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Will secret prejudice hurt 'Dreamgirls' at the Oscars?

November 17, 2006 | 11:05 am

Last weekend I had a long, leisurely breakfast with one of Hollywood's most notable studio chiefs. While we chatted casually, he said, in between the lattes and bagels matter-of-factly, what we all know but seldom admit out loud: "Of course, 'Brokeback Mountain' didn't win best picture because of the gay thing."

He's an academy member, seasoned Oscar veteran, a "str8" chap, as the lingo goes, and not affiliated with "Brokeback."

"I couldn't believe how many academy members even refused to watch it," he added, shaking his head. "There's no doubt in my mind that we saw the secret, ugly side of Hollywood when the best picture winner was announced. I'm not saying 'Crash' wasn't a great film, no, no, but that's not why they voted for it. Look, I've been in this Oscar game long enough to know how to read these things. Believe me. What we saw was a disgusting display of anti-gay bigotry. Yep, in so-called liberal Hollywood."

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There's much evidence to back up this studio boss' assertion. Many academy members both hip (Sarah Jessica Parker) and old school (Ernest Borgnine, Tony Curtis) admitted they didn't watch "Brokeback" before voting. In toto, "Brokeback" received more best-picture awards from kudos organizations than any other film in history — 26 — but not the film academy. Odd, eh?

"Brokeback" had the most Oscar nominations. That usually translates into a best-pic victory in the vast majority of cases. Like most best-pic winners, it won Oscars for best director and screenplay. Voters admired the film enough to give it all that, but, when the time came to decide the top prize, they just couldn't, in the privacy of their own home or office while no one was watching, give that gay movie the best-picture trophy. Many Oscar voters have admitted this to me. Over all, it's clear to me how they think: It's OK to give Oscars to straight stars portraying gays assaulted with violence or AIDS (Hilary Swank, Tom Hanks), but, come on, "Brokeback" was a love story. By installing that into Oscar's best-picture pantheon, they'd be embracing gay love itself. Yeowsa, those old, straight white guys who comprise the vast majority of voters absolutely refused to do it. Quite a few of them even told me, brazenly, how much the whole thing disgusted them. Just like the studio boss mentioned above, I encountered dozens of voters who admitted to me that they refused to watch their DVD screeners. It didn't matter how good the film was, they weren't going to consider it.

So how did it win the other races?

"They saw Larry McMurtry's and Ang Lee's names on the ballot and thought, 'Oh, OK, I can vote for them,'" said the studio chief. "It eased their consciences a bit so they didn't feel so bad about screwing 'Brokeback' elsewhere."

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So, wow, if all of that's true . . . shouldn't that make us worry about the possibility of secret anti-black bigotry being an issue in the current derby with "Dreamgirls" now the frontrunner?

It's no secret that the academy has been stingy to black films in the past. Prior to the 2001 derby when race became a big issue at last, African-Americans had claimed a lead-acting award only once (Sidney Poitier, "Lilies of the Field") and only 5 had prevailed in the supporting races (Hattie McDaniel, "Gone with the Wind"; Whoopi Goldberg, "Ghost"; Louis Gossett Jr., "An Officer and a Gentleman"; Denzel Washington, "Glory"; and Cuba Gooding Jr. , "Jerry Maguire"). When all of this erupted into a major hubbub five years ago and academy members were publicly accused of being prejudiced, voters scrambled to make good for past oversights and they gave both the lead-actor and actress trophies to black stars in the same year, shocking everybody: Denzel Washington ("Training Day") and Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball").

Now, for the first time ever, it looks like an African-American movie can not only win, but romp across most categories: "Dreamgirls." Oscarologists everywhere are declaring it to be the clear frontrunner. If so, it should have an easy time of things at the Golden Globes, which have always embraced black artists and musical movies warmly.

But, hmmmm, what about those weird Oscars? Will voters display another secret flash of ugly prejudice?

This question not only applies to "Dreamgirls," but to "The Pursuit of Happyness," "Catch a Fire" and "The Last King of Scotland," too. This year we see so many great films featuring African-Americans in the lead that we could actually see something that's never occurred at the Oscars: three black nominees in one acting race — Will Smith, Derek Luke and Forest Whitaker all up for best actor.

Hopes now run high that this could be a milestone year for African-Americans at the Oscars. Much like hopes ran high among gays at the last derby. Will the same outcome occur?

There's one hopeful sign that things may work out just fine this time. Let's recall that the film that beat "Brokeback" was about secret racial prejudice. Voters embraced "Crash" enthusiastically, but it featured many white stars like Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Phillippe. If many white voters feel shut out of "Dreamgirls" like many straight voters felt about "Brokeback," they might respond selfishly again. But will they? Click on the "Comments" link below and pipe in!

Photos: On rare occasions, films with a mostly black cast have broken into the best picture race: "Ray" (2004) and "Sounder" (1972). "The Color Purple" reigns as the biggest loser in Oscar history (tied with "The Turning Point") with 11 snubbed nominations.
(Universal/ 20th Century Fox)

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Comments


Amazing how this matter consumes us even after a year!

Brokeback truly deserved the OScar- still can't believe that it lost out.

I think after a whole year we are gradually realising what a 'BEst Picture' is supposed to be. No, no, they dont award the 'Best films' but the films that became the Greatest of the year- in their artistic, and social resonance, and which reflect their times most deeply...

Brokeback was utterly deserving, such a Masterpiece....

Beautiful and thoughtful post, Lyman...thanks.

"I'm sorry, Lyman, but I have to disagree.

Brokeback Mountain didn't open people's eye to homophobia. Movies do not change people's views on such a socially intricate matter such as homosexuality..."

Actually they do. Like I have said before, all you need to do is read the many heartfelt comments on various websites over the past year to see that is true. I am not talking about those individuals who were already accepting of gay people. There are people out there who were totally clueless about the effects of homophobia until they experienced BBM, and even many who discounted the experience itself. I recall reading of one woman who reached out to her gay brother after years of estrangement because she finally "got" homophobia. Up to that point, no amount of explaining on his part clicked her switch; that didn't happen until she said she walked out of the theatre feeling like someone had kicked her in the gut. True, many of those who went to the theatre probably were comfortable with gay people already; many, but not all. From reading the viewer comments/replies over the past year, it is clear that many people went to see it just to see what all the "hoopla" was about, or to see the "gay kiss" and were in for quite a surprise. Years before BBM became a film, Annie Proulx began receiving a steady stream of letters from the family members of gay people who read the original short story, who spoke of finally understanding.

So yeah, the written word, or the performed word has power, if done well or very well. It is after all another form of communication, and the communication of ideas goes to the heart of understanding any issue. Will that cause a massive uproar for gay rights? Probably not. But each one of those now enlightened minds is one more person against homophobia. Nor am I discounting the efforts of all of those who have led the struggle for gay rights. But the fact is, there are many people out there, including those with GLBT family members, who only respond in the negative to things like Pride parades, and BBM is one more way for people to understand homophobia. The point is: it is not fair to say BBM did nothing to open the eyes of people.

As for Crash, you know my biggest problem with that movie was the unbelievability of it all. Sure, there are still some people who go around spewing racial slurs when the opportunity arises, but they are no longer the rule, like that Seinfeld guy for example. The prevalent bias of today is the one that remains largely hidden, and Crash barely touched on that. We only got to see that once when Sandra Bullock instinctively moves toward her husband as two black men approach. As long as people are allowed to continue thinking of racism in terms of racial slurs or obvious in your face acts, the covert form will go unchallenged. As a meaningful treatment of racism, then, Crash was unbelievable. For me, for any film to be crowned Best Picture it should at least be believable, and Crash just didn't cut it on that score. Haggis had an excellent opportunity to go deeper into the problem of racism with the attention he had with a star cast, and instead took the easy, or uniformed, route of giving us "Racism for Dummies." I have experienced bias for the color of my skin and for my sexuality, and I can tell you now that the racial experiences get far more understanding in this society. I, like many others, would have felt better about this whole thing if Munich or GN & GL, or even Capote, had won BP. At least these were of high quality and the "art is subjective" argument would have more truth to it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Brokeback Mountain aficionado of a Crash supporter, one thing is sure, just the fact that this controversy is still raging after almost a full year proves that there is indeed something very fishy with the last Oscars’ dubious upset. So many precedents have been created that questions and reactions are indeed legitimate. If the Best Picture award had seemed just a bit deserved by the winner, this discussion would not even take place right now. There are many other columns as well as many cinema critics and commentators who still make regular references to this unprecedented and surprising turn of events. That in itself speaks volume.

As an example, when Schindler’s List won in 1995, it was not everyone’s favourite (myself included - I personally much preferred Jane Campion's "The Piano") but the result of the voting system was accepted because that film had already earned much praise & many awards and was a logical & worthy winner. Had Schindler's List not won as expected, there would surely have been some strong reactions and what followed would have been quite different. Therefore, in Brokeback’s case, I don’t think it is a question of being sore losers but rather of feeling that an injustice has been made and that the real “deserving” winner has been unduly overlooked.

Had Brokeback Mountain won the Oscar for Best Picture, I don’t think anybody would be writing here right now because, following its success at the box office, its exceptional critical acclaim worldwide and its historical sweep in preceding award shows, BBM was the only logical winner (Crash was not even nominated for a Golden Globe for BP, and ranked 58th on the 2005 compilation of film critics published in Premiere magazine). BBM unquestionably deserved the Oscar, just like it deserved all the other 26 Best Pictures Awards it received. Did anyone question its Golden Globe Awards, its BAFTA Awards, its Golden Lion Award, its countless Critics Associations & Guilds Awards, etc.? Of course not, because BBM was an extraordinary movie and “the” undisputed event of the year in cinema. These awards were never questioned because this exceptional film was worthy of all of them.

Yet, here we are almost one year after the Academy Awards with so many people and commentators still arguing about Crash’s win… that is very telling and revealing. The controversy seems like it will still be going on for some time and the intensity of this long lasting debate is in itself another precedent.

In reality, the real loser is not Brokeback Mountain - it is not a lesser film because it didn’t get the final Oscar. With or without Oscar, Brokeback Mountain remains a unique masterpiece, a landmark film that indisputably made cinematic history and will remain a reference for a very long time. The real loser is truly Oscar, i.e. the relevance and credibility of the Academy.

If, during the awards season last year, other films had been sharing Best Picture prizes over the months then one might argue the academy chose Crash for whatever reasons they wanted to. But on the day of the Oscars, Brokeback Mountain had racked up nearly 25 Best Picture Awards from every major film club, group, and society around the world. Only the Chicago film critics had chosen Crash Best Picture. In fact, A History of Violence had been awarded more honors than Crash. Brokeback Mountain even had more "runner-up" positions than Crash had anything.

And Roger Ebert, a member of the Chicago film critics, began doing something he has never ever done before and railed against many times on his television program. That is--he advocated a split vote at the academy between director and picture. Any avid watcher of his program over the years knows that he has NEVER done that before. His refrain "How can you have a Best Picture winner or nominee without the corresponding director prize?" was set aside this time around.

Brokeback Mountain's loss at the academy was much more than a preference of one thing over another. The year that Schindler's List or TItanic won--can you imagine if they had lost? No. No one could. They were so out in front that it was impossible. Well, Brokeback Mountain won more Best Picture awards than either of those two films. COMBINED! So it's loss was more than marketing and preference. It was homophobia plain and simple. I believe that many people do not want to admit that because they might have to examine their own prejudices. And to lose to a film like Crash should point this up even further. A film that was promoted to be voted for so that you didn't have to choose Brokeback Mountain.

By the way--of the 26 Best Pciture awards that Brokeback Mountain has won, all 26 of those awards were also won by Ang Lee as director. No one else split up their choice like the academy did.

The academy went out of their way NOT to choose Brokeback Mountain and instead chose an inferior film--forget about what it was about--a film that even Paul Haggis was quoted in a Canadian paper as saying was a flawed first effort from him.

If you want to see another film about race relations in L.A.--and one that is highly more intelligent and watchable--check out this holiday the Thanksgiving set film--What's Cooking? (There's even gay people in it. And it's an L.A. you might actually like to live in.)

i know a couple of critics who liked crash better than brokeback (including roger ebert!) i don't know about dreamgirls though.

I don't really think this year and last year are compatible. Gay bias in this country is in a different place than race bias, though both exist. Also, the bias against BBM had more to do with plot.

As you say, last year saw BBM wronged by the discomfort of many with gay love and sex (i.e. the SUBJECT of BBM), which kept many from seeing a very good film. Dreamgirls is sold as a mainstream pic with mainstream content. Most folks, particularly Oscar members, won't hestitate to see this heavily marketed studio film, particularly when they're buried in screeners. It doesn't challenge anyone's attitudes about racism, particularly their own, in any way. In my opinion, this is also the case with Crash. Few movies do approach race in new, challenging, and uncomfortable ways, for fear of offense.

Anyway, I found last year gave me the important reminder that the Oscars are about politics and nonsense, not good movies. I'm going to sit back and enjoy the movies, and avoid the award shows as much as I can. I just wish the studios didn't need golden statues as incentives to make and distribute great film.

Bill, pardon me, but your answer as to "why did Crash win" being "momentum" is as simplistic as you say a "gay bias spin" is. If anything, BBM had the "momentum" from the beginning. Any momentum that Crash had was because people began touting it as the picture to vote for so that you don’t have to vote for the gay cowboy movie. And that is gay-bias.

That James Bates article you cite is hardly a detailed piece of work as you say, and if I am to believe his supposition that the actors branch with their vast numbers tipped the scale for Crash’s win, then The Aviator should’ve been a shoo-in the previous year with it’s cast of thousands, compared to the basically three member cast of Million Dollar Baby.

It’s amazing to me that people won’t accept what is right in their face. You had more award indicating precedents broken with Crash’s win than ever before. You have a film that won almost every guild award and 26 best picture awards that lost to what many consider an also ran on a ballot of five nominees. You have members of the academy that refused to see Brokeback Mountain, some who even "publicly"admitted it and their disdain for it. I have personal knowledge of the daughters of an academy member who inisisted their father would not vote for or even consider voting for "the fag movie", as he called it. (Much less SEEING it.)

That is ample enough evidence and SIMPLE to me. Gay bias. Yes. And the fact that Lion’s Gate detected this gay bias and fed on it is more evidence. (And I use comments by those who said as much. Example: Lion’s Gate detected this and targeted the Film Editor’s branch when they saw BBM did not get a nomination in that category. I would quote the source, but my hard-drive got wiped out recently.)

Simple enough to me. Why not you?

You have a studio chief and long time academy member come out and say how he was well aware of how many academy members wouldn't even view Brokeback Mountain. He also says how there was no doubt in his mind what was a large factor in the result of the best picture upset. Yet you have people posting on here trying to dispel what he is saying. Obviously this man would have a pulse on on Hollywood and the academy simply because of his position and longevity. Gee, how many long time academy members or studio chiefs do we have posting om this thread? None? Gee...that's what i thought.

Raeann, this would be a particularly interesting moment to practice what you preach, so instead of bashing me for my opinions, which I have been trying to convey as moderately and politely as I can, you ought to, as I am clearly outnumbered in this thread, show some respect and sustain the level of cordiality that both myself and Lyman have managed.

As this is the last time I post, for I notice that people are one step too close to not discussing ideas and opinions, but just bluntly ranting, I will try to convey my thoughts as well as I can.

1) I don't think prejudice was a main factor in Crash's victory over BBM. I think that it was only a residual circumstance. Why?

As far as prejudice goes, Crash deals with racism. Sure, there are white actors in the film, but I don't think any racist would feel less uneasy with the film's main topic just because Sandra Bullock is in it. Racism is still an issue in the Academy, otherwise Tom wouldn't be worried over Dreamgirls' chances.

So, I ponder: if homophobes wouldn't watch or vote for BBM, just as well racists wouldn't watch or vote for Crash. Prejudice is a weak argument because it swings in favor of both films. In fact, one could simply argue that the only reason one would NOT vote for Crash is the fact that one is a big fat racist.

I find the argument just as weak as saying that if one chose Crash over BBM it had necessarily or primarily due to homophobia.

So why did Crash win? Because of the strong marketing campaign lead by Lionsgate and because of the clear, strong support the film had received from the local LA Press. That caused the movie to gain momentum, in contrast with Brokeback Mountain, which was losing it. These were the substancial reasons of the Oscar outcome early this year, not prejudice.

2) I don't think BBM is a touchstone in terms of promoting equality between homossexuals and heterossexuals. Why?

I rather believe that, other than a moderate share of ocasional individuals who indeed were touched by the film and changed their viewing points on the matter, something as socially intricate as the recognition of gay relationships as equally worthy of social acceptance takes deeper actions.

In this way, BBM would be more of a reflexion that society is changing and we, gay and gay-friendly people, are already a substancially large group, so that we are considered a market to be targeted by studios. This points out a happy tendendy of better future in terms of tolerance and acceptance.

When I spoke of the actors I meant nothing as to why one film won over the other. I was speaking of this second topic, which was the relevance of the film in terms of representing gay and gay-friendly communities. That is why I spoke of Ian McKellen, who is much more of a stronger representant of the community's struggles and statements.

3) Do I think Dreamgirls will be hurt by secret prejudice?

Probably, in some residual way, just as both Crash and BBM were, but it will not be a determining factor as to its victory or loss. In the end, it all comes down to the feeling a movie has in the Hollywood community, support from the press, and a strong well thought marketing campaign.

Actually, I think Dreamgirls is less likely to suffer from racism than Crash was.

Crash, although it had white actors in its ensemble, made racial relations the core of its screenplay, which in many occasions stressed that, even when we try to fight it, prejudice somewhat lies in the dark corners of our minds and we sometimes wrongfully act upon it.

Dreamgirls, on the other hand, although being palyed by an African American cast, is a cheery Broadway musical, which tells a story we're all somehow familiar with, lead by Beyoncé, who is a mainstream singer, appealing to audiences of all colors, playing the role of Diana Ross (Deena Jones), which was also a mainstream singer with very strong pop appeal among white audiences. As pointed out before, as far as black movies goes, Dreamgirls is probably the one to most successfully appeal to mainstream audiences.

Finally, I'm also thrilled that BBM did so well, because I have strong feelings towards gay acceptance due to personal and political reasons, but I still liked Crash better as a film. I would have voted for it, and it would not be out of prejudice. I guess many voters felt the same way.

Please, do not take my words as offenses or sophism. I have been trying to honestly expose my thoughts, not in any way cover up some unnadmitted bias of my own. I'm simply offering my opinion, though disagreeing in some degree (not entirely) of what has been put out there for debate.

That's it! Thanks to those who kept discussion in a friendly level!

And best of luck to Dreamgirls! Can't wait for the premiere!

Haha, poor Bill! Standing up for Crash alone!

Wake up, people! Brokeback is A JOKE! A pretty lame one, actually!

I like Crash better too! I guess that makes me a homophobe. What a shame!

i pray for the day to come, when a colour of a man's skin, has no more significance "than the colour of his eyes", and that the human condition re our sexual orientation is accepted, not just tolerated. if they are consenting adults, why do some of us feel we have to march in the streets and legislate against them? Life is challenge enough without the righteous pointing the finger. i have found many hide behind religion to justify their intolerance...the parts that suit them anyways. and here i thought god is about love....
good films have the power to entice us to rethink our prejudices and our boundaries. kudos to all films that have done this....

I'm sorry, Lyman, but I have to disagree.

Brokeback Mountain didn't open people's eye to homophobia. Movies do not change people's views on such a socially intricate matter such as homosexuality (especially when it also has a lot to do with religion). Actually, they reflect a social tendency of people's accepting of homossexual relationships, which has to do with decades of fighting for gay rights.

You are talking consequence and calling it cause!

There have been many speaking up, fighting and dying for gay causes, and it is due to their strength and struggle that the social view on gay love has begun to change. In consequence, a budding market of people who tolerate/accept/endorse gay relationships has caught the eye of film and TV producers. Now we can see Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, The L Word AND Brokeback Mountain. Most of the people tuning in to see those shows or hitting theaters to watch such pictures are those who already are already gay friendly, though.

There's a lot of prejudice against gays, still? Yes, there is! Did that hurt BBM? Yeah, probably a little. Did that contributed definitely for Crash's victory? Hell, no! Racial prejudice is just as strong now as ever. That kind of prejudice probably turned some people away from Crash, just as well as gay-bias turned people away from BBM.

So why did Crash win? It was a matter of MOMENTUM! Thanks to the LA Press who strongly supported Crash, and kudos to Liongates, who worked a bang-up job in promoting the film, arranging screening, sending in DVDs...

On why Crash has won, I recommend this piece by James Bates, which is a whole of a lot more detailed than the simplistic spin of gay-bias people are trying to spin:

http://theenvelope.latimes.com/columnists/insider/env-screenscrash7mar07,0,5184709.column

Bill, I am not as polite as Lyman. Your arguments are patently fallacious. You invent an irrelevant “bias” category, then say that both films fall under it and that therefore they are similarly situated. This is nonsense. Anti-gay bias can work independently of any tolerance a voter may have for seeing a movie about racial bias. Tom’s posts indicate that that is indeed what happened: anti-gay bias caused some voters to refuse to see BBM, while no such bias operated to prevent them from watching “Crash,” so they ended up voting for the film they saw. No one’s arguing that this is scientific fact, but thanks to people like Tony Curtis, and Tom’s reporting of their comments, we have more smoking guns than we usually have in cases of hidden bias. And this doesn’t even factor in questions of quality. The opposition to “Crash” among some critics centered on qualities -- false-feeling situations, dumbed-down themes, hamfisted execution -- that were the opposite of the much-praised virtues of BBM (truthfulness, intelligence, subtlety). Given the evidence of bias against BBM, and the likelihood that a certain percentage of viewers would normally find “Crash” to be not merely inferior but a bad film, I don’t think Tom’s position is open to much serious argument.

And wherever you are going with the comment about the actors, forget it. BBM didn’t lose because the actors were straight or the story not gay enough. I don’t recall Tony Curtis saying, “If only some really, really gay actors were in the lead, I’d go see it.” As far as I can tell the actors were as respectful as they could be considering the bottomless stupidity of the entertainment press. George Clooney’s an expert at giving the same sincere-sounding answer over and over again to an endless stream of Billy Bushes, but this was Heath and Jake’s first time out, and they did fine.

While Brokeback was never touted as a "gay rights" move, it actually did a lot to open some people's eyes to the destructive force that is homophobia. You cannot have gay rights until people understand the problem of homophobia and what it does to people. For many, the only way for them to understand is to see it in a context they can relate to. In this case, the rural context, minus the gay pride parades that many in rural America cannot relate to. Brokeback gave the viewer one slice of the pie that is the gay experience, but a prevalent one; homophobia, but in the rural context of the 60s. Did Brokeback cause massive uproars for gay rights? No. But did it cause a lot of otherwise unaware people to open their eyes? Yes it did, actually. One only needs to read some of the viewer comments on many sites, notably Dave Cullen's forum and the thread for straight people, or others, to see that is true. Understanding has to begin somewhere. Actually Ledger and Gyllenhaal did not say the thought of being gay horrifed them, or that they feel that way now. I think I recall Gyllenhaal talking about his own feelings of homophobia somewhere, that he has since grown from, if that is what the poster means. Nor do I recall them saying the film was silly, at least not during serious interviews. That is, when interviewers were able to get themselves beyond asking how hard it was for them to do the sex scene and kissing (take Oprah for example who couldn't keep her focus off the adultery element long enough to really explore the wider and deeper meanings of the film). Ledger and Gyllenhaal have both been quoted widely as saying they hoped the film would open some eyes and cause people to think. Yeah, a lot of people did find the idea of gay love a joke (usually those who never seen film, or are too uncomfortable with the idea of gay love), but many of us found no humour in the idea of someone dying and leaving a regret filled lover behind, and everything that lead up to that. But I guess maybe that is entertaining for some.

I don't think anyone, including myself, really believes that anti-gay bias was the "sole" reason Academy members didn't vote for it. That wasn't the assertion of Tom's the article. The point was the role that bias played in the loss to Crash. Well actually, as the studio exec. told Tom, that he couldn't believe "how many" voters wouldn't even view it, does give strength to the idea of bias as a major factor, rather than just a minor factor alone. To my recollection, and I think most long time Oscar observers would agree, the SAG awards have never been as weighty an indicator of the outcome of the Oscars. That win really only gives evidence of the pay off of Crash screener DVDs being distributed in the thousands to SAG voters. However, I do think the ensemble award was an appropriate win for Crash, and really probably the only major award it should have won of any of the award shows. Aside from the predictable two-dimensional screenplay, the effect of the acting performances as an ensemble was good for what they had to work with as actors.

Although I liked BBM, Brian's post caught my eye. Indeed there's a point there.

This film was, in ways, more of vehicle to young handsome actors looking for ascension in Hollywood (where it has become mandatory to play a gay man in order to present oneself as a "serious actor") than a promoter of equality.

BBM wasn't particularly an endorser of gay love, otherwise the actors wouldn't have gone around joking about the film as a silly cowboy film. I remember watching Oprah and seeing Jake Gyleenhall saying that his favorite scene in the whole film aws the love scene in the back of the car with Anne Hathaway!!! That really baffled me!

Had Ian McKellen (God, do I love him!!!) won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of James Whale in Gods and Monsters, that would have been WAY more significant to the gay community, for it would have been a seasoned openly gay actor , displaying a powerful performance as a gay character. Instead, they handed the award to DEMENTED Roberto Benigni (Edward Norton I would've made piece with, but ROBERTO BENIGNI???). I much rather rant about that pick, than Crash over BBM.

At least Gods and Monsters won Best Screenplay (Coincidentally, the writer was Bill Condon).

Just to make myself clear to fellow poster Lyman: I do acknowledge that there are some who wouldn't vote for BBM out of prejudice, just as there are some who wouldn't vote for Crash out of bias, as well.

I just think that it WASN'T the main reason for Crash winning, since it is also a movie that deals with bias. I think it is not fair to assume the all, or even most, of the Academy voters that picked Crash over BBM did it solely for their being anti-gay. It is just like assuming that the only or main reason one would vote for Good Night and Good Luck is because they are anti-black (not voting for Crash), anti-gay (not voting for Capote and BBM), and anti-jewish (not voting for Munich).

The tendency of Crash snatching the Best Picture Awards away from Brokeback Mountain was pointed by the SAG Awards (being Academy Members mostly actors and, among those, members of the Guild), when Crash won the awards for Best Acting by an Ensemble, and Brokeback Mountain didn't win anything.

I hope I made myself clear this time! =D

I'm sure many others have considered the idea that it may mean more if a film artist has NOT won an Oscar. A short list of Directors including Hitchcock, Welles, Kubrick, and Renoir offers more than enough evidence. The list should included Scorsese and Altman, but they still have a chance of winning so we'll have to wait and see.

Sure, homophobia was a major element in Brokeback Mountain’s loss - comments by certain Academy members refusing to see Brokeback were nothing if not homophobic. And the money spent to promote Crash frankly rescued it from oblivion. It wasn't nominated for a Golden Globe because it just didn't have a lingering impact. But - it was clear that an early Oscar favorite - Munich - had generated a lot of criticism for supposedly putting terrorists on the same moral plane as their victims. And Good Night and Good Luck and Capote just seemed too small in scope to be a Best Picture winner. The Academy needed a candidate to stop the inexorable march towards the Best Picture Oscar by Brokeback Mountain. But why, when so many other entities had honored Brokeback, was it necessary that it be stopped? I think the answer is obvious. They just didn't want to give their Oscar for Best Picture to a "gay cowboy movie."

We don't know how close the final tally was. We have no hanging chads to review. But the last word will be spoken by these two movies. Will Crash be remembered and Brokeback Mountain forgotten? Fairly or unfairly, Crash is intertwined with Brokeback Mountain. The two will henceforth always be compared. However, neither picture was either improved upon or made worse by the bestowal or denial of Oscar recognition. Would you rather watch High Noon or The Greatest Show On Earth? Crouching Tiger or Traffic, versus Gladiator? That's why I am totally confident that Brokeback Mountain will win this argument - just because it is such a powerful movie. I could be wrong, but let's wait and see. And Crash - it was dated from the day it was released.

Though I love Ang Lee and he's one of my favorite directors, I wasn't in love with Brokeback Mountain. Do I think it was better than Crash. Oh yeah. To be honest after having seen all the Best Pic nominees I'd have gone with Munich but I think that is another case of Oscar timid nature when it comes to controversy. I think Crash made them feel like they were good liberals without really making a statement. As far as Dreamgirls. I don't think for a second it's a Best Pic frontrunner. I love Beyonce as a pop star but she has a loooooong way to go as an actress. And Jennifer Hudson has a good voice but who knows if she can act? I mean the trailers for this movie don't even have any 'acting' in them. I think a musical like Chicago worked because you had established actors stretching to learn to sing and dance or recalling their theatre pasts to create an entertaining film. Dreamgirls is pop stars and wannabe pop stars in central roles playing dress up. As a black person I hope this isn't our strongest chance at a Best Pic win. Why not The Last King of Scotland? I'm pulling for Eddie Murphy getting recognized because I think the Academy has overlooked his talent for far too long. (Daddy Day Care probably didn't help him though).

A lot of the comments in this thread make me laugh. You are talking about BBM as if it did anything for gay rights at all. Both Gyllenhaal and Ledger made it perfectly clear that they were straight and made it quite clear that to be thought of as gay horrified them. People forget that people laughed at BBM as much as it was praised. The gay cowboy movie was a joke to many.

I had a feeling that "Brokeback Mountain" wouldn't win, just because many straight people felt it was probably pornographic. When "Boys In The Band" came out, it was obviious that there were several performances that deserved Oscar nominations, namely Cliff Gorman (Emory), Kenneth Nelson (Michael) and Leonard Frey (Harold), who DID get a nomination for a non-gay film, "Fiddler On The Roof" a couple of years later. "Band" was nominated for nothing, but is still being hailed "a great film" by many of the top film historians.

The "gay" element killed any chances it might have had. And, when you look at the actors in the movie, only the straight-identified ones had careers after the film. Cliff Gorman, who played the prissy "Emory" was in fact hetero, so he got a lot of work after "Boys" as did Laurence Luckinbill and Peter White. The "out" gay actors all faded into oblivion.

One can go through Oscar history and create numerous theories as to why some Academy members chose to vote for some people and/or movies and not others. In order of preference, I loved Brokeback Mountain, Good Night, and Good Luck, Crash and Capote. I was surprised that Crash won. To me, it means Brokeback will be added to the long list of movies that will probably be a bigger classic that the film that was chosen by the Academy as Best Picture.

In addition, with all of this talk about race and homosexuality from last year's Oscar race, I find it extremely interesting that the predominately African-American cast of Dreamgirls is executive produced by David Geffen and directed by Bill Condon, two openly gay white men. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

I think it is less likely that a black themed film, or one with predominantly black actors will lose because of prejudice, though it remains a possibility, depending on the story. What is unbelievable to me is that we still have people who claim loudly that bigotry had nothing to do with Brokeback's loss this past year. Take poster Bill here, for example, even after reading what you wrote about the studio guy telling you "I couldn't believe how many academy members even refused to watch it" (Brokeback) he still cannot see or accept that the bias of bigotry was present. Amazing. He correctly points out that Crash is about prejudice, but how many gay and lesbian characters did Crash have in it? Unless I fell asleep after the asian said "mexicans no know how to drive".... none, that I can remember.

Every story, in print or cinema, is contrived to one degree or another. But a really good story is able to move beyond the predictable and really cause the viewer or reader to think and experience the story from "within" if you will. Brokeback was such a film. Crash on the other hand was like the Walmart film version of "Racism for Dummies." Never have I felt so manipulated and preached to in cinema. The Academy will never live this one down, Ellen DeGeneres notwithstanding. Oh I'm sure they will clap extra loud at every thing she says, and down the road maybe they will give Ledger and Gyllenhaal one of their famous "oops, we messed up before but here's the consolation" Oscars. That isn't to say that the two won't be capable and deserving because those of us who ACTUALLY watched Brokeback know they are quite capable. But that is the thing with the Oscars, they play politics with their awards so much that you never really know if they are awarding the prize because of the current or prior performances. Just more evidence that the Academy and the Oscar show have taken one more step into irrelevancy, as one commentator asked last season. Whatever.

Thank you, once again, Tom, for pointing out what most are too afraid to.

The picture of "Sounder" has been fixed. Thank you, Tom.

 

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