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'Crash' hits WGA and PGA noms at 100 m.p.h.

January 4, 2006 |  2:56 pm

Crash

Since no film has won the Oscar for best picture after being snubbed by the Producers Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America, today's nominations by those groups reveal that the winner of the next top Academy Award will be "Brokeback Mountain," "Crash," "Capote" or "Good Night, and Good Luck" — the only films appearing on both new lists.

The guild nominations hit Hollywood like a head-on collision. Wiped out were four films that began this year's gold derby as front-runners: "King Kong," "Match Point," "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Munich."

What's happened since then is truly strange since two of those films had received rave reviews and were directed by showbiz gods: Peter Jackson ("King Kong") and Woody Allen ("Match Point"). Some reviewers were disappointed in "Munich," sure, but it got thumbs-up from Roger Ebert, the Hollywood Reporter and other major media.

What happened? In the case of "Match Point," it's possible that Hollywood couldn't forgive Woody for going to the U.K. to make his big comeback film. Or perhaps they just won't forgive his personal scandals.

In the cases of "Munich" and "King Kong," timing may be to blame. The filmmakers delivered their movies so late in the year that DVD screeners couldn't be shipped to voters till the end of December and some groups, like PGA and BAFTA, didn't get them at all.

Obviously, Hollywood — the world capital of storytelling — had forgotten that classic tale of a hare demonstrating too much hubris in a race: he lost to a tortoise. That's "Crash." The durable film turtle never ceased to plod forward since its release last May, crashing through all obstacles that usually halt award contenders released that early in a calendar year.

Photo: A little $6.5 million indie had big impact on Hollywood today.
(Lionsgate)

Produced for a mere $6.5 million, the valiant indie hung on in theaters month after month, earning more than $55 million. Along the way it had adamant supporters like Oprah Winfrey, who devoted an entire episode of her talk show to it several months after it debuted in theaters. When "Crash" finally played out in movie houses, Lionsgate wasn't shy at all about DVD screeners: it blitzed award voters with more than 30,000 copies.

Now "Crash" must be considered a serious contender to win the Oscar for best picture — even if it fails to be nominated tomorrow by the Directors Guild of America. After all, "Driving Miss Daisy" won best picture at the Academy Awards even though Bruce Beresford had been snubbed by DGA — and by Oscar voters too.

"Crash" is an underdog that's hard to resist. It's got a noble theme — racial prejudice — and it came to life miraculously despite the fact that its first-time director, Paul Haggis, suffered a heart attack in the midst of shooting. Now Hollywood owes Haggis big time. Last year his "Million Dollar Baby" pulled off a classic dark-horse sweep at the Oscars, taking everyone along for the ride except its screenwriter. Now that Haggis is back with his own baby, a brilliant one that reached movie houses despite heavy odds, Oscar voters will no doubt want to hug him and "Crash" now.

The Oscar fate of two other films was helped hugely by today's guild noms, too: "Capote" and "Walk the Line." "Capote" showed up on both lists, demonstrating impressive industry support. If its director Bennett Miller pops up on the DGA lineup tomorrow, we'll officially have another serious new contender for best picture. Even if he doesn't, "Capote" could end up in the Oscar top five anyway. It's that good, it has strong support and it feels important because it's about one of the 20th century's greatest American writers.

"Walk the Line" got snubbed by the writers' guild, but that's not shocking considering voters probably think of it as a musical. The fact that it's one of the five best films of 2005 according to the producers' guild — that's what counts. And the fact that it's the biggest moneymaker among the five nominees ($92 million) is significant because that guild's voters are usually accused of measuring a movie's success by its earnings.

Box office figures don't seem to be the deciding factor this year. What's amazing about the awards season so far is how consistently groups — from the Golden Globes to the guilds and Yankee film critics — are snubbing the film biggies for indies. Among the five PGA nominees, "Walk the Line" had the largest production budget: $28 million. "Capote," "Crash" and "Good Night" were all made for about $7 million. "Brokeback" cost $14 million. Yikes. Does this prove that producers aren't money-grubbing ghouls, after all?

And beware: many films snubbed by the producers' and writers' guilds could still rally on Jan. 31 when Oscar noms are announced. Several movies snubbed by WGA and PGA still managed to score Oscar best picture bids in the past, including "The Green Mile," "The Pianist," "Ray" and "The Thin Red Line." It's just that none of those exceptions have gone on to win.

It may be time for an exception, however. Consider "Braveheart." It won the top Academy Award after failing to be nominated by PGA. On three occasions, Oscar voters endorsed best pictures that failed to reap WGA noms despite being eligible: "Gladiator," "The Greatest Show on Earth" and "The Bridge on the River Kwai." Other Oscar champs like "Tom Jones," "The Last Emperor" and "Chariots of Fire" were snubbed because they were foreign-made movies or produced by companies that that weren't guild signatories.

Here is today's list of WGA nominees for best original screenplay: "Cinderella Man," "Crash," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Good Night, and Good Luck," "The Squid and the Whale."

Nominated for best adapted screenplay: "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "The Constant Gardener," "A History of Violence" and Syriana."

WGA snubs: "King Kong," "Match Point," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Munich" and "Walk the Line." "Pride & Prejudice" wasn't eligible because its author isn't a guild member.

The best picture nominees announced by the Producers Guild of America: "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "Crash," "Good Night, and Good Luck," and "Walk the Line."

Snubbed: "Cinderella Man," "The Constant Gardener," "A History of Violence," "King Kong," "Match Point," "Munich," "The Squid and the Whale," "Syriana."

The comments to this entry are closed.

Comments

So i just saw Brokeback Mountain. And I must say that I still feel there are a lot of pros but a lot of cons to it. As with the short story, my biggest issue with the story is that I don't get the impression that their love for each other is quite at the same level. I actually think that Ennis loves Jack more than Jack loves Ennis, which is not at all how the film treats it. Ennis seems to want Jack, and his companionship, whereas Jack seems to want sex. There is one moment in the film where Jack says "I wish i could learn how to quit you" and yet I kept thinking, well he's not really that in love with Ennis anyway. I almost feel that both character's dialogue doesn't match them right. Ennis should feel more emotions because after all, he's not the one that wants to just hook up with anyone like Jack does (i.e when Jack gets a prostitute). The "love" between the characters is not fully emphasized in my opinion but rather what goes on between them when they do get together. This, I feel is a crucial mistake because if the love between them is what remains strong, shouldn't we be able to see that ? Take for instance "Far From Heaven". This fill is about a woman whose husband is gay. But we see how it rips him and her apart. He knows it's odd to feel that way and doesn't know what to do. Just like Ledger's character. But the tolls it takes on the family in FFH are more clearly emphasized than BBM which is why FFH is a better film. Other than that I felt it was made well, and Ledger is very much deserving of his nominations. However, in comparison to stronger films like "Crash", which knows exactly what it wants to do, I do not think BBM should win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

I'm amazed at how people are complaining that the coincidences in the storyline of Crash are too unbelievable and therefore flawed. As someone else pointed out, "Crash" is a work of art, not a documentary. Do people look at a Picasso or Van Gogh self portrait and complain "That's not realistic. People don't look like that in real life"?

I loved Crash and am thrilled for the nominations. For me, it pointed out that people aren't always black and white (pardon the pun). Sometimes people with the best of intentions end up becoming the very thing they were railing against (Ryan Phillipe). Sometimes someone is a seeming jerk but is capable of noble acts (Matt Dillon). I found the film very realistic in that sense.

CRASH is by far my favorite movie of the year..I went into the theater last May not knowing a thing about the plot or what I was in for and left with a new appreciation for life..when a film can do that to u. U know that its something special..brokeback mountain on the other hand has been so hyped up and almost seems overrated..the movie is great, the performances are great but the film itself just seemed kind of redundant and I didn't buy that ledger and gyllenhaal were really "in love"..I think that if brokeback wins it will be based more on the fact that its a film that broke down doors versus a film that was actually the best film of the year..the oscars love making history these days but if it were up to me the best picture of 2005 would be crash..I really hope thandie newton gets a nomination cuz she blew me away..best actor is a toss up between hoffman, ledger, and phoenix..and actress will probably go to witherspoon or huffman..personally I believe that there's a lot of politics involved in the oscars and that the "winners" don't always reflect who really deserves to win or who is the "best"..its all in the eye of the beholder...

Kevin -- I think you will be surprised when you see Brokeback about how romantic the movie is. I was perfectly happy to go see a movie about goodlooking cowboys having sex, but in fact the movie is not really that sexy, and the overall mood is one of doomed romance and a very touching melancholy. Let us know what you think when you see it!

I am very very very pleased to hear that Crash has got a very good chance of being nominated at the Academy Awards because of its WGA and PGA nominations. After seeing it the first time earlier in 2005 I was in awe but at the same time a bit worried because almost always films that are released before October never get nominated for the big prize. Look at the last few years in which Million Dollar Baby, Lord Of The Rings:Return Of The King, Chicago, and A Beautiful Mind all won. All were released in the fall-winter stage of the year. Although I haven't seen Capote or Brokeback Mountain yet, I almost feel they'd have to be perfect for me to be satisfied for them to beat Crash. I would love to see Crash and Haggis win. Personally I think the only thing Brokeback Mountain seems to have going for it is the controversy it has stirred up. It's risky, it's unforging and critics love that. And I sometimes do to, if it's done right. I've read Annie Proulx's short story in which the film is based on and my biggest problem with it is that the so called love between the characters is never fully emphasized but rather it's more about sex. Though I haven't seen the film yet, what I have read about it doesn't strike me as at all different from the story. There is a fine line between taking a risk for show and taking a risk to get a point across and in my opinion Crash beams its point loud and clear whereas Brokeback Mountain seems to want to be as risque as possible without really providing purpose for why it was made. Great films go all out but to me Brokeback Mountain seems a bit afraid by not taking the issue further than they have. Crash deserves Best Picture if not just for being the best film of 2005 than for not holding back what needs to be said. Good Luck Paul Haggis!

I thought Brokeback was excellent and very moving. But I also loved Capote. Of the front runners, I'd be happy with either winning best picture. (And Capote was filmed in Manitoba, where I grew up!!) But I doubt Capote has a chance to actually win.

However, although I thought Heath Ledger was excellent in Brokeback, I REALLY want Hoffman to win the Best Actor Oscar. I was convinced a month ago that he was unstoppable, but Academy voters do like to give one of the major acting awards to the Best Picture winner if they possibly can, especially when the Best Picture winner is all about good acting and writing (as opposed to, say, Titanic or Lord of the Rings, which are old fashioned movie-movies that are more about the spectacle of films). So if Brokeback is a shoo-in for Picture, that really works in Ledger's favour.

Hoffman has more going for him as a potential nominee. He undoubtedly gave a great performance in a great role about a great personality. What Hoffman really has going for him, over Ledger, however, is reputation and credibility. Hoffman is regarded among contemporary actors as a great young actor -- in the vein of Brando, Pacino and DeNiro. He has been in a lot of movies where he has always been outstanding. Ledger, on the other hand, was not regarded as a great actor up till now -- he was a movie personality, and those types don't normally earn the Academy's respect. But on the other hand, the surprise quality of Ledger's quietly moving performance might be the kind of thing the Academy loves. Kind of like giving the Oscar to Cher or Sally Field -- no one would have predicted that those actresses would have ever won an Oscar based on their pre-Oscar careers.

In any other year I'd be thrilled to see Ledger win. This year, the one award I will be most rooting for is Hoffman in Capote.

Am I the only one who finds the potential nomination and win for Micheele Williams to be surprising? She was good in the role, but it was actually a very small role, and most of the time she just had to sit there sulking.

Q: How amazing will it be if Hoffman wins Actor and Huffman wins actress? If I were a Supporting Actor nominee, I think I might change my name to Hiffman to improve my chances.

I agree with you, Todd -

I liked Good Night, and I think it's deserving of its accolades - but I don't think it will gather up enough of a storm to rally for Best Picture.

Like I said in my previous comment, I think Crash (even if it can only gather 4 or 5 nominations max....remember 'American Beauty'? It only had that many nods too...) is the only film that will be able to gather enough all-around support to take over Brokeback for Best Picture.

I had mixed feelings about Crash, but I am happy that a movie like it -- edgy, compelling, controversial, original -- has been recognized. Normally these nominations go to tedious and predicatable Hollywood product -- it's nice to see something a little daring and different get recognized, even if it was not completely successful.

A lot of people complain that the storyline of Crash was contrived and implausible. In my view, this is the common error of treating a work of art as a something true to life. The point of Crash is not that in real life all of the coincidences would actually occur. Crash is an artistic product, and so it organizes its story elements in such a way to advance a theme -- the theme being the interconnectedness of our lives and the ripple effect of things we do on the lives around us. It is irrelevent to say that in real life Matt Dillon would not end up coming across the accident involving the woman he so grievously offended and would save her life. No one complains that the story of Hamlet is implausible. The movie is a phony artistic construction which is trying to make a point about the world. It's not a documentary.

I have said before that I am surprised at the adulation Good Night and Good Luck is getting. It looked great, and it was a quite decent movie, but it left me rather uninvolved and unmoved. At the end, I just kinda felt, "so what?" and never gave it another thought. "Capote" stayed with me for weeks and still haunts me. Same with "Brokeback Mountain". Good Night was admirable but ultimately unengaging. I predict right now that there is NO WAY it will win best picture in any award.

As for over-rated films, GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK tops my list. Looked good but very cold and sterile. The best parts of the film were the old clips of Joe McCarthy spouting his hatred. Also feel THE SQUID AND THE WHALE was vastly over-rated.

I lived in Los Angeles for 30 years. When I saw CRASH I was dumbstruck how accurately the writer caught exactly the feeling that is so powerful in that multicultural city. I have seen the changes in L.A. over 3 decades and the writer nailed it. I thought this amazing and powerful film would be lost in the year end big budget releases. So glad it is getting the recognition it deserves. Sorry that A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is not, especially the direction and acting. BROKEBACK is still my favorite though. So subtle and simple yet so powerful.

I don't think crash can possibly win. How many categories can it even get nominated in? Five? Picture, director, screenplay, Matt Dillon, and editing, and I think even that is more that it'll get. Probably do director nom.

If anything beats Brokeback, it'll be Good Night and Good Luck. I could see that possibly rallying and winning picture, director, screenplay, and cinematography... that's enough categories for a Best Picture. Buy probably Brokeback will win. I expect it will look more like a two horse race, though, later on.

Oops, forgive my blatant typos above -

film = films
unforunately = unfortunately

Brokeback's my fave - one of the best films I've seen in years (since, I'd say, American Beauty in 1999).

I'm starting to believe all of this "peaking too early" talk for Brokeback, though - I can't see any other film on that list that could overtake it for the Best Picture prize come Oscar night except (the overrated) Crash. I enjoyed it as a film, but I agree with some here that it was completely contrived and way too preachy. Not good enough for a Best Picture Oscar, that's for sure. Especially over film that (unforunately) probably won't make it to the 5 nods (like A History of Violence and The Constant Gardener, two of my other faves from this year).

The more I think about it, the more I've come to the conclusion that Crash might actually end up winning Best Picture at the Oscars -- mostly because (cynically, I know) I think a lot of people might not want to see Brokeback win, and anti-racism is something *everyone* can rally behind. Plus it's got all that pedigree (Paul Haggis, the cast, etc.)...and the Academy has already proven to be a big fan of Haggis' after last year.

Still, I hope i'm wrong. I hope Brokeback can maintain its momentum and win the big prize.

Count me as underwhelmed by Crash. I don't count it as one of the worst of the year -- just as one that failed to live up to most of its ambitions. I enjoyed it as a movie.

But on to a larger issue -- and maybe it's ridiculous to bring up. But this article, and pretty much any Oscar prognostication, is incredibly wishy-washy. It comes with the territory, I guess, but the formula appears to be: Start out with a really strong headline and first couple of grafs that make you seem authoritative. Then expand on your point. Then use the second half to undercut your argument, provide conflicting evidence and lots of "buts" as you actually consider history. In this case: These nominations have wrapped up the Oscars. Then later: Well, here are a few exceptions. The morale of this and other stories: The writers are good at filling a lot of space with overauthoratative blathering.

My, a lot of strong feelings about Crash. It certainly got to me on an emotional level. Also, having lived in Los Angeles for many years, it totally captured the feeling there. But I can understand its detractors feeling it was a little preachy. On a wider scale, though, I'm just sort of interested in seeing how far out on the limb the Oscars are going to go. The Best Picture list is shaping up to be a somewhat politically charged as well as potentially controversial. Gay cowboys? Anti-racism? The media standing up against the government? Where's the sweeping epics? The period pieces? And don't forget about The Constant Gardener, which may also sneak in there. It's getting curiouser and curiouser...I love it.

I loved Crash and I really like it when movies that open early in the year get attention because it can help to change this crazy thing from the studios of releasing every good film they have later in the year!! It's impossible to watch all of them, specially if you don't live in NY or LA!! oh, and just to be different, I HATED Brokeback Mountain... I'm kidding, I haven't seen it, but with this much praise I know I'm going to be disappointed when I do

Oh, and you know what happened with Match Point? The industry realized what a bad movie it was even if the other critics couldn't figure it out :)

Before seeing Brokeback Mountain, Crash was my favorite film of the year. So I am very pleased with the nominations that it has received so far.

there was nothing preachy about CRASH and i didnt feel any guilt trips watching it. and since when have the oscars had any credibility? if this is one of the worst films you've ever seen, how many movies do you watch in a year? do me a favour and join the razzie movement. now THEY have bad movies on their agendas. maybe they are some of your favorites?
to Ray: some people feel they have to praise CRASH? what planet are you from? are you a brother from another planet?

o and ps: i'm asian north american born and wasnt the least bit offended by crash.

i think i must be one of the only people out there who didnt see CRASH as a movie about racism. the attitudes and (accidental) murder by cops, stereotyped thinking and all the rest happen every day around here. go crash!

Go Crash!!! I love it when my own personal pick gets a chance to go for the Gold. I'm sure that SAG will nominate it in the Ensemble Cast category, so I think it's almost guaranteed to fill the fifth slot...so now what's going to fill the fourth slot that everyone thought would be Munich? Capote? I guess we'll have to see if it gets an ensemble cast nomination. I'm liking Clifton Collins chances of getting into the supporting actor race right now, too

I think some people think they have to praise Crash, otherwise they'll look like they oppose its anti-racist message. But this well-intentioned movie was one of the worst I've seen in a while, filled with melodramatic, preachy dialogue and ridiculous coincidences. There are no characters in this film, just stereotypes, either too good or too bad to be true. It's a typical Hollywood message film, utterly lacking in subtlety and determined to send audiences on guilt trips. The Oscars will lose the little credibility they have if they recognize Crash.

As an Asian American viewer, I was deeply offended by parts of Crash. The Asian characters were used as comic relief and I never believed in Haggis's portrayal of them. Crash was one of the most heavy-handed films I've watched in years. I hated it and I hope it does not get a Best Picture nomination. The only thing I liked about the film were some of the performances.

Great article Tom as always.

I am thrilled with the PGA nominations. I was surprised that "Munich" wasn't nommed. I liked it but was not moved by it. I loved "Crash" and until the December heavyweights debuted saw it as the best picture of the year. I'm surprised by "Capote" but out of the five its the only one I have not seen. And I'm glad that they recognized "Walk the Line", a great film that was carried by 2 great performances.

"Brokeback Mountain" is the best film I have seen in years. No other film can beat it. Its that good.

 

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