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Maybe 'Crash's' upset at the Oscars shouldn't have been such a surprise?

April 16, 2009 |  5:33 pm

The victory of "Crash" over "Brokeback Mountain" as best picture of 2004 is considered to be one of the biggest upsets in Oscars history. Earlier that derby season, "Brokeback Mountain" had won an unprecedented number of precursor awards as best pic: 26. On Oscars night, it claimed the two trophies that usually foretell the best picture victor — screenplay and direction — but when Jack Nicholson opened the last envelope of the night, his eyes bugged out and jaws fell all around Oscarland as it was revealed that "Crash" pulled off an historic triumph.

Crash upset Oscars

But now we must ask: Should we really be surprised by "Crash's" awards clout?

"Since its DVD debut in September 2005, 'Crash' has remained Netflix's No. 1 rented movie," reports the Chicago Tribune. "'The Dark Knight' couldn't dethrone it. Neither could 'Harry Potter,' 'Indiana Jones' or even 'Iron Man.' "

Many Oscarologists believe "Crash" won best picture because the vast majority of academy members are straight males who aren't really as liberal as their reputation. Even though "Brokeback Mountain" was clearly the movie of the year, according to buzz, critical acclaim and virtually all other awards, squeamish Oscar voters just couldn't bring themselves to embrace a movie about men aching with gay romantic yearning. Some academy members like Ernest Borgnine and Tony Curtis denounced the film as disgusting and publicly bragged that they refused to watch it.

L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan once wrote that "Crash" won because it appealed to  "people who were discomfited by 'Brokeback Mountain' but wanted to be able to look themselves in the mirror and feel like they were good, productive liberals. 'Crash' provided the perfect safe harbor" because it was also about prejudice, but against African-Americans.

"Crash" director and writer Paul Haggis pooh-poohed that view to the Trib, saying, "It's just ridiculous. People all have their opinions. People always have a favorite film, and whether it wins or loses, there's always a reason. You can like or dislike my film without comparing it to any other."

Photo: Lionsgate

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The comments to this entry are closed.


Tony Curtis and Ernest Porkface are very old and senile little bigots. It makes me despair to think that Hollywood relies so much on such demented old has beens to tell us what film is good. The Acedemy is an international embarrassment - a bit like Trash (sorry Crash)

OK, I'm a gay man and I loved both movies but I think Brokeback had just a few more flaws - particularly in narrative construction - than Crash which was a near perfect movie going experience. For once, the Academy made the right choice. Ang Lee deserved Best Director... and Crash deserve Best Picture.

This is simple:

People who love Brokeback own it, and have no need to rent it. Those who own it tend to watch it several times over.

People who rent Crash probably don't intend to own it and will probably only watch it once.

Sometimes once is more than enough...

Well, I can't say that Crash is the worst Oscar choice for best picture (The Greatest Show on Earth, Oliver, An American in Paris, etc.), but I do think it was the most stunning surprise in their best picture history. Some lesser movies have won because it was a weak year and there was little competition (Marty, anyone?), but that was not the case here. Brokeback was a far superior film as well as being an historic one. I've never missed an Oscar telecast since 1964 and the only other time my jaw hit the table this hard was when Chariots of Fire beat out Reds, Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Golden Pond & Atlantic City, which I thought were all better pictures as did many. Nevertheless, Crash is the only best picture winner in all of those years that caused me to immediately turn off my TV. It was sort of like trying to avoid looking at an accident. Far too painful to watch a minute more. I would like to think that it won due to the large actors’ branch of the voters. Crash had a huge Hollywood cast (and friends will vote for friends)& Brokeback had a small cast of newcomers), but when I hear comments like those of Curtis & Borgnine, one cannot help but wonder if it did indeed lose for more offensive and unfair reasons. They didn't even see it and voted against it simply due to its topic and I've read that a number of other voters would not even look at the free screeners they received for the same reasons. Now that truly is offensive and unjust. But then, I'm still baffled how a manipulative piece of crap (with an excellent lead performance) like Forrest Gump can beat something as truly inventive and masterful as Pulp Fiction, so what do I know!!

Crash eats babies.

Cute ones.

The problem with a statistic like Netflix is that movies like The Dark Knight are bought by everyone not rented. People rent Crash because they don't want to keep it. Everyone wants to marry The Dark Knight. They loved it so much they had to buy it right away. So since absolutely everyone on Earth owns it, who was left to rent it?

Unfortunately, for me, Brokeback Mountain was a huge disappointment. I am very surprised it won Adapted Screenplay, especially against Tony Kushner and Eric Roth's adaptation of Munich and the adaptation of le Carre's The Constant Gardener. The only redeeming qualities of Brokeback were Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams' performances and the score by Santaolalla. Jake Gyllenhaal was a complete joke and Ang Lee's Oscar-winning direction was an even bigger joke. The movie was very boring and not near as heartfelt as the original short story by Proulx. So let's just stop praising Brokeback Mountain so much.

Was Crash the most deserving of the top award? No, not really, but the entire awards ceremony was full of complete misses. Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line? George Clooney in Syriana? Three 6 Mafia? No awards for Good Night, and Good Luck OR Munich? The 78th Academy Awards will go down as the biggest collective fail in Oscar history.

I think it is time to forget all this empty discussion. Trash will be forever a best picture winner. Very sad! But... it will be forgotten for real movie lovers, real cinephiles. Brokeback Mountain e The Constant Gardener (they forget to nominate it for Best Picture) will remain eternal. They will live in hearts and minds till the end of their lives. Trash? As I said before will be a sad, bad, unconfortable example of trash picture. That's all. Let's all forget this trash discussion!

Please, everyone BOUGHT the Harry Potter and Batman DVDs. They had no need to rent it which is why Crash can come out on top on rentals.

The Oscar Academy should be ashamed then & now for not honoring "Brokeback Mountain". The US is the only western nation not to honor the film as Movie of the Year. People like Curtis & Borgnine should be ashamed to announce that they didn't even watch the movie (that gives a lot of credit to the best picture selection) and only enforces their homophobic attitudes. A lot of straight people watched "Brokeback Mountain" and found it moving, provocative, and haunting (myself included). In the end, "Brokeback Mountain" was a love story (love that can not be realized - just like "The Way We Were" or "Romeo & Juliet") and WAS the BEST PICTURE of its year.

"Crash" is required viewing in some of our high school social studies classes. If that's the case in other districts, as well, it might be contributing to the Netflix ranking.

I wonder the DVD sales of each.

I agree with you DD 100%.
Also, just recently I read in another media that "Crash", unlike "Brokeback mountain" is a forgotten movie which none speaks about anymore!

Another thing which was always very strange in my opinion, and that is: How legal, or at least moral can be Oscar prize if the Academy members don't watch the movie which they are supposed to vote for (or against)??? Two of them were openly bragging about that, still, nothing happened! How many of them did the same, but kept silence? Still, the vote is final, the Oscar goes to some "Crash"??!! (even I'd like to change the first letter of the title). I agree that they were not obliged to see any movie, but than they should've let other people do the job - honestly and fairly! Not do blind vote!

In this way - this Oscar is at least morally questionable or worse!!!

Finally, "Brokeback mountain is a masterpiece - story, screenplay, actors, director, music, .... everything just perfect! "Brokeback mountain" reached so many many hearts around the world and no "Crash" or any other movie can compare with that.







It Didn't win for director... Screenplay and editing.

First of all, Brokeback Mountain and Crash competed at the 78th Annual Academy Awards, which were presented for films during 2005, not 2004. Just check your facts before posting.

And CRASH standing with audiences shouldn't (and NEVER has really been) a factor with Oscar voters, so the argument is meaningless. Just take The Dark Knight as a typical example as well as a lot of other Oscar-winning movies.

And about Mr. Haggis's statement, I would like to reply that I can't stand his film on its own, not because I compare it to other films. I can't stand the fact that every character did talk and declare attitudes toward problems, which felt lame and dull. And I hated the cliches in characters and stories and the empty feeling the film left in me. I have not lived through this story. Of the five best picture nominees, it was the WORST. And I liked the other four quite a lot.

1) Kenneth Turan was absolutely right.
2) Is it really a surprise that Crash is Netflix's No. 1 rented movie? Of course not. Crash remains the least attended Oscar Best Picture winner in theatres ever. Not many people bothered going to the theatre to see it and, since it eventually won the top prize at the Oscars, people are “curious”, so what do they do? they rent it. The Oscars are the most publicized awards in films (though obviously not the most reliable in terms of true artistic quality) and any other movie, good or bad, with an Oscar for Best Picture under its belt would also generate the same kind of curiosity. “Munich” or “Good Night and Good Luck” would probably also be on top of the rental list had they won the top prize.
3) The huge and much publicized controversy that raged and still rages over the merits of Crash versus the much superior Brokeback Mountain also contributed greatly to this phenomenon – many people who had expected to see Brokeback Mountain crowned once more on Oscar night were stunned and now want to see this other movie that was not even nominated at the Golden Globes, that barely won any other award, but that benefited from an unprecedented Oscar campaign and eventually pulled the shocking upset.
4) I don’t think that being No. 1 on Netflix is a reliable sign of quality – Selling more hamburgers doesn’t make you the best restaurant in America.
5) If Crash hadn’t won the top prize at the Oscars, what are the chances that it would be Netflix's No. 1 rented movie? Let alone be in the top 25? None.
6) Some movie fans will purchase certain DVDs such as The Dark Knight , Iron Man, Titanic, Brokeback Mountain or Pride and Prejudice, but they will probably simply rent a film like Crash, view it once, then return it.
7) “You can like or dislike my film without comparing it to any other”, says Paul Haggis. Sorry but Mr. Haggis needs a reality check here. The Oscars ARE about comparing movies with each other. That night, Academy voters chose Crash over Brokeback Mountain after virtually all other organizations had named Brokeback Mountain the undisputed Best Picture of the year. They could have voted for Brokeback Mountain but they didn’t. They “chose to play it safe”, as mentioned by Mr. Turan.
8) I would actually ask this question: when Crash was released, was it even the best picture… that week?



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