Saturday, April 22, 2006


I finally saw the movie Crash the other day. I'm not talking about the 1996 David Cronenberg film -- I'm talking about the film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture this year simply by beating us over the head with the socially-conscious message that everyone in Los Angeles is an idiot, an asshole, or both.

When I first heard about this movie, all I knew about it was that it had the same name as another movie. It wasn't a remake -- it was a completely different movie that just happened to have the same name. To me, that shows a real of lack of originality. Film-making is supposed to be a creative enterprise, so you'd think someone involved with the film would have been able to think up a name that hadn't been used before, but if you thought that, you'd be wrong.

I could go on and on about how there really isn't much creativity or originality in the movie business, but you probably already know that. How else are we to explain why the same movies are remade over and over? How many Batman and Superman and King Kong movies do we really need? How many Ice Age and American Pie sequels are enough?

I understand that it's not always easy coming up with a fresh new idea, but it really shouldn't be that hard to think up an original title. For a while, it seemed like all the movie titles were from popular songs of the '50s and '60s. There are probably dozens of them, but unfortunately, I can't think of any off the top of my head, other than the aforementioned American Pie. Well, I can also think of When a Man Loves a Woman and Sweet Home Alabama, and of course, there's also Mystery Train, but the soundtrack for that movie includes the Elvis Presley song of the same name, so that puts it in a different category. I put Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You in the same category, by the way, since it also includes the song in the soundtrack. So those movies don't count.

And I'm also not counting movies like Walk the Line, since it seems only fitting that a biography about Johnny Cash should be named after one of his songs. And I'm obviously not talking about movies like A Hard Day's Night or Help! either -- I'm only talking about movies that are named after songs that have nothing to do with what the movies are about. There are dozens of them, if not more. I just thought of The Crying Game, Sea of Love, and Liar, Liar. I'll probably think of a few more later today, when I'm trying to think about something else.

This practice isn't limited to the movie business, by the way. It also happens it the music business. For example, there used to be a band called Dali's Car. I never heard any of their music, but I always wondered why they took their name from a Captain Beefheart song. And then there's Death Cab for Cutie, another band I've never heard, who took their name from an early Bonzo Dog Band song. Then there was that magazine Trouser Press, which took its name from another Bonzo Dog Band song. And I don't know if this qualifies or not, but there used to be a band called 10,000 Maniacs. Did they take their name from the Herschell Gordon Lewis film Two Thousand Maniacs? I can't say for sure, but it seems pretty likely. I'm a lot more sure about the band My Bloody Valentine, who undoubtedly took their name from the '80s horror movie.

So what does all this name-stealing amount to? Is it some sort of homage, or is it just plagiarism? In most cases, it's probaby the latter, which leads me to wonder if any copyright laws are being broken.

Anyway, back to Crash. I honestly don't know why this movie won any awards, since the name wasn't the only unoriginal thing about it. There have been a lot of movies in which the lives of different people intersect in unforseen ways, and there have been a lot of movies about racism as well, so I don't know what the big deal is. I'm not saying it was a bad movie -- I'm just saying it wasn't a particularly good movie.

It did have its moments, though. By my count, there were two and a half. The first moment was when an idiotic black man realized he was being an idiot, and the second was when an asshole Iranian realized he was being an asshole. (What can I say? I'm a sucker for moments of self-discovery.) The third moment was when Sandra Bullock realized she was both an idiot and an asshole, but that one only qualifies as half a moment because from a cinematic standpoint, it just wasn't done very well.

Perhaps that's the lesson Crash wants to teach us -- that we're all idiots and assholes, regardless of race or nationality. And we're not very good drivers. Fine. Let's say it's true. That still doesn't mean the movie deserves an Academy Award. I liked the David Cronenberg movie a lot more, even though it never got any awards. They don't even make awards for movies like that.