Crash: Small screen adaptation falls flat

In 2005, Crash became the little movie that could when it unexpectedly won the Academy Award for Best Picture, beating out the heavily favored Brokeback Mountain. The movie, starring Hollywood heavyweights Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock and Terrence Howard, depicts a three-day period in Los Angeles where several interrelated events bring strangers together. It is a compelling look at race and gender relations, discrimination and bigotry. The executive producers of Crash have adapted the successful film into a television series for Starz.

Like the film, the television series brings to the forefront the tensions between ethnicities, religions and gender. Through a collection of interrelated cases of prejudice, the show serves as a window into the quiet injustice that occurs within law enforcement, the rich and powerful and the world of medicine.

Veteran actor Dennis Hopper headlines the cast as a drug-addicted music producer looking for his next star, who may just be his driver, played by Jocko Sims. Other characters include a model-turned-police officer, a Brentwood housewife, a real estate developer and an illegal Guatemalan immigrant.

The pilot episode begins with a steamy sex scene that twists into an eye-opener on gender discrimination. After this scene, the episode walks the viewer through several more instances that reflect the crimes committed behind-the-scenes: bribery, indecency, robbery, discrimination and unfair arrests.

The show focuses upon issues of national identity versus race and heritage. A Korean gang member-turned-paramedic, played by Brian Tee, must make a choice between his past and his future, placing him at a constant crossroads with his former friends and co-workers. At one point, a homicide detective tells him, “Make a choice, Korean or American.”

Crash exposes the racism and sexism within law enforcement which is supposed to be representative of justice and equality. There are two-faced cops and sexist agents. In episode three, homicide detective Axel Finet (Nick Tarabay) abuses his power and holds the father of a suspected murderer at gun point in order to arrest his son. This reveals inequality in both society and the forces that regulate it.

The overall coverage of prejudices in the show is very touching, exposing the subtle instances of abuse through discrimination that occur every day, unchecked and overlooked. It seems that in a world which feels the need to systemize and govern its own, those with power never really escape from their own personal prejudices.

However, Crash certainly isn’t afraid to show a little —or a lot—of skin, to indulge the fantasies of its viewers. But when sex is used in this sense, it becomes a gimmick and unfortunately, this alone cannot keep the audience’s attention.

Crash benefits from being a 13-episode series and not a two hour film. While the film can feel as though it is simplifying issues and placing a very obvious

Hollywood message onto events, the television show goes into great depth. Characters and situations are not just cornerstones and stereotypes of a larger picture.

This being said, there is still nothing spectacular about Crash as a television series. While there is a possibility for amazing characters and intriguing story lines, in the first five episodes, the viewer is left without a tangible connection to the series. Instead of generating a necessary conversation about race, like the movie did, the audience is left thinking, “So what?”

What made the 2004 film so compelling for audiences was its overall message and reminder that we are all more alike than we imagine and what we do affects others. This message is not carried throughout the television series. The relationships between the characters are not apparent or profoundly moving.

Adapting a successful movie is a difficult task. Sometimes it works (MASH) and other times it does not (My Big Fat Greek Life). Crash, unfortunately, represents the latter.

Crash airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Starz.

Published: November 13, 2008
The Mount Holyoke News

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Crash: The Television Series?

Dennis Hopper has been announced as the star of the new Starz television drama, Crash. Based on the Oscar winning film, Hopper will portray Ben, a veteran maverick music producer looking for his last big score, in the 13-episode multi character drama. Hopper joins the previously cast Clare Carey, Luis Chavez, Ross McCall, Jocko Sims, Brian Tee and Arlene Tur.

The creative team of this series is headed by Glen Mazzara (“Life,” “The Shield”) and it includes writers from The Sopranos, NYPD Blue, Deadwood, Without A Trace, and The Wire

Crash as a television series can go two ways. It can be better than the movie by having actual character development and more meaningful story lines that don’t seem overtly forced. Or it can be exactly like the movie and ensure that the audience suffers through contrived plot lines that are intended to make us think but only make us angry.
But with the creative team in charge of this series, I think it will be good and much better than the movie.

An Oscar Controversy

Crash winning Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain was one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history. But did the right movie win? And what does this say about the so-called liberal Hollywood?

Read this excerpt from Jeffrey Wells and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Let’s all keep it going and dig into our hearts this morning and extend some of that Crash compassion to the small minds and timid souls who voted against (and in many cases probably didn’t even see) Brokeback Mountain.

I’m not talking about those who love and respect Crash for what it is — they’re fine and approvable. I’m talking about the duck-and-hiders.

Squeamishness, old-fogeyism (not the kind you can measure in years but which can be found among people of all shapes, ages and nations) and puptent-phobia snuck into the room, and then slowed and stalled the Brokeback bandwagon and finally turned it down an alley.

I don’t have a recording of any Academy members talking about the sacrosanct John Wayne macho-cowboy tradition, or confiding their concerns about how it might feel it they watched one of the briefest, most darkly lit, most discreet coupling scenes in movie history, and what the cultural ratification that an Oscar win would mean for Brokeback and gay people everywhere, so I guess there’s no proving these views were a factor.

The anti-Brokeback banshee was swirling over and under Paul Haggis, Cathy Schulman and Jack Nicholson as they stood on the Kodak stage last night.

And it wasn’t pretty and it ain’t pretty now. I live in tres gay West Hollywood and I was walking along Santa Monica Blvd. this morning and feeling the air, and I can tell you there’s no joy in Mudville this morning.

Earlier today in Salt Lake City, Larry Miller was having a quiet little chuckle over his coffee.

I imagine he was also probably feeling a bit surprised to discover, as Nikki Finke put it last night, that Hollywood “is as homophobic as Red State country…in touch, not out of touch.”

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I saw both Brokeback Mountain and Crash. Both are excellent, well-acted, well-written, well-directed movies.

David Carr, the “bagger” writes:

“Over all, the Bagger believes that Brokeback lost not because it dared to depict closeted gay males as fully formed characters, but because people liked, but did not love, the movie. And for some, Crash brings to life an inner dialogue they must be having that is filled with fear and suspicion. In the end, everyone thought Brokeback would win and everyone thought the other guy was going to vote for it. In the end, not enough of the other guys did.”

read his entire column

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One more opinion. From the LA Times. A column called “Breaking No Ground

“So for 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. They could vote for it in good conscience, vote for it and feel they had made a progressive move, vote for it and not feel that there was any stain on their liberal credentials for shunning what Brokeback had to offer. And that’s exactly what they did.”

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Now just I’m confused. What’s your opinion? I want to know.

My 2006 Academy Awards Recap


The Oscars were really good this year (definitely much better than last year’s show.) Where to begin?

The opening montage of every classic moment/actor digitally animated… wow. For a classic film freak like me, it was fun trying to see how many movies I could name. Then the comedy bits started. I loved it when Jon Stewart woke up in bed with George Clooney. “Is this a dream?” “No.” Great way to start the show.

Stewart’s first few jokes completely bombed but after that he picked up steam. Then he lost it again. That’s okay. Nothing can stop me from loving Jon Stewart. I loved the tribute to Westerns and the innuendos. “The gayest genre” according to Stewart if you watched Oprah today.

Best Supporting Actor goes to… George Clooney, as predicted. He gave a great speech. “All right, so I’m not winning director.” Then he added, “I’m proud to be out of touch”.

March of the Penguins won best documentary, although it should’ve gone to Enron. Still a great movie nonetheless and I loved how the director (I forget his name) dedicated the award to all the children who saw the film and how hopefully it could influence then when they’re making the important decisions (with environmental issues and such) by 2041.

Rachel Weisz winning was awesome and she looked gorgeous for being 7 months pregnant. In her speech she thanked those who do the humanitarian work like her character did in The Constant Gardener.

I guess the old fart’s don’t run Hollywood afterall. I mean, 36 Mafia won for best song. By far the most excited (and more shocked than the cast of Crash) to win.

Robert Altman, director of M*A*S*H and Nashville, received the honorary oscar. Well-deserved. He’s been denied too long. His next feature is A Prarie Home Companion. Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan star in a great ensemble cast.

Philip Seymour Hoffman won Best Actor for his role as Truman Capote in Capote. And he dressed for the occasion.

Another shocker. Reese Witherspoon won.

Love Ang Lee. Great director. He deserved it for Brokeback Mountain.

But the best moment of the evening had to be when Crash pulled the biggest upset in recent year’s. Yes, I was expecting that it could happen and as the night went on, it was becoming a little more clear to me that it could, but stilll I was shocked. My jaw literally hit the floor. And then I was pissed. Why? The acceptance speech was cut off. Come on now. They make this big deal during the show to promote great Oscar moments and the producer ruin one by turning off the mic.

I’ll respond to the controversy surrounding this win tomorrow.

The Crash posse

Other great moments:

  • The mock political campaigns fro Best Actress. “Keira Knightley, acting while pretty.”
  • Lauren Bacall. Need I say enough.
  • The montage tributes to epics, film noir, and biopics.
  • Itzhak Perlman, playing selections from each nominated score.
  • Stewart, ” “‘Good night and good luck’ — the line that Mr. Clooney ends all of his dates with.” The look on Clooney’s face… priceless.

Overall a great night at the Oscars. Can’t wait until next year. I’m thinking Scorcese could finally win.