the ragin' asian reviews crash

saw crash this past saturday. when the movie first came out about a month ago, i was pretty excited to see it as everything that i've read about it said it was a biting commentary on race in los angeles. and right after i saw the movie, i was inclined to agree. but now that i've had a few days to mull it over, i'm really not sure that this movie was good for.

crash is one of those sprawling movies with multiple plotlines that are loosely connected and that use the ensemble cast. as you might guess, nice performances were turned in by most of the actors (don cheadle, sandra bullock, ryan phillipe to name a few). but what separates the good movies of this nature from the so-so ones are the plot elements. and i didn't find any of the story lines all that compelling. so from a movie watching standpoint, it held your attention, but just barely. perhaps the director, paul haggis should have concentrated on fewer story lines to develop the characters a bit more. you never really get any sense of motivation or environmental causes for racism. really the only thing that you pull from the movie is that los angeles, with its super-diverse population has a lot of problems with racism, which is something that i think most of us knew from watching the 6:00 news on KCAL.

maybe that was the point of the movie. lots of people tend to think that the more diverse a place is, the more tolerant its people will be, we'll call it the contact theory of racial harmony. however, since this theory is based in the academic discipline of communcations, it's total crap and sloppy intellectual work. so it was good to see that myth dispelled on screen in a somewhat realistic manner. the other thing i think that maybe the movie was going for was to show that racism, in it's overt 50's form still exists and we're not nearly as close as we think. i think us sociologists tend to concentrate on racism's more subversive forms, so it was nice to see the plain old "people suck" perspective on this issue. i think a lot of people think that racism is less virulent since the overt forms are gone. and there are those who would say it is more virulent since it is more covert. this movie at least seems to partly share the perspective i do, which is that racism is doubly virulent today since it exists widely in both the overt and covert forms.

what really screwed this movie up however is that several of the plotlines end up with quasi-happy endings where the characters come to some kind of awareness of the role race plays in their lives. and since i subscribe to the "no one really cares whether or not they're racist" point of view, i think that the hollywood endings (relatively speaking) lessened the movies potential effectiveness as a real commentary on racism in the US. final grade: C+

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