Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Oscar Subject I've Avoided Talking About Finally Rears Its Head Here

12 Days Until Oscar...
I've avoided the "Brokeback Mountain vs. Crash" debate largely because I saw it coming and it bored me ahead of time. Like a few other notably smart oscarwatchers I said several times that once Crash won the SAG ensemble prize (a win that was never in doubt for me since October) people would freak and suggest that Crash would pull a Shakepeare on Brokeback's Privates. I saw it coming. But what I didn't see coming was the fervor with which some people would start selling this story (against all laws of awards logic) as 'it's going to happen' rather than 'what an upset that would be!'

I think it all started when the anti-BBM brigade got what they saw as a huge boost in the surprise snub of Brokeback in the Editing race. And while it did sting (especially because Peroni was a marvelous editor and that would've been a sweet way to bid her adieu) it wasn't the death blow that people made it out to be. While it's true that no film has won the Best Picture Oscar without an editing nomination in 25 years it's been just as long since a film with a nomination total of 6 or less (likeCrash) has won. Those statistics both converge at Ordinary People, thereby cancelling each other out, don'cha think?

Continue Reading this article...


John T said...

I agree-I can't think of any film with this much momentum that went on to lose. I mean, you listed the precursors, so I won't again. For those who bring up Reds, Saving Private Ryan, or even to a lesser extent Bugsy and The Lion in Winter:

Reds-Lost the Best Drama at the Golden Globes to On Golden Pond-the atmosphere for an upset was right.

Saving Private Ryan-I remember the Miramax machine & the backlash shipping onto Private Ryan. I also remember Shakespeare had more nominations, more Golden Globes, and had nominated actors-considering the size of that branch, that has to have helped.

Bugsy-Bugsy, despite being a big frontrunner that night, had only won one Golden Globe, and had lost the DGA, as well as the box office race.

The Lion in Winter-Sure The Lion in Winter won the Golden Globe, but so did Oscar-and neither Harvey nor Reed picked up the GG for Best Director.

All in all, something will be seriously be amiss if Crash wipes out the masterful Brokeback Mountain. Here's to hoping that Brokeback manages to have avoided this and will come out stronger with an acting trophy at the end of the Oscar night.

Anonymous said...

You are right, as usual, on both counts.

1. Brokeback Mountain will win Best Picture.


2. If it were to lose the Oscar, after all the precursor support from so many diverse groups, it would absolutely be because of homophobia.

And p.s. David Poland is a major homophobe, he only feels comfortable praising films that portray queers as creepy and/or effeminate such as Capote! Embracing Capote doesn't make you tolerant of "the gays" Mr. Poland.

Anonymous said...

I am gay.. I have watched both BBM and Crash twice... BOTH are very good movies... but I still think Crash is the better picture;;

Will Win: BBM
Should Win: Crash


fair enough.

but 6000 people turning against it would be problematic. nothing in history to back up any reason why they would.

Pedro said...

I have to agree to a certain extent with anonymous: I am gay; I have seen Brokeback Mountain, Munich and Crash (this week I'll see Good Night), and I don't think Brokeback is going to win. For some people it might have been a tear jerker, but not for me. It did not immerse me in its story and I thought it was too episodic for my taste (more like a biographical movie; i.e., with a structure very similar to Ray or Walk the Line). Of those three, I enjoyed Munich the most. I thought Munich’s third act was not on par with the rest of the movie, and some of the dialogue could have stood a trimming, but all in all, I think it was (according to my taste) the best. I do agree that Crash is more of a “feelings” movie, which usually wins.

Neel Mehta said...

The Crash hype is generated to make people interested in watching the ceremony.

The Oscars get big viewership if there's a tight race for Best Picture, or if the formidable favorite is a box office blockbuster. This year we have neither.

At best, if some of the Crash support is genuinely reflective of Academy interest, you may see it making an impact like Traffic or The Pianist. Wins for Supporting Actor, Editing, Song, and Original Screenplay are all possible.

Anonymous said...

People who were merely ambivalent about Crash, watch it again. It completely falls apart. That said, while I think Brokback Mountain did not deserve this universal awards season love that it recieved, I am perfectly fine with it winning Best Picture. There is nothing artistically offensive to me the way there is in Crash, and it's about time Ang Lee wins Best Director. Of the 5, I have to say that Munich is my favorite, since that isn't going to win, I am rooting for Brokeback.

I mean in all seriousness, though, there is almost no way that Brokeback Mountain can lose. The worst reaction to it seems to be indifference, whereas for Crash there is a significant contingent of people that absolutely hate it. Generally indifferent movies win over love/hate ones.

Anonymous said...

Crash had a strong push, though, which I think should've been mentioned. People refer to the Miramax machine, but Lions Gate ran a ridiculously good campaign. It was early, it focused on the praised elements. Outside of SPC's campaign for Amy Adams, I think it was the year's best.

Also, while Brokeback Mountain did sweep the precursors, it didn't do as well in the final nomination totals as expected (it had a song ruled ineligible, didn't get the expected editing nod), suggesting that support is weaker than expected/hoped for.

I'm still predicting Brokeback Mountain, but I believe that Crash is the worst film of the year, and would be happy with anything beating it.

qta said...

that was a great article.

I could not have thought it, or said it better myself.

par3182 said...

As much as I loved Brokeback I could handle it losing to GN&GL, Munich or Capote but not to a steaming pile of crap like Crash.

The fact that Crash is likely to win Best Original Screenplay is embarrassing enough, but Best Picture? That'd mark the end of my Oscar interest.

Anonymous said...

What makes me mad is not people saying the CRASH is the better movie or that BBM is overrated. That doesn't translate into a CRASH momentum. This momentum talk is a complete fabrication: NOTHING points to a CRASH win. Or for that matter to a BBM loss.

Let's take a look at the numbers:

BBM has won about 33 Best Picture and Director Awards. CRASH has a combined total of 1 (BP by the Chicago Critics). That's it.

I agree with Nathaniel that people saying CRASH WILL win are either CRASH fans with a bad case of wishful thinking or people attacking BBM indirectly. In the second case I believe some people are trying to create a self fulfilling prophecy: If I talk about CRASH having this great momentum I might influence some voters away from BBM.

In the case of Ebert, I think he's a CRASH fan day dreaming.

Anything's possible, but how likely is it? I don't know if BBM losing would be the biggest upset in AMPAS history. But it would be as big as if THE PIANO had won over SCHINDLER'S LIST. At least The Piano's director won in NYC and LA. Or DARK VICTORY winning over GONE WITH THE WIND. Yep, that big.

John T said...

I agree that it wouldn't be the biggest upset in Academy history as well. Which begs the question, of course-what is the biggest upset in Academy history?

Javier Aldabalde said...

Roman Polanski came pretty close. And boy, was that deserved.

Sigh. The Oscars lost the ability to surprise us somewhere between 2002 and 2003.


but in this case javierag... i don't want a surprise!

Anonymous said...

First off, well done, sir. Extremely well said.

Second, I immediately forgive Roger Ebert as I have come to look forward to his yearly Oscar predictions, as they are always hilariously and transparentally biased towards his favorites. ("Ed Harris will win for Pollock!")

And, to take nothing away from Brokeback's quality, I feel it is the clear choice for Best Picture with Capote ranking a strong second, I think another reason it will win is there is now a sense of obligation to give it the win. What I mean is, if Brokeback wins there is no surprise, but if Crash upsets it gives a green light to every pundit and loudmouth who predicted failure for Brokeback to climb back out of the shadows and do a victory lap about how they were right all along. Nobody but nobody wants to listen to that.

Nobody will call them a racist for passing over Crash, but they will (quite rightly) leave themselves open to accusations if such a unanimous favorite like Brokeback is overlooked. More than anything the Oscars just want to be loved by everybody. And this year, oddly, that means picking the more controversial film, which has been made safe due to near unanimous awards agreement.

Anonymous said...

One of the most famous upsets happened in 1948 when Loretta Young won over Rosalind Russell as Best Actress.

I as understand it, the great majority saw a Russell victory as a done deal. The audience literally gasped when Young was announced.

As far as a Best Picture upset, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS winning over A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and A PLACE IN THE SUN in 1952 was considered a shock. Many critics complained bitterly.

Anonymous said...

What grates the most in this whole "Crash" vs "Brokeback" media hoopla is that so many hacks are dressing their own bias up as the voting predilections of others; talking about how voters will cast their ballots whilst actually expressing (and planting) their own personal propaganda.


Anonymous said...

Fun with the Tomatometer:

Just out of curiousity, I wondered if Rotten Tomatoes could shed any light on this debate. So just for fun, and since I can't sleep, I ran some numbers.

It comes down as another decisive omen in favor of Brokeback. Brokeback's rating on the Tomatometer is 85%. Crash is 77%. The average rating for the last ten Best Picture winners is 86.6%. Crash would tie for lowest ranked with Gladiator.

Of course, Gladiator is the film which beat Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger.

adam k. said...

With reference to Crash "totally falling apart" the second time one sees it... I just saw it saturday night, and that was late enough in the game that it totally fell apart for me the first time. I absolutely hated it. Probably because I went in wanting to see what was so great about Brokeback's "one great hurdle" or whatever, but still. So self-indulgent and senseless. Who the hell talks about racism that much? Who the hell answers the phone in the middle of sex and tells his mom what he's doing at the time, and who with? Who the hell writes shit like this? Totally manipulative, contrived, and amateurish. And since it seemed so intent on teaching and being didactic, what did it even teach? That people are racist? How profound. It was a BAD movie, period. I think Nathaniel is being too kind, frankly. I just had a really bad reaction to it. It made me angry at how bad it was. In my book, a Crash win would be tragic. I already feel sorry for Noah Baumbach for having to lose his oscar to this. If Lee and company lose, too, I may just have a breakdown. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

That is some pretty good writing really, but I think you are joining two things, the who will win with the who you want to win.

Those should have nothing to do with one another and you keep focuzing on the fact that you think people that want BBM to lose are homophobics. You list some good reasons for people not wanting BBM to win but you basically give importance only to the idea of them being homophobic.

While that can be true you shouldn't generalize it. I've watched all of the five Best Pic nomination and I have to say that I've enjoyed Crash far better than any of the others, BBM isn't even my second choice, that would be Munich.

BBM sure may be a landmark because it WILL win Best Pic being a gay movie, but I can see nothing that special in it besides the Score and the Cinematography (which are really great), it has a story that I've already heard, just better told and it has average acting, I only consider Heath Ledger being above average, the rest are just okay...

It didn't even have a good tear dropping moment... not one, I think Crash and Munich have more intense moments.

So I know more than half of the people that saw both movies think that BBM is better and nothing can be done to stop it's winning (the reason people came up with this "fight" was because they wanted to make this interesting, as it has been mentioned), but for me Crash is another division.



i'm not saying that wanting to see BBM lose means people are homophobes. (unless they're rooting for something else only to see it fail)

i'm saying if it DOES lose (which i don't think it will) it will be because of homophobia because it would defy all 78 years of cumulative logic. the only thing powerful enough to change history like that would be hatred and prejudice.

Anonymous said...

Interesting take- but I have a few problems with it. "The Academy" is not a single entity. Individuals choose what they like (or respect) best. I think the reason some are more affected by Crash(myself included), is that it hits some issues that are easily identifiable for people. Who hasn't had a racist thought, made judgments, been proven wrong about someone? Brokeback deals with issues that people also identify with, but maybe not everyone can relate to them as personally as they can with issues in Crash. If Crash does win, I think it will be because it really hit people in the gut, not because they are punishing Brokeback.

I loved both movies. I loved Crash a bit more. Sure it's a little obvious, but I had a few issues with Brokeback too. It moved through so many years, I felt I never got a real handle on the characters. I think Michelle Williams is extremely overrated in the Oscar race. But these are all quibbles...

I just don't like the assumption that if more people decide Crash is a better movie, or are more affected by it, this make "the Academy" homophobic.


ben i don't like the assumption either. and i assume it won't be made because i think it'll win.

but it would be an upset of such historic proportion that it would HAVE TO BE for some other reason than liking something else better. because if that were the reason. again. some other film woulda been winning stuff this year.

i know the academy isn't the same voting body. but statistically and generally, homogenously, whatever --this is the preferred movie to such an enormous degree that it would be a vote against it.

Anonymous said...

Who do you think the Academy is made up of - shotgun-toting rednecks? By and large, the Academy is made up of California liberals. I find it hard to believe that they're all a bunch of homophobes. I do find it pretty easy to believe that those California liberals responded very strongly to a movie about Los Angeles, California.

Anonymous said...

And who the hell are you to tell anyone that they need to "rewatch" both films if they happen to prefer "Crash" to "Brokeback Mountain"? I've seen both films and enjoyed both films, but I'd pick "Crash" for BP over "Brokeback Mountain", and if Oscar voters do the same thing, it will mainly be b/c that's what they thought was the best film of the year, not the convenient answer of "HOMOPHOBIA". They don't have to do anything just b/c precursors told them to in previous awards.

Javier Aldabalde said...

It's so sad that so many people have missed the artistry of "Brokeback Mountain". Yes, aesthetically it offers nothing new. So? What's the point? Were "Vera Drake" and "The Pianist" original movies? Of course not.

It's the tremendous artistry of the film, Ang Lee's incredible handling of the epic and the internal, that made me fall in love with the movie, and I know I'm not the only one on this. Every scene is just perfectly orchestrated to the last bit.

So it's unfair to categorize BBM fans as people who like it only for its message (which has to do with repression, not just sexual repression, for that matter), and anyone who doesn't as homophobes.

Anonymous said...

Finally, finally an arguement on the Crash vs. BBM scenario that makes total sense! I think that some journalists are either trying to stir the pot to keep things interesting, or are trying to promote their personal film preferences. The other possibility, and I hate to say this, is that Lyonsgate may be tipping them to plug their film. Who knows?

Unknown said...

Excellent article and I pretty much agree. Still, I'm convinced that there are more than enough homophobes in supposedly liberal Hollywood that there will be a backlash against Brokeback, though not enough to prevent it from winning.

Anonymous said...

People started to hate Sideways because it was winning everything early on last year. I know a lot of people are sick of Brokeback winning everything (the awards as well as the critics this time), and once they've seen it don't understand what the fuss was about. Everyone likes an underdog. These for me are more better reasons for a Crash win at the Oscars.

Of course it's a moot point as Brokeback is going to win. The Crash vs. Brokeback debate is coming purely out of boredom with the predictability of the race this year. You have to get down to supporting performances before there's any excitement.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Nathaniel. I completely agree.

I read enough about Crash that I don't think I'll watch it. It sounds like one of those Diversity Training video big corporations usually put employees through. It only shows the most overt type of discriminations and never the subtle type because of lack of experience or imagination on the part of the creator. I never heard any praises on the artistic merit of Crash.

On the other hand, I love the artistry of Brokeback Mountain. I don't like Westerns and don't have much connection to gay romance, but I was deeply moved by the longing and loss aspect of the theme. The acting was superlative across the board, down to the smallest speaking parts. But most of all, I love the artistic way Ang Lee told the story. Every frame in the film says something and everything is so subtlely done that it took me two viewings to get most of the details.

If Brokeback loses, it will not only be the biggest upset but it will be the biggest controversy in AMPAS history. People will remember Tony Curtis's comments on that he and many other AMPAS members wouldn't watch Brokeback because of its subject matter.

Anonymous said...

If you really want to guage the support of the two films look at the acting nominations. Brokeback has a solid three while Crash managed to turn up one. If there really was a Crash ground-swell then I would think Cheadle, Howard, or Newton would have made the cut. There was certainly room for them in the category.

As for the SAG ensemble win I think that's grasping at straws. I genuinely disliked Crash and even I admit that the ensemble acting was fantastic. As many have pointed out the ensemble award strongly favors large casts. Why don't you ask Gosford Park or the Full Monty how that prize helped their Best Picture chances.

I know I'm in the minority on this opinion, but I actually see boredom with the race as tilting positively in Brokeback's favor.

Simply put, if Brokeback really is the most popular movie in the race, and the voters are bored with the predictable choices, then couldn't they shake things up by giving Brokeback from one to three of the acting prizes? It would stick it to the other precursors that are stealing their thunder, and reward a large award tally on the film, that is, after all, the biggest grosser by a substantial margin.

A Michelle Williams win would surprise no one. And Heath Ledger has been running a strong second to Mr. Hoffman all season. He too is not out of the realm of possibility.

And I'm surprised no one is going for Jake Gyllenhaal. I going with my gut and predicting him. I think people should look out for this one. The two front runners are lacking real passionate support. People seem to be picking Clooney for the "Clooney's gotta win something" reason, and Giamatti for the make-up award. People vote with their heart and their hearts are not in Cinderella Man or Syriana. If the voting is tight I think the passionate Brokeback block could push Jake over the top.

Anonymous said...

Spot on! If BBM loses I can see no other explanation than homophobia (and I will feel it in my own skin - again), considering the journey this amazing film has had so far in the awards season. And once more "If" Brokeback misses out on two of the major awards (Picture and Directing), and I believe it will not (and I hope this is more than wishful thinking!), I will use all my inner strength to NEVER follow, watch or care about the Oscars ever again! Will be all over between us! To be honest Crash was my favourite film of the year until Brokeback Mountain came along, and in any other year I would probably have it as my chosen winner, however, one simply cannot ignore BBM's history making achievements. With Oscar on its belt or not (although I hope it does) this beautiful film will remain on the pantheon of Movie (be it Hollywoodian or not) Greatest.

Anonymous said...

nate.. you should get an honarary oscar for this article... thank you so much... and to think i got depressed by all this hoopla and not join any oscar parties next sunday... but what i don't understand is that why in heaven's name should they compare it with Crash?!?!?! I am a big BBM fan but GNGL and Munich far more deserves the oscar best pic if and only if BBM should lose. i may accept that... like 'life is beautiful' winning over 'saving private ryan'.. but crash?!?!? i respect that film but it is definitely not Oscar BP worthy.... even the script is flawed! no matter where you attack the film - nobody can hate BBM EXCEPT when you are a homophobe. even the most cynical critics cannot find anything terrible to say to the film. BBM is undenyably the best pic of the year.

Anonymous said...

What a thoughtful, reasonable analysis.

Anonymous said...


There is nothing to back your claim that Brokeback won't win Best Pic. It has won just about every precursor in sight, far outdistancing all of its rivals. And, though the film may not have moved you, it sure moved an awful lot of people, gay and straight. And there's no reason to think that Academy members are any different.

Glenn Dunks said...

I sorta skipped most of the replies because my eyes hurt.

But, Nat's article is so true (or, so methinks anyway). I can't see how it can lose with so much precurser support. Not only those reasons you mentioned, but the film has three acting nominations and is a much more technically inclined movie than Crash which will appeal to branch members.

And yes, so many people forget that Shakespeare in Love won globes, had more nominations, and (most importantly) was the better film.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you 100% over the Crash hysteria. This is totally media-induced, and it started only when BBM became the most-awarded film of the season and the frontrunner. Before that, the press in general, apart from a few individuals, weren't touting Crash to do anything special at the Oscars. Everyone seemed resigned to BBM winning the biggies, whether they liked the film or not.
Then the SAG thing happened, a tiny suggestion was made, and whammo! the floodgates opened. It seemed to me that somebody had dropped manna from heaven on all those just waiting for a chance to say, wow, BBM can be beat. Let's go! Tom O'Neil was the worst for mine: "please let me be wrong about Crash winning blah blah blah" and off zoomed the rocket to Crash fantasyland with all the anti-BBMers onboard frantically typing away.

After Brokeback wins its deserved Oscars in a fortnight, some of those journalists and critics may want to take a long look at themselves. But I suspect that's something they have long given up being able to do with any real commitment.


Anonymous said...


"But what I didn't see coming was the fervor with which some people would start selling this story (against all laws of awards logic) as 'it's going to happen' rather than 'what an upset that would be!'"

Yes, what surprised me was the way that the media suddenly seemed to be trying to MAKE THE CRASH THING HAPPEN, rather than just reporting on the fact of its possibility.

Not only that, but the gleeful tone of some of the articles, and the sheer spite of others (Poland in particular), show something much deeper than mere boredom over the fact that Oscars appear to be locked.


Anonymous said...

I'd be shocked as all hell if CRASH ended up winning it.

Anonymous said...

Poland just can't stand the idea that after delaring the film "dead" (in terms of Oscar or mainstream appeal) after seeing it in Tornoto, it's become the IT film of the season. That and the fact that he seems to like his gay characters bathroomp-crusing sex addicts (TAXI ZUM KLO) or mascara-wearing cross-dressers (BREAKFAST ON PLUTO.)

Tonio Kruger said...

If Brokeback Mountain loses, it's a victory for homophobia.
If Crash loses, it's a victory for racism.
If Munich loses, it's a victory for anti-Semitism.
If Good Night and Good Luck loses, it's a victory for McCarthyism.
If Capote loses, it's a victory for some other -ism.
So I guess none of these movies are going to lose...
But, hey, I usually work on Oscar night so what do I care? ;-)

Glenn Dunks said...

I love that all the Crash fans jumped on the "Brokeback didn't get an editing nomination!" bandwagon yet Crash only got one Golden Globe nomination - Best Supporting Actor.

Everyone was all "MUNICH CAN'T WIN! IT WASN'T NOMINATED FOR THE GLOBE!!!" yet now that Crash is a serious contender nobody seems to be saying that. Except me. :)

Anonymous said...

The importance of the subject matter aside, I just don't think BBM will hold up as a great movie. It is a film based on a short story, and it feels like a film based on a short story. When the tears dry, I think a reexamination will be in order, and (maybe) a loss on March 5 would only indicate that some of the voters have already reexamined.

sittingnut said...

bbm sucks as a love story, period. just compare it with any other film with a tragic love story.
and as far as i know oscars are for achievement in cinema not for socially conscious story lines.
crash was the better film and it will hold up in the long term. bbm has already lost it's primary reason for existence; to win a Oscar on behalf of gays. it will be forgotten 2 years from now.