Nothing ticks me off more than when someone asks me if I ever go to see a movie "just for fun" or starts telling me what he or she thought of a particular movie only to interject, "but of course, I'm not a professional critic." Well, I've got news for everybody: Neither am I. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, none of us in this happy little clique went to Film Critic Academy. As James Agee so memorably wrote in his debut column for the Nation, "It is my business to conduct one end of a conversation, as an amateur critic among amateur critics." But it was also Agee, I believe, who said something about how readers couldn't reasonably expect someone who sees as many movies as a critic (even an amateur one) does to just sit back and let the umpteenth derivative of some hackneyed Hollywood formula to roll over him without objection.
My god! I have this debate all the time with people at work, with my brother, with random people with whom I dare to discuss my views on movies. And what Foundas is saying only very recently occurred to me. In addition to my tastes being different than my coworkers', I simply see more movies than they do--way more movies--and so my frame of reference is vastly different than theirs. I mention twenty of my favorite movies and they've only even heard of three of them--that kind of thing always stuns me.
Foundas also says a few things about Crash that I love:
Admittedly, Paul Haggis' directorial debut wasn't one of those so-bad-it's-mesmerizing debacles, like Town & Country or The Bonfire of the Vanities, that Tony so lovingly remembered a few weeks back in the Times—if it had been, it wouldn't have made my blood boil nearly as much. No, Crash is an Important Film About the Times in Which We Live, which is another way of saying that it's one of those self-congratulatory liberal jerk-off movies that rolls around every once in a while to remind us of how white people suffer too, how nobody is without his prejudices, and how, when the going gets tough, even the white supremacist cop who gets his kicks from sexually harassing innocent black motorists is capable of rising to the occasion. How touching. Haggis is trafficking in much the same territory here as Michael Haneke is in Caché, only he lacks the guts to pull out his paring knife and fillet his bourgeois characters with the mercilessness they deserve. (Instead, when Sandra Bullock's pampered Brentwood housewife accuses a Mexican-American locksmith of copying her keys for illicit purposes, Haggis doesn't condemn her reprehensible behavior so much as he sympathizes with it.) People who say that Crash is an insightful portrait of life in Los Angeles clearly don't live in the same town I do.
See what I mean? I need to start reading this guy a little more closely.