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Crash crashes the Oscars

Posted by Ty Burr  March 6, 2006 12:44 AM

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"Crash"? Best Picture? Really?

Who'd have thought it? Well, aside from the voting members of the Academy, not many of us. Please note my blog entry of earlier this week and note that I, along with every other Oscar prognosticator, will be dining on a large plate of crow tomorrow morning.

And you know what? That's fine. An upset like this proves the continuing viability of the Academy Awards and reminds us that they're not always a coronation of what the pundits assume is the front-runner. God knows the Oscars, at 78, need a good surprise, just as all of us who are "supposed to know" could use a swift kick in the pants from time to time.

And we got it tonight. Does that mean I'm wrong in thinking there's less than meets the eye in "Crash"? Trust me, it's almost 1 a.m., I've just put tomorrow's story to bed, and already I've received a number of e-mails citing my lukewarm review last May and basically replying "Nyah, nyah, nyah."

Well, no. I still think the movie's exquisitely acted but fatally overwrought, that its handful of unforgettable moments can't compensate for an all-too-tidy vision of "what's wrong with the world." There are those who agree, and there are many who strongly feel otherwise. The latter have been saying all along that "Crash" was the best movie of 2005, and now it is. To which I say, good for you for standing by your film.

In other Oscar news: Jon Stewart, pretty rock solid, right? His canned stuff was hit-and-miss, but his impromptu reaction to the Three 6 Mafia winning best song was priceless: a long, delighted laugh and the on-target comment, "That's how you accept an Oscar."

Cheesiest moment? Kathleen "Bird" York singing the "Crash" song while surrounded by slow-motion dancers and burning cars -- thereby encapsulating everything schlocky and self-important the movie's detractors see in it.

Scariest old-Hollywood moment? That would be a toss-up between Lauren Bacall's fumbling-yet-regal introduction of the film noir clips and Dolly Parton's impersonation of the Corpse Bride.

Most touching speeches? Reese's, certainly -- maybe she's been practicing it in front of the mirror since she was five, but it still sounded like it was coming off the top of her dear little Nashville head. I liked Philip Seymour Hoffman's masterful bit of flubbery, too, especially when he just said the hell with it and started channeling Van Morrison. This was a night of flubs, actually: Hoffman and Bacall, sure, but Morgan Freeman also turned in a passable Elmer Fudd imitation.

And, finally, there was good old Robert Altman, chucking all the pomp out the window with his comment that filmmaking is like building a sand castle: you invite all your friends over and then watch the ocean take it away. Maybe you have to be 81 to have that long a view, but I'm glad the Academy finally saw fit to honor it.

All in all, it was an Oscar awards that managed to be tasteful without being boring. I wish Hollywood made more movies that way.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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