March 02, 2006

Film Critic Quote of the Day

"There are whispers that Paul Haggis’ “Crash” might take Best Picture from Ang Lee's gentle-spirited presumptive frontrunner “Brokeback Mountain.” I really hope it doesn’t, because if it does, I'll be so angry that I’ll have to retire my long-term posture of benign condescension towards the Oscars and start hating them on general principle...

"Crash" is set in Archie Bunker World, a nostalgic land where race is at the forefront of every consciousness during every minute of every day, where elaborately worded slurs are loaded into everyone's speech centers like bullets in a gun, ready to be fired at the instant that disrespect is given. The characters are anachronistic cartoons posing as symbols of contemporary distress. They seem to have time-warped in from the Nixon era, when the country’s pop culture purveyors decided to roll up their sleeves and get all this race stuff out in the open and show we were all secure enough to call each other bad names and then laugh about it and move on. That was a nervous, belligerent response, an overcompensation that came from sitting on this stuff for hundreds of years and seeing it explode into riots and shootouts. But the contrived frankness served a valuable function at the time; it was a little taste of the poisons lurking beneath the American façade, a rhetorical inoculation designed to toughen up the body politic. And it's over now. We're still a racist country, but we're a hell of a lot more sophisticated about it, and the inability or unwillingess of "Crash" to admit this makes it both stupid and pernicious.

-Matt Zoller Seitz, on his excellent new blog.

Posted by Stephen Silver at March 2, 2006 09:10 AM
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