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A sham in Hollywood clothing

From: Pierre Alexis, New York, NY

As to your review of "Crash" and its inexplicable win on Oscar night: I am not surprised by your encouragement, nor your heralding of this film. I do think a matter closer to your own life will affect your review. For what it's worth, I think you believed in "Crash" for the right reasons. However, as a black young man who lives in New York, I felt some of your comments about "Crash" were overrated. This film does not push the matter of racism any further. Nor does it leave you with any positive feelings or a manner in which to begin the conversation.

I thought its saving graces were the wonderful performances. But that's all. The dialogue was jarring and full of venom, but with very little substance. You get a dozen or so breatheless characters who at the end of the day you can't even remember their names. The fact that the racism is so blatant and basically the fuel for their entire day, and spewed in every conversation, is not what racism is today. The fact is that, though shocked, you really aren't allowed to care for any of the characters. Everyone is a villain. From the snobby black socialite who blames her husband for his mistrust in an authoritarian, after she has been molested. To the white-racist thief who somehow sees himself as the victim as he victimizes others.

Every character is offered redemption, also. That does not speak to the true result of racism. Racism is very prevalent and dangerous. People lose their jobs inexplicably, their homes, their friends. They are attacked, humiliated, and murdered just because of their race. This is the nature of racism in our culture, and for all "Crash"s talk, it offers no complete truth to the audience. Just an abridged Hollywood version.

What is worse is that, since you aren't allowed to see much humanity in these characters, people just can't relate. Instead they become forgettable caricatures. Meant to shake you because of what they say, but not who they are. The only question this film poses is "Are you a bigot?"... and that's it. It gives you no insight into how discrimination is bred through experiences, upbringing, education and your environment. Offers no means to heal. Just a poor jagged observation that keeps trying to poke at your conscience until you've succumbed like an annoyed older brother.

As for Oscar, I must say this. It was the least deserving of the four. Sadly, in years to come, it will not be heralded as a wonder in film making, but a great sham. The thing you specifically fail to point out in your comments regarding Oscar night, are not that people liked " Crash" but that they were uncomfortable with " Brokeback Mountain" and were looking for an alternative. I wouldn't feel too proud with an "alternative" vote. The more the Academy succumbs to its own short-sighted view of itself, the more luster the Oscar loses.

I was encouraged by your glowing review of "Brokeback Mountain," that is why i believe you never meant it any ill will. But please do not confuse your adoration and belief in "Crash" ( which manifested itself nowhere else during the entire season) with the motives of others. I close with this: If 99 people tell you the sky is blue and one says it's red... who should you believe?

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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