dissociate from oneself). Most people at this point know better than to express racism so overtly, but that doesn't make it disappear. Unfortunately, obvious racism is more cinematic than the subtle kind.

The more subtle and structural forms of racism are the more disturbing and harder to show. Plus, because they are subtle and structural, it's easy for some people to make the absurd claim that racism is no longer a problem.

Posted by: xenia on March 1, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

I agree, and I've seen all the contenders.

Crash is the best movie, with Capote a very close second.

Brokeback and Munich, while have a good premis, were much too long, and in Munich's case, historically inaccurate.

Posted by: Barb in NY on March 1, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and another thing about Crash. Has anyone from L.A. ever run into a stranger twice? I've lived here for 20 years and I have never, ever, run into a stranger two times. stupid stupid movie.

Posted by: enozinho on March 1, 2006 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

LA Movie?

How about the "Chase" starring Charlie Sheen?

"I said, kick it to me, Pele"

Posted by: clone12 on March 1, 2006 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

LA Movie?

Hello? "L.A. Story".

"Can I have a double decaffinated half-caff with a twist of lemon?"

Posted by: enozinho on March 1, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and the perfect movie about Hollywood was Blake Edwards' S.O.B., in 1981.

Robert Vaughn in a corset and heels alone made it worthwhile!

Posted by: Barb in NY on March 1, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

I vote Munich.

People don't realize what it is about. It's a demonstration of game theory, writ horrific.

Game Theory suggest that when two parties or egoist are in an on going, interative game with no seeming end, the optimum strategy it to cooperate. This theory is laid out in an important book title "The Evolution of Cooperation" by Univ. of Michigan Economist, Robert Axelrod. Axelrod points out that cooperation often breaks out under these conditions even between hostile parties (English and German trench soldiers in WWI), and even in nature between species that never communicate. Axelrod then asks, well, in those conditions what is the the second best strategy? The answer, after numerous international constest in game theory computer simulations resulted in what is called "Tit for Tat". But tit for tat is a second best strategy, cooperation is THE rational strategy.

The movie, "Grumpy Old Men" was a hilarious because it displayed the insanity of "Tit-for-tat" where cooperation is the obvious rational response to these kinds of conditions. Lots of commedies use this meme: Spy versus Spy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrals are two more. But that's fiction and that's comedy.

Spielberg, in Munich, demonstrates the lethal insanity of the failure to arrive at cooperation between two parties in an interative game with no known end.

Axelrod points out that, as soon as one knows the game is going to end, even if its many moves from now, it pays to cheat/not-cooperate immediately, that is become the first to move into a tit-for-tat strategy mode. In the mideast, the extremist on both sides foresee an end to the game: The Isreali extremist want all of Palestine; the Extremist Palestinians want to eliminate Israel. The extremist views will drive a non-cooperation/cheating/tit-for-tat strategy.

In Munich, Spielberg also points all of this out as well. Jews insist that they must have a homeland where they can be safe from another holocaust. Palestinians are disenfranchised in their own land.

Finally Spielberg gives us a glimps of where he stands on all of this. And its a big deal in the Jewish community. It revolves around whether Judiaism is a religion or an ethnicity and whether the political system should be to pluralistic or exclussionary in favor of jews. Spielberg seems to suggest that he places his bet on judiaism as a religion, and as such, can peacefully thrive in a politically pluralistic political climate, provided safe guards are held inplace for minorities and freedom of conscience and worship. The final scene reflects this - the protagonist walks away from Israel and becomes committed to living in the U.S. where judaism thrives in a politically plurilistic state. In the back ground looms the world trade towers, which is to suggest that if the tit-for-tat game continues it can only grow and intensify, amplifying the insanity, violence and consequences.

Finally, within all of this context, Spielberg demonstrates the personal consequences, moral,psychological on individual actors caught up in this game.

To so neatly lay out all of these conceptually complicated themes in one reletively cogent and cohesive movie, is well, quite simple stunning and perhaps one of the single greatest works of film in all time.

Simply splended.

Be assured, the other movies are good to great and very important, but in the longer term, because of what Spielberg was able to do with this film, Munich will grow with importance over the years.

Ultimately, Spielberg makes a cogent case, that cooperation is the rational response, and the cost and consequence of not finding some form of cooperative arrangements, will overtime, simply mangnify,and get greater, almost guarantee this films growing importance for its foresight.

Also Spielberg makes a strong case for the debate in the jewish world, that Judiaism is a religion first and foremost. At least, it would seem, that is its value to him.

In Schindler's List, and other films as well, Spielberg captures the problem of Jewish history. In Munich, Spielberg captures the problem of Jewish future.

Simply a fantastic work of art.

In short, the best.

Posted by: Bubbles on March 1, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Capote
3. Good Night, and Good Luck
4. Munich
5. Crash

That'd be my ranking, and fwiw, I think they're all good movies.

About the Matt Welch comment, I think all movies are more about the people who make them than the cities they're set in, and especially ones set in large, diverse metro areas like L.A. Think about New York movies. Whose is the true NY: Martin Scorcese? Woody Allen? Spike Lee? Sidney Lumet? Four directors making movies about four different worlds, and is anyone complaining that their movies are more about the directors than the city itself?

Well, the way I look at it, good movies are about people anyway. Movies about cities would most likely be boring.

Posted by: JJF on March 1, 2006 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Cartoons and Movies are like Wine and this post.

To be swirled, sniffed, tasting yet not partaking.
Bubbly yet flat, full of life and death, fruity comical conspiracies abound in this serious commentary of perverted virginity deflowered succintly yet moral in its garrish dialectic....
Sorry, I dont get the over definitve blathering.

But hey, Im still with yall on the Political things!

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on March 1, 2006 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

WooOOooOOoooo!!!

KablammMMMMmMMm!

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on March 1, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

>I had trouble with LA Confidential's rule-breaking's-great-if-your-intentions-are-good and sometimes-a-cheatin'-whore-deserves-a-good-smack themes.

Huh? When Crowe hits Basinger, it just shows that there is a fine line between Crowe's vigilanty-ism as a violent defender of women and his becoming an abuser. I assumed the character had an abusive father, and he was channeling his rage against male abusers, but when he was stressed, his rage went against the woman he loved, and it nearly destroys him. So he runs to find Guy Pearce's character to do the violence to him.

It's hardly the moral of this scene Basinger deserved being slugged for being a cheating whore.

I don't think the message is that you can break the rules if your heart is pure, either. It's pretty clear that all of the characters are compromised greatly. Pearce's Exley might seem 'pure,' but he's really not. I saw an interview with the director, and he said after one screening, a viewer asked him if Exley was supposed to be a young Daryl Gates. Thinking of Exley as the 'new' LA Police that would dominate into the 80s and beyond shows you who Exley really is.

Posted by: Misplaced Patriot on March 1, 2006 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Bubbles - that was great.

To reduce your thesis to its most basic -"Munich" is his adaptation of "Spy vs. Spy".

I, too, love the final shot with the (CGI added) WTC in the background. It is a scene, incidentally, which Spielberg feared was too obvious (hence the pan shot that revealed it).

Posted by: dannyinla on March 1, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

Incidentally, I'm writing a surefire success script. It's a movie about two secretly-gay blog trolls who work for the Heritage Foundation, and shill for Bush - while getting funds on the side, funnelled from a domestic DoD psy-ops program.

There's a scene where one of them "backdoors" a blog's webserver to download a log of the posters' IP addresses so that the liberal posters can be blacklisted from employment, or detained and interrogated as terror-suspects, and after he explains it to his collegue, they exchange a meaningful stare. . .

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 1, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

I saw a trailer of Brokeback Mountain. It looked good so here's my list.

1. Brokeback Mountain.
2T. The rest of 'em.

If my kids ever grow up, maybe I'll see these.

Posted by: kj on March 1, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

It's a movie about two secretly-gay blog trolls who work for the Heritage Foundation.

If the trolls do all this while sitting on Karl Rove's lap, I think you have a winner.

Posted by: enozinho on March 1, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Crash's problem is that the characters never really came to life, but were an amalgam of cliches. You can appreciate good actors for trying (hard) to breathe life into the material (Don Cheadle, Ryan Phillippe), or marvel at just how weak some actors are when adrift (Bullock, Fraser, Dillon, arguably Newton).

The problem, too, is that Crash is an exceptionally site specific story - it's not just the whole car metaphor; I hate to break it to Kevin, or other Californians, but life in the east just isn't like that. We don't relate to the police, or each other, in the tense, overly psychologizing way y'all do. You think about it too much and then you talk about thinking about it too much, and then you think your police are storm troopers with no hearts. The LAPD really is a unique animal when you study it - which is why LA Confidential is probably one of the best LA movies ever, along with LA story.

When LA is proudly, embarrassingly itself, it sings. Pretend to be a stand-in for Every City, and you just look foolish.

Horrible, just horrible. I have no doubt it's making a real run for Best Picture, because the CA heavy voters really think everyone lives like this.

So my list:

Good Night and Good Luck - brilliant and visually arresting
Brokeback - deeply, profoundly moving
Crash
Capote - zzzzzz... oh look he's typing again
Munich - because someone actually is right and someone else is wrong

So why Crash in the middle? Just because I hated it doesn't mean I didn't hate other things more. :)

Peace Out! Heath Ledger for Best Actor!

Posted by: weboy on March 1, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'd agree Crash is the best movie of those nominated, and to my mind the best of the year.

I don't get the criticisms that Crash is "psuedo-profound" or "cliched". I thought it was very well written and very well acted, and broached subjects that few movies dare to do.

Posted by: BN on March 1, 2006 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

The sad thing is, Munich is likely the most real, yet unrecognized as such.

A friend, hired by the agency in his teens, recused himself for a week after seeing "Munich". No attachements, simply because of what is shown in the movie.

Like the girl on the barge, his life will likely end so, probably from an Isreali operation.

It is a sick part of our culture.

Posted by: Sky-Ho on March 1, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

no way could Crash take place in NYC. You'd never "discover" that someone was a racist, people are pretty upfront about it here. Also, since you can't help but be surrounded by people here in very close quarters (subway system, stores with tiny aisles, every restaurant known to man) I think people learn fairly quickly that though we don't all like eachother, its in everyone's best interest to get along.

Posted by: jonwcollins on March 1, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

You want a movie that thought it had a lot to say but really said nothing at all? Try A History of Violence. Or better yet, don't. There's no "knife edge" about it. It was just weird and bad. Sorry, but it's true.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on March 1, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

bubbles, you just sold me on Munich.
I've been skipping because it's three hours long, the reviews weren't great, and War of the Worlds was stupid, painful and idiotic (if the aliens ships were from million-year-old sleeper cells, how did they know where we would build our cities? Why did they wait until we had nukes before emerging? In all that time, no-one thought to test for microbes? etc.)

So as long as I *don't* have to sit through something like War of the Worlds again, I'll see it.

Posted by: Diana on March 1, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Crash is one of those irritatingly pseudo-profound movies that thinks it's saying something deep and thoughful when in reality it's just saying something banal and clichd"

Yes, that's right. This was a crappy year for movies.

Posted by: MarkC on March 1, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Munich. Was. Awful.

That is all.

Posted by: Ugh on March 1, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

I tend to second the notion that its banal to criticize a movie for being banal. Yeah, many things were predictable in Crash and many things were obvious. But then again, if the issues were so obvious why are our prejudices so damn rampant?

I've only seen Crash and Good Luck. Of the two, I vote for Crash as the better overall movie. The cinematography and directing of Good Luck was superior and beautiful. Then again, I'm not really a movie snob so I shouldn't be trusted.

Posted by: gq on March 1, 2006 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I do think the film is about LA. The opening monologue by Don Cheadle talks about how we're all in cars, and we never touch, and sometimes we need to crash into eachother in order to remember we're alive again. LA is the first massive driving-culture city in America. The movie moves from neighborhood to neighborhood showing us insiders and outsiders. This can be applied to a lot of cities now, but LA is the primer for car-centered cities.

Posted by: donnie on March 1, 2006 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think Crash was making an effort for profundity. I think it was more interested in musicality of the opposing forces. I think it was more about the dynamism of racists feelings rather than some far reaching conclusion.

Posted by: jimbo on March 1, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

The best move about Los Angeles wasn't a movie at all, but was rather an HBO series: Six Feet Under. Brilliant stuff.

Posted by: Poor Richard on March 1, 2006 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

War of the Worlds was stupid, painful and idiotic (if the aliens ships were from million-year-old sleeper cells, how did they know where we would build our cities?Posted by: Diana on March 1, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

The canal-builders knew that we would build close to sources of water, or obvious land-forms that would create nice seaports for trade - etc.

Why did they wait until we had nukes before emerging?

Arrogance. To tease us. To prove to the puny humans that, as mighty as we think we are with our nukes, they've got shields. Shields block nukes. (but scissors cut shields).

In all that time, no-one thought to test for microbes? etc.)

With such a thin atmosphere, and almost no planetary magnetic field, all the martian microbes have perished, so by the time the martians evolved, they didn't even know what a microbe was.

Don't ask me how they buried their war machines without finding out what microbes were. Maybe automated remote-control equipment? Or maybe they just set them on the ground and let soil buildup cover them up over millions of years. But that kind of kills the location-preditction theory.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 1, 2006 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

I was going to say what Misplaced Patriot said about LA Confidential, but he got here first. So let me just say this:

Just because the main character of a movie/book/TV show/play/whatever does something does not mean the movie/book/TV show/play/whatever is advocating for it. Sometimes characters are meant to have flaws.

Posted by: Viserys on March 1, 2006 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Al: "The left coasters in Hollywood will show how much they hate America by showering Brokeback Mountain with Oscars."

There is so much glorious stupidity packed into this single groundless assertion, one has to somehow just sit back and admire it. Meanwhile, the people who 'love' America so much are just doing a fantastic job, aren't they? (Cue mindless applause here.)

Posted by: Kenji on March 1, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, Patriot. I'm not going to try to argue that I never fail to catch a point in my cinematic viewing. Not sure I think we should have to make the assumption that Crowe's character had an abusive father and extrapolate from there--seems a bit of a jump--but that was an interesting post; thanks.

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Crash for me was interesting but ultimately unmoving as it was too contrived - sorry, not Best picture

Brokeback was wonderful in its subtle depiction of pain, loss, love and longing - that is, a depth of humanity that Crash will never have.

Capote was great - Hoffman and Keener were great.

I liked Munich until the end (spoiler alert - when he is having sex with his wife and flashing back to the hostages and helicopters being blown up - a Spielbergian orgasm - fucking lame and the twin towers - please...) see the Documentary

i didn't see Goodnight

1. Brokeback
2. Capote

Posted by: jefe on March 1, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Viserys: Just because the main character of a movie/book/TV show/play/whatever does something does not mean the movie/book/TV show/play/whatever is advocating for it. Sometimes characters are meant to have flaws.

I'm quite certain you didn't intend that to be as patronizing as it came off. I'm well aware of the difference between depiction and advocacy. My point was that in this film, I detected what I thought was the latter. Y'all are telling me I misread this and I can accept that.

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

And don't forget LA Confidential

All I remember from that movie is that Guy Pierce is hot and that the old guy from "Babe" is not.

Chinatown was a better L.A. film by the way.

Posted by: enozinho on March 1, 2006 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure I think we should have to make the assumption that Crowe's character had an abusive father and extrapolate from there--seems a bit of a jump--

MILD SPOILER HERE

You don't have to make a jump - Crowe explains to Basinger when they're in bed that his father killed his mother, and left him chained to a radiator. The beauty of LA Confidential is that the characters' flaws are open and exposed, but are used to paint complex, real characters who can do the right thing when called upon.

(I became convinced of Kevin Spacey's talent when Jack Vincennes has to answer Exley's "Why did you become a cop?" with "I can't remember," infusing it with the surprise, sadness and deadened tone of someone who can't, didn't realize it until that moment, and feels bad about it.)

Posted by: weboy on March 1, 2006 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

All right, guys; I give up. Clearly I saw this film (both times) in my drinking days. Carry on.

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

You don't really have to assume Crowe's character's dad was abusive in L.A. Confidential, you just have to realize that Crowe's character clearly has issues about domestic violence, so that he reacts not as a cop, but as a rogue vigilante. He asks a woman with a bandage on her nose and no other signs if she needs any help (she just had a nose job.) We see him beat the crap out of an abusive husband. His reaction is always one step of violence beyond what would be necessary for a law officer, and he clearly simmers with rage. The obvious guess is that he came from an abusive home, but whatever got him here, he's clearly channeling some incredible rage that eventually gets unleashed on Basinger, and he becomes what he hates.

Posted by: Misplaced Patriot on March 1, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

cmac gives the best reading of Crash I've heard. But I still think it was a pile of dog shit. Munich was, by far, the best of the bunch.

Posted by: RM on March 1, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Crash was terrific, but it was a fable. Anyone who criticizes it for being too obvious is missing what's really obvious. Anybody who's too smart for it's admittedly gimmicky message is lying. Still not my idea of best picture.

Brokeback Mountain was a very nice picture, but let's face it. Those guys were boring as hell. If I'm gonna go see a gay picture, I'd like some gay guys to be in it so I don't fall asleep. But, yes, love makes the world go round, everybody loves somebody sometime, blah, blah. Who knew ?

Which brings us to Capote. Good one. Gay guy. Creepy as hell, but fascinating. Best performance. Probably the best picture in that it took an already familiar story and retold it with something akin to the whole truth. In context (a book, another movie and our memory of a celebrity), far and away the most interesting story. Give it the Oscar. It had an element of weird that sets it refreshingly apart from the rest of these celluloid civics lessons.

Good Night and Good Luck. Best civics class. Wonderful contribution to current political/media discourse by "Not Just Another Pretty Face" George Clooney, but a bit too high-minded and predictable to beat out Capote.

Munich? Spielberg deserves the Best Director Who Put A Lid On His Worst Instincts award for not turning it into a piece of shit.

I'm a bit annoyed at how decent all of the films up for Best Picture are this year. I really wish they'd have tossed King Kong in there, just to remind us who these folks really are.

Posted by: brucds on March 1, 2006 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

I've seen all of them and I would pick Munich for Best Picture, with Good Night, and Good Luck a close second. Why? Legacy, mainly. 50 years from now people will still be saying that Munich was meaningful. I did like Crash, but I don't see it having staying power. All five had great acting performances, which is rare for all five Best Picture nominees. So, a good year for film, overall.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 1, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah.

L.A.??? Talk about not giving a shit. Anyone who worries over whether Crash was even about L.A. really deserves the brushoff that Kevin tried to give to Mac users earlier.

Posted by: brucds on March 1, 2006 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, I hated, King Kong!!! Way, way overdone and about as believable as Bush saying that he wants to spread democracy in the Middle East.

A movie that truly should not have been made.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 1, 2006 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

King Kong was overdone and not believable ???

At long last, sir, have you no sense of decency ????

Posted by: brucds on March 1, 2006 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

saw just 4 and 5, can't comment too much, but those were fine. totally irrelevant and introduced almost nothing to the world in terms of provocative thought, but well made.

Posted by: Marc on March 1, 2006 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

"And just so everyone can have fun in comments mocking my taste in movies"

The only thing that's "mockable" about this year's Best Picture nominees is that it's so goddam hard to mock them. You're on safe ground, Kevin. Really, really safe. The Academy should have passed on John Stewart and chosen somebody from the Lehrer Newshour to host the ceremonies this year.

Posted by: brucds on March 1, 2006 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Contrary to KD, I think that Crash is very much a protrait of L.A., and I don't think the movie could be realistically set in some other big city.

Posted by: Jeff on March 1, 2006 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it was set in L.A. since, like, most of the movie studio are there. Convenience, and/or laziness.

Personally, I think there are many other cities that have more "personality"--like Pittsburgh. See the DVD extras for Wonder Boys. Curtis Hanson(who also directed L.A. Confidential) really seems to have an appreciation for it, as I do.

But to me, L.A. just seems like a giant suburb run amuck. I suppose that's what's happening to most of the country.

Posted by: Ringo on March 1, 2006 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

When I visit family in Springfield Missouri, there are dozens of streets where I have to remind myself that I'm not driving in L.A.

Posted by: brucds on March 1, 2006 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'm quite certain you didn't intend that to be as patronizing as it came off.

I didn't, really. It's just that I thought I saw the same sentiment in your post that various trolls and morons have expressed against, say, Brokeback (to wit, that when a movie prominently features a quality or vice that they don't like, it must be glorifying it and therefore must be shunned at all costs). Doesn't help that I've probably seen LA Confidential about five too many times and take points like Crowe's wife-beating potential for granted.

Posted by: Viserys on March 1, 2006 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

I just wanted to second xenia's post on Crash - its simplistic depiction of racism is misleading in regards to the structural production and reproduction of racism, and the snowy ending was so freakin cheesy. And Capote was done well but boring.

Posted by: greg on March 1, 2006 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "Anybody else feel the same way as Matt?"

Well, if "Crash" had been set in any other city but LA, obviously Matt would have been very wrong. But then Anglenos, especially those in the entertainment industry, are so narcissistic that I think Matt may have a point. I don't think I've ever been in a city, including New York City, that is as self-absorbed as LA is.

Posted by: Taobhan on March 1, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Good Night is one of the worst films I've ever seen. It was a dull, plotless, go-nowhere look at George Clooney's favorite scenes from the movie he wishes he made. Total trash.

Posted by: joobers on March 1, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't seen Crash, Kevin, but I think you're right on with the other four. I'd love to see Hoffman win. Have you seen "Love Liza"? Great great great. "Owning Mahoney"? Pretty damn good. The guy can act.

Posted by: ahab on March 1, 2006 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

Of all the ethnic groups portrayed in the movie, which one would you expect the director to be a member of? The movie reinforced my conceits about my own tolerance rather than challenge them. Still, I think it is a first-rate example of story-telling.

Posted by: chris keruac on March 1, 2006 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Racism is everywhere, we're all racists, even blacks can be racists, yada yada yada."

A wee quibble about this...the best definition of racism I've seen is that racism is prejudice plus the power to enforce that prejudice. As such African-Americans in this country could be guilty of prejudice, but generally not racism, because typically speaking, they don't possess the power to enforce their prejudices. Prejudices get enforced in structural ways (racial profiling by police, housing discrimination, election fraud, etc.) and in more subtle ways (extra scrutiny in stores, poor service in restaurants, charging higher prices for goods and services, etc.) Of course, there are exceptions...but in this county racism is a white failing.

Posted by: Ed on March 1, 2006 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think I've ever been in a city, including New York City, that is as self-absorbed as LA is.

Oh, don't hate us because we're beautiful.

Posted by: craigie on March 1, 2006 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, don't hate us because we're...

...automotively gorgeous.

Okay, fascinating thread, and I've made enough of an arse of myself for one night. Time for bed. Night, all.

Posted by: shortstop on March 1, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

I want to mock Jack Shafer. I followed the Welch link and kept reading. Shafer's review of Good Night and Good Luck was positively obtuse. Yeah, the film is not historically accurate. So what? The movie is not really about the 50s, it's about today, it's clearly a parable about the journalistic courage that does not exist in our time - to complain that it doesn't tell the real story of Murrow is just dumb.

Posted by: Vanya on March 1, 2006 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew O'Hehir, while introducing the Guilties -- "which best picture nomination is the best example of Oscar trying to ram its liberal guilt down our throats?" -- put it this away about his top pick:

Look, it's not like "Crash" is a war crime or something. A lot of the acting is quite good, and the honorable intentions of this achingly earnest sermon ("Racial Pain: Los Angeles, America, the World?") are obvious. But it's exactly the kind of portentous, piss-elegant middlebrow trash that many critics (and, unhappily, many viewers) see as Important Cinema. The only difficult part about identifying the preaching and speech-making in "Crash" is finding the places when it stops. No one in this movie ever talks like an identifiable human being, starting with the notorious early scene where two young African-American men who are about to carjack the L.A. district attorney get into a philosophical argument about the prevalence of white racism. (I had high hopes for that scene when it appeared they might have to shoot Sandra Bullock's eterna-whiny rich-bitch character. After that, it was all downhill.) This entire film is a spinach-flavored schematic, going from one overloaded symbolic encounter between angst-ridden people of different ethnicities to another. We've got a little girl in a bad neighborhood who is magically saved from death by a fairy cape, and the one decent, non-racist white cop in all of L.A., who ends up shooting a black kid for no reason. You could say that "Crash" is aware of the ironies and contradictions of race in America, but that's literally the only thing it's aware of. It's grasping you by the lapels, like that uncle you generally avoid at family gatherings, and screaming into your face: "My God! The contradictions!" It virtually throbs with meaning, and it's the kind of migraine throb that approaches meaninglessness.

Sounds about right to me.

Posted by: Harley on March 1, 2006 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Best performances I saw this year were in "Hustle and Flow". In fact, as much as that movie surprised me, I might make that my pick for best movie of the year.

Posted by: dglynn on March 1, 2006 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

I've avoided Crash so far because overly contrived plots often bother me, but I think that most people, including myself, have exceptions. It's difficult to imagine a more contrived plot than A Clockwork Orange (the film version at least, I haven't read the novel), when you consider all the people Alex runs in to after his 'rehabilitation'. But the conventional wisdom, which I'd agree with, these days is that it's a great film. Banality, on the other hand, is a bigger cinematic sin, so I'm still skeptical of Crash, though I'm sure I'll eventually rent it.

I thought Munich was good but nothing special, and I only really enjoyed it on the spy thriller level. As far as the theme of 'if you kill terrorists you sink to their level', that struck me as banal. Had the film included the mistaken assassination in (I belive) Sweden of a non-terrorist, that might have introduced more interesting moral complexity.

Posted by: ChiSox Fan in LA on March 1, 2006 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

I just looked at a review on the IMDB of Crash by Roger Ebert, and he gave it 4 stars. I'm definitely avoiding it now.

Posted by: ChiSox Fan in LA on March 1, 2006 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

No movie that has Tony Danza in it (Crash) should receive an Academy Award.

Posted by: Gram on March 1, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Ed:

Can blacks be racist against Koreans? Jews? Darker-skinned blacks? Are all blacks more powerless than all whites in all situations? If not, in situations in which some blacks are more powerful than some whites or some other blacks (or any other ethnicity), can they be racist? Can one person have the power to impose prejudices in some situations and not in others? Are power and prejudice (and hence racism) context free?

Racism is prejudice. If I hate you because you're black, I'm racist--even if I'm entirely powerless, just a head on a plate.

Posted by: adam on March 1, 2006 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.............nggghghh...zzzzzzzzzzzz...

Posted by: SombreroFallout on March 1, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Crash" made a great impression on me when I saw it. Not so much the writing, which even as I was watching the film annoyed me with its careful balance of character traits -- whoever acted like a shit in one scene would do something good later on, and vice versa. But the ingenious construction and the passion of some of the acting won me over. But the moviue does not wear well -- I keep remembering some shameless bit of manipulation (e.g., the little girl running up just as the gun goes off) and getting disgusted with how rigged and dishonest the film ultimately became.

Posted by: Steven Hart on March 1, 2006 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

LA movies....Chinatown

Posted by: Boronx on March 1, 2006 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Chinatown really gets LA in a way that mere verisimiltude misses. Water is the key in the movie and in real life.

Posted by: walt on March 1, 2006 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

I've always thought the best portrayal of modern racism was Sipowizc on 'NYPD Blue,' a guy with some good things about him, but whose good qualities are constantly being beaten by his demons, whether it is racism, homophobia, or alcoholism. He was the dramatic equivalent of Archie Bunker, a big mess of a man who slowly, very slowly, and very painfully, battles these demons even when he doesn't understand them. Franz portrays Sipowizc so delicately that you see understanding dawn on him in trickles. He never just hits his forhead and says, 'Hey, that was dumb being so racist.' Instead, you know that he will always be a racist, in the same way that an alcoholic is always an alcoholic, but it is what he does with that which matters most.

And Ed, I find the idea that 'racism' is about power is a bit silly - it's a hair-splitting definition designed to minimize the symmetry of racism. If a poor white man calls Colin Powell a 'nigger,' is that white man not racist? I prefer the term 'institutional racism' or some other compound phrase for what you are describing. We can never have an honest discussion about race and racism if we are taking an everyday word like 'racism' and using it to mean very different things. Defining it this way strikes me as just a way for liberals to say, 'No, what Farrakhan said isn't racist because...'

Posted by: Misplaced Patriot on March 1, 2006 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

Best movie of 2005 was Pretty Persuasion, by far.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 1, 2006 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

Best LA movie: Mulholland Drive.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 1, 2006 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Racism is prejudice. If I hate you because you're black, I'm racist--even if I'm entirely powerless, just a head on a plate."

If you go by that definition, then blacks are the biggest racists in America today. Obviously, that can't be right.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 1, 2006 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Ed: the best definition of racism I've seen is that racism is prejudice plus the power to enforce that prejudice. As such African-Americans in this country could be guilty of prejudice, but generally not racism, because typically speaking, they don't possess the power to enforce their prejudices.
*****

Clearly, sir, you have never been the only white working in an all black kitchen.

Only decent thing I've seen was Wallace & Grommet: Curse of the Wererabbit. Now that's a movie.

heh

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

Best LA movie: Mulholland Drive.

Please. But, I did run into David Lynch at the airport the day after I saw this, and the coincidence was so great that I had to ask him if the film actually made sense to him. He claimed that it contained a coherent, linear story, just not told linearly.

Frankly, I dispute this. But he was very nice about it.

Do I get a name-dropping prize?

Posted by: craigie on March 2, 2006 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

"Clearly, sir, you have never been the only white working in an all black kitchen"

Yeah, like that Baldwin brother in "Posse".

Posted by: brucds on March 2, 2006 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

Who cares about Academy Awards?

Posted by: lettuce on March 2, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, best LA movie is still REPO MAN

Posted by: busdrivermike on March 2, 2006 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

BTW, the best movie of 2005 was Wallace and Gromit. Meticulously brilliant.

Posted by: busdrivermike on March 2, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

An excerpt from my blog:

"I dearly love the movies. I will sit and watch a Don Knotts film (can Don Knotts movies be called "films"?) as enthusiastically as I watch one of the Matrix films as mesmerized as I am when watching anything by Zhang Yimou (Daggers, Heroes, and Tigers, oh my!)."

"When I watch a movie, I am in that world, and I do not judge. That comes later, when the self-loathing begins. To my credit, my DVD collection contains 115 films, and 80% of them are brag-worthy. Still, I concede that I am far too open-minded and tolerant when it comes to my movietime. Some who are not at all like me in constitution and temperament hate movies that drag on and on and on and on, like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut. Yet I watch them all, entranced and hypnotized. And applaud lustily when the credits roll. Always."

Thank you,
--
HRlaughed

Posted by: HRlaughed on March 2, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

I almost invariably refuse to see movies set in Los Angeles. It's just too self-referential. Similarly, I refuse to read books about writers.

Unfortunately, I spent 2005 cooped up working and didn't see many movies. I've seen none of the best picture nominees. I will say that in 1998, LA Confidential (ok, I make exceptions to my no-LA-movies rule) was robbed of Best Picture by Titanic. I'd have liked to see the former win just to poke the latter, along with all of its fans, in the eye.

Shouldn't rdw be ranting in this thread, complaining about how Cinderella Man was passed over for the oscars?

Posted by: Constantine on March 2, 2006 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

Just watched the movie for the first time last night, and although I enjoyed some of the witty dialogue and moral compromises interesting, I found the stories too contrived and the idea that the characters would be running into each other was ridiculous.

Posted by: Frank on March 2, 2006 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

I second an earlier poster who asks why neither "Syriana" nor "The Constant Gardner" were nominated. Syriana was the most exciting film I've seen in a long time - intellectually, as well as cinematically. Its politics are worn on its sleeve, but there is depth to nearly every character, and any film that throws out Nursultan Nazarbayev's name without flinching is golden. Fantastic, pure filmmaking. "The Constant Gardner" has grown on me since I watched it (and I'd read Le Carre's novel) - the imagery, locations, and heart of Tessa made for a splendid and moving experience - although the drug company angle, as in the book, is rather heavy-handed.

Posted by: Chuck Darwin on March 2, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

1. Brokeback Mtn--luminous, sparkling, oddly uplifting (and gorgeous vistas of the Rocky Mtn west)
2. Capote -- what somebody already said--weirdly creepy and fascinating, esp. if you read In Cold Blood
3. Munich -- because its message is timely
4. Good Luck & Good Night--didn't really capture the hysteria or destructiveness of the era--IMHO
5. Crash -- contrived and stupid, but I'm from NY--maybe it seems true in L.A.

Posted by: Amelia on March 2, 2006 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

vanya:
I don't think "GNGL" was a parable "about" today's lack of journalistic courage. For the most part, it was what it was, a historically inaccurate heroic portrait of Murrow, which happens to have timely echoes today. So do lots of things, but "The Last Samurai" and "Braveheart" weren't "about" contemporary society, no matter what interesting parallels you might be able to draw between Plantagenet England or Meiji Japan and contemporary America.

busdrivermike:
I'm not sure, but isn't "Repo Man" a Phoenix movie, rather than an L.A. movie?

Posted by: keith on March 2, 2006 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

Of the 5 movies, I've only seen one, Munich, and I really enjoyed the film, but if this is what garners Oscars these days, the film industry is in big trouble. Munich wasn't that good.

My vote goes to Heart of Gold. Just saw this Neil Young concert film last weekend and was transfixed. I wanted to call my whole family and have all of us go watch this film. Absolutely incredible, and everyone should rush to go see Heart of Gold. Highest recommendation, and easily the best concert film of all time, by far.

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

Munich had me, then lost me when it directly compared the massacre of the hostages to the protagonist having sexual intercourse with his wife. I kid you not. What was Speilberg thinking?

I loved GNGL, and it's worthy of a couple of awards, but it's not "best picture" material. The movie was executed brilliantly, but what, really, was "created"?

I agree with the commenters who felt that Crash was banal or fell short of what it was evidently trying to be. Still, I enjoyed the film, grade it a B maybe even a B+.

Haven't seen Brokeback. Having trouble with the idea of seeing two cowboys getting it on.

Looking forward to seeing Capote soon -- after watching a 60-Minutes piece on its star.

Posted by: Libby Sosume on March 2, 2006 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK

It's unfair to comment on your ranking since I have not seen all the films. However, I think the idea that Crash was about L.A. instead of about a more universal idea of America is just silly. It could have been set in almost any American city -- or even any Western city with a multi-ethnic population though ethnicities may have had to change.

Crash was particularly effective at exposing the aversive racism of folks who claim to on good terms with all races and all people and the exploitaive abuse of the race issue by politicians.

Posted by: Kija on March 2, 2006 at 2:53 AM | PERMALINK

shortstop: I had trouble with LA Confidential's rule-breaking's-great-if-your-intentions-are-good and sometimes-a-cheatin'-whore-deserves-a-good-smack themes.

shortstop, my friend, maybe you'll find this "love note" in the morning.

The Academy gave Kim Basinger the Oscar for her role in L.A. Confidential. That doesn't mitigate gratuitous battering in films, a scenario that happens far too often in real life, but Kim's win is Hollywood irony, eh? My takeaway was the guys in L.A. Confidential were thugs like angry Bud. I think Misplaced Patriot got it right: Bud became what he despised. But I can see your complaint since we weren't given context, one line of dialogue, or something on Bud's childhood when such domestic abuse gets imprinted. However, impulsive rage to strike a woman comes from somewhere. Too bad the movie didn't clue us in...so I get your point.

BTW, Basinger was outstanding as the Veronica Lake/Lana Turner character. Hubba, hubba. What a Georgia peach! : )

Of Kevin's top five picks, I've only seen Crash but I don't think it merits Best Picture. Some scenes lacked verisimilitude. Comments about the obvious racism ring true for me but I think we'd be fools to think the in-your-face kind happens less frequently than insidious racism. I, um, remember something about Rodney King and racist cops in the 1990s. I dunno about LAPD now. Unfortunately, obvious racism resides today just a hop, skip, and jump from where I live in Atlanta and I also guess in other places, too.

Ah, the South. Vestiges of the Old South continue to fight against the War of the Northern Aggression. I had never heard that term, WOTNA, until I moved south. In fact, I heard a gray-haired lady use the term maliciously and go on for nearly five minutes about "cold-hearted Yankees" just a few months ago. I guess because I've gained a Southern accent living here for so long, though I'm originally from up north, she felt she could confide her venom in me as if I were a fellow hate-monger who could appreciate a tirade against "those hateful Yankees." Unbelievable!

Posted by: Apollo 13 on March 2, 2006 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

Haven't seen Brokeback. Having trouble with the idea of seeing two cowboys getting it on.

Libby, I highly recommend you go see Brokeback Mountain by yourself, solo in the theatrical den of iniquity, in order to raise the homophobia erotic factor by 10x.

Imagine the thrills you'll have imagining that your local theater has turned into a gay bathhouse or rest area bathroom!

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 3:16 AM | PERMALINK

And you, proud and manly heterosexual, right there in the middle of it!

Fending off evil, like Jesus in the desert!

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 3:17 AM | PERMALINK

I don't get the criticisms that Crash is "psuedo-profound" or "cliched". I thought it was very well written and very well acted, and broached subjects that few movies dare to do.

It's racism-by-numbers. It's mechanical. And thus, it's manipulative. The parallel might be Traffic, especially compared to Traffik.

I think The Constant Gardener got stiffed, partly because of when it came out during the year. (Same with A History of Violence.) But I'm not surprised it got stiffed, because it's the least American movie I've seen in years.

I'm also certain that many Americans saw the shanties of Nairobi in that film just as they saw New Orleans underwater, and it was a juxtaposition they found disturbing.

Oh, the Oscar? Crash will get it; Good Night probably deserves it more.

Posted by: ahem on March 2, 2006 at 4:19 AM | PERMALINK

Crash was a terrible, terrible movie

Posted by: Matt D on March 2, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

I do intend to see The Constant Gardener at some point.

It's based on a LeCarre novel isn't it? I'll read the book first.

I'd note that out here in Dumbfuckistan (o Bob!), Crash never played at all.

SoLA is not a receptive market for downer films at present anyway. We have a few little realtime problems which presently command our attention.

Wallace and Gromit rules!

I understand that Brokeback, which was brought back into local theaters, is proving to be a huge waste of electricity - no one is going to see it.

See Mickey Kaus' piece at Slate.com today. Instead of gettng a 'bounce' from it's nominations, it's actually declining nationally.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Haven't seen Brokeback. Having trouble with the idea of seeing two cowboys getting it on.

What about two cowboys getting it off? Does that make it any better for you?

Posted by: Stefan on March 2, 2006 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, Crash does begin with Don Cheadle making some sententious remarks about the car culture that is specific to LA, or at least best-exemplified by LA. So it has ambitions to be the big LA movie, even if the rest of the execution is sometimes generic.

The best pictures I saw this year were The Squid and the Whale, Grizzly Man, and Be Here to Love Me. From the five nominees, though, I'd pick Good Night and Good Luck, Munich second, Brokeback third. All were really fine. Capote struck me as overlong and meandering, and Crash, while some of its scenes were very sharp, pressed the ironic coincidence gimmick too far for my tastes.

Posted by: Tim Morris on March 2, 2006 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

I think a movie is deemed "psuedo-profound" or "cliched" when it takes an important human/social issue and reduces the message entirely to plot and (especially) circumstance.

For example: Cop treats black couple like trash, abuses woman. Later, cop risks life to save the woman.

Pure circumstance. What did the cop learn if anything by this experience? How well was he able to deal with that new-found knowledge? We are not told. For all we know, he could have saved her cause she was hot chick and he wanted to look her up later and get into her pants. Or he could have been thoroughly disgusted when he held her in his arms.

As a movie about racism, Crash probably failed miserably. As an example of non-linear storytelling (all the rage these days), it was anything but groundbreaking. As an Altman-style ensemble film, I've seen much better.

Despite its shortcomings, I did mostly enjoy the movie and would give it a B (but not the Oscar).

Posted by: Libby Sosume on March 2, 2006 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

I love movies, but I am too busy to go see a movie. However, I have seen Crash, because it is out on DVD.

I am not sure what your friend is babbling about with his rant, but Crash is a good movie about people and their lives (LA, Detroit, Houston, or any major US city). Maybe Matt does not like the fact that the characters are not all white and pretty and those that are white are not protrayed with the most flattering light. Sandra's rant about the guy fixing her lock or Matt's rant to the HMO representative, where great glimpses of some of the rage in our lives.

Some people just like movies that make them happy and this movie does not allow one to walk away happy. Sorry Matt.

There is some great dialogue and some weighty subject matter in this movie and it was produced for a very reasonable amount of money. I think this movie was great movie and it deserves to be considered for an Oscar.

As for LA movies, please do not forget Chinatown with Jack and John that is a classic or Humphrey in the Big Sleep.

j

Posted by: J. J. Corboy on March 2, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

What kind of moron would it be news to that blacks can be racist (does anyone really not think that)?

Both my wife and I really liked Crash, BTW, but it's the only nominee we saw.

Posted by: Frank J. on March 2, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

I expect that Chinatown makes LA a trifle uneasy, dealing as it does with that nasty little theft of the Owens Valley to fill their swimming pools and irrigate their dichondera lawns.

But it's a gorgeous film and beautifully realized.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Everyone seems to assess whether Crash deserves the Oscar or not on the basis of whether it correctly shows racism in America. Why does that matter? If movies are about direction, acting, screenplays, and cinematography, I don't see how anyone could say that Crash stands up to Brokeback Mountain.

The screenplay is clever but predictable (every character except the Mexican repairman shows he or she is racist in one act, then not racist in another), no single actor could compete with Heath Ledger or Michelle Williams in making their characters effective, and the trick of a redeeming snow at the end of the movie isn't nearly as effective as contrasting lonely mountains with flat, depressing eastern Wyoming and Texas and married life.

I didn't think Crash portrayed racism accurately, but Gone With the Wind did an even worse job, and that's still a good movie. And as a New Yorker who has never lived west of Chicago, I can't imagine setting that movie in the Northeast, where white people aren't ashamed to ride buses.

Posted by: JWinDC on March 2, 2006 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

"I, too, love the final shot with the (CGI added) WTC in the background. It is a scene, incidentally, which Spielberg feared was too obvious (hence the pan shot that revealed it)."

If Spielberg actually feared a scene in a movie of his was too obvious, I guess that's a start (although I notice he didn't acutally, you know, cut it). Worst fucking director ever. If I want to get bludgeoned by a minority, apparently I need to go to LA. I don't appreciate it in the multiplex.

BTW, David Cronenberg's Crash was way better than this one.

Posted by: brewmn on March 2, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Crash worked with no one I know. It was an unironic cliche. The only redeeming factor was Matt Dillon's performance.

Posted by: Stacy on March 2, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

I just looked at a review on the IMDB of Crash by Roger Ebert, and he gave it 4 stars. I'm definitely avoiding it now.
Posted by: ChiSox Fan in LA

Yeah. I ues that methos, too. If Ebert likes it - run in the other direction.

Seriously though, folks, have ya'll discovered metacritic.com?

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

The JeffyTheK Award for Best Picture of the Year goes to "The Constant Gardner". We watched it again the other night on TV and it was better the 2nd time. Even knowing what was going to happen.

RunnersUp: Munich, Syriana, Grizzly Man, Everything Is Illuminated, Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The Corpse Bride

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 2, 2006 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Spielberg, something I try not make a habit of btw, there's a connection between a Bond movie and "Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind".

Any takers as to what that is?

I noticed it myself the other day. It's unmistakeable.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Only saw Crash. Can't bring myself to sit through all these long-ass movies in the theatre and get overcharged to do it. Once everything's out of dvd I'll see them. As for Crash, with the exception of the scene where Matt Dillon feels the woman up and the scene at the end where he pulls her from the burning car, I thought it was utterly forgettable. As in, I literally can't even remember the rest of it. Those two scenes, though...that shit haunts me. I haven't seen that actress anywhere else (except maybe on ER?) but she was great.

Posted by: EM on March 2, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Mulholland Drive" is what you'd come up with if you took pulpy men's magazines from the 30s-50s, cut them all up, and taped together all the parts that had illustrations that used a model that you obsessed over. The stories are all the same with only little details changing. In one story the girl's good. In another, the girl's bad. In one story the girl wins, in another she loses. And then, since you're sloppy, there's a part of a monster story that slips in by accident.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 2, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and Constant Gardner should have definitely been on the top 5 list.

Posted by: EM on March 2, 2006 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Any takers as to what that is?

The first girl that the hero sleeps with gets killed.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 2, 2006 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with your assessment Kevin,and do not get Matt's remarks. LA was nothing more than a major metropolis..it could have easily been Detroit, NYC, Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta....and it would have the same racial tensions bubbling just beneath the surface.

Posted by: whiterosebud on March 2, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

The first girl that the hero sleeps with gets killed.
Posted by: Jeffrey Davis

Not even in the ballpark. But, thanks for your participation, sweetie.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Apollo 13, you need to read Confederates in the Attic. Fantastic book about southern views on the War of Northern Agression. I was appalled and entertained at the same time.

Posted by: EM on March 2, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

All of them are SO "cutting edge
sensitive to issues" movies. Without
a doubt there have been gay cowboys,
but they were no more acceptable than
any other. Capote, please! Munich, too
"somebody else's business". Crash, a
dark "Friends" with some minority reps.
Haven't seen "Good Night", so no opinion.
"Big Lebowski" was the movie. The Dude
abides, man.

Posted by: lefty on March 2, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

"...the best definition of racism I've seen is that racism is prejudice plus the power to enforce that prejudice. As such African-Americans in this country could be guilty of prejudice, but generally not racism, because typically speaking, they don't possess the power to enforce their prejudices. Prejudices get enforced in structural ways (racial profiling by police, housing discrimination, election fraud, etc.) and in more subtle ways (extra scrutiny in stores, poor service in restaurants, charging higher prices for goods and services, etc.) Of course, there are exceptions...but in this county racism is a white failing.
Posted by: Ed on March 1, 2006 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK
____________________

Ed: I don't think it's as monolithic as that. There are plenty of minorities in our government institutions (including behind a badge), or who own stores, etc. I think power is also situational depending on the gender, citizen/immigrant status, sexual preference, etc. Who has the power then?

I think everyone is capable of racism, but not all racism is equal. The older white woman who uses a chop-chop oriental accent when saying my last name, or the Latino restaurant worker who mutters "chino" at me don't have a lot of power over me. The police officer or other person with a gun, no matter what their race, have a lot of power.

Besides it's unrealistic plot contrivances, I think Crash fails because while it proports to illustrate the racial tensions in L.A., it focuses mainly black-white dynamic and the black and white characters are the only ones that have any depth.

The Latino characters have limited dimensionality and are placed on some pedestal of the nobility of the powerless. Except for the one-note insurance adjuster, the Asian characters had all the complexity of a Mad TV sketch (I mean a Korean man who keeps Thai slaves in the back of his van, who then get released in a Chinatown; yep, I guess that demographic is covered).

Posted by: Jeff on March 2, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

As for Matt's comments on Crash and LA...I am a
lifelong midwesterner who has made several
business trips to LA....LA always impresses me as godless due to its excesses and the extreams of wealth and poverty--I thought the film caught that brilliantly. The weather can suck but I will always love Minneapolis

Posted by: KK on March 2, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I have seen four of these movies, and I must say they are the worst slate of Oscar Best Picture nominees I can remember ever seeing nominated. If the four I saw were 4 of the 5 best movies of the year, then 2005 was a really, really dreadful year.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on March 2, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Bond-Spielberg hint:

It happened in Venice...

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Crash didn't speak to me at all. I live in and blog in a majority Black community with a growing Latino population and Italian wannabe mobsters pulling the strings.

Crash seemed like what Hollywood thinks is happening on racial fronts in America. I don't think it's a strong film and predict it will fade into obscurity quickly.

However, Philadelphia won best picture and it was trite, right?

Good Night, and Good Luck was solid but seemed like a nostalgia trip for aging Lefties.

Capote had an intensity to it. It wasn't a simple morality tail. It would be my vote for best pic. Haven't seen the other two.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on March 2, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

This week's theme on Low on the Hog is movies--and I've been discussing the best and worst of 2005 there (also anticipation of the oscars.) Crash was, for me, a perfect mixture of metaphor and reality. The crashes of the title are between long-held prejudices and new discoveries, between races, cultures, and classes. I've found Americans tend to hate non-plot-based movies, and they really hate nuance, so I'm not surprised Crash is getting less than positive response. But that's a pecularly American view. Most of the rest of the globe makes far more introspective, metaphoric films. (And that probably explains why a third of the film's revenue came from overseas.)

More: http://hoglow.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Jeff Alworth on March 2, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Living an hour from the closest movie theater really makes it hard to see all the Oscar nominees, especially when the nominations tend to go to pictures released at the end of the year.

Fortunately the local theater chain keeps the otherwise-obscure nominated movies around (and even brings them back) at Oscar time.

So me and hubby have been able to see three of the best-movie nominees. Passed last night on a double feature of Munich and Syriana. Just TOO heavy. And went to see Transamerica. (Save your $20 and wait for the DVD if you have any inclination to see it.)

Of the three we've seen (Brokeback, Crash and Good Night and Good Luck, Capote on deck for a Sunday matinee then rush home for the show), Good Night and Good Luck was by far the best. Both Brokeback and Crash kind of fizzled out at the end. Brokeback felt stretched thin--not enought material for a full-length movie. Crash--good idea, but again, started at one level and stayed there throughout the movie.

At least Good Night and Good Luck had fantastic art direction and cinematography. And a snappy ending. And fantastic performances all down the line. Strathairn (a local boy, so maybe some prejudice there) was channeling Murrow (as I gather Hoffman does with a more flamboyant Capote), but Robert Downie Jr, Patricia Clarkson and George Clooney as supporting actors were all superb. BTW, does Patricia Clarkson ever appear in a boring movie? And all done very subtly. A jewel of a movie.

Best LA movie: Falling Down

Posted by: Cal Gal on March 2, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Crash" is really awful. I turned it off after about 15 minutes, it was unwatchable. This is unfortunately one of those years when 5 stinkers are nominated. Oh well.

Posted by: DBL on March 2, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think The Constant Gardener got stiffed, partly because of when it came out during the year. (Same with A History of Violence.)

Ditto with Cinderella Man.

See Mickey Kaus' piece at Slate.com today. Instead of gettng a 'bounce' from it's nominations, it's actually declining nationally.

If Mickey Kaus said the sky was blue, I'd look for independent verification. That having been said, I have heard from other sources that Brokeback's box office momentum has stalled. Still it has raked in approximately $80 million, which puts it solidly in English Patient-ish "moderate success" category.

Posted by: tam1MI on March 2, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what I predicted for some of the major Oscar categories, in case anybody is interested:

BEST PICTURE

Will win and should win: CRASH
Yeah, I know, everyone and their brother is saying BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is a lock to win, but it has seriously gone off the boil buzz-wise and there is a growing backlash against it. Further, CRASH seems to be getting the "I'm-voting-for-it-but-it-has-no-chance" response from a lot of people in the Academy - the same response that propelled CHARIOTS OF FIRE to the win in 1980 over the "sure-fire" REDS. I think it's going to pull off an upset on Oscar night.

BEST DIRECTOR

Will win: GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK
Should win: CRASH

Actors dominate the Academy and actors love to award other actors, especially in the directing and writing categories. So George Clooney is going to join the ranks of Robert Redford, Mel Gibson, and Kevin Costner - actors who never won a acting Oscar but brought home the little gold man for their directing work.


BEST ACTOR

Will win: Philip Seymour Hoffman - CAPOTE
Should win: Joaquin Phoenix - WALK THE LINE

Oscar voters just looooove to toss awards at solid character actors who nab lead roles (see Abraham, F. Murray and Kingsley, Ben). This year is going to be no exception - I expect Hoffman has this award sewn up. Poor Joaquin Phoenix is going to have to wait until he's old & grey before he gets an Academy Award, the Oscar voters (many of whom are senior citizens themselves), don't look too kindly on "young whippersnappers".


BEST ACTRESS

Will win: Felicity Huffman - TRANSAMERICA
Should win: Reese Witherspoon - WALK THE LINE

They've got to fend off the accusations of homophobia somewhere, and this is where they will do it. Plus, Oscar just loves gourgeous actresses who uggo themselves up for a role (See Theron, Charlize, and Kidman, Nicole), especially if they throw a little gender-bending into the mix (see Hunt, Linda, and Swank, Hillary). The much more deserving Reese Witherspoon is going to get left in the dust here.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will win and should win: Paul Giamatti - CINDERELLA MAN

Oscar will make up for it's snub of Giamatti last year by honoring him this year (the ironclad "One Year Later" rule), and will make up for it's overall snub of CINDERELLA MAN by homoring it here. Fortunately, Giamatti is a truly deserving choice.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will win: Michelle Williams - BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Should win: Rachel Weisz - THE CONSTANT GARDENER

I expect the obligatory BROKEBACK Oscar to get awarded here.

Posted by: tam1MI on March 2, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

"Moonraker."

http://tinyurl.com/hbaes :

In a none too subtle reference to another science fiction movie of the time, the entry coder to the Venetian laboratory plays the 5 note tune from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. However, this is not the first musical reference to another science fiction film in the movie; when Bond arrives by car at Drax's hunting party, his presence is announced by a horn playing the first three notes of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss, a piece of music that was famously used as the main theme in Stanley Kubrick's 2001 - A Space Odyssey.

So the "connection" is a 27-year-old lame joke--whoopee.

I preferred Jeffrey's answer.

Posted by: Rieux on March 2, 2006 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

I think tam1MI on March 2, 2006 at 4:23 has it nailed.

Posted by: Cal Gal on March 2, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

OT, except not really:

Why is it that whenever Kevin posts something about a non-political topic, a couple people immediately upbraid him for not paying sufficient attention to Iraq/Abramoff/Cheney's firearm skills/whatever, but here there are 157 comments to a thread about the Oscars, of all things, and no one's complained once that it's not political? What's the deal?

You all must have a heck of a lot of disposable time and/or income, if you have opinions about every major film released in the last year.

Posted by: waterfowl on March 2, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

I thought "Brokeback Mountain" was a great film, one of the most moving that I have seen in years.

I felt that Crash was, with the exception of the few scenes (most notably the scene where Matt Dillon frisked the woman and later when her director bf confronted the cops), a series of false notes punctuated by more melodramatic plot twists than a season of the O.C.

So many scenes in Brokeback Mountain were all about what couldn't be said. As a result, I felt real tension in the simplest of moments. I thought the Heath Ledger became that character to the point that I was watching not just a movie, but a life on film.

In Crash, the characters were spouting all kinds of things that would never be said that way in real life. I have other films, such as "Traffic", that used interolocking stories to focus on an issue, which in that film was the drug trade. However, in "Traffic", the characters stayed within character.

If you want to make a dramatic film about race relations, write some dramatic scenes where the words come out because the characters have to say those words, not just because the filmmaker wants everybody to spout off about race at every moment.

Posted by: PE on March 2, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Why are people hating on Brokeback Mountain? I assume most people here are not disliking the movie just because it has gay guys, so I can only assume it is because all the hype turned them off. But before the hype, this was a great, deep, moving movie that is technically beautiful.

The list:
1. Brokeback Mountain (great movie all around. Hathaway's AND Williams's breasts. A+)

2. Capote (amazing acting, but not exactly enjoyable, just because it was dealing with such a depressing person.)

3. Munich (haven't seen it yet, but I'm pretty sure it's better than Crash and GNaGL)

4. Crash (makes you think, but isn't a great movie for the reasons your friend gave. so contrived, and all been done before)

5. Good Night, and Good Luck (the acting was great, the cinematography was gorgeous, the music was cool, but the story was completely boring. I would have rather had them make stuff up a la JFK than do this superficial hagiography.)

Posted by: Hip E. on March 2, 2006 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think tam1MI on March 2, 2006 at 4:23 is wrong about every point. The Constant Gardener looks like it might have been a great book. As a movie, it wasn't very good. And Rachel Wiezcsz didn't do anything for me except make me complain about how selfish and destructive her character was.

Posted by: Hip E. on March 2, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Re: hating Brokeback Mountain. I'm beginning to think there's something about that movie that urban folks just don't get. I'm from that area, and I found the portrayal of the region and its people to be dead on, with the exception of Randy Quaid's character---he seemed too Texas. As for it being too long, maybe watching opera has made me permanently immune to this complaint, but I think the overall time scale of the story required exactly that pacing.

Also, I'd second those who put The Squid and the Whale near the top.

Posted by: Matt on March 2, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Good Night, and Good Luck
3. Capote
4. Crash
5. Munich

Posted by: Mark A. York on March 2, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure I think we should have to make the assumption that Crowe's character had an abusive father and extrapolate from there--seems a bit of a jump--but that was an interesting post
Posted by: shortstop

You don't have to make the assumption. Crowe's character (Bud White)tells you he had an abusive father, who chained him (Bud) to a radiator when he (the father) beat his mother to death. LA Confidential isn't just a great movie about LA, it's a great movie, period.

Posted by: Temperance on March 2, 2006 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You wrote, "Matt seems to think that Crash was designed to show Los Angeles as a uniquely steaming hellbroth of racism and intolerance, whereas I saw Los Angeles as just a convenient backdrop. The movie could just as easily have been set in Detroit or New York or any other big American city. It wasn't really meant as a specific message about LA."

Perhaps, but the fact is the movie WASN'T ("set in Detroit or New York"). The Academy voters seemingly need to see LA -- the familiar sights, weather, people, etc. -- to better feel the conveyed emotions and messages in the movie. In fact, "Magnolia," "Short Cuts," and "Grand Canyon" -- like "Crash" -- were all overblown, excessively praised flicks that wore their sentiments on their sleeves and if shot in any other city would not have received nearly the acclaim.

Imagine NYC-shot "Annie Hall" today, thirty years after its release, do you honestly think it would have a prayer of receiving so many Oscar nominations, much less winning in so many?

http://theangryliberal.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Ed on March 2, 2006 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

I understand that Brokeback, which was brought back into local theaters, is proving to be a huge waste of electricity - no one is going to see it.

See Mickey Kaus' piece at Slate.com today. Instead of gettng a 'bounce' from it's nominations, it's actually declining nationally.

Or don't, since everything Kaus has said so far about Brokeback's box-office numbers is either false or a misrepresentation. He really does have a bee in his bald bonnet about that film.

Posted by: ahem on March 3, 2006 at 4:17 AM | PERMALINK

Waterfowl: no one's complained once that it's not political? What's the deal?

All things are political, cher.

Posted by: CFShep on March 3, 2006 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

You know I'd love to see a film made by, oh, a Pakistani or something, about either NYC or L.A. as all around dreadful as the ones Hollywood makes about 'the South'in general and 'Cajuns' and NOLA in particular. You can go all the back to Delores Del Rio in "Evangeline" if you want.

Want to see tone-deaf and ridiculous, try "Big Easy". Round up your nearest local 'internally displaced person' and watch that absurd piece of crap with them.

Now I'll grant that it had a certain cult status in NOLA - but only because it got everything, everything, so hilariously wrong-wrong-wrong. I believe there were some drinking games based on it, but some of us can and have turned pertty much anything into a drinking game. Including hurricanes...

I can only come up with one shining example to the contrary is "Steel Magnolias". Yeah, Darryl Hannah's 'faux generic Southeron' accent is ludicrous but what the hell, can't have everything.

Posted by: CFShep on March 3, 2006 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

I don't why Mickey Kaus would find Brokeback Mountain's numbers noteworthy. The per screen average from last weekend is respectable, just behind the new releases. Over all, it has done very well for a serious film, making more than the other nominees for best picture, while not making as much money as "Cheaper By The Dozen 2", let alone the real money makers.

I don't quite get the notion that "Brokeback Mountain" was made for its shock value in order to make lots of money. I believe the filmmakers when they say they thought they were trying to make a truthful tragic love story and that, while they knew there would be some controversy, they had no idea it would cause quite the stir it has.

Posted by: PE on March 3, 2006 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, people who are still correcting me about LA Confidential: I clearly am misremembering much of this movie; I conceded the point and happily took my medicine, like, two days ago. It's humiliating to have been such a cinematic lunkhead, but I owned up to it, so please try to keep up.

CF: Now I'll grant that it had a certain cult status in NOLA - but only because it got everything, everything, so hilariously wrong-wrong-wrong.

Well, not everything. Christine Balfa really does wail like a scalded cat when she sings. Jeune filles de la campagne! Run!

Posted by: shortstop on March 3, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Well, not everything. Christine Balfa really does wail like a scalded cat when she sings. Jeune filles de la campagne! Run!
Posted by: shortstop

okay.
Willing_to_concede_point.
Come_on_down_for_Festivals_Acadiennes.
It's_simply_like_vibrato_in_country_music.Accepted_convention_in_Cajun_music.That_and_fiddles.

(spacebar_86)

Posted by: CFShep on March 3, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I know a lot about Cajun music, actually. But Christine...ouch!

Posted by: shortstop on March 3, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

The reviewer for the L.A. Times certainly thought it was about "expos[ing] the dark heart of the true Los Angeles..."

For whatever that's worth...

Posted by: Rick on March 3, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

"Crash" was tired...

Posted by: Matt Dillon on March 3, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I know a lot about Cajun music, actually. But Christine...ouch!
Posted by: shortstop

Guess that means you've never heard her cover Emmy Lou Harris or Lucinda Williams, eh?

Oh, and I thought of one other film that did a reasonably good job in terms of Louisiana, though certainly it wasn't a big box office thing: "Passion Fish"

Posted by: CFShep on March 4, 2006 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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