That was some bullshit, right there.
ETA: But perhaps I should elaborate.
As per request, I will get into why I hated Crash in a second. First of all, I just want to set the table for what it means for Brokeback Mountain to lose this Oscar. To those not in the habit of following the movie awards, when I say "precursors," I don't mean handy guessing games useful for filling out your Oscar pool entry. These are more like iron-clad indicators that are seldom wrong. And when they're all given in unison? When the Producer's Guild, Writer's Guild, Director's Guild, Golden Globes, Los Angeles and New York Film Critics, and the BAFTA awards all agree on the same movie? When that same movie has the most Oscar nominations of any film and the highest box-office take of the Best Picture nominees? That movie never loses. It never does. So for this particular movie to be the only one to succumb after such broad support, it's not hard to see that as a slap in the face against said film by the Academy.
I guess as someone who didn't like Crash, it's easier for me to see a vote for Crash as a vote against Brokeback, but doesn't it seem that way? It's disheartening, because as much as Brokeback has become the zeitgeist film of 2005, it had thus far avoided becoming a referendum on Homosexuality in America. It made money not just on the coasts, but all across the country. It had seemed to win support far broader than that which exists for actual gay causes. It had seemed like it was being viewed for what it was: a well-crafted and moving film that was able to relate the suffocating tragedies of closeted life in simple terms of love and longing. Much as some of the less sanity-burdened right wing ideologues wanted to pretend that "America didn't want to see" a story like that, America did, to the tune of $78 million and counting.
The opposite side of that coin had only started to surface in the final few weeks. Reports of Academy voters anonymously relaying their intention to vote for Crash because they could not connect emotionally with Brokeback Mountain. It's been a long-standing Oscar tradition that voters tend to vote with their hearts, not their heads. So a Crash win would seem to suggest that maybe Brokeback was admired for its technical skill, but enough Academy voters shared a similar inability to make an emotional connection with the faggots on screen that it lost to a film with the more relatable message of "Everybody's a Little Bit Racist!" It's a shame to think that even in Hollywood, famed liberal bastion, it's still an uphill struggle to get straight people to feel empathy for gay people. That's the key to Brokeback Mountain. The hurdle isn't getting over two men actually having sex. There's really quite little of that in the film, and what is shown is tastefully reserved. The hurdle is actually wrapping your mind around two men in love and affectionate with each other, so when I hear "can't make an emotional connection," from old white Academy voters, it reads to me as, "fucking fags," and I honestly don't think that's an overreaction.
So. Crash. Well-acted movie, that I will grant. A good half-dozen performances more impressive than the one (Matt Dillon) who got nominated, but overall the ensemble was a strong one. The problem was that all that good acting was in service to a simplistic, overly convenient, contrived, and ultimately dishonest film. For one thing, I don't know how this can be seen as any kind of politically forward thinking film when one of the central messages seems to be, "It's shitty of you to be so racist, but check it out: so is everybody else in the entire country. So don't sweat it, and if you see someone trapped in a burning car and they happen to be a different color than you are, try to save them anyway." I don't entirely discount "white guilt" as a motivating factor for Oscar voting, though I think "L.A. guilt" might be more accurate. But I think the film actually does more to assuage white guilt than anything else. "Everybody's gotta hate somebody." So when all of a sudden, a film with that worldview starts to have this series of snowy epiphanies, it's dishonest, to me. This also plays into how the film is so ridiculously contrived to form some kind of racist paper chain, with the characters as nothing more than thin layers of whatever point the story needs to make at that very second. Like how Ludicris can be walking down the street illustrating a hot-button racial/political issue, and then here comes Sandra Bullock ready and willing to play a real-life visual aid to said issue. The writing itself is a problem in that it's too blunt and obvious. I've seen racism in action -- not on the receiving end, obviously, but I've grown up around a lot of it -- and precious little of it is so conveniently direct and plain-spoken as when Matt Dillon lays his "affirmative action" cards on the table for Loretta Devine. There is so little nuance to Haggis's script, which in turn makes his frequent directorial excursions into ethereal, fanciful slow motion shots and metaphorical precipitation all the more frustrating. No film this pedestrian deserves a song like "In the Deep" to accompany it.
It's not a terrible film, but it's a seriously flawed one. So to see it even get nominated for the Oscar is such a kick in the balls. Not to mention see it win, and to see it overcome so many of the historical obstacles that stand in the way of films that: a) get released in the spring; b) come from independent film studios; c) have no true lead performance to hang their hat on; d) barely top $50 million at the box-office; e) don't even get nominated for a Golden Globe; f) lose out on the PGA and DGA. How many other, better films have failed to pull something like that off? How many films worse than Brokeback have managed to ride the wave of frontrunner status to a Best Picture win.
All too often I have to remind myself that the Oscars are not any kind of barometer for true greatness. As if any such barometer can exist for something so subjective as motion pictures. But this seemed to be one of the few years that Oscar's tendencies and cinematic quality looked like they were destined to converge. Another lesson learned.
ETA #2: Kenneth Turan says it way better than I can. Check his article out.