Trial by Fire
The film plods at points, trudging along, and there are a few misguided narrative "devices" tacked on, but still, "Trial by Fire" bristles with anger.
I am an 18-year-old from Lancaster, California, a city about an hour from the supporting character in “Crash” that is Los Angeles. Being so close to this grand city gives me extraordinary opportunities to view many movies…. I was fortunate enough to be in the audience for a presentation of “Crash” followed by an interview with writer/director Paul Haggis and co-writer/producer Bobby Moresco. It was my second viewing of the amazing film. I was touched and torn yet again, but the film lasts, which is what makes it so good.
I loved your response to those critics who named "Crash" the worst movie of 2005. Here's my favorite part:
Perhaps the animosity toward "Crash" demonstrated in the reviews of writers like Foundas is not because the film is more objectionable than "Chaos" et al., but because "Crash" received so much promotion and adoration from critics in general. I found many of my friends who saw the movie had the same reaction I did: while it certainly had its moments, overall the film was drastically overvalued by the critical community. The film is obvious and clumsily manipulative in the manner of a Made-for-TV movie. The rescue from the burning car was a deeply moving scene, but Haggis couldn't resist ending it with a giant, slow motion Michael Bay-style explosion. The Iranian man is angry with the locksmith in the way only characters in movies are angry, and only then to facilitate the Big Misunderstanding that comes about because he was too busy being inappropriately apoplectic to hear even a single word that was said to him. And really, do even the film's admirers believe the scene where Terrance Howard's latte-sipping yuppie tranforms into an angry black Incredible Hulk? While I think anyone who believes "Crash" is one of the worst movies of 2005 didn't see many movies last year, I sympathize with the frustration felt by moviegoers looking for intelligent, grown-up films in the wake of the independent film movement of the 90's. More and more, rather than finding the likes of "sex, lies, and videotape," "Do the Right Thing," and "Fargo," we are steered toward movies like "Crash" by inexplicably generous critics. Jason Bollinger
Although I agree with you that Paul Haggis’ film "Crash" has redeeming social value and tackles the still tenuous if not overt racism in this country, I don’t agree it is a great movie. The actors and the interweaving storyline are on point but the constant barrage of clichéd dialogue accompanied by melodramatic music was almost comical. The scene where Matt Dillon’s character is holding Thandie Newton in his arms while a biblical car fire raged against the sweeping soundtrack hit me over the head so hard I had two pop three Advil.
I read your article about the "Worst Movie", and I would add to your argument in support of this movie. I think the movie is not really so much about racism, as it is about anger and the human condition. It is an examination of the chemistry of anger in our society today. Racism is the consequence that unites the anger of this group of characters. The form of this movie beautifully and with conviction imprints this story in our hearts. I think it achieves greatness, while avoiding the hype of the marketers, endearing it to me all the more.
I wanted to comment on Mr. Ebert’s wonderful defense of the film “Crash,” COMMENTARY/601080310>Roger Ebert’s defense of his the best worst film of 2005. As with 2005’s other Terrence Howard vehicle, “Hustle and Flow,” I found it interesting to watch some more “enlightened” critics cringe at hints of sympathy for the devil. The criticism by Foundas did not seem to be of the film itself, but the idea that to understand is not only needlessly intellectual and heavy, but apparently as great a sin as intolerance. If only he had simply not liked the movie for its script or performances, I could be working right now instead of typing this small diatribe.
While I respect your optimism in your recent column, "In Defense of the Year’s ‘Worst Movie,’” I feel very strongly that “Crash” is not only misguided but dangerous, and so I can only say the same for your column. The film’s presentation of racism is so superficial, so painfully clichéd, that it threatens to actually close people’s eyes to the ways in which racism most frequently and most dangerously presents itself. Almost immediately your column falls into the trap of which many critics of this film are so wary.
We felt honored that you reviewed “39 Pounds of Love.” We had been looking forward to reading your thoughts on the film as we so respect your opinion. However, we were disappointed to see several incorrect facts in your review. I know it is probably ill-advised for filmmakers to respond to a critic, but whilst we of course have no problem with your opinion -- that is up to you -- we believe it is in place, and essential, to correct some of your erroneous statements as well as respond to some of your perspectives of persons with disabilities.
I've been following the comments about Paul Haggis' “Crash” with interest, far more than I did in seeing the film itself. When it came out, I don't think I knew it was by Haggis. Had I known, I probably would have tried harder to see it, because Haggis was the creator of one of the best TV series I have ever seen, a very short-lived show called “EZ Streets,” which had a large ensemble cast (much like “Crash”) dealing with crime, political corruption, drug abuse, revenge, and much more. I remember watching it at the time and comparing it with the work of one of my favourite directors and writers, John Sayles- specifically his film “City of Hope.”
Hopefully the 'debate' about the quality of Paul Haggis' "Crash" won't rage on. For what it's worth, I thought it was an exceptional film even if, at times, the characters were 'archetypal.' Haggis made obvious attempts to give depth to each character beyond their racism. The characters played by Sandra Bullock and Matt Dillon both exhibit rather vehement racism but each for different reasons. In fact, we are given reasons (or at least excuses) for each character's feelings. In particular, I felt compelled to comment on the first letter you printed on your website. Jake Wolff wrote: "The movie has no subtlety, no shades of gray. The characters move from people who disgust us to people who we pity from scene to scene. They are not at all real; they are defined completely by their racism and their victimhood. Sure, it makes us say, “It’s bad to treat people that way!” But as we say it, we are not acknowledging the less obvious and much more complicated ways in which we are prejudiced ourselves."