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The Oscar nominations: Brokeback leads the pack

 
 
Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Mar, 2006 12:17 pm
Where did I "huffily state" anything of the sort. Prizes are much different than critical response. I would go by the critics I respect and not as much by awards. Literary awards panels are far more qualified than those voting on movies awards to begin with. I also repeat, who are these "literary" people to which I received nary an answer, just a lot more useless rhetoric.

So I wouldn't worry -- "Brokeback" has already had the best revenge. Living well.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Mar, 2006 06:51 pm
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Why 'Crash' conquered the 'Mountain'
`Capote' likely helped play spoiler

By Michael Wilmington
Tribune movie critic
Published March 12, 2006


When "Crash" took the best picture Oscar March 5, beating the heavy favorite "Brokeback Mountain" at the last minute, it was the one surprise in an evening woefully short of them.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, Ang Lee, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Wallace and Gromit, even "Crash" original screenplay writers Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco -- one by one the night's long-predicted favorites kept rolling over their opponents as if the whole thing had been scripted.

That's why that final "Whoa! Crash" from presenter Jack Nicholson was such a shock. In one wild moment, the whole evening turned around, ripping through the show's complacency and probably spoiling a lot of instant think-pieces already half-composed about "Brokeback's" gutsy reversal of America's sexual-cultural mythos.

It surprised me, too. Up to that moment, I had a good string running on my own predictions -- and "Brokeback" for best picture seemed a safe pick. So I wasn't happy. It wasn't because I, along with some other writers, regard "Crash" as unworthy or because I think Ang Lee's melancholy movie about two gay cowboys was the victim of a sinister "Break Brokeback" conspiracy, revealing academy voters as hypocritical homophobes.

Great PR move

"Crash" probably won because more of the academy voters liked and admired it as a movie. They didn't shun "Brokeback"; they gave it three key Oscars (best director, adapted screenplay and original score) and a strong place in academy history. But I would argue that the majority -- and maybe it was a slim majority -- honestly preferred "Crash." In the end, it's more likely that the voting majority thought "Brokeback" was a good, honorable film, but slower, less engrossing and less moving compared with the jazzy, multistranded, Altmanesque L.A.-contempo "Crash," a movie about racism and crime in today's Los Angeles with a big-name ensemble cast playing for peanuts, a tricky structure of interweaving stories and an overall L.A. atmosphere and feeling that struck many Angelenos as right-on. It's a movie that, according to New York Daily News critic, Oscar expert and L.A. native Jack Mathews "played like gangbusters to people who lived in L.A."

"Brokeback," with a more realistic and impeccably literary screenplay, shot in a languorous style reminiscent of European art films, simply didn't connect with the voters in the same way, but not because they are homophobic. A few may well be, just as some may have been offended by "Munich's" take on terrorism, "Capote's" gay protagonist or even the anti-McCarthyism of "Good Night, and Good Luck." But not enough to matter. Certainly, this is not an industry you could reasonably accuse of widespread anti-liberalism and homophobia.

There are other good reasons "Crash" may have won. For one thing, "Crash's" feisty little studio, Lionsgate, sent out a ton of DVDs, making sure it was seen. For another, there was a powerful third film in the race: "Capote."

"Capote" was a movie with strong and stubborn support among critics and, I'll bet, also among academy members. Like "Brokeback," it was a picture with a gay protagonist, Hoffman as Truman Capote, whom we see during the writer's Kansas adventure researching and writing "In Cold Blood." Like "Brokeback," it was highly literary in composition and, unlike "Crash," not afflicted with some of those movie devices you call either cliches or mythic archetypes.

If "Capote" had not been in the race, the vast majority of its voters probably would have gone to "Brokeback," rather than the other three films. So if you're looking for a spoiler to "Brokeback's" seemingly sure win, it makes more sense to pick "Capote" than "Crash." (That doesn't make for sexy instant analysis though.) And you could also lay some blame on the fact that all five of the nominees were serious film dramas tackling weighty or significant subjects, which meant that issues-minded voters could comfortably vote for any of them.

A fable

More of them were comfortable with "Crash." But though that result offended critics who had attacked Paul Haggis' movie for precisely those pesky "cliches," we should remember, as Mathews points out, that "Crash" really isn't meant to be taken literally. It's a fable, a thriller, a polemic. (In his acceptance speech, Canadian immigrant Haggis made just that point, arguing that art isn't necessarily a Shakespearean mirror held up to nature but also a Brechtian hammer to reshape society.)

The critics who trashed "Crash" were probably more partial to the literary-psychological modes of both "Brokeback" and "Capote." They wanted the mirror and not the hammer. They couldn't accept scenes such as the one where previously racist-seeming cop Matt Dillon tries to pull from a flipped-over soon-to-burn vehicle the same African-American woman (Thandie Newton) whom he molested during a roust the night before. I can see the critics' point; compared with real life, it's a thoroughly implausible scene. But it does play like gangbusters.

In any case, it makes little sense for liberal film critics to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by trashing "Crash" and obsessing about "Brokeback's" non-win. "Crash" is a fine, strong, very well-made movie about urgent contemporary issues, a film that genuinely entertains and moves people, especially Angeleno Oscar-voters. That's a large part of why it won and why the result is actually a hopeful sign inside the industry -- as a "Brokeback" win would also have been.

So, for that matter, would a win for "Capote," "Munich" or "Good Night, and Good Luck." It was that kind of year.
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mele42846
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Mar, 2006 05:52 pm
I think Light Wizard has made a very good point. I do agree that "unique" films, rather than the same old same old, should be pre-eminent.

Geniuses like ANG often get their inspiration from Broadway. I am betting that the recent Tony Award winner by one of our greatest playwrights, Edward Albee--"Who is Slyvia" or "The Goat"( which everyone who knows theatre is aware of) will be brought to the screen soon.

Some may be concerned about its story( the carnal relationship between a man and his Goat as well as the subplot of that man rejecting his homosexual son) would not be palatable to today's audiences.

But, if as Lightwizard has suggested( and he is correct) we need "unique" cinema, "Who is Sylvia" would fill the bill. And anyway, how can you really follow up on Brokeback? Or what will they do next?
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plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 02:34 pm
I'm not a fan of rotten tomatoes, but, according to that same service, the film that received the most critical acclaim was The Chronicles of Narnia.

Chuckle. I saw Narnia this weekend, before reading that note. Truthfully, I would named Narnia the best film of 2005 and I would have named A Very Long Engagement the best film of 2004.

LW -- This is the last thing I will say to you on this thread, but I will remind you that we have more often than not agreed on this forum. You did take umbrage from the first; I did define literary people -- who you insulted as full of sour grapes. Your return that 40 critics you read disagree with me is a statement that you feel I am not allowed my opinion.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 04:09 pm
Hope I didn't insult any personal friends or family -- are they writers or other literary people? No? Than how can anyone be taken aback by a strictly rhetorical remark about those who are writers themselves bashing awards and those who have won them because they don't endorse awards? Who cares if they don't. Proulx is still a fine author and "Brokeback Mountain" is one of the best short stories ever to appear in the New Yorker. I suppose appearing in the New Yorker is something your "literary folk" considering no big deal either.

Yes, we have agree more than disagreed so I guess we will have to agree to disagree about this particular subject.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 04:30 pm
"Chronicles of Narnia" received 78% favorable reviews from the top critics (right hand colum in Rotten Tomatoes who simply tally postive to negative reviews with no input form any editorial staff). "Brokeback Mountain," for instance, received 90%, in the top ten of best reviewed movies. In the Premier and Entertainment Weekly matrix of best reviewed movies which are also the top critics, "Brokeback" was Number 1.

Just curious how you got that "Narnia" was the best reviewed film.
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plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Mar, 2006 12:42 pm
I had a discussion with a group of people last night about Brokeback. One of the party, a psychologist who teaches at the college level, said that the movie wasn't about homosexuality at all, but about love.

I interpret the movie as being about two men who were by circumstances unable to realize interpersonal relationships in any context other than the then "dominant paradigm (yes, I love that bumper sticker!)."

The dominant paradigm was married heterosexual love with copulation limited to conception (Ennis).

Obviously, neither Jack nor Ennis knows anything about responsibility. Frankly, the dominant paradigm is a little week on responsibility.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Mar, 2006 01:45 pm
You are quite right. Well, now, some acquaintances I can relate to. Howeve, homosexuality wasn't left completely out. Jack was so frustrated with Ennis' paranoia and reticence to do anything about the love between them that he began to visit Mexican hustlers over the Texas border.

It could be interpersonal barriers with a black-and-white couple, or Jewish/Gentile couple, etc., but a great deal of those prejudices have been pushed back into latency. Which is the note that "Crash" hit and rather bluntly.
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AKUS
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 05:42 am
Although I haven't read through this thread, the last several posts caught my eye.

I understand the psychologist distilling the theme to one of love.

I also think "Chronicles of Narnia" was an 'outed' (if you will Mr. Green ) movie for the more "Christian" of the Christians.

In addition, I don't agree that "Crash" was as blunt as Lightwizard and/or that particular review postulated. Many people loved the movie for its action, pace, cinematography, and so on; some realized later its theme, therefore some may or may not accept the characterization of its 'bluntness.' ... "never underestimate ... :wink: ..."
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 08:12 am
Naw, it was in-your-face blunt. I agree with A. O. Scott's review of "Crash" and disagree with Ebert's. He is getting far too generous with those stars anyway. I gave away my DVD copy of "Crash." Not ever interested in seeing it again. But I would watch "Magnolia" and "Short Cuts" again and they are in my DVD library. "Grand Canyon" is not but I would rent that film or catch it on cable again.

There is plenty of material in "Brokeback" for any psychologist or psychiatrist to examine and have a field day analyzing it. It does all boil down to something that we as humans may never fully understand. Love. Perhaps it should remain a metaphysical force because "chemistry" certainly doesn't completely explain it.

However, as Fran Leibowitz states, "We fall in love with people because of their lower lip." Very Happy
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 08:22 am
As one has to register at the NYT to read A. O. Scott's review, here it is:

Bigotry as the Outer Side of Inner Angst


Lorey Sebastian/Lions Gate Films
Thandie Newton with Matt Dillon in Paul Haggis's film "Crash."


By A. O. SCOTT

Published: May 6, 2005


What kind of movie is "Crash"? It belongs to a genre that has been flourishing in recent years - at least in the esteem of critics - but that still lacks a name. A provisional list of examples might include "Monster's Ball," "House of Sand and Fog" and "21 Grams." In each of these films, as in "Crash," Americans from radically different backgrounds are brought together by a grim serendipity that forces them, or at least the audience, to acknowledge their essential connectedness.

The look of these movies and the rough authenticity of their locations create an atmosphere of naturalism that is meant to give force to their rigorously pessimistic view of American life. The performances, often by some of the finest screen actors working today, have the dense texture and sober discipline that we associate with realism. But to classify these movies as realistic would be misleading, as the stories they tell are, in nearly every respect, preposterous, and they tend to be governed less by the spirit of observation than by superstition.

This is not necessarily bad, and some of these movies are very good indeed. But in approaching "Crash," we should be more than usually cautious about mistaking its inhabitants - residents of Los Angeles of various hues, temperaments and occupations - for actual human beings. This may not be easy, for they are played by people of such graven, complex individuality as Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle and Terrence Howard, as well as by less established but equally gifted actors like Michael Pena and Chris Bridges (better known to the world by his rap name, Ludacris).

Their characters - and the dozen or so others whose lives intersect in the course of an exceedingly eventful day and a half - may have names, addresses, families and jobs, but they are, at bottom, ciphers in an allegorical scheme dreamed up by Paul Haggis, the screenwriter (most recently of Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby"), here making his directorial debut.

As he demonstrated to galvanizing effect in the "Million Dollar Baby" script, Mr. Haggis is not unduly concerned with subtlety. At a time when ambitious movies are dominated by knowing cleverness and showy sensation, he makes a case for blunt, earnest emotion, and shows an admirable willingness to risk sentimentality and cliché in the pursuit of genuine feeling. Many of the scenes in "Crash" unfold with great dramatic power, even when they lack a credible narrative or psychological motive.

Mr. Haggis's evident sincerity and intelligence are reflected in the conviction of the cast, and may also leave an impression on the audience. So much feeling, so much skill, so much seriousness, such an urgent moral agenda - all of this must surely answer our collective hunger for a good movie, or even a great one, about race and class in a modern American city.

Not even close. "Crash" writes its themes in capital letters - Race, Class, Life, Fate - and then makes them the subjects of a series of speeches and the pivot points for a succession of clumsy reversals. The first speech, which doubles as introductory voice-over narration, is by Mr. Cheadle's character, a detective named Graham, addressing his partner (and lover), Ria (Jennifer Esposito), after their car has been in a minor accident. He takes the event as a metaphor for the disjunctive, isolated character of life in Los Angeles, while she insists that it is merely a literal, physical occurrence that requires a practical response.

It does not take long to figure out whose side Mr. Haggis is on. Metaphor hangs in the California air like smog (or like the snow that is incongruously falling on the Hollywood Hills). The other major element in the atmosphere is intolerance. Ria, who is Hispanic, climbs out of the car and confronts the other driver, an Asian-American woman, and before long their argument has descended into racial name-calling. This sets the pattern for just about every other conversation in the movie.

In the next scene, which takes place earlier on the previous day, a hot-tempered Iranian shopkeeper is insulted by the owner of a gun store, who calls him "Osama." And so it goes, slur by slur, until we come full circle, to the original accident, after which a few lingering questions are resolved.

In the meantime, quite a lot happens. Guns are pulled, cars are stolen, children are endangered, cars flip over, and many angry, hurtful words are exchanged, all of it threaded together by Mr. Haggis's quick, emphatic direction and Mark Isham's maundering electronic score.

Mr. Haggis is eager to show the complexities of his many characters, which means that each one will show exactly two sides. A racist white police officer will turn out to be physically courageous and devoted to his ailing father; his sensitive white partner will engage in some deadly racial profiling; a young black man who sees racial profiling everywhere will turn out to be a carjacker; a wealthy, mild-mannered black man will pull out a gun and start screaming. No one is innocent. There's good and bad in everyone. (The exception is Mr. Pena's character, a Mexican-American locksmith who is an island of quiet decency in a sea of howling prejudice and hypocrisy).

That these bromides count as insights may say more about the state of the American civic conversation than about Mr. Haggis's limitations as a storyteller, and there is no doubt that he is trying to dig into the unhappiness and antagonism that often simmer below the placid surface of everyday life. "I'm angry all the time, and I don't know why," says Jean (Sandra Bullock), the wife of the city's district attorney (Brendan Fraser), the day after their S.U.V. has been stolen at gunpoint.

Her condition is all but universal in Mr. Haggis's city, but its avenues of expression are overwrought and implausible. The idea that bigotry is the public face of private unhappiness - the notion that we lash out at people we don't know as a form of displaced revenge against the more familiar sources of our misery - is an interesting one, but the failure of "Crash" is that it states its ideas, again and again, without realizing them in coherent dramatic form.

It is at once tangled and threadbare; at times you have trouble keeping track of all the characters, but they run into one another with such frequency that, by the end, you start to think that the population of Los Angeles County must number in the mid-two figures - all of it strangers who hate one another on sight.

So what kind of a movie is "Crash"? A frustrating movie: full of heart and devoid of life; crudely manipulative when it tries hardest to be subtle; and profoundly complacent in spite of its intention to unsettle and disturb.

"Crash" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has violence, strong language (including many racial slurs) and a brief sex scene.

Crash

Opens today nationwide.

Directed by Paul Haggis; written by Mr. Haggis and Bobby Moresco, based on a story by Mr. Haggis; director of photography, J. Michael Muro; edited by Hughes Winborne; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Laurence Bennett; produced by Cathy Schulman, Don Cheadle, Bob Yari, Mark R. Harris, Mr. Moresco and Mr. Haggis; released by Lions Gate Films. Running time: 107 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Sandra Bullock (Jean), Don Cheadle (Graham), Matt Dillon (Officer Ryan), Jennifer Esposito (Ria), Brendan Fraser (Rick), Terrence Howard (Cameron), Chris Bridges (Anthony), Thandie Newton (Christine) and Michael Pena (Daniel).
0 Replies
 
AKUS
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 08:48 am
Lightwizard wrote:
But I would watch "Magnolia" and "Short Cuts" again and they are in my DVD library. "Grand Canyon" is not but I would rent that film or catch it on cable again.


Same here. :wink:

Lightwizard wrote:
Perhaps it should remain a metaphysical force because "chemistry" certainly doesn't completely explain it.


I agree with that statement!
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 08:58 am
Love is a psychological drug and probably because contact with some people causes endorphines and dopamines to rise, perhaps even seratonin. It's a drug we willing take (Leibowitz) but then are conflicted about exactly how to handle it. "Brokeback Mountain" addresses that regardless of whether the two in love are male. It was addressed by another Oscar winner, "The English Patient," which, for some, requires an inordinate amount of patience to watch. It leaves the love element as metaphysical and not at all introduces any psychology. But I think one has to read the book to appreciate the film. Did it deserve the Oscar? Probably not but that was one of the worst years for films ever. 2005 was a great year for film and it was difficult to come up with five nominations. I think it was a scatter-shot process and as we are now learning, now with Sarah Jessica Parker, the actors who primarilly have the power to pick the winners (they picked their bevy of Hollywood actors for "Crash" at the SAG awards) do not see all the films. I'm betting, since Stephen Farber's piece in todays NYT that those male over 50 actors which is also a large bloc of the Academy voters did not see "Brokeback." If the female actors received a DVD of "Brokeback," it likely would have taken the place of not being able to get their husbands or boyfriends to go see the film. I've lost what little faith I've always had with the Oscars. It's a glamour fest that is becoming obnoxious and E. Annie Proulx is right.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 09:00 am
Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, associated with the Oscars, as reviewers are not entangled with a conflic of interest as they campaigned for the winner. I now have less faith in their reviews than I ever did. Ebert's condescending and lame rationaligy in AfterElton is an example of old fuddy-duddy thought processes.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 09:02 am
(BTW, withdrawal from that drug has severe side effects! Crying or Very sad Laughing
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AKUS
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 09:04 am
Lightwizard wrote:
As one has to register at the NYT to read A. O. Scott's review, here it is:


Thank you for sharing the review. Here is an excerpt and brief comment from me:

It is at once tangled and threadbare; at times you have trouble keeping track of all the characters, but they run into one another with such frequency that, by the end, you start to think that the population of Los Angeles County must number in the mid-two figures - all of it strangers who hate one another on sight.

So what kind of a movie is "Crash"? A frustrating movie: full of heart and devoid of life; crudely manipulative when it tries hardest to be subtle; and profoundly complacent in spite of its intention to unsettle and disturb.



Nah. That misses the point entirely. That excerpt reveals the reviewer's biases, which we all have. I don't happen to share the same ones. It is frustrating to the reviewer because the reviewer apparently cannot tolerate ambiguity and probably doesn't like the idea that such a cast would come together and be willing to do just that. It is indeed difficult to admit that human beings (presuming the reviewer to be one) have different aspects to our character, personality and so on. However, to be human is to be flawed.

I love the fact that the Academy had the courage to give the best movie award this year to the best nominated of the 5. If that was the result of a split between 2 other good movies ... I thought 4 of the 5 were excellent ... so be it.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 09:11 am
The Oscars have always been a chaotic process which they will never admit. I'm a member of AMPAS and of AFI. AFI has picked "Brokeback" as the best film but have declined to publicly announce anything but their top ten as of now. It's all political. They don't want to step on the Academy's toes. I can state now unequivocably that "Crash" is not the best film of the year.

http://www.metacritic.com/film/awards/2005/toptens.shtml

Scroll down to the graph of the tally -- remarkable how there is an obvious plurality.
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cyphercat
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 03:42 pm
Lightwizard wrote:
Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, associated with the Oscars, as reviewers are not entangled with a conflic of interest as they campaigned for the winner. I now have less faith in their reviews than I ever did. Ebert's condescending and lame rationaligy in AfterElton is an example of old fuddy-duddy thought processes.


I've been having my doubts about Ebert's mental stability since the review in which he said some movie had made him want to "hug himself." Shocked
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cyphercat
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 03:47 pm
AKUS wrote:
It is frustrating to the reviewer because the reviewer apparently cannot tolerate ambiguity . . .


Ambiguity?! Crash was one of the least ambiguous movies I've ever seen. Scott's review was spot-on, thanks for posting it, Lightwizard.

Oh, p.s., AKUS, which four of the five were you referring to?
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2006 03:49 pm
What did Annie Proulx say, Wiz? Missed that if it was posted.
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