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"Crash": Unusual Recipe for Best Picture

It didn't have the best director.
It didn't have the best actor.
It didn't have the best actress.
It didn't have the best supporting actor or actress.
It didn't have the best musical score, or the best cinematography, or the best art direction or sound mixing or sound editing or costumes or make-up or visual effects.

So what made "Crash" the "Best Picture"? Yes, it won original screenplay and film editing, which are significant awards, but usually a Best Picture has a larger gaggle of Oscars by the end of the night. A couple of years ago "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" was nominated in 11 categories and won all 11 of them. "Titanic" went 11 for 14, "West Side Story" 10 of 11. "Crash" had a modest six nominations. One of the greatest movies ever, "The Godfather," also won Best Picture and just two other Oscars, but among those was Brando's Best Actor award, and "The Godfather" had a healthy total of 10 nominations. (Three movies from the 1920s/30s won Best Picture and nothing else; the most recent was "Mutiny on the Bounty" in 1935.)

"Crash" may be an example of an "emergent" phenomenon, in which countless little elements that individually lack sparkle can somehow come together to produce brilliance. But you have to wonder if the Stephen Hunter theory is correct. Which is this: "Crash" didn't have a plot featuring two men in love.

Hunter said the older, stodgier Academy members wouldn't vote for "Brokeback Mountain," and wouldn't even watch a movie in which two men have a sexual relationship. It's impossible to know if this theory is correct, because there aren't elaborate exit polls. But look for that to be the big second-day story: Is the broader Hollywood community secretly intolerant? [And how can we tie this to the "values" voters of November 2004?]

Perhaps years from now, film buffs will be amazed that, like "Citizen Kane," "Brokeback Mountain" didn't win Best Picture. It had great performances, cinematography, music, on down the line. It had the best director. It generated the most buzz and probably changed the way a lot of people think.

So, despite Jack Nicholson's surprise announcement on stage at the end of last night's telecast, this was still the year of Brokeback Mountain.

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 6, 2006; 7:34 AM ET
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For those of you who want to see the story of Crash without the odious presence of Ryan Phillippe, find a copy of Grand Canyon. This from IMDB-

Plot Summary for
Grand Canyon (1991)

Grand Canyon revolved around six residents from different backgrounds whose lives intertwine in modern-day Los Angeles. At the center of the film is the unlikely friendship of two men from different races and classes brought together when one (Kevin Kline) finds himself in jeopardy in the other's (Danny Glover) rough neighborhood. Features an all-star cast including Steve Martin (Kline' friend), Mary McDonnell (Kline's wife), Mary-Louise Parker (Kline's mistress/assistant) and Alfre Woodard (Parker's friend).

OT- for those of you don't live locally, the only thing in this country rising faster than GWB's deficit is the assessment on my house. Just got the tax news for this year. In the first ten years we owned our house the assessment rose a total of 32%. Since 2000, the increases have averaged 20% a year. This is a 1400 square foot 100 year old brick bungalow in a formerly funky now uber trendy Alexandria neighborhood called Del Ray. I can see the day that my house will be valued at ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Amazing. We would sell (before the garage falls over), but then where would we live?

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 6, 2006 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Brokeback is a good movie largely because it forces its audience to look at something that gives it the heebie-geebies. So it's not suprising that some Academy members chickened out. This wasn't merely a "difficult film to watch" like "Schindler's List," it's a difficult subject to even consider for many of us. I consider myself very open minded, and I still cringed during the love scenes in Brokeback.

Posted by: CowTown | March 6, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Crash was just as shocking in its own way as Brokeback was. I was given more heebie jeebies by Crash, actually, because I've already come to terms with my attitudes toward homosexuality. Crash deals with the issue of honesty: can we look at society the way it really is, can we stand to watch a movie whose characters talk and act the way people talk and act in private. When you laugh at the politically incorrect joke, are you as guilty as the character who told the joke? I think Crash got votes because it has a large, diverse cast, and all the actors' respective friends and associates voted for it.

Posted by: kbertocci | March 6, 2006 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I agree, K-guy, Grand Canyon more accurately depicts the culture of Los Angeles and how truly segregated the city really is (with some wonderful exceptions, like Culver City and parts of Long Beach). And, of course, it has Alfie Woodard, whom I've always had a crush on.

Posted by: CowTown | March 6, 2006 10:14 AM | Report abuse

I may be committing Boodle treason, but the blog comments at the NYT about last night's Oscars just seem to much better and far more serious than much of anything I've read on the Achenblog. Maybe New Yorkers and Californians (even former) take dramatic arts much more seriously than the Beltway folks?

When Jack Nicholson opened the envelope and announced “Crash,” the effect was just as stunning as when Harrison Ford a few years ago did the same, announcing “Shakespeare In Love” as Best Picture minutes after Steven Spielberg had won for “Saving Private Ryan.” In both cases, it is the “loser” film that will stand the test of time. “Shakespeare” and “Crash” are mediocre films, at best. “Brokeback Mountain” is a monumental achievement. Indeed, its dearth of awards from the Academy brings shame on that institution — not the movie. Countless awards were bestowed on this groundbreaking film.


Despicable, but not entirely unexpected. I’ve been reading for weeks about the Crash campaign, Tony Curtis rants, Brokeback backlash, etc. and wanted to think it was all just paranoia. That a tiresome, predictable been-there-done-that film like Crash couldn’t possibly pull it off against an obviously superior, groundbreaking film like BBM that has won virtually every other best picture accolade this year. But in the back of my mind, I knew it was going to happen…and now it has. Shame on the Academy. I feel exactly how I felt the year that Rick Springfield won a Grammy for Best Male Artist over Bruce Springsteen. The Academy’s opinions are no longer relevant; they’re a joke…and a sad one at that.


WTF? It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp best song? What hypocritical tripe. If you’re going to vote a song composed entirely of misogynistic, racist, ludicrous lyrics as “best song of the year”, at least have the balls to air it uncensored. What hypocrites.


Only in Los Angeles. The true story of last night was that this city, despite what the religious right says, is still very homophobic (and I’m not just talking about the straight people).I don’t know anyone in New York who thinks Crash should have won the Oscar. The fact that the Academy awarded it to the Crash over Good Night, Good Luck or any of the other nominees speaks volumes. Is Brokeback Mountain a perfect film? Certainly not. As a gay man, let me say that it did not change my life. But I do understand it’s place in cinematic history and I know that it’s a much better film than Crash. So what happened? Well, basically, the folks in Hollywood decided they didn’t want a gay Oscar love-fest and went with the safe, feel good choice- one that they could still pat themselves on the back for. We shouldn’t be surprised, after all, this is a town where playing a gay man on screen makes you “couragous” and “brave”. As the show started last night a friend remarked that we’ve (gay and lesbians) come a long way. As the show ended we all realized how much further we have to go.

JR Harris

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I flicked back and forth, but the tv winner last night was the Marple movie CBC was showing.

I did try to catch the dresses pre-event but that was the lamest pre-show ever. I did not catch much of Jon Stewart but did catch Dolly Parton, and I wish I had not.

I did catch the Crash announcement suprisingly. Did anyone see the look on Nicholson's face just after the announcement? He looked to the side and shrugged his shoulder.
I think that the real best movie for this year will show up in about 10 years time, when we see which one still has the power to move us.

The big dress loser? The 'goiter' on Charlize Theron's shoulder. That sucker of a bow lost all by itself.

Posted by: dr | March 6, 2006 10:24 AM | Report abuse

>Brokeback backlash

Given that gay marriage pretty much lost us the last election, maybe they're just trying to be patriotic and not give the right wing-nuts any more ammo.

Posted by: Error Flynn | March 6, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

It has always been impossible to separate a movie from its subject matter. "Brokeback Mountain" may have lost because of what it is about, but I suspect that if it had centered on a heterosexual romance it might not have been nominated at all.
And let's give "Crash" its due. It was structured in a very interesting, if somewhat contrived, manner, and I found the overall movie much more relevant to my life, personally, than "Brokeback Mountain."
My guess is that the voters split between "Brokeback Mountain" and "Capote." However, to quote one of my favorite childhood commercials, "The World May Never Know."

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 6, 2006 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Loomis, but did the NYT blog specifically ask for Catty Comments? I think we complied with Joel's request.

Posted by: TBG | March 6, 2006 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Somehow, i don't think that homosexuality played a huge role in the Oscars "snubb" of Brokeback. As was mentioned several times during the show, hasn't hollywood always been on the frontline, pushing controversial issues? Why would they pass this opportunity up? Well, maybe because they honestly thought that Crash was a better movie. Or, maybe they chose to award a film that dealt with different controversies, closer to home for more Americans. Racism is still pervasive and destructive in nearly every aspect of our culture (New Orleans). We still have a long, long way to go before there is racial equality in this country, if there ever will be. Hollywood's honoring a film that exposes this destructive tension should be commended. Instead of looking at it as a jilt for Brokeback, why shouldn't we congratulate this low-budget, underdog film?

Posted by: tangent | March 6, 2006 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I think it's just appalling that the media is taking the shine away from Crash's Oscar. Crash was an incredibly brilliant film which really tackled issues we like to fool ourselves have been dealt with. And to say that the Academy did not pick Brokeback because of its context is ridiculous - it had 8 nominations for goodness sake - what more validation do you need? And lest we forget, Tom Hanks won the best actor award for playing a gay guy in Phialdelphia years ago so the intolerance accusation is baseless. Crash won because the Academy felt it was the best movie of the year and although I don't typically agree with them, I do this year. The comments by the producer of Brokeback on Americans not liking the idea of gay cowboys is just a case of sour grapes.

Posted by: Crash fan | March 6, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Joel writes:
But look for that to be the big second-day story: Is the broader Hollywood community secretly intolerant? [And how can we tie this to the "values" voters of November 2004?]

Joel, you force my hand somewhat in this, but I saved this e-mail from Brock and Bodie Thoene, sent to me on April 17, 2003. I'm not sure why I save it (O.K., I know why I saved it...I thought it was so strange), but I did. I don't know who actually penned the words, whether it was Bodie or Brock, it but it came to me from them.

As you may recall, I mentioned about two days ago that Brock Thoene was one of my high school boyfriends. He and his wife have sold more than 10 million books targeted to a Christian audience, and they divide their time between London and Lake Tahoe. Bodie Turner Thoene got her start working for John Wayne.

Sent: Saturday, April 12, 2003 9:05 AM
Subject: redeeming the time

Dear Friends:

As we watch the dramatic scenes of the liberation of Iraq we are struck with enormous pride for the men and women of our armed forces, and have a tremendous sense of the hand of God moving in history, right in front of our eyes.

Many of you believe as we do that God has divinely appointed George W. Bush as our president for this exact moment. In addition we see the coming together of America behind our leader and our nation in a way that has not been true, perhaps for decades.

With a Republican controlled Congress, a God-fearing president and a supportive public, it seems that all things are coalescing for good, suggesting a renewed commitment to pro-life, pro-America and pro-Israel, among other issues of concern to Christians and Jews.

Which is precisely why we have the strongest sense of needing to issue a warning!

Many of you remember how quickly after the last Gulf War, economic concerns superceded patriotism, leading to the ouster of Bush, Sr...and ushering in 8 years of Bill Clinton!

It must not happen again! In the midst of all the positive developments around, now is the time to insure that a repeat of 1992 does not happen.

Believe it or not the 2004 presidential election is less than 20 months away. Less than a year from right now the battle lines will be drawn and the attempt to tear down the moral improvements enacted since 2000 will be well underway.

Now is NOT the time to sit on the gains of 2000 and 2002!

Now IS exactly the right time to examine your Congressional represeantatives and Senators and other elected officials as to how pro-life,pro-America, pro-Israel and pro-morality in leadership they are.

Find out how to support God-fearing candidates in your local area; determine how you can volunteer to be of service...and do it now.

The enemies of what is good, true and upright aren't waiting! Evil is right now scheming ways to come roaring back to power in 2004, but if we plan now, work now and prepare now, we will not only defeat those forces in the next election, we will push on to greater victories and a brighter future than ever before.

God bless you and thanks for your time in reading and considering this message.

Brock and Bodie Thoene

*It wasn't until May and the summer 2004 that I learned that I am the descendant of Rev. John Wilson, Rev. Thomas Hooker, and Rev. Grindal Rawson.

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

By the way, isn't this whole Oscar thing also a way to market movies? If you want to be cynical about it, you might suppose that "Crash" will now get a lot more box office $$$ than it would have, while the people who wanted to see Brokeback still would anyway.

Net effect, higher box office all around.

Posted by: Error Flynn | March 6, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Well, I guess here's where I earn my handle. There was just as much crap being written before the awards as there is after it. It is far too easy to try to over-analyze the results--it's all just reading tea leaves, IMHO. Primarily, unlike many years, there were FIVE excellent flicks nominated, not just two or three. So to some extent, it is perfectly legitimate for the voting to have been split much further apart than usual.

Second, unless and until the vote totals are announced (which they never will be), all this discussion is pretty close to meaningless. Did Crash win by a significant margin? or just two lousy votes ahead of Brokeback? We'll never know, and the differences in votes might (or might not) be significant. How many votes got drained off by Capote? How many by Good Night/Luck (GNAGL)?

So, pardon the phrase, but there's a great deal of "mental masturbation" going on here. William Goldman had it right when he said about Hollywood, "Nobody knows anything."

Now, will someone tell me just what the hell "out of touch with the mainstream" means? In ANY *^%#@*^%$ context but most especially in a Holly*&#@&%$wood context? Where is it written that anyone is REQUIRED to be in touch with any *&$#@& mainstream? Is being in touch with the mainstream supposed to be a good thing? Isn't that generally considered to be "conformity," and isn't conformity supposed to be bad?

Further, who in his/her right mind would even remotely EXPECT a place like Hollywood to replicate the values of mainstream America? God, I hope not! Not only was Clooney right, he didn't even say it forefully enough for my taste. Just think about "mainstream" America for a minute, and tell me you all think Hollywood should mirror mainstream America's "values." Gimme a *&$#@&% break. Which particular mainstream values would you "like" Hollywood to reflect? George Bush's America? Dick Cheney's America? Our still lingering pieces of racism and homophobia? Our complete and utter disregard of the environment? The apparently increasing rising tide of Creationism and fundamentalist claptrap? How about our foreign policy and America's relationship with the Third World and the Arab world? You want a movie praising our use of torture at Abu Graib?

And just what in bloody hell do you think those five movies were about, anyway? A principled broadcaster who had the guts and the balls to stand up to McCarthyism? Wasn't that one of the highwater marks of American character? A movie about a celebrity-obsessed writer who wrote a groundbreaking book about a couple of deranged serial killers in, of all places, America's heaqrtland, Kansas? A movie about a country-and-western singer who married a coalminer's daughter? A movie about a racist cop? (How out-of-the-mainstream is that, fer crying out loud. Imagine, a racist cop? Who woulda thunk we had any such thing in America? Gimme another *&$# break.) A movie about a couple of poorly educated middle-American-if-I-ever-saw-it itinerant farmhands who are so repressed they don't even know anything about their own sexual identities or what to do about it? If you think the only thing that makes the subject of gays/lesbians "out of the mainstream" is the statistical fact that maybe only 6 or 8 percent of the population is gay, then you are just a bean-counter. And you know what great movies beancounters and their ilk come up with.

OK, now I'm ticked off. Where's my damn coffee cup?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, thanks for posting that.

"Many of you remember how quickly after the last Gulf War, economic concerns superceded patriotism, leading to the ouster of Bush, Sr...and ushering in 8 years of Bill Clinton!"

Yes, down with peace and prosperity! Say it loud, say it proud!

Posted by: Error Flynn | March 6, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Linda - so what exactly is the point you wree trying to get across posting that letter? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 6, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

To Crash fan's postings:

Just look at the shameless pandering, exhortation during the Academy Awards--at least twice, if I recall--to actually get Oscar viewers to go outside the four walls of their homes and to go see movies at the theater (in major movie megaplexes) on the big screen, to pay the exorbitant admission/ticket prices and to buy the popcorn and hear the surround sound...yada, yada, yada.

It's a case of follow the money. The Acedemy doesn't want to alienate viewers by seeming to promote or reward "Brokeback." When Hanks won for best actor for "Philly"--it's message was sickness v. health and AIDS, not particularly tolerance. I think "Brokeback" speaks more to love and tolerance and understanding and acceptance of homosexuals. And Reich's comment on Steaphanapoulos' program yesterday morning was "Brokeback is jsut a movie about an illicit love affair." Hogwash! It was about as ridiculous as Sammon's comment that the movie "Brokeback is just a leftie film." Hogwash!

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"Maybe New Yorkers and Californians (even former) take dramatic arts much more seriously than the Beltway folks?"

Well Linda, I suppose that this is true, if you assume that "taking the dramatic arts seriously" consists of caring about the Oscars. I would not define it as that. In fact, I would define Oscar stressing as taking the dramatic arts shallowly. These awards will have an economic effect on the winners. Outside of that they are irrelevant. Cinema history is filled with fine films, superior films, not even nominated, much less awarded. Does that make them less worth seeing? Only if your judgements are based on the judgements of (self interested) others.

I said Friday that I didn't give a rat's patoot about the Academy Awards and gave an example of an inferior Best Picture winner. That the exact same thing happened again did not surprise me at all. Now, if any of you would like stock tips or my picks for the Final Four and next year's Super Bowl, send check or money order to: Kurosawapsychic, Uber Trendy Del Ray, Virginia.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 6, 2006 10:58 AM | Report abuse

There were some heavy "leftie" messages in Crash as well - i.e. not everyone believes that racism is still pervasive in America, just ask those against Affirmative action. Crash was not a safe choice - so I still don't buy your argument Loomis

Posted by: Crash fan | March 6, 2006 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Oh yeah. There were five good movies nominated. One of them won, and four of them didn't. What in the world is there to complain about? As long as the Yankees don't go to the World Series, and Dallas doesn't go to the Super Bowl, all's right with the world, as far as I'm concerned. Let's get a grip here.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Conspiracy theories are fun.

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 6, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"Evil is right now scheming ways to come roaring back to power in 2004..." Evil in the form of the Democratic Party? Heh, heh, heh (sneering while rubbing palms together...)

Posted by: CowTown | March 6, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Mudge writes:
Second, unless and until the vote totals are announced (which they never will be), all this discussion is pretty close to meaningless. Did Crash win by a significant margin? or just two lousy votes ahead of Brokeback? We'll never know, and the differences in votes might (or might not) be significant. How many votes got drained off by Capote? How many by Good Night/Luck (GNAGL)?

So, pardon the phrase, but there's a great deal of "mental masturbation" going on here. William Goldman had it right when he said about Hollywood, "Nobody knows anything."

O.K., Mudge, to play devil's advocate--and I agree with the remainder of your previous post (you get the Oscar for some of the best, most reasoned, most direct writing on the Boodle)...

Wouldn't it be interesting--and as you say, Mudge, we'll never get the results of the Oscar vote tallies from PricewaterhouseCoopers--to delve into not only the demographics, say age/income/sex/etc. of those Academy members who voted for the Best Picture Oscar--but also the psychographics?


Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Crash fan writes:
There were some heavy "leftie" messages in Crash as well - i.e. not everyone believes that racism is still pervasive in America, just ask those against Affirmative action. Crash was not a safe choice - so I still don't buy your argument Loomis.

What year did Hattie McDaniel win the Oscar? 1940. As Stewart pointed out though, some issues never go away. Perhaps you can answer, when was the first Oscar given to a movie with a homosexual theme? Not to a homosexual actor but to a movie with a homosexual theme? I do beleive that homosexuality has been around just about as long as racism.

(Maybe you can research this question I just asked or some film critic like Shales or Desson?)

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Shales is TV citic. Sorry.

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, thanks for posting that email from Brock and Bodie Thoene.

This same thing is happening in Virginia now. There's going to be an initative on the state ballot this November to ban gay marriage. Where would this law reside? In our Bill of Rights! The same Bill of Rights, written by George Mason, that inspired our U.S. Bill of Rights. Yes... a Bill of Rights that includes amendments that actually DENY rights to some.

This is not just a movement to ban gay marriage, but a political move to motivate the conservatives in the state to railroad any momentum the Democrats may have after electing a Democratic governor and Democrats in recent special elections around the state.

When I try to get the local Democratic organizations to rally against it, I'm basically told that this is a gay/lesbian issue.

IT IS NOT. It's not only a civil rights issue, but it is a POLITICAL issue. It is a mainstream issue that all Virginians should be worried about.

Maybe I believe that God has divinely appointed me as a resident of Virginia for this exact moment. Do you think that will help?

Posted by: TBG | March 6, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Crash fan writes:
Crash was not a safe choice - so I still don't buy your argument, Loomis.

Mudge writes (breaking this up into more manageable bits):

And just what in bloody hell do you think those five movies were about, anyway?

A principled broadcaster who had the guts and the balls to stand up to McCarthyism? Wasn't that one of the highwater marks of American character?

A movie about a [flamboyantly gay]celebrity-obsessed writer who wrote a groundbreaking book about a couple of deranged serial killers in, of all places, America's heartland, Kansas?

WALK THE LINE [not one of the top five best-pic contenders, BTW]:
A movie about a country-and-western singer who married a coalminer's daughter?

A movie about a racist cop? (How out-of-the-mainstream is that, fer crying out loud. Imagine, a racist cop? Who woulda thunk we had any such thing in America? Gimme another *&$# break.)

A movie about a couple of poorly educated middle-American-if-I-ever-saw-it itinerant farmhands who are so repressed they don't even know anything about their own sexual identities or what to do about it? If you think the only thing that makes the subject of gays/lesbians "out of the mainstream" is the statistical fact that maybe only 6 or 8 percent of the population is gay, then you are just a bean-counter. And you know what great movies beancounters and their ilk come up with.

Mudge, you want to tackle Munich in the way only you know how?

Sorry, Crash fan, "Crash" was hands-down (speaking of mental m***********) the safest of the least-safe movies.

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

'Brokeback' had a dreadful script and no discernible plot. 'Crash' was simply a bunch of pea-brained morons walking around making speeches. 'Good Night' was a well-intentioned bludgeon. 'Capote' was pretty good, but not particularly memorable. And 'Walk the Line' wasn't nearly as good as 'Ray,' which wasn't very good in the first place.

I give 'Brokeback' and 'Crash' credit for starting discussions, but no one will be comparing either to 'Citizen Kane.' Ever.

Let's just admit that one reason box office numbers have been declining is that the movies studios choose to promote aren't as good as they used to be. And then again, the best movies often get ignored. When movies like 'Bull Durham' and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' can't even get nominated for best picture, I'm not sure this argument is worth anyone's time.

Of course, I thought 'E.T.' was better than 'Ghandi'...and having watched both recently, I still think I was right about that, too.

Posted by: Hinterlands | March 6, 2006 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, thanks for posting that email from Brock and Bodie Thoene.

TBG, if you liked the e-mail, I'm sure you'd like my reply even better. Hmmm, better not.

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Similar legislative activity has been occurring in the upper Midwest. It's a tools for energizing "the Base." Will it work? Sure, but in order for the social conservatives (who represent perhaps 30% of the population) to win, they must count on independents and moderates not voting, or on independents voting their way. If there's high voter turnout - the social conservatives lose. That's more likely to happen this time than last; most everyone has had it with the wingnuts. We all want to move on.

Posted by: CowTown | March 6, 2006 11:45 AM | Report abuse

O.K., let's go there today...what better else do I have to do? O.K. dishes, dusting, the leaves in the front yard, on the walkways and in the gutter, for starters.

Issues of Free Speech Arise After Teacher Criticizes Bush
By Nicholas Riccardi
Times Staff Writer

March 4, 2006

DENVER — It was the day after President Bush's State of the Union address, and social studies teacher Jay Bennish was warning his world geography class not to be taken in.

"Sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say," Bennish told students at the suburban high school Feb. 2. " 'We're the only ones who are right, everyone else is backward and our job is to conquer the world.' "

The teacher quickly made clear that he wasn't equating Bush with Hitler, but the damage was done. A sophomore in the class had recorded the lecture on an MP3 player, and turned it over this week to a local conservative talk radio show.

Bennish, who has taught at Overland High School for five years, was placed on paid leave Wednesday by the Cherry Creek School District, sparking an uproar over issues of free speech and teacher conduct.

About 150 Overland students walked out of class Thursday to protest Bennish's absence, and the teacher's lawyer — who met with district officials Friday — has threatened a federal lawsuit.

Attorney David Lane contended on the Mike Rosen radio show, which originally played the tape, that his client's comments were not outlandish and were intended to get students to think about current events.

"Maybe it's not mainstream, middle-American opinion," Lane said Friday. "But the rest of the world agrees with him."

Lane added that if Bennish had spoken strongly in support of Bush, he would not be under investigation.

The rest of the article is here:,1,7184086,print.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&ctrack=1&cset=true

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Yes, CowTown, but I can't seem to energize the Dems around here to bring out the voters. It's still early, but I'm still afraid.

[And can you believe any group of people could refer to the Democrats as "Evil" while supporting a man like Dick Cheney?]

Posted by: TBG | March 6, 2006 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I agree completely, Loomis. That's why I think a lot of the chatter is pointless. First off, whenever someone says (or writes, "The Academy thinks thus and so," or "the Academy rejected this or that," it's all crap. "The Academy" simply doesn't exist as an entity. The voting is simply a collection of a couple thousand opinions--that's NOT the same as "the Academy" is (or isn't) [pick one or more]: racist, homophobic, not homophobic, liberal, conservative, vegetarian, left-handed, anti-foreign film, anti-comedy, or whatever. The "Academy" doesn't have policy positions. It doesn't send representaives to meetings, who then thrash out various policy views, and then concensus is arrived out and a policy position is annnounced. That's claptrap.

As a matter of journalistic style and as a pure question of newswriting, I don't even think a sentence such as "The Academy decided to award..." to blah-blah is even accurate. The Academy decided no such thing. All it did was vote, and the winner was announced. What the Academy as an institution did is unknown and unknowable, because in fact "the Academy" as a single thinking entity doesn't even exist.

Statistically, it's quite possible Crash only got, say 25 or 30 percent of the vote. (As a question os pure statistics, it could have gotten only 20.00001 percent, though any number in the low 20s is unlikely because the closer the number approaches 20%, the more evenly divided at 19.9999 percent all the other four totals have to be.) So let's posit that Crash got, say, even 35% of the vote. Is that enough to generate a conclusion about what "the Academy" was thinking? No freaking way. It's bad journalism, it's bad math, and it's bad theorizing.

I don't know who it was who suggested "the Academy" was homophobic, or otherwise "chieckened out" on awarded Brokeback, but the whole notion is patently ridiculous. First, with the possible exception of Fire Island and the Castro district of Frisco, there is probably no single location or collection of random people LESS homophobic than Hollywood. I have absolutely no guess (and could care less) how many gays are in Hollywood, or what the proportion might be to the general population, but the number is irrelvant. Suffice it to say, there are probably more gays in the industry than in the general population at large. Anyone have a statistical problem with that?

Further, given the number of gays in Hollywood (closeted or not) in the industry, the town couldn't help but be gay-friendly and tolerant. That being so, where is the evidence that "the Academy" is homophobic? It's nuts to suggest it, becuase it's nuts for it to be true.

Finally, to suggest that the gays in Hollywood voted a ceretain way, or necessarily HAD TO VOTE for Brokeback, and onbly Brokeback, is ridiculous. Assuming all those gays were dumb enough to vote ONLY for a "gay movie" and only a gay movie, why assume they voted for Brokeback? Why couldn't some of them have voted for Capote, thus "diluting" the gay vote?

But in fact, why not credit the gays in Hollywood with the same general discernment as anyone else. Maybe some (and maybe the overwhelming majority of them) voted their conscience, and just voted for what they thought was the best picture? Maybe some voted for their friends. Maybe some voted for the company they worked for.

It is absurd to assume that the gays voted a certain way, any more than it is likely the straights voted a certain way. Sure, some probably did. But how many? A lot? a few? Why not just assume most straights and most gays voted for whatever movie they liked best?

And what if you're a black AND gay Academy voter? What do you do then? Vote for the movie about racism, or the movie about gays? If you're a lesbian, do you vote for a movie about guy gays, or do you only vote for movies about lesbians? C'mon, this is all ridiculous.

Don't remember who said it, but I thought Shakespeare in Love was a great movie and deserved its Oscar. Thought the script was fantastic, the best in a decade or more, thought Joe Fiennes outstanding, and Paltrow very good. Thought all the production values, etc., supporting cast (even, god forbid, Affleck) were excellent. Even loved the score, and bought the soundtrack. YMMV.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Completely forgot about Munich.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, calm down. Have a nice cuppa. (aside to Achenfan, is this really as good as they say?

I really liked your point about "The Academy" not being a monolithic entity. (Just when will Monolithic Entity become a catch phrase?) Unfortunately people like to think that way about everything. It makes the world easier to comprehend. It is also toxic.

Which is why I didn't shed any tears when Crash won.

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 6, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

And where was I on Saturday afternoon at the San Antonio Country Club? At the Texas chapter meeting of the Barons and Dames of the Magna Charta Society--they meet four times a year and this was the first event I ever attended. I haven't yet paid national dues because I consider the one-time fee to join of $300 pricey for what for us would be fancy wallpaper, though I am much tempted to ask for this as my birthday gift this year. The guest speaker was BRAC commissioner Gen. John Jernigan (Google him if you care) who spoke on 70 years of military medicine. My two simple questions to Jernigan following the presentation caused quite a ruckus, I can tell you, and caused the Baron/Dames president to break protocol by thanking him warmly for his presentation. After the presentation, Jernigan eyes would not meet my gaze.

This from Maury Maverick Jr.'s 1980 essay on the Magna Charta:

Thus the Magna Charta gradually grew in the minds of the people as the Great Charter of Liberty. It has proved through our history a sort of spiritual shield of liberty, the original protector of habeas corpus, trial by jury, due protection by the court of the individual, and all those other rights that make for human decency, dignity, self-respect. and free government. Manga Charta--in 1215--was not a people's charter. It changed their miserable lot not one iota. But it did set forth for English-speaking people certain rights and liberties that all men desire and that many have since won. It is the first of a series of documents marking the people's long uphill battle for freedom."

Actually some words in the Great Charter are quite inspiring. For example, Section 39: "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised [disposed] or exiled, or in any way destroyed nor will we go upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land."

Of course, the barons and clergymen meant that they were the ones to whom those rights should be afforded. But liberty, as I said, is contagious, and little by little, century after century, the plain people found out about Magna Charta and said: "We want this liberty, too."

Magna Charta gave people ideas. It helped John Locke to formulate the concept that man is born with certain natural rights. The late Robert Hutchins used to talk about the people of one time and era talking to people of anotehr time and era.

In this sense, the barons of Runnymeade talked to Locke, who talked to Blackstone, who talked to Jefferson, who talks to you and me. As we fight our way past "the cross, the stake, and the hangman's noose," to use a phrase of Hugo Black's, the Magna Charta reamins an incredibly important milestone. Maybe the most important.

The dreadful thing about all this is that we contemporary folks run out on our documents of liberty. Just as King John [my antecedent and the Bushes] tried to repudiate the Magna Charta, and as the newly powerful of 1215 insisted it was only for themselves, we Americans ran out on the concept of the Bill of Rights when we tolerated the passage of the Alien and Sedition Laws [of the 1790s].

We ran out on the Fourteenth Amendment when it came to the blacks. Free speech is okay as long as you are not a Red or a Ku Kluxer. State judges have totally ignored the Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution, almost as if it had never been written.

During the Joe McCarthy days I was a member of the Texas House of Representatives and got a taste of all this. Atempts were made *to intimidate schoolteachers*, effort after effort was made to censor books, an Un-American Activities Committee was recommended to the legislature by the American Legion.

I shall stop here.

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Somebody asked about the first movie nominated with a gay theme. My guess would be "The Children's Hour" (1961), which IMDB says got 5 Oscar nominations (but not for Best Picture) and won only for Best Cimetography/Black and White (as opposed to color cinematography). It got some second tier awards (Golden Globe for Shirley MacLaine, Director's Guild to Wyler, Laurel award, whatever that is/was, also to MacLaine). But of course the first thing anybody would have to say about TCH is how it dodged and sanitized its "true" subject matter. (And one can debate about what exactly was its "true" subject anyway.)(But it would be interesting to use TCH in the context of Richard Cohen's dumb column the other day about "straights" playing "gay" roles: Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine playing closeted lesbians. How do you cast that, according to Cohen's theory: do you cast only "out" lesbians, or do you cast closeted lesbians, or do you just cast actresses without any particular regard to their orientation? And in particular, how do you NOT cast a Shirley Maclaine, who is/was about as hetero as a person can get, having slept with every guy in Hollywood except possibly Liberace.

It's possible to WAAAAAAY overthink this stuff, as Cohen has done.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Conspiracies involving large diverse groups who nevertheless manage to work in perfect unison are evil. They are also common. And occasionally fun. They help bring order to a terminally messy universe. They help focus rage by making the victims anonomous.

Getting of my soapbox now.

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 6, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh no, Linda. That story about the Colorado teacher bears no resemblance to Nazi Germany at all. After all, in Hitler's Germany the youth were indoctrinated and trained to be part of the state apparatus for suppression of opposition, to inform on any adults who might make subversive statements. The media were coopted by the regime and followed the party line. Dissidents could expect to be subjected to surveillance, lose their jobs, and possibly risk imprisonment. But such things would never happen here, right?

Posted by: kurosawaguy oops I mean name withheld | March 6, 2006 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Okay, LindaLoo, I'll bite. What were the questions you asked that caused such a ruckus?

Posted by: slyness | March 6, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I was disappointed that Crash won - of all the best pic nominees, it was the one I liked least (haven't seen Munich yet). I just didn't get it - couldn't figure out what it was trying to say. We're all racist underneath? Gangsters have hearts of gold? Use the f-word when all else fails?

I think Brokeback Mountain will stand the test of time - the underlying writing is so good. And I was glad Ang Lee won...

Posted by: mostlylurking | March 6, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse

WALK THE LINE [not one of the top five best-pic contenders, BTW]:
A movie about a country-and-western singer who married a coalminer's daughter?

Actually a movie about a recovering drug addicted singer who married the daughter of country music stars who studied at the Actors Studio, dated James Dean, and made a career for herself and married twice before she ever sang with him.

Posted by: missingVA | March 6, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Since I can't stand watching commercials, I recorded the Oscars and will watch tonight. Of course the upside to this strategy is that I'll not be surprised at all when best picture is announced.

And I tried some of the Mucinex this AM. Cleared me right up, but the funny thing is I now have phantom phlegm.

Posted by: omni | March 6, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Cowtown re your 10:06 concerning extreme discomfort with the love scenes in Brokeback Mountain:

Let me put my arm around you buddy. Don't knock it unless you try it.

Have a very sweet day

Posted by: Gargantua | March 6, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I apologize. I did not know an allusion to what gays do would stop the blog dead in its tracks. I am so sorry.

Posted by: Gargantua | March 6, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Funniest moment at my Oscar party. The hostess has satellite TV, which she paused at about 7:30 PST so we could do some cleanup and get dessert ready. After half an hour, we settled back in - and she pushed the wrong button on the remote. So it was gone - best actor, best actress - we came back to the live action to see Ang Lee accepting and we frantically tried to figure out what we had missed. Yep...kind of the best part...Ha! We also tend to miss a lot of the speeches, funny bits, because everyone's commenting loudly. I may have to tape it next year as well...

Posted by: mostlylurking | March 6, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I apologize. I did not know an allusion to what gays do would stop the blog dead in its tracks. I am so sorry.

Posted by: Gargantua | March 6, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Well, missingVA, my point about Walk the Line is that country-and-western music is generally supposed to be VERY "mainstream" middle-America/red state/working class/flyover country, etc. As recovery drug addict, heaven knows nobody in "mainstream" America every had a drug problem, or got married twice. So the movie is thoroughly "mainstream," was my only point.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Garganutua wrote: "Don't knock it unless you try it." Um, I shall decline to do either. Fair enough?

Respectfully Submitted,

Posted by: CowI'mNotReallyAHomophobeTown | March 6, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Just love how when someone is up for an Oscar they will play one of previous movies the night before. So I watched "Home Sweet Alabama" yesterday afternoon, and since we're on a gay theme here I'll post one of my favorite quotes now:

Jake: Anybody think of anything in here that, uh, might bother Bobby Ray?
Wade: Uh, Clinton's breath.
Jake: You still the same Bobby Ray from last night?
Bobby Ray: Last time I checked, yeah.
Jake: [puts arm on shoulder] Well, then, let me buy you a drink.
Bobby Ray: Well, you're really not my type, I mean...

Posted by: omni | March 6, 2006 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Oooh. I SCC by leaving out their (as in their previous), and MovableType (is that the right word) does that word doubling thing. I was going to post that it still hadn't done it to me, and that I was feeling left out. TBG, do you see the word previous at the end of the first line and the beginning of the second in my previous post?

Posted by: omni | March 6, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Nice rant, Mudge. The "coalminer's daughter" was/is Loretta Lynn and it is also a fine, fine movie.

missingVA, calling Johnny Cash a "recovering drug addicted singer" is a highly selective reading of his history. He was the first person elected to both the Country Music and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame and deserves to be in both.

Posted by: pj | March 6, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, Lillian Hellman's play about lesbianism and the vicious, destructive lie of a child, The Children's Hour, was made into a flim in 1936, but was retitled "These Three" starring Miriam Hopkins and Merle Oberon and directed by William Wyler. Supposedly, it was retitled because the studio feared that audiences would recognize the subject matter from the original play title and refuse to see it. Bonita Granville (the child who spreads the vicious lie) was nominated for best supporting actress. Both are excellent films, but I must say Miriam Hopkins made the better "Martha" (Shirley McLaine's character).

All this talk about gays reminds me of a gay couple in my highschool (1950s). Back then it was called "queer". Everyone knew Patsy and Linda were in love, everyone liked them, everyone knew they were gay, nobody gave a darn. They were smart, funny, talented, decent, good girls and that's all we cared about.

Posted by: Nani | March 6, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Haven't seen any of the movies discussed here, and can't offer an opinion as to whether they're good or not. I would like to see BBM, but if there are love scenes, I don't believe I want to watch that. I would probably cringe also. I saw the movie with Kevin Kline and Danny Glover, Grand Canyon, and thought that was pretty good.

Movies that attempt to address the racism in our society, have their work cut out for them. Few of them get it right, because most people don't believe themselves to be racist, including me. Most of the people that post comments on this blog don't believe they're racist or even treat certain people in a different way, yet I believe there is a bit of racism in all of us. Admitting it would go a long way to getting rid of it. We're a clannish bunch, wanting to stick with people like ourselves. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule. We do want to think well of ourselves, so, many times we live in denial. Love. God is love. Jesus is love. God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

As always Mudge you write wonderfully.
And Loomis, the point of that letter?

Posted by: Cassandra S | March 6, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

PS: Linda was valedictorian of the senior class; Patsy played first chair flute in band.

Posted by: Nani | March 6, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Just read some more of the quotes from HSA, and they're all good.

Posted by: omni | March 6, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I keep tryin' to read the quotes from the Homeland Security Administration, but all I get from that link of yours omni is a bunch of lines from some lovestruck goober flick.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 6, 2006 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I always put my drink down and swallow before I read anything on this blog, and K-guy, you are often the reason why.

Posted by: omni | March 6, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Nani; I am aware of the earlier version of The Children's Hour, but was addressing the question of the first movie with a gay theme that got an Oscar nomination or award. The problem with the 1936 version is that they substituted a hetero love triangle for the lesbian theme, so it's arguable that "These Three" doesn't have a gay them (or at least not that anyone unfamiliar with the source play would notice). But yes, Bonita Granville got nominated (but didn't win) for best supporting actress.

Anybody know what general interest/general distribution movie had an overtly gay theme or gay character? I have no clue myself.

(I was somewhat shocked to read somewhere recently that the Joel Cairo character in the Maltese Falcon--one of my favorite movies and novels--was blatantly gay in the book, but was toned down a bit in the movie. I had read the book many years ago, and went back and re-read it, and yes, he was pretty blantantly gay in the book. And I guess he was in the movie, too, but I had never paid much attention to it pretty much because it was just Peter Lorre, who liked to play characters who were a little creepy and strange anyway, and he was sufficiently weird in Maltese Falcon that one didn't have to disect his character to decide which parts of him were what. He was a creepy bad guy, and that was all the deeper I ever had to go. He was almost as weird in Casablanca, but to this day I couldn't tell you if Ugarte was gay or straight. I think think of three or four other Peter Lorre roles the same way--it's just Peter Lorre playing strange characters, and he diud it well. If you were "trolling" for gays in those old movies, I'd have said The Fat Man as well as Wilmer in the Maltese Falcon were a little suspect. But until the last few years I doubt many people ever gave such ideas any thought at all; I know I never did. Now I have to worry about Cisco and Pancho, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter in "The Searchers" (didja notice that in "The Searchers," Jeffrey married the Indian woman but never consumated the marriage? Huh? Didja, huh, huh? What does THAT tell ya? My goodness! The best movie John Wayne ever made (and he was too dumb to know he was the villain in it)--and neither Wayne nor Jeffrey has the hots for Natalie Wood like I did from the very first moment of "Splendor in the Grass."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

"Midnight Cowboy" earned an "X" rating when in opened in the late 60's, due to the fact that one of the main charactors played a reluctant male prostitute. That HAD to have raised some hackles.

Posted by: CowTown | March 6, 2006 2:52 PM | Report abuse

TBG: Maybe I believe that God has divinely appointed me as a resident of Virginia for this exact moment. Do you think that will help?

MAMA: Mama's burnin incense round your holy image right now! GO TBG! Hot dog.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 6, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

When Spade knocks out Cairo and searches him, he pulls out a lavender scented hankie, sniffs it and gives his gal Friday Precious a significant look . The meaning is obvious. Try switching the dial on your gaydar set to a higher frequency.

In The Searchers, JW is Natalie's uncle, fer goshsakes! Hots havin' under those circs is definitely verboten. As for Jeffrey Hunter, well he's got Vera Miles waitin' back at the ranch and Natalie is his foster sister, so you can just fergit it.

Funniest gay themed flick I've seen is probably the original French version of La Cage aux Folles, followed by The Gay Deceivers, about men attempting to evade the draft by pretending to be gay.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 6, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

PJ-no minimizing of Cash's influence, talent or greatness intended. Just a little testy about the misidentification of the great June Carter Cash. (Then again, I don't want to minimize Loretta Lynn. Don't recall any hit songs from other genres that say it quite like "The Pill.")

Mudge-country music, or the pop tripe served up as country these days, is supposed to be middle American, and the movie may have been. But, we're talking Oscars. Short of the foreign language films what wouldn't qualify as middle American?

Speaking of mainstream America country music. Willie Nelson interviewed in Time aobut his latest release, now rocketing to the top of the i-tunes charts:

TIME: You've been getting a lot of attention for the gay cowboy song. How did it come about?

WN: Twenty years ago I did Saturday Night Live in New York, and the bass player Tony gave me a cassette tape from a guy named Ned Sublette, and it was a song called Cowboys are Frequently Secretly (Fond of Each Other). And I thought it was the funniest goddamn song I'd ever heard. I had it on the bus for 20 years, and people would come in and I'd play it. When Brokeback come out, it just seemed like a good time to kick it out of the closet.

Posted by: MissingVA | March 6, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

slyness writes at 12:42 p.m.:
Okay, LindaLoo, I'll bite. What were the questions you asked that caused such a ruckus?

slyness, two caveats first. You don't know the content of Jernigan's presentation, which was, on the surface, apolitical. You weren't there to hear the benefit of how I phrased my questions, which had historical and personal references. But to pare down my questions to their most utter simplicity:

How is Bob Woodruff doing at Bethesda?

Jernigan's talk was based on the use of conventional weapons in military warfare. I asked, second:

Has the military developed triage/ transportation plans in the event nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are used?

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse

When I was in high school, I didn't know that homosexuality existed. I was quickly educated when I got to college--1976 was the year that Anita Bryant was on the rampage and I had a t-shirt my freshman year that said "A day without human rights is like a day without sunshine." Went to meetings of the Gay-Straight Alliance, wore jeans on solidarity day, and so on. Looking back on my earlier school days it was very obvious that my junior high school gym teacher was gay, likewise my high school typing teacher. But I swear to you that when they were my teachers I had no idea. I also had no idea that my younger sister was gay--and I'm pretty sure she didn't either, until she was 16 or so. I missed a lot of the subtleties of movies--and books--when I was young, not just the gay subtext, but all the sexual implications. Watching those movies again as an adult is a brand new experience. I'm sorry that children today are exposed to so much and don't have the opportunity to grow up "innocent" as many people my age did. But I'm glad that homosexuality is not "the love that dare not speak its name" any more.

Posted by: kbertocci | March 6, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

That's my point, K-guy--back when I first saw Maltese Falcon, I never even owned gaydar (and to this day, it doesn't appear to work very well, if at all).

Just joking about The Searchers. I like Vera Miles, but oh, man, next to Natalie.... (I'm not sure I could watch Splendor in the Grass today, what with the notion of Warren Beatty agonizing over NOT sleeping with a woman--what a preposterous and ironic plot point that turned out to be. Master Thespian: "Acting!")

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

LindaLoo writes: "I may be committing Boodle treason, but the blog comments at the NYT about last night's Oscars just seem to much better and far more serious than much of anything I've read on the Achenblog."

I would hope so! Carpetbagger, by the estimable David Carr, covers the Entertainment Industry. I would expect the commentators to be astute. Our blog does a nice job of flitting around from topic to topic but we don't pretend to be experts in very much (anything?).

I hope that doesn't sound defensive. We have a few movie buffs here, such as kurosawaguy, but this is not a blog that buffs would necessarily flock to on Oscar night or the morning after. Moreover, the amount of "promotion" on our site is a major factor in participation. Last night's boodling wasn't advertised in advance, and didn't have any link on the home page of the Post, so it was very much a neighborhood get-together. Same with the kit and boodle today.

Jen Chaney had a great chat on the site last night:

And here's Booth and Stuever on the Oscar parties:

Note this great exchange:

Los Angeles, Ca.: Hey Hank, since "Brokeback" lost for Best Picture are you going to go back into the closet?

Hank Stuever: No, but you stay in there and make it real comfy and let us know how it's going.

Posted by: Achenbach | March 6, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Always had a soft spot for Peter Lorre.

During the Hayes Commission investigation of 'reds' in Hollywood during the late 40s, Lorre was interviewed by investigators and asked to name anyone suspicious he had met since coming to the United States. Lorre responded with a list of everyone he knew.

Of all the wonderful films he made- M, Casablanca, Maltese Falcon, etc., the one I'd recommend that most people haven't scene is The Verdict with Sydney Greenstreet. Lorre has this great line, "I always wanted to see a body exhumed!"

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 6, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Having, like most of America, not seen any of the nominated movies, any speculation I have has to be without the benefit of any first hand knowledge of the movies. Usually when the Best Picture and Best Director awards split, the carping is on behalf of the losing director. “What, did the best movie direct itself?”

In order for “Crash” to have beaten “BBM”, at least one person had to have thought that even though Ang Lee did a great directing job, the other movie was a better film.

Both movies won the writing award in their respective categories, so that is a wash. None of the nominated actors from the films grabbed the ring, so we can discount that.

It may be that “Crash” is simply a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. If it was very good, but not great, in every aspect, that might make it better than a movie that has some great aspects but also has major short comings.

Another theory is that since actors are the biggest contingent in the Academy, they voted for the movie with the largest ensemble cast. “BBM” has basically three parts and “Crash” employed all sorts of very talented people in a lot of parts.

“Midnight Cowboy” with un-ambiguous gay themes won Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight were both nominated for Best Actor. Since the late 60s were when the Hays Code finally disintegrated, anything earlier with significant homosexual content would have had to have been heavily “coded” to slip past censors.

As late as 1992’s “Fried Green Tomatos”, producers were still soft-pedaling the gay/lesbian content of the source material.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 6, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

MissingVA, fair enough. I can't disagree with you on that at all.

Nice quote from Willie Nelson, by the way. Thanks for it.

Posted by: pj | March 6, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

"Los Angeles, Ca.: Hey Hank, since "Brokeback" lost for Best Picture are you going to go back into the closet?

Hank Stuever: No, but you stay in there and make it real comfy and let us know how it's going."

Once again making the insinuation that anyone that ridicules an openly gay man is either a homophobic troglodyte or a self-hating repressed closet case. While LA guys comment was pretty uncalled for, the questioning of his orientation in response was a cheap shot.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 6, 2006 3:22 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt writes: 'In order for “Crash” to have beaten “BBM”, at least one person had to have thought that even though Ang Lee did a great directing job, the other movie was a better film.'

Technically, this isn't correct, is it? Not that I disagree with the overall point of the post. I'm just thinking in terms of grids and charts and little dots on graphs and stuff.

Posted by: Achenbach | March 6, 2006 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I think Hank was just making a joke, yellojkt, and I thought it was funny.

Posted by: Achenbach | March 6, 2006 3:23 PM | Report abuse

removing all personal and formerly considered to be private bedroom habits from the microscope of our concern now, and getting on with a sort of a life (make that our disgusting, thoroughly low and no matter how hard we try, pathetically and red-facedly judgemental obsession)


Posted by: Anonymous | March 6, 2006 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Lonemule you forgot to sign your post!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 6, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I love all her films, but my favorite Natalie Wood film is Love With the Proper Stranger. Makes me laugh; makes me cry. (That abortion scene sure sends a powerful message.) All the characters are so perfectly cast, Natalie's overly-protective Italian brothers who follow her everywhere in their fruit truck, clumsy smitten Tom Bosley who injects "ya know" between every few words in a sentence, his weird sisters. Natalie had great comic timing. And Steve McQueen was just so Steve McQueenish! Highly recommend this film.

Posted by: Nani | March 6, 2006 3:29 PM | Report abuse


I am extremely delighted to take full and responsible ownership of the 3:24 this post.

Posted by: Nachomama | March 6, 2006 3:33 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, I recall an old movie called The Group about friends from college and Candice Bergen plays a lesbian. Just checked, it was based on a Mary McCarthy novel, movie came out in 1966, not sure about any awards.

Posted by: newkid | March 6, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Joel's right about the voting. Remember, there were five films nominated.

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 6, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Nani, my favorite Natalie Wood film is This Property is Condemned, co-starring a promising young actor named Robert Redford. It's a good example of a movie I enjoyed watching as a child even though I basically had no idea what was going on. I liked it when I was too young to understand it, and I like it even more now.

Posted by: kbertocci | March 6, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I did confuse June Carter with Loretta what's-her-name, didn't I? I don't follow C&W, wouldn't know either of them if I fell over them. But the point was, how can anybody claim "Walk the Line" doesn't represent mainstream Murica.

Bertooch, when I graduated from high school (1964) I barely knew homosexuality existed either. There was a local guy who hung around the sports teams who was said to be a "homo," but I doubt I could have given a coherent explanation of what exactly that meant. All one needed to know back then was the subject was funny/dirty/bad, and all you had to do was smirk and people assumed you were in the know about what it meant.

As it happens, I had a long conversation with an old friend from high school just a few weeks ago, and during the obligatory "whatever happened to so-and-so" discussion, he mentioned a few classmates from way-back-when who are gay. With a graduating class of 250, one would statistically expect that about 10 to 20 of them were/are gay (one of them, now deceased, was the darling of the theater department and died of AIDS. I guess we all knew he was gay back then--it is obvious in hindsight--but I just never gave it a moment's thought. He was always just, you know, a little "that way....") I'm always amazed at how little we knew back then, about damn near any/everything. Didn't know squat about sex/love/women/the opposite sex, either, so it's hardly surprising we knew less than nothing about gays.

(In my high school, grades 10 to 12, we had exactly three black kids [none in my year], and only one Jewish kid. Zero Asians and Hispanics; this was the lilly-white Philadelphia suburbs circa 1964. When I say we didn't know anything, I really mean NOTHING. About ANYbody who wasn't like us. Or even about "us.")

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I always thought Winged Migration never got a fair chance for best picture, but I guess that was a few years ago. By the way, the Al-Jazeera correspondent thought the main point this year was the eclipse of the big-budget pictures in favor of films of high seriousness "expressing the liberals' dreams, and their nightmares." The headline says "Racial prejudice wins out over sexual ['shuthuth' root-meaning non-canonical or odd]". Under the sub-head "Paradise Lost" he notes that the Palestinian picure Paradise Now was passed over in deference to Israeli views, or words to that effect.

Posted by: john | March 6, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Technically you are right Joel. In many years, there is a dark horse director whose movie is not up for Best Picture. Since all 5 movies were up in both categories, someone had to ticket split in order to get the result they did. Could have been Speilberg fans that loved "Crash" more than "Munich". Still Occams Razor says it was Ang Lee supporters that couldn't punch the "BBM" ticket.

In context Hank's comment was very quick witted, but we both know he has thin skin on the topic of closet cases.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 6, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

re: award winning films with openly gay themes--how about Cabaret (1972)

Posted by: kbertocci | March 6, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Victor/Victoria 1982

Posted by: CowTown | March 6, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Also Philadelphia, for which Tom Hanks won Best Actor in 1993.

Posted by: THS | March 6, 2006 4:20 PM | Report abuse

On the gay-themed movies - I believe Stephen Hunter's point was that none of those movies showed men kissing, er, um, you know...which is why he predicted, correctly, that Brokeback Mountain wouldn't win. One of the people I was with last night said she would never watch the movie...which reminds me of what kbertocci blogged, that the people who *should* see it, won't...

William Hurt got Best Actor for Kiss of the Spider Woman...which I've never seen...

Posted by: mostlylurking | March 6, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Howie Kurtz did a nice column on Bob Schieffer today (in Media Notes and the Style section). I heart Bob Schieffer. Maybe Howie knows where Aaron Brown is...

Posted by: mostlylurking | March 6, 2006 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, come to think of it, every Sidney Poitier film I've seen addresses racism. To Sir With Love, The Defiant Ones, Heat of the Night, Raisin in the Sun, Patch of Blue.

If grownups would quit teaching children to hate and fear differences in others, racism could be wiped out in just a few generations!

Posted by: Nani | March 6, 2006 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Good points, all. I remember how shocked I was during Cabaret when at the end, Sally/Liza says she slept with Max, and then Michael York says, "I did, too." A decade later, Hollywood was sufficently comfortable that it could do a comedy about the subject. And a decade after that, make a gay guy the out-and-out (no pun intended) hero. And we're more than a decade down the road from that.

I frankly can't understand what all the fuss was about. And as to Crash being about racism, it's hardly the first time Hollywood has tackled that head on. I thought "In the Heat of the Night" pretty much took care of that, and that was back in what? 1967? And 7 Oscar nominations and 5 wins including best picture (but NOT best director).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 4:34 PM | Report abuse

"Boys In The Band" in 1970 was the first truly mainstream "gay" movie in that homosexuality was the predominant theme rather than a side issue. But it did not win any significant awards.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 6, 2006 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Rod Steiger's Oscar in 1968, good as his role was as the police chief of Sparta, Mississippi, was an Academy do-over for not giving him the award for The Pawnbroker in 1966. He lost to Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou (amazing).

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 6, 2006 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Is George Clooney the new Cary Grant? He does drama, comedy, looks good in a tux. Appears to not need an extra vehicle to carry his ego.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 6, 2006 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Partial agreement on Steiger, K-guy. I think he should have won for both Pawbroker AND Heat. (And I think I'd have given him the best supporting Oscar for On the Waterfront, for which he was nominated along with Cobb and Malden).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

"Was There a 'Brokeback' Backlash?"

Author and ''Brokeback'' co-screenwriter Larry McMurtry:

''Members of the Academy are mostly urban people,'' McMurtry, who won the adapted screenplay prize with Diana Ossana, said backstage at Sunday night's ceremony. ''We are an urban nation. We are not a rural nation. It's not easy even to get a rural story made.''"

Riiight. Please get me some of whatever this guy's smokin'.

Posted by: Error Flynn | March 6, 2006 5:24 PM | Report abuse

At the end of the day little can be concluded for certain, as 'mudge so vigorously stated. However, yellojkt is quite right that some voters had to "split their tickets" (although not necessarily Brokeback Mountain voters.) This whole thing reminded me that multi-party voting is terribly complex. This is why George W Bush should send Ralph Nader a nice turkey every Thanksgiving. The cynical lesson for the country might be this: If the Democrats really want to reclaim the White House in 2008, they need to identify some far-right splinter groups. And fund them.

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 6, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

I've been hoping all day someone would bring Nader into this! Thank you, R.D.

I think I am going to try to read The March this week, by Doctorow, since it keeps winning prizes, and then see if he'll grant a quick interview to the blog. I had him as a creative writing teacher for a semester in the fall of 1980. I sucked. Didn't have the fiction gene. In any case I'll try to post a review at some point. [Who cares about movies when there are so many great books?]

Posted by: Achenbach | March 6, 2006 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Sucked? Didn't have the fiction gene?
I think you're being too modest. What about all those Pack of Lies Kits?

[And for the person who asked about how to avoid the word-repetition glitch (Shiloh, I think it was?), the trick is to make the first line of your post a short one, then make a hard return -- the repetition seems to happen only at the end of the first line/beginning of the second.]

[But now I've noticed a new glitch: I'll be typing along in the middle of a paragraph, and suddenly the words I'm typing will start appearing at the very beginning of my post.]

[This Hal guy is GOOD.]

Posted by: Tom fan | March 6, 2006 6:18 PM | Report abuse

The whole thing about Brokeback is that, as many others have pointed out, it's not groundbreaking. We went through all this in the 90's re: bravely depicting the gay lifestyle, squicking out audiences but then winning them over with gritty or heartwarming or humorous stories. Same with race, even longer ago. The only reason these subjects are controversial again is that the country's tolerance has taken a giant step backward in the past six years. The fact that people are watching these movies now and going "Oh my god, you mean men can fall in love with each other? You mean we have a RACE PROBLEM in America? How very bold these filmmakers are!" is ridiculous. It's all been done before, and probably most people in the Academy just flipped a coin between the two they liked best.

Posted by: Travis | March 6, 2006 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to watch Oprah's After the Oscars show - maybe she can explain what Crash is trying to say. I did read the reviews of Crash in the WaPo after I saw it - but I still don't get it. Contrived plot, stereotypical characters, nothing terribly new to say as far as I'm concerned. If anyone can enlighten me, please do. We're all good, we're all bad - that's about all I got out of it.

Posted by: mostlylurking | March 6, 2006 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Joel, as I mentioned before, I think an Achenblog book club would be fun. Give that Oprah women I've been hearing about a run for her money.

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 6, 2006 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I vote in favor of an Achenblog
book club. Please.

Posted by: OK | March 6, 2006 7:59 PM | Report abuse

I am so totally for the book club idea.

Posted by: Sirin | March 6, 2006 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Ditto the book club.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 6, 2006 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Achenblog book club - what a cool idea! Let's let LindaLoo and Nani pick the first one, and then we can go from there.

Posted by: Slyness | March 6, 2006 8:31 PM | Report abuse

I saw "Crash" via Netflix... I rarely see anything at the theatre anymore.

Contrived characters? I thought so at the start, but lots of 90-degree turns and such in their development, not all of them expected. Lots of acting against type, too. I have no problem with it being voted Best Picture.

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 6, 2006 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Do not worry, Cowtown. No one said to bend over, yet.

Why the high anxiety.????????

Posted by: Gargantua | March 6, 2006 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Skimmed the blog before school started this a.m.. I hope you found your coffee cup after your first post, Mudge...Re-read all of the posts before starting this. The general tone today seems to be that of tolerance, acceptance and kind of following the Golden Rule sorta stuff. My thirteen year old daughter is in the high school band, and has already had to come to terms with an older girl who may or may not be gay, but has no qualms about displaying her preference at this point. Thus, my wife and I find ourselves in a position where we need to provide guidance to our daughter on multiple fronts, a lot sooner than either of us thought. You have all gone to some length to point out our collective shortcomings with respect to prejudice. Perhaps some of the value of cinema and stage is that it forces us to confront those shortcomings in a context that is familiar on some level. Tough stuff in any context...the hidden curriculum. Commander Cody put it nicely:
You may not think this a message song, but it is...Getting over preconcieved notions of what a person is like based on appearance, dialect, race, whatever, is among the hardest tasks we face. Have to feed the animals...

Posted by: jack | March 6, 2006 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Nani, you're right, and he did it with such style and grace. Love that man. It didn't seem to be a put on, just showed a lot of humanity.

Americans know that racism exist here, but we're never going to get through it until we acknowledge the legacy of slavery, offer a national apology, and do what we need to do to make restitution. And move on. Some have already moved on, some like myself are still hung in the past, because for the past couple of years it seems the past still exist. We've never got passed it.

I believe most Republicans and some Americans can't forgive Bill Clinton because how can one look like Bill Clinton, come from the South, and be as liberal as Clinton is? It's an unforgivable sin. Couldn't have been the blow job, because once that started we found that more than Clinton liked blow jobs. A whole lot of folks went tripping down that road. Nah, it had to be something else, and I believe the something else was and is, he may be considered a traitor of sorts. Hey, but what do I know. I'm in rural America, we still have outside toliets, not in use, but they're still around.

Posted by: Cassandra S | March 6, 2006 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Ok, Oprah was not particularly forthcoming on the show, but I checked her website, and I guess Crash is supposed to stimulate discussion about racism, and probe how one person's action affects another, even when those people cross paths only briefly. Ok - I figured the intentions of the movie were good, I just wasn't left with a clear resolution, which maybe was the point too.

I'm one of the few white people I know who doesn't get bent out of shape going to diversity classes, or believing that racism still exists. I live in an "ethnically rich" part of the city, as they say. I have a black neighbor that I don't get along with well because she's kind of a jerk, and I worry that she thinks it's because she's black, but it's actually because she's a jerk. My Mexican neighbors are very noisy - I hate when the stereotype has even a grain of truth!

Scottynuke, thanks for your thoughts. And enough from me on this subject...a thousand apologies.

I vote for the Achenblog book club too.

Posted by: mostlylurking | March 6, 2006 10:09 PM | Report abuse


Even Republicans are Americans.

Are you saying what Bill Clinton was charged with was so stupid so it must have really been something else?

Do you believe he was a traitor?

Posted by: Error Flynn | March 6, 2006 10:19 PM | Report abuse

slyness writes:
Achenblog book club - what a cool idea! Let's let LindaLoo and Nani pick the first one, and then we can go from there.

I have just come from an two-and-a-half hour ad hoc and specially-cobbled-together at-the-last-minute meeting about the development of Main Plaza in San Antonio. I have finished a cold dinner and have a headache, and somebody is talking a book club with Nani and me making the first pick? Oh, m'gosh! I barely have the energy at the moment to Boodleskim in reverse time order...

Posted by: Loomis | March 6, 2006 10:55 PM | Report abuse

LL writes:

Well, could you simply recommend some titles in the American history section? You post great excerpts on most of the topics discussed here, which suggests familiarity with the literature.

Posted by: jg | March 6, 2006 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm..... How does the blogware identify and remove quotes from earlier posts? Is it only the immediately preceding post?

Posted by: jg | March 6, 2006 11:22 PM | Report abuse

jg, you may have stumbled upon a new "feature" of the blogware. Hal, are you listening? Hal?

Posted by: mostlylurking | March 6, 2006 11:55 PM | Report abuse

I do think it bothered white conservatives very deeply that Clinton seemed to have a genuine appreciation for the contributions of African americans in this country. I remember when he visited Africa and he made a speech where he remarked that we, as a country, are grateful for the blessing, the gift (paraphrasing but he said something along those lines) of African american people. I remember that he used the word "gift." I just can't imagine any republican president saying such a thing, and it's something every white person should remember -- the gifts that African american people and culture have given us and that we so often take for granted.

And mostlylurking, it's probably true that some stereotypes do have a germ of truth to them. That includes the stereotype that white people tend to jump to conclusions about people based on the color of their skin.

Posted by: Sirin | March 7, 2006 1:44 AM | Report abuse

I thought Achenbach had already named the first book?
("The March," by E. L. Doctorow. Right?)

Either way, I just picked that book up at my local Dymocks Booksellers. (And here I was thinking I wouldn't be able to get a hold of books easily in Hong Kong. Ha! I spent $470 in there -- Hong Kong dollars, i.e., a little less than 60 bucks; nevertheless.)

(Also got the new Barbara Vine and the new Zadie Smith -- and all of these in paperbach!)

[This a.m. marked my first major excursion out of the apartment for days. I went crazy down there. Came back up the escalator loaded down like some pack mule. But at least I have books. And two nice wine glasses. And some fancy schmancy pink lotion that smells like red apples. You know -- essentials.]

Posted by: Tom fan | March 7, 2006 1:56 AM | Report abuse

If Crash's theme is - we are all good; we are all bad - in other words - there is bad in the best of us and good in the worst of us - then that will do me fine.

Personally, I find it too embarrassing to watch the Oscars - it's better not to have to watch the stars reading bad jokes from a teleprompter; I'd rather keep my illusions about them. The truth is that the Oscars in no way reflect the quality of anything to do with the film industry. They were created as a marketing exercise and remain so to this day. The main reason a recipient loves to win an Oscar is how it looks on the resume and what it does to the size of the pay packet. Nothing wrong with that - I just wish it were acknowledged openly. Getting the best picture Oscar no more means you made the best picture than George Bush getting the most votes means he is the best president. (By the way, does the Academy vote on Diebold machines?) Personally, I loved Crash but loved Brokeback more. Brokeback was poetic and cinematic. Capote was interesting but to me, completely uninvolving emotionally and Munich suffered from Steven Speilberg's filmus interruptus syndrome. He never finishes well! I havent seen Good Night Good Luck. That's my take for what it's worth - which is of course not much.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 7, 2006 3:38 AM | Report abuse

For those concerned about unidentified posters - The Last Post was mine ...

Posted by: clang | March 7, 2006 3:40 AM | Report abuse

Something for Joel...perhaps?

"Tired of grueling book tours, the Booker Prize-winning Canadian author on Sunday unveiled her new invention: a remote-controlled pen that allows writers to sign books for fans from thousands of miles away."

Posted by: ot | March 7, 2006 4:23 AM | Report abuse

The Gore Vidal adaptation of Tom William's "Suddenly Last Summer" (1959) was denied an explicit mention of homosexuality by the Hollywood Production Code, but it was one of the film's themes and it was nominated for 3 Academy Awards.

Posted by: shiloh | March 7, 2006 4:56 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: shiloh | March 7, 2006 7:06 AM | Report abuse

"And mostlylurking, it's probably true that some stereotypes do have a germ of truth to them. That includes the stereotype that white people tend to jump to conclusions about people based on the color of their skin."

I find the last sentence troubling. Remove the word "white" and see how it changes the sense of the statement.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 7, 2006 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Shiloh, you're a month off (but ohhh, the anticipation!). Let me remind us all of the best comment on the first day of comments:

The comment thing is just a phase. There is no way Joel keeps this going.

Posted by: Nikos | April 11, 2005 11:02 AM

Posted by: TBG | March 7, 2006 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Well... the comments function began on April 7, 2005, but Nikos made his famous post on April 11. So sue me.

Posted by: TBG | March 7, 2006 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Error, what I'm saying is that we don't take men to court for cheating on their wives. And once that fiasco started about the blow job, a lot of people started falling off their high horses, because some of them were guilty of the same misconduct. I am not saying that what Clinton did was right in the moral sense, what I'm saying is that it is was not an impeacheable offense. Who died from Clinton getting a blow job? How many families lost their love ones, and their homes from Clinton's selfish act? You know it doesn't matter whether one is Democrat or Republican, I am an American, was born in this country, and came here in the loins of my ancestors on ships as slaves, and my ancestors, as well as myself, have paid the price to call America our home, through our free labor and much more, so don't get me started here. I don't owe anyone anything. I have as much right to the liberties and rights as any other American, perhaps more so. And that includes, but is not limited to, free speech. As to Clinton being a traitor, no I don't think Clinton was a traitor to this country, I think he was a real asset in the biggest sense of the word. Because if he did nothing else, and he did a lot, and is still doing a lot, he allowed us to see how deeply divided we still are.

Posted by: Cassandra S | March 7, 2006 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, one of the attorneys I work with, a female African American, and I were discussing films and I mentioned Sidney Poitier. Her response (this is from an educated, enlightened woman) surprised me: "I don't care for him; he married a white woman".

Shiloh, Mr. Nani and I were in our late teens when we saw "Suddenly Last Summer". We left the theatre, asking each other what the heck was *that* about? I viewed it some 10+ years later and had an "aha!" moment. It's a shame that so many films display graphic sex rather than subtle innuendo. Besides being embarrassing (even when I'm alone), it's insulting. What, the viewing public doesn't know people have sex? We have to be *shown*?

Posted by: Nani | March 7, 2006 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Jonathan Yardley did a re-review or whatever he calls those things of "Sula" by Toni Morrison.

I read "Beloved" quite a while ago and loved it. Can't say I understood it, but I thought it was powerful. I also do some of my more heavy-lifting reading with Books On CD. I listened to "Jazz" and also thought that was good. Yardley is pretty critical of Morrison's later less coherent work.

I'm not sure how an AchenBookClub™ could remain spoiler-free if it did fiction books. Maybe we should stick to pop science.

Joel was pushing "The Ruins of California" pretty hard a while ago, and a few people picked up the hint, but I didn't. It's not something my local BigBoxOfBooks™ has at the front door, meaning I would have to actually remember to look for it when I was in the store.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 7, 2006 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Nani said:
"What, the viewing public doesn't know people have sex? We have to be *shown*?"

First rule of story-telling: Show, don't tell.

The graphicness of the story should dictate the tone of the "love scenes". I can't picture Body Heat all soft-focus and cut-away.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 7, 2006 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Nani: I too saw it in my teens and remember to this day a bit of dialogue (but can't remember who said what) that I remember like this:

"Dementia praecox?"

"Yes, mad as a hatter." (I think this was Kate Hepburn)

Posted by: shiloh | March 7, 2006 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Another hint:
"The March," by E. L. Doctorow, as in Joel's comment of 6:08 p.m. on March 6, i.e., "I think I am going to try to read The March this week, by Doctorow, since it keeps winning prizes, and then see if he'll grant a quick interview to the blog."

[I didn't just dream that, did I?]

Posted by: Tom fan | March 7, 2006 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Today's comments about the contributions of African Americans and mo's recent thoughts about how special it is to live in the nation's capital, with all the monuments and majestic buildings, made me think about the recent revelations of how slave labor was used to build the Capitol and other buildings in D.C. When I first learned about it, I was really struck by how much of a surprise it was to me. I'll never look at those buildings in quite the same way again, and since they symbolize America, it changed the way I thought about my country, too.

Posted by: kbertocci | March 7, 2006 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Nani, and I bet she thinks she's not racist. I bet she thinks she is as open-minded as the next person. That's what I'm talking about in reference to Clinton. His own probably thinks he is or was a traitor. And that's exactly what it is, a traitor to one's race for loping off with the other race. You folks that read this blog are much more intelligent than myself, know the world, see it through different lens than myself, so whether you say out loud or just to yourself, these situations exist. And not just for you, but for us all. And we have to acknowledge these things in order to move from point A to point B or else we're stuck, just plain old stuck, and everyone gets to feel bad, when we do this and move on, we get to feel joy. By the way, good morning everyone, and forgive my ranting so early in the morning. Hope everyone has a good day, and a joyful day. Oh, joyful days are just too rare, let's have one today.

Posted by: Cassandra S | March 7, 2006 8:31 AM | Report abuse

yellowjkt - you're right. Point taken. And I must retract some of what I said about graphic sex scenes. I was not offended, insulted or embarrassed by the scenes in Monster's Ball. Here were two people in great emotional pain. They'd each lost their spouses and recently lost their children in tragic ways. They used sex to comfort each other; it was quite touching and poignant. (I just don't like it when films use graphic sex or graphic violence merely to titilate).

Posted by: Nani | March 7, 2006 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I'm hoping the upcoming "Porky's" remake is true to the spirit and themes of the original.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 7, 2006 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Just a little more information:

The March: A Novel by E.L. Doctorow

As the Civil War was moving toward its inevitable conclusion, General William Tecumseh Sherman marched 60,000 Union troops through Georgia and the Carolinas, leaving a 60-mile-wide trail of death, destruction, looting, thievery and chaos. In The March, E.L. Doctorow has put his unique stamp on these events by staying close to historical fact, naming real people and places and then imagining the rest, as he did in Ragtime.
Recently, the Civil War has been the subject of novels by Howard Bahr, Michael Shaara, Charles Frazier, and Robert Hicks, to name a few. Its perennial appeal is due not only to the fact that it was fought on our own soil, but also that it captures perfectly our long-time and ongoing ambivalence about race. Doctorow examines this question extensively, chronicling the dislocation of both southern whites and Negroes as Sherman burned and destroyed all that they had ever known. Sherman is a well-drawn character, pictured as a crazy tactical genius pitted against his West Point counterparts. Doctorow creates a context for the march: "The brutal romance of war was still possible in the taking of spoils. Each town the army overran was a prize... There was something undeniably classical about it, for how else did the armies of Greece and Rome supply themselves?"

The characters depicted on the march are those people high and low, white and black, whose lives are forever changed by war: Pearl, the newly free daughter of a white plantation owner and one of his slaves, Colonel Sartorius, a competent, remote, almost robotic surgeon; several officers, both Union and Confederate; two soldiers, Arly and Will, who provide comic relief in the manner of Shakespeare's fools until, suddenly, their roles are not funny anymore.

Doctorow has captured the madness of war in his description of the condition of a dispossessed Southern white woman: "What was clear at this moment was that Mattie Jameson's mental state befitted the situation in which she found herself. The world at war had risen to her affliction and made it indistinguishable." And later, " This was not war as adventure, nor war for a solemn cause, it was war at its purest, a mindless mass rage severed from any cause, ideal, or moral principle."

As we have come to expect, Doctorow puts the reader in the picture; never more so than in recalling "The March" and letting us see it as a cautionary tale for our times. --Valerie Ryan

I might be tempted by Doctorow (but his book is fiction and because of time constraints, I tend to stick to nonfiction) because of the following:

Grant and Sherman : The Friendship That Won the Civil War by Charles Bracelen Flood

The lives of Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman are classic underdog stories. Both of these "obscure failures" experienced more disappointment than success prior to the start of the Civil War. By 1861, they had each resigned from the U.S. Army and failed in several civilian pursuits between them, including farming, real estate, retail, and banking. Further, Grant was known as a drunk and Sherman was labeled insane. But once they threw themselves into the war effort, their best traits and talents began to reveal themselves. Even their motives were similar--both men joined the war not to eradicate slavery but to hold the Union together, believing that secession was equal to treason. This dual biography gracefully reveals how the two men grew to be "as brothers," why their partnership proved essential to victory for the Union, and how well they complemented and helped each other in their lives and careers, despite some major differences. For instance, though he possessed tremendous talent, Sherman was insecure and initially asked Abraham Lincoln never to give him a superior command. Grant, on the other hand, never doubted his ability to lead, and he quickly, if quietly, moved up the chain of command. Once he recognized Sherman's abilities, Grant made sure to keep him close, and they grew to depend upon each other completely. Through their near-daily interaction, even when separated by distance, both men honed their skills and eventually came up with a winning strategy for the war, which they executed in a brilliant two-pronged assault.

The book also discusses Grant's and Sherman's marriages, their relationships with their soldiers, and their dealings with politicians to provide well-rounded and complete portraits of these fascinating leaders. Grant and Sherman is a thoughtful portrait of the two men who "other than Lincoln... would have more to do with winning the war that preserved the Union than anyone else." --Shawn Carkonen

Posted by: Loomis | March 7, 2006 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I've been reading "The March" this morning and it's great. But a book club? I dunno, sounds kind of organized to me. Not really in keeping with the anarchic spirit here. Remember, I don't run the Boodle. The Boodle is self-governing, like a true Jeffersonian democracy. All power invested in the people. Anyway, I will read the book and post something on it in a few days (fudging exact deadline).

Posted by: Achenbach | March 7, 2006 9:07 AM | Report abuse

As an independent made-for-cable moviemaker, I have nothing whatever to do with the Hollywood folks. I raise my own money, shoot my own movies and market them myself. All are firmly G rated. The selection of "Crash," "Brokenback Mountain" the rest of the box office losers that decent people won't go to is indicative of a God-less, incestuous gang of moviemakers. Their houses will come a-tumbling down along with their liberal non-values. The first evidence of this is the anti-abortion law signed by South Dakota Governor Rounds. This is the first step where decent people will smite the hand of those who murder innocent children in the womb. They who do this should receive the death penalty. Abortion is BIG BUSINESS for those in the medical murder mill. "Pro-Choice"=Pro-Death. And "Planned Parenthood" is an oxymoron. It is really planning so that there will be no parents for the precious life still inside the womb. Today is the obvervance of martyrs Saints Perpetua and Felicity. Do not be afraid to stand up for the Lord!

Posted by: samtheoldaccordianman | March 7, 2006 9:20 AM | Report abuse

jg, re your post at 11:19 and question at 11:22, I think you may have tried using angle brackets to signify a quote, yes. The blogging software eats the up if followed immediately by text. try a space after like this (I hope this works with the new SW):

Posted by: omni | March 7, 2006 9:22 AM | Report abuse

And in today's Style section Hank Stuever and William Booth have a very funny look at the post-Oscar parties.

True to his word from the chat yesterday, Hank just gushes about meeting Madonna. The whole article name drops just about everybody. Sine the Elton John bash is ostensibly a charity event, how do two WaPo reporters get in? Are they given a press pass or does the paper cut a check for a ticket?

There is obviously some press quid pro quo going on that allows reporters into these soirees or else no one would hear the trees falling in Celebrity Forest.

That's a pretty good gig to get to hob-nob with the goobersmoochers and get paid for it. The biggest celebrity I have ever met on a social occassion was John Goodman who was the Best Man at a coworker's wedding.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 7, 2006 9:22 AM | Report abuse

nope, does't work. Used to work though with TypePad.

Posted by: omni | March 7, 2006 9:23 AM | Report abuse


I worshipped Felicity until she cut her hair in season two. Then I lost Faith. and Hope.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 7, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Yo, new kit.

Posted by: Achenbach | March 7, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Joel about the book club. Too formal and organized for the boodle. Hows about we just recommend and discuss books to each other? I've just finished reading Doctor'w Ragtime which addresses major societal changes in turn of the century America and how these changes affect and change the characters. (Cassandra, my fellow mobile home dweller, I particularly noted the character Evelyn Nesbit, who epitomizes a certain naivete about poverty (so typical of the upper class) on her first visit to a slum neighborhood.

Joel, please be tolerant of my gushing, but I so heart this blog, and am continually amazed at its diversity, its lovable and oh so talented boodlers and your kind benevolence in allowing us to be "us"! What a fantastic place to learn. The Achenblog, Shangri La in print.

Posted by: Nani | March 7, 2006 10:10 AM | Report abuse

ditto Nani

Posted by: Nachomama | March 7, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

kurosawguy, I made that comment in response to what mostlylurking said about how his/her mexican neighbors are "noisy" and he/she hates when there's any truth to a stereotype. I was suggesting that another stereotype is that white people tend to attribute (or at least see a connection between) a person's behavior (especially if we dislike those behaviors) and (if the person in question is a minority) the person's race. And following that, a stereotypical white person might be expected to attribute someone's "noisy" behavior to their race (or at least view it as evidence that the stereotype is at least somewhat warranted.)

The point I was making, for the sake of discussion rather than anything else, is that unfortunately there may be some truth to every stereotype. But if that's the case, it includes those not very flattering ones about white people, as well. (I'm white, by the way.) I'm sorry you couldn't follow that, and I'm sorry you were troubled by it. It wasn't meant as an attack on white people. It was an observation, following a thread already in progress.

Okay, back to Brokeback Mountain and Crash!

Posted by: Sirin | March 7, 2006 10:28 AM | Report abuse

And the "best" AA song was something about a pimp. It all sucks! We need some Faith, Hope and Love songs.

Posted by: samtheoldaccordianman | March 7, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I really liked Crash so was glad it won. It grabbed my emotions and whipped me back and forth, and was less predictable than the average movie I see. Haven't seen Brokeback although I probably will. I have avoided it so far not because of the gay man sex, which I don't have a problem with, but because I expect it to be a weepy movie and I don't really like those too much. And it a way it is too close to me... I am a gay woman and know the issue of being closeted and being in the wrong kind of relationship to fit in, all too well. But I can't judge movies all that well and hate the Oscar's presentation so what do I know.

Posted by: justsayin | March 7, 2006 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Of course, the buzz in Taipei is the Academy preferred to reward a US-directed film over an Asian-directed film this time around... but they'll take best director.

Everyone has an opinion.

Posted by: longshan | March 7, 2006 5:06 PM | Report abuse

All right, GeneW in his chat Tue responded to a question about Crash vs Brokeback Mountain (the questioner, from "Oye Como, Va", referred to the controversy in the Achenblog). GeneW said he thought Crash was great (he hasn't seen Brokeback Mountain). In response to another question about how he could think that, he said:

Okay, ready? Here is what you failed to see: Crash was a joke. A complex, nuanced, risky, dark comedy.

Now I didn't quite understand that, given how violent and awful some scenes are, but later another person said:

The best explanation of Crash I've read is that it's a Dickensian social satire -- characters who are types, not psychologically realistic human beings, engaged in stereotyped actions which reveal their type with unusual clarity. You know, just like in Bleak House.

And GeneW agrees. Ok, I'll buy that, even though I've never read Bleak House. And I still like Brokeback much more...I want to see it again...

Posted by: mostlylurking | March 7, 2006 9:43 PM | Report abuse

What's wrong with a song about a pimp?

Posted by: Sirin | March 8, 2006 1:40 AM | Report abuse

I have not seen Crash yet, so I cannot comment; although friends who have seen it thought it was very good. I could go with the homophophic thought about Brokeback ---- but then -- do you really think they would vote for THAT song??? Where the H...... did it come from??
I love progressive jazz, soul, motown, blues, pop art, classical, etc. -- but "crap like rap; don't make no sense" All three songs were terrible or the other two didn't come off well on stage -- it is too bad someone didn't put some haunting background music to Syriana, or a special song in Brokeback that was memorable; -- why does a song have to come from a nominated picture and weren't there any kid pix that came out that had a song? What has happened to creativity and why wasn't there something out there to pick from. That is the biggest question.

Posted by: P Clark | March 8, 2006 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Hip hop/rap are actually quite brilliant sometimes. You have to know how to listen, and if you don't know anything about what you're listening to of course it will sound like garbage. It's a much more creative genre than mainstream R&B these days. There are some very talented people. I think that's pretty progressive of the academy, to recognize a song that isn't from some Disney animated flick and sung by Elton John or Celine Dion.

Posted by: Sirin | March 8, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Why is everyone so fired up about this movie? It really hasn't done all that well in the theaters anyways. The numbers I've seen say its only made about 76 million pre oscar And most people I've talked to say they have not and will not see it. According to the powers that be, a movie needs to make at least 100 million to be considered a blockbuster. So my question is why was BBM even nominated? And for that matter, why was any of the movies? CRASH, CAPOTE, etc. None of these movies made over 100 million but the Chronicles of Narnia made 300 million and was not nominated for best picture. The Passion of the Christ made 400 million and wasn't nominated at all last year. HMMMMMMM, makes you think don't it? Man I'm sick of Hollywood.
This is a clear cut case of the liberal agenda trying to force their homosexual opinions on us. And I for one am sick of it. I'm sick of seeing it on TV, in politics (gay marriage) and now in the movies. Homosexuality goes against nature and God. You ever see two bucks doin it in the woods? Leviticus 18:22 says: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. I mean really, how much more proof do you need?
Go ahead and call me anything you want, personally I don't care. I don't have to answer to you. I have to answer to God and you will to. I don't claim to be perfect by any means. I'm a sinner just like the rest of you but I know what sin is and homosexuality is a sin plain and simple. Get over it, accept it for what it is and move on. One more thing. People are not born gay. There is no gay gene no matter what they tell you, it is a choice GET OVER IT!!!!!!!

Posted by: Don | March 9, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

It's almost comical to hear people trying to come up with reasons Crash beat Brokeback Mountain, especially when the opinions hinge on what someone else thought of the film. I saw both movies. Crash hit me like a sucker punch. Brokeback Mountain bored the living daylights out of me. And it has nothing to do with being anti-gay. Look, if I'm anti-gay for not liking Brokeback Mountain, then you're a racist for not liking Crash. I'm not anti-gay. I'm anti-boring, overrated movie.

Posted by: KC Sierra | March 10, 2006 4:36 PM | Report abuse

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