Crash (2004)

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CRASH, a brakes-off multiple-victim pileup of race-driven collisions in a seething urban environment, banged into another cultural roadblock in the form of Brokeback Mountain. During the Oscar sweepstakes for 2005, both entrants made it to the podium, but when this intense drama sideswiped Best Picture, the screeching howl of protest from the offended party tarnished the win, as one of Hollywoods back-patting constituencies backhanded another.

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A dozen characters stories interconnect in a swirl of racial mistrust, mistakes and mayhem over a two-day period in Los Angeles. Spinning off a carjacking incident in his own life, writer-director Paul Haggis had the temerity to toss his fellow Hollywood libs hypocrisies in their faces with the bitter-funny dialogue exchanges among his agonized, antagonized characters and threw down the unpopular truth that levels of racism, self-justification and ignorance coat every demo-group. The melting pot is always on simmer.

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Shot on a stripling $6,500,000 in a lightning 36 days, first released in 2004, it went wide the following year to qualify for awards. Initial critical response was quite positive, and worldwide grosses came to $98,400,000. Along with surprisingly (unforgivably for BBM cheerleaders) winning for Best Picture, it also took the little gold men for Original Screenplay and Film Editing, plus nominations for Director, Supporting Actor (Matt Dillon) and Song (“In The Deep”).

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Performances are uniformly excellent. The cast: Don Cheadle, Terrence Howard, Dillon, Thandie Newton, Ryan Philippe, Ludacris, Michael Pena, Larenz Tate, Shaun Taub, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Jennifer Esposito, Bahar Soomekh, Loretta Devine, William Fichtner, Keith David, Tony Danza, Alexis Rhee, Jack McGee and Ashlyn Sanchez. Music by Mark Isham, cinematography from James M. Muro. 112 minutes.

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* The immediate backlash insisting that Best Picture should have gone to Brokeback Mountain marked not only a new low in terms of professional gracelessness and p.c. hysteria, it’s never abated, the result that this heartfelt passion piece may be the most unjustly maligned winner in Academy Awards history. Good thing there wasn’t a Holocaust Musical that year, or the San Andreas Fault may have cracked open from the prism schism. Hissyfits of a few smug film critics, stray keyboard-hero bleating about what constitutes artistic merit and a horn section ceaselessly tooting for attention continue to lambast the design and delivery of Crash, even as the rather more important topic of Race in America has re-revealed its ugliest face, squirming and stupid, a rotten orange at the very top of the feud chain.

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