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crash-ing the oscars
the view from the family room couch
by fred goodridge

“I’m just tryin’ to matter.” Reese Witherspoon, quoting June Carter Cash, in her Oscar acceptance speech

Reese’s not the only one “tryin’ to matter” – that was the resounding message sent by AMPAS in naming Crash Best Picture last night. More on Crash in the Scorecard section, but first, sidelights, delights, and general grouchiness culled from last night’s Oscar telecast:

Witherspoon’s coronation was hardly unexpected, but her beauty, demeanor, poise, and genuineness during her speech had “Queen of Hollywood” written all over it. And she knows it. And good for her.

I’d like to thank the Academy for forgetting to mail tickets to Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and similar tabloid meat, which would have unnecessarily distracted from the serious fluff going on.

Sourpusses Anonymous – Dame Judi Dench and Steven Spielberg. In every close-up, Dench not only looked “not amused,” but downright angry (Jon Stewart’s anti-Dench “commercial” probably didn’t help); Spielberg, knowing he and his picture had no chance of winning anything, looked like he’d rather be anywhere else. Woody Allen (Screenplay nominee) didn’t even bother to show up.

I Remember Mama - Showbiz Moms, living and dead, are in a cosmic conga line this morning after the surfeit of thank-yous and tears for mothers everywhere. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, overwhelmed by the moment anyway, could barely finish his speech after chokingly extolling his Ma’s selflessness.

The Academy’s paranoia toward the lowering DVD threat to conventional theatergoing was addressed head-on. A bully pulpit plea from the Academy’s President Sid Ganis was followed by [yet another] montage of films, presenting the case that spectacle can only be properly enjoyed on the big screen. They have a point. One cold day last December, I engaged my negative capabilities, regressed to a 10-year-old sensibility, and sat in the fourth row for a matinee of Dolby-enhanced King Kong. Overlong, too many dinosaurs, but so, so wonderful in a cavernous theatre with roaring surround-sound speakers.

Humorous Bits included the astonishing and masterful comic introduction of Robert Altman by Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep... Steve Carrell “struggling” with fake eyelashes during the Makeup award… postpartum Jennifer Garner slipping, nearly falling, recovering, and cracking, “I do all my own stunts”… and Stewart’s montage of “gay” cowboy moments in Westerns past was clever and snickeringly funny, although skewed a bit much toward priapic symbology.

Incongruity #1 – Chris “Ludacris” Bridges sitting sedately with the rest of the Crash crew in a flattering tux. Apparently he’s heir to the “Ain’t-keepin’-it-real-when-the-payday-comes” award, presently held by Ice Cube. The Cube, you’ll remember, burst upon the scene as the frontman and Terrifying Black Face of gangsta rap’s godfathers NWA, and the author of such startling songs as “Fuck tha Police” and “Gangsta, Gangsta” (“To a little kid lookin’ up to me/Life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money”). These days, Cube’s bad-ass persona has been retired in favor of a lucrative, Saturday-afternoon-matinee string of pictures like Are We There Yet, the Barbershop franchise, and his current effort, Teacher of the Year, in which two junior high school teachers battle it out for teacher of the year honors. Yeah, we bad. The Pimp song may have won, but this jaded observer knows the whole gangsta thing is a hype.

Incongruity #2 – In a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moment, I thought I saw Busy Phillips from Freaks and Geeks sitting next to Michelle Williams. They flashed on Michelle again, and sure enough, Busy it was. Hmmm … High school classmates? Is Busy somebody’s arm candy? Then it hit me … Dawson’s Creek, 2003. Turns out she’s the godmother to Michelle and Heath’s young’un. Pretty cool way to score 3rd row seats at the Oscars…

This was my first viewing of the show in HDTV, and it made The Beautiful People positively otherworldly. Especially Salma Hayek.

Scorecard - Those visitors kind enough to read and comment upon my Oscar picks in this space last Monday will note:

• I correctly picked Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Documentary, Foreign Film, and Screenplay.

• I incorrectly picked Giamatti for Supporting Actor (but did say “if he [winner Clooney] loses Best Director to Lee, he’s in”); Clooney for Director (my ill-advised wild card for 2005); and Williams for Supporting Actress (which I hedged with Weisz a close second”). I'll try to nail 'em all next year.

• A final note about Crash-bashing: of course Crash wasn’t the “Best” Picture of the year (see final bullet), but this is Hollywood, and in its desperate, totemic quest to be “relevant”, it picks a movie about race and crime in L.A. So what? I say this award is an “A” for effort: Crash at least tried to address our nation’s most shameful bete noir - race relations – and the fact that it often comes up short isn’t reason enough for condemnation. The bigger injustice would be to give the award to Brokeback, a beautifully shot but ultimately conventional, empty, and inconsequential film.

• Best Picture? I raise a tattered flag for Mysterious Skin, because it’s the only film of perhaps the 50 I saw in 2005 that stays with and haunts me months after seeing it. [I found it mis-filed in the GLBT section of the local alt-video emporium, so a wide audience is inconceivable.] MS tackles subject matter far more volatile than race, and succeeds admirably. Check it out…


“What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." [Dr. Johnson] Writer, raconteur, philologist, father, cinéaste, no-good peacenik, media idiot. Spent a good many years waiting to be recognized for my great genius. Still waiting.

more about fred goodridge


oscars? here ya go...
by fred goodridge
topic: film
published: 2.27.06


michelle von euw
3.7.06 @ 9:53a

Great column. This was the first year since about 1997 that I didn't make an effort to see as many Oscar nominiated films as I could, leaving me with only four in the top categories (2 for Best Picture). Out of those four, Crash was definitely my favorite, and I'm glad it took home the top prize.

The word at this year's Oscars seemed to be parity. No sweeps in any direction -- none of the acting, directing, or best picture awards came from the same film. And I was thrilled that the two best screenplay awards signaled the best director & film awards, which, to me, means that the voters were connecting the dots back to the writing more than they usually do.

robert melos
3.12.06 @ 2:53a

I haven't bothered setting foot in a theater in a long time. Momento was the last film I saw in theater. Most of what I've picked up on DVD or caught on cable makes me glad I didn't bother to go out of my way to see them.

The first I really heard of Crash, aside from here on IM, was when it won.

And the line, "Dame Judi Dench vomited on my couch" will stay with me long after I forget where I heard it.

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