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March 24, 2006

 

Life on film

‘Crash’ deserved to beat ‘Brokeback.’ Get over it

Going to the movies is typically considered entertainment, but sometimes it goes beyond that. All movies, with real actors, cartoon characters, or even animals, depict the human saga, its truths, fantasies, imagination, love, hate, tragedies, triumphs. Flashed on a big screen, they totally captivate us for an hour or so, giving audiences “the experience.”

Recently, two films rivaled for the 2005 Oscar award for Best Picture, Brokeback Mountain and Crash. A lot of debate followed the announcement of Crash as the winner.

Both movies were forerunners in their own right. Both dealt with controversial subjects and intolerance. Both were excellent in their dramatic presentations and their writers, directors, actors, and casts should be saluted. I have now seen both films over six times each and one thing that must be admitted is that, having not seen Crash until after the Oscars, I too was disappointed that Brokeback Mountain didn’t take Best Picture. Its emotion was so overwhelming that I didn’t even give Crash the chance it deserved. In hindsight, I was biased.

Surprisingly, Crash hit just as hard, with all its emotion, as did Brokeback Mountain. I had to separate myself from both movies for a while. This was really difficult for me because I never had such a profound, lasting, emotional, after-effect from any movie to date. Sure, there have been other greats that shouldn’t be discounted at all. It’s just that these two films hit me at a vulnerable and changing time in my life. Hopefully, this is not a bias as well.

Let’s just look at the two films. How can they really be judged? Many films bank on famously known actors, stunning sets and special effects, but if a movie is truly great, none of these are really needed. Real moving drama is presented by projected emotion and perfected dialogue, something that can only be put together by stunning writers and a fabulous director.

The actors are only the vehicle to the screen. It’s true that good actors help, but without a well-written screenplay and director, not even the best actor can deliver.

So how does one then evaluate a truly exceptional film? The real analysis should extend days after seeing the movie, asking, “What did it leave me with?”

A mediocre film loses its detail just days later, but an exceptional film leaves something far after that--all its emotion. This sparked and lingering feeling can be enlightening, educational, or from one’s own experiences.

It is here where audiences further ask, “What impact did it have on me?”

The perfect movie would invoke a lasting change in thought or behavior. This is something for which a writer or director can only dream. To teach something. To change people or the world for the better.

For the final analysis, let’s apply this to the Crash vs. Brokeback movie evaluation. Ask what “positive” emotions did each movie offer? Take the time and really think about it. Again, both movies were great, but did they move one step beyond that and ask, “Did I learn anything about myself, social interactions, people, life, or humanity as a whole?”

Finally, “Has anything in my life’s perspective positively changed?” Here lies the real winner.

Brokeback Mountain, again, even though LGBT audiences loved it and related to it, left many in pain. There was so much fear, anger, anxiety, deceit, self-doubt and loathing I could barely stand it. Everybody in it, even the coyote-eaten sheep, was lost, for God’s sake. It took weeks for that pain to go away. I didn’t feel as good about things anymore. My own negative personal emotions, buried deep inside me, were released again. Isn’t life enough of that already? It takes a lot of mental work and outside support just to keep it all balanced sometimes and I don’t consider myself mentally weak either. The movie made me cry. Why, because I was saddened?

Crash, on the other side, even though it clearly had its share of life’s losers, portrayed more winners. Characters, largely bland, changed from bad to good, possibly affecting the outcome of the rest of their lives. The movie truly inspired hope, a concept that is barely grasped anymore. The movie made me cry. Why, because I had seen people’s lives change for the better? It offered hope. It made people analyze the negative in their own lives. It engendered contemplation on personal change for the better.

To walk away from this movie feeling this way was its real gift and “I’d like to thank those who made it all possible.”

Robert Custer is better known throughout Northeast Ohio as DJ Medina Bob, the leading light of the Leather Stallion Saloon’s “Early Show.”

 

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