Crash (2004): A Review

March 23, 2012

Crash (2004) Director: Paul Haggis

For all the David Cronenberg fans looking for the 1996 film by the Canadian genius this is not the review for you. Different film sorry. Believe me I’d probably watch Cronenberg take a shit for two hours than watch this film. The film in question is actually the Academy Award Winner for best Picture for the year of 2004. If you remember that year Crash was up against, in my humble opinion 2 films that are far superior, Brokeback Mountain and Munich.  I am sure the other two films, Capote and Good Night and Good Luck, are superior as well but at the moment I haven’t seen either. So in the year 2005 the Academy basically had two choices they could either give best picture to critically favored Brokeback Mountain, which was a highly controversial film exploring Homosexual love, or give it the beating of a dead horse in 35mm that is Crash. They chose the dead horse. Maybe they were just punishing Ang Lee for making that peice of trash Hulk who knows.

Crash is a film that explores the issue of racial tension in Los Angeles. unfortunately this film is comically over dramatic and handles the issue of race with all the subtlety and grace of Birth of A Nation. (oh yes we at OTEP love our Birth of A Nation Jokes if you haven’t noticed yet.) This is not only the worst Best Picture winner I have ever seen but it is the worst film dealing with racism I have ever seen.

The first and biggest problem I have with this film is how unrealistic this film actually is. Racism is a very real issue in this country and if one were to tackle the issue in a film the best way to approach it is with a filmmaking style of realism. This film is so “Hollywood” it is disgusting. Everything from the score, to the lighting, cinematography, script, art direction and acting cannot escape venire of a big budget Hollywood non-realist film. That’s not to say that I think Realism is the alpha and omega of film styles I just think when you’re dealing with the issue as real as racism some goddamn realism wouldn’t hurt.

Another thing about this film that really bothers me is its use of stereotypes. Everyone knows that one of the biggest things that contribute to racist beliefs are stereotypes. You would think that a movie trying to combat racism would, I don’t know, shy away from using them. Instead every fucking character in the whole film is a stereotype. Even the characters that were supposed to be the good guys became positive stereotypes. It is clear that Paul Haggis is incapable of writing a character that has more than one dimension.

You know I have never been to L.A. but from what I saw in this film everyone in L.A. is Racist in one way shape or form. There is only one character that is not an active racist but by the end of the story he ultimately becomes one and kills an innocent dude because of it. What kind of fucking moral of the story is that? Not only is every a racist asshole, they are all active bigots. If Paul Haggis would have taken an intro to sociology class or just took a fucking look around he would have realized that there is a spectrum of racism. According to Robert Merton, who died a year before the release of this film thank God, there are two different types of bigots; active bigots and passive bigots. Passive bigots make up about 40 percent of the country. These are the people who hold racist beliefs but do nothing to act upon them. Its kinda like that asshole friend you guys have that looks both ways for black people before telling a racist joke. Active bigots on the other hand are people who are racist and are willing to start shit over it. Although active bigots only make up 10 percent of the population every goddamn character in Crash is active bigot. They all hold racist beliefs and aren’t afraid to start shit about it. You’d think if you were trying to write a screen play about racism youd thow in a couple of passive bigot here and there since they are actually a bigger problem then active bigots. That would require subtlety and Paul Haggis doesn’t know the meaning of the goddamn word.

That brings me to my next point subtlety. Racism is an issue today that is very much on the radar of Americans. Some people think it is no longer an issue but in truth it has just changed it presentation. In the 21st century it is hard to get away with overt racism. Most racism we see today is subtle but still there, so much so that is it hard to see sometimes. It is a rare and shocking occasion when we see overt racism. In the words of comedian Dave Chappelle, “Did you ever have something happen that was so racist you didn’t even get mad at first? You were just like, Goddamn that was racist.” That is how most racism is today if it is too overt it is dismissed as pure stupidity. Subtle racism is the real problem today but unfortunately there is none in this film.

All that being said I recommend seeing this film because it’s fucking hilarious. The amount of unintentional humor in this movie is astounding. Not since the films of Kevin Costner have I laughed so hard when I wasnt supposed to. If I didn’t know any better id say this might be the greatest Deadpan comedy film ever made. If that really is the case then Paul Haggis is a goddamn genius and I take everything back I said about him. The amount of melodrama and being beaten over the head with overt racism and stereotypes from the onset of this film to the end is just hilarious. It is like this script was written by a 5th grader that lives in a gated community in Utah. What super funny about the whole thing is that according to Wikipedia Paul Haggis was inspired to write the script after having is Porsche jacked on Wilshire Blvd. What is really sad is that i think this is what a bunch of rich whites dudes in Hollywood think racism is like.

If you really wanna see a good movie about Racism and Discrimination here are a few I strongly recommend: A Time to Kill, Do the Right Thing, American History X, Boyz N the Hood, In the Heat of the Night, Milk, Philadelphia, Brokeback Mountain.



Initiation: An Artsy Gangster Film

March 21, 2012

This past week Off the Edge shot it’s first real film. A Bolex camera, that was at least 50 years old, and 200 feet of 16MM film were our tools. It sucked. To say we’ve been spoiled by digital cameras and equipment would be an understatement. Shooting on 16MM involves several steps to ensure you get the correct exposure for the film. It namely involves taking measurements of the scene to get the focus correct and taking light readings to determine how to set the aperture, or f-stop, of the camera. The worst part of it all is that there is really no way to know what the footage is gonna look like until a lab has processed it and sent it back to you. For all I know a lab technician is developing our footage right now, smirking, as he sees all the mistakes we missed. The human eye is much more forgiving than a camera lens. Anyways, the film we shot is called Initiation and it’s a movie about a gang initiation. Clever title aside, the film follows a young man as he tries to prove his worth to the gang by being locked in a room and fighting other people, of the gang’s choosing, to the death. Ideally it’s a meditative statement about violence and the dehumanization caused and created by our need to fight and kill one another. More likely it’s a C+. Maybe a B-. Either way it was a really fun process and I definitely have more respect for those filmmakers of years gone by who created feature films with equipment like this. Hopefully it’ll be up on youtube in the next few months, amazing everyone (or making them laugh). Either way, check out some production photos of the shoot, and enjoy


-Joe Vaske

“Initiation” Production Stills

March 21, 2012

These are some production stills from a shoot we did last week. Its was a pretty special shoot because not only did we have our good friends the lighting kits back, we also shot on film. It was definately a huge learning experice for all of us. The differences in shooting on video and shooting on 16mm were staggering. This shoot had to be extrememly well orgainized and it only took 13 hours to shoot. Hopefully well actually be able to see it someday, speaking of which if anyone knows where we could get a hold of a 16mm projector that would help a ton.

By the way a few of these photos are some of my favorite I have ever taken.


Check out this discription of the project by Joe Vaske