Dateline: Los Angeles, March 6, 2006 at 1:30am
So I get to do the sociology this time and you the party? Finally!
The whimsy of Oscar was at work again, and just when it seemed like sleepy-time—that all the favorites were going to walk home with their awards—just then Crash stole the statue away from Brokeback, and my jaw fell as the litigious producer and her twice-Oscar-winning writer-director jumped out of their seats and everyone gasped in unison.
What accounts for this? I have no idea, of course, so I will conjecture wildly. Was it the Old Academy? The alter cockers who would never get through the longish beginning on the screeners? The motion-picture home generation backlash? Or some hetero male thing, those guys we all know who just didn't want to see Brokeback and were finally dragged kicking and screaming? Was it the newer generation? Was it racial politics? (I doubt it.) Or was Crash the better movie, as many people are saying—for the first time—freely tonight, or the bigger issue in their lives, or the bigger issue in L.A. or in America in 2006?
This city is deeply scarred by its racial history, from the Watts riots to Rodney King's cry of "Can’t we all just get along?" (The truth is, we haven't.) Only in Los Angeles would Matt Dillon's portrayal of a psycho racist cop feel utterly credible. The ethnic factions live in isolated islands unique to this geography, and in Crash they converged. People found themselves in it, and it moved them.
I had a conversation this week with a very smart screenwriter and her director husband, about Crash, which they liked a lot, though they were rooting for Brokeback, as they had a family member in it. We were discussing why Angelenos see the larger-than-life Crash differently from our brethren in N.Y. They answered that it's because both L.A. and the movie have something false—architectural and mythic—about them. I think they nailed it. This movie seized this city from the beginning in a singular almost grassroots way. In the same way, it seems to have beat the extraordinary campaign waged for the exquisite Brokeback and become a movie vox populi.
Crash crashed the Brokeback party tonight by crashing through the very stereotypes the movie portrayed. That was the gift of its actors, I think, who made what could have been didactic come alive, in a city that has been deadened by traffic and despair. I think that is why it is perceived so differently here. I hope now that it has won its beauty contest its message transcends its roots and travels. I hear the French loved it. But, honestly, what do they know?
With love, David, from freezing Southern California, and of course, good night and good luck,