Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Yaye Review: This One's For Apple Cheeks!

I watched the Oscars this year without a clue. Despite being a movie freak, I hadn't managed to see a single nominated movie before the ceremony. This placed me in an unaccustomed position: I had to rely on second-hand opinions (not something I usually place any trust in - I never read reviews until after I see the movie), the track record of nominees, and the general emotional thrust of the evening to inform my own response to the outcomes. Based on pre-show buzz, I was surprised that Crash was the big winner, but I assumed it was a worthy recipient.

Over this past weekend, I finally saw Crash and Walk the Line, and now... I just think the Academy was looking out for Reese Witherspoon. In the wake of a rash of Hollywood divorces, no one wants to see the apple-cheeked Reese and Ryan Phillipe's marriage fall apart because of professional jealousy, so they threw Ryan's movie an Oscar bone to help keep the kids together. I'm crediting the Academy with this worthy sentiment, because I can't figure any other reason for Crash to have won Best Picture.

Overwritten, overstated, overwrought. Yes, it has some excellent performances from an interesting mix of actors, what a relentless series of stereotypes (racial, ethnic and socio-economic), trite character reversals, and exceptionally unlikely situations. Selling itself as gritty realism - and some of the brutal bigotry depicted is realistic -- it requires the audience to abandon what it knows of actual human nature (people don't usually shout their prejudices over megaphones) and the law of averages (no way would all of these people keep encountering one another in the vastness that is Los Angeles) in order to buy into this ham-fisted morality tale. And do I have to mention the shameless pilfering from other overlapping multi-storyline movies? Magnolia, Grand Canyon, Traffic, Short Cuts. Sheesh!

Crash is not without artistic merit, having some finely rendered moments, but it broke no new ground. It certainly did not make me think about its MESSAGE (clearly its flashing neon PURPOSE) - it just made me wonder about the Academy's puzzling voting pattern. Do they ever reward subtlety? Tell me, do they?

And then I thought about Reese, who was layered and soulful and sparkling in the imperfect, but lovely and haunting Walk the Line. Now there's a well-deserved Oscar.

So, I hope they did it for Reese.


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