At first glance, the odds seemed stacked against Crash’s Best Picture chances. It was up against Spielberg (Munich), Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck), a biopic (Capote), and the year’s most controversial film (Brokeback Mountain). But in the end, Crash’s liberal-humanist take on race proved more attractive to Oscar voters than Brokeback’s unflinching look at homophobia, and so it took home the night’s top prize. That decision has long been regarded by critics as one of the Academy’s worst; while Brokeback’s reputation has only grown, Crash still earns criticism for its oversimplification of racism and misrepresentation of America’s racial history. As Ta-Nehisi Coates once wrote, Crash is “propaganda … the apotheosis of a kind of unthinking, incurious, nihilistic, multiculturalism.”
Paul Haggis, the film’s director, hears those complaints and, surprisingly, agrees with some of them. In an interview with HitFix, Haggis admits Crash wouldn’t have been his pick for Best Picture either:
Was it the best film of the year? I don’t think so … I’m very glad to have those Oscars. They’re lovely things. But you shouldn’t ask me what the best film of the year was because I wouldn’t be voting for Crash, only because I saw the artistry that was in the other films. Now however, for some reason that’s the film that touched people the most that year. So I guess that’s what they voted for, something that really touched them. And I’m very proud of the fact that Crash does touch you. People still come up to me more than any of my films and say, “That film just changed my life.” I’ve heard that dozens and dozens and dozens of times. So it did its job there. I mean I knew it was the social experiment that I wanted, so I think it’s a really good social experiment. Is it a great film? I don’t know.
Haggis also says we all missed the point of the film’s cartoonish stereotypes, noting that they were intended to make the audience uncomfortable. “As soon as I made you feel comfortable,” he explains, “I could very slowly start turning you around in the seat so I left you spinning as you walked out of the movie theater.” That explains it! But for all of Crash’s many missteps, we can’t forget that this is the same film that forced many to take Ludacris’s acting career seriously — and for that, the Fast & Furious franchise will be forever grateful.