Friday, December 09, 2005

Crash d. Paul Haggis, 2005

"And wasn't it so cool the way that, like, they showed racism exactly how it is? You know, even if you're not racist, you still are, at least a little bit. Like, we all have these things ingrained into our systems - it might be genetic? - that we can't help...and then the music and the way that it all built up in the end like it was all connected. And the blanks...I had NO IDEA!! And did you see that the white guy had a black Saint Christopher and the black guy had a white Saint Christopher? It's so...true...cause we're, like, all the same, you know? Wow. What a great film!"

Wait: really? Seriously? Seriously? Paul Haggis should be smarter than this, right? I mean, he wrote Million Dollar Baby and created the hit television series Walker, Texas Ranger. Crash is unforgivable, vapid filmmaking. Layer upon rotten layer of racism spoonfed to the viewer without any semblance of purpose. I get the point that racism exists, and I hate it - and there were parts of this film that moved me to authentic anger and frustration with the world we live in as much as any film I've seen - but an unveiling of racism in and of itself is pointless. Doesn't the attentive viewer see this on television every day? Don't we read about it in the newspaper each morning? Aren't the sit-coms on primetime television, on all the major networks, filled with racial stereotypes enough for us to get the point? Maybe not. I don't know. The problem with the film is not the ubiquity of racism - this is stuff that should be seen - but the pandering way in which it is handled and the fact that the quasi-resolutions Haggis proposes are the social equivalent to pissing on a forest fire. The most deplorable trick is The Switch. Here's how it works: we follow one man or woman around for a bit and see them as either a victim or perpetrator of racism, one or the other. Then, when we next return to the character, we see them in the opposing role. Get it? The worst of these character flips is found in Matt Dillon's character, whom, after molesting a black woman, saves the same woman from a burning wreck. All is forgiven and all is atoned; we all take part in racism and we are all hurt by it. Hooray Haggis - you are a fucking genius.

Crash takes place in LA, has a large and relatively famous ensemble cast (the big names mixed in with the really solid b-list actors), features the poignant and scene punctuating sounds of a late-20's female singer, and ends in a storm of falling frogs, er, I mean snow. Yeah, the movie owes a good deal to Magnolia, which is already greatly indebted to Altman's Short Cuts. So Paul Haggis cannot even commit the filmic felony of hackery on original turf? This is pathetic, sloppy reprehensible filmmaking. For all those taken, look again.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I've done a little bit of housework. Now anyone can comment, but I've turned moderation on for all the 'blogs. This allows me to filter posts from people selling certain, ahem, enlarging apparatus and people advertising their naked people websites, choosing whether or not to publish said post. Don't worry, I'm not a dictator - I'll publish any comment, no matter how disparaging or intelligent, pertaining to the mother post. (Ha, mother post. I like that.) So, post away. Please. I'd love to hear from you. We haven't talked in so long! My gosh, has it been years really? Amazing...your voice sounds exactly...the same. Uncanny.

Yeah, it'll go something like that.

One from the Heart d. Francis Ford Coppola, 1982

You're a doctor - a figurative doctor here, 'cause I'm working strictly in the figurative - and you slice off a chunk of, I don't know, heart, skin, nose, flesh from American Cinema. Now you analyze that corpuscle; what do you get? Sex? Romance? Iconic architecture? Maybe a bit of patriotism? Sure, all of the above and more, you'd imagine. Now: let's limit ourselves to that part of American Cinema concerned with romantic relationships. Cleave yourself a small hunk of that and you get One from the Heart.

A pretty great film when all is said and done, One from the Heart is shot entirely off location, i.e. on a studio backlot, in expressionistic redwhiteandblues, and filled with homages to Busby Berkeley & slapstick comedy. The centerpiece of the main couple's table is a miniature of the Empire State Building. The film is set in that most American of settings, Las Vegas. What I'm trying to say is this: this film that details the collapse, and unlikely reunion, of a relationship is the stuff of American Cinema, and even the stuff of America herself.

Each piece of the film taps into an American cinematic tradition, paying respects while concomitantly satirizing that to which it lies indebt. To rehash plotlines would be superfluous - the plot is hardly of worth here: Hank and Franny love each other, Hank and Franny hate each other, Hank and Franny break up, Hank and Franny find other people to love, Hank and Franny miraculously reunite. The thing is that each part of the film is a carefully crafted piece of artifice. Franny & Hank's plot meanderings are controlled like Oedipus' chariot, subject to a deistic force guiding them along. That deistic force being - you got it now - the porcine ghost of American Cinema. Ghost because what's going on is deconstruction. If Franny & Hank's reunion seems implausible, that's because it is. They both fall for other people - other fantastic people - yet to return to each other. The viewer does not feel as if they deserve love, the steady, comfortable embrace of another. What they deserve is the loneliness they feel upon first splitting. All the self-referential (that is, referencing American Cinema, which this film is - categorically - part of) artifice around them is exactly that - artifical construct; the point of it being to illustrate the artificial nature of 1) Hank & Franny's relationship 2) Relationships in toto in American Cinema 3) Generally, American Cinema.

So don't take the corny atmosphere and cheap acting lightly - there's important stuff going on here.