Normally, the news that a film about racism won the Oscar for best picture is pretty much a dog-bites-man type of story. Old hat. Done before. What usually happens.
Not this year, though. The upset victory of "Crash" in the Academy Awards race has proven to be just that, but more for supporters of "Brokeback Mountain" than for anything else. Apparently, hell also hath no fury like a slightly-above-average gay movie scorned.
The backlash against "Crash" has been such that even avowedly liberal film critic Roger Ebert has stepped up to defend the film he had been pulling for to win the Oscar. After listing some of the more ridiculous criticisms from "Brokeback" supporters (see here, here, and here for more), Ebert notes how Academy of Motion Picture critics blithely ignore "Capote," which chronicled gay journalist Truman Capote's attempts to write the story of a murder of a rural family:
"Capote" was a brilliant character study of a writer who was gay, and who used his sexuality, as we all use our sexuality, as a part of his personal armory in daily battle.
It is noticeable how many writers on "Hollywood's homophobia" were able to sidestep "Capote," which was a hard subject to miss, being right there on the same list of best picture nominees. Were supporters of "Brokeback" homophobic in championing the cowboys over what Oscarcast host Jon Stewart called the "effete New York intellectual"?
Of course not. "Brokeback Mountain" was simply a better movie than "Capote." And "Crash" was better than "Brokeback Mountain," although they were both among the best films of the year. That is a matter of opinion.
Personally, I thought "Capote" was more deserving of an Oscar since the characters were better and the story was far more realistic than "Crash." But Ebert's last point is right on the money:
The nature of the attacks on "Crash" by the supporters of "Brokeback Mountain" seem to proceed from the other position: "Brokeback" is better not only because of its artistry but because of its subject matter, and those who disagree hate homosexuals. Its supporters 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 "Crash" had to offer.
(Hat tip: Ace of Spades)