Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

“Crash”: On a Collision Course with Oscar?

posted by kris rasmussen

“You think you know who you are, but you have no idea.” That line is both an ominous warning and a promise of hope, and it exemplifies the moral complexity of the Oscar-nominated film “Crash.” Forget the gay cowboys, unconscionable terrorists, eccentric authors, and desperate transgender parents; “Crash” has been slowly picking up speed by winning at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, and the Writer’s Guild Awards–and it is my pick for an Oscar upset.

Writer and director Paul Haggis’s unflinching examination of the lives of a socially and ethnically diverse group of Los Angeles residents, as they collide with each other both physically and emotionally, is a searing look inside the human soul. Haggis (“Million Dollar Baby”) deftly orchestrates a gut-wrenching journey, which takes place over the course of a mere 36 hours. During that time, we witness a politician’s wife, a rookie cop, a T.V. producer, and an immigrant gun-shop owner each being violated, and then in turn becoming violent themselves.

What makes “Crash” different from other films that have dealt with racism and social injustice is the subtle way the story exposes the insidious nature of hatred and bitterness and its effects on the human spirit. It eats away at self-worth while slowly breaking apart the bonds of marital intimacy and family loyalty. Instead of simplistic racist stereotypes, we discover multifaceted characters who slowly begin to recognize the spiritual poverty of their souls. As the men and women in this film find their prejudices and fears violently exposed, each one must wrestle with the decision to perpetuate or end the cycle of hate. For those that choose to be free of anger and hate, a miracle happens: They can begin to recognize and receive grace and forgiveness, whether in the kind words of a Mexican housekeeper or in the miraculous intervention of a child to save her father’s life.

So while “Crash” is uncomfortable and unnerving, we would all do well to reflect on its message. Because no matter who we are on the outside, where we live, or how we were raised, our spirits are hungry for many of the same things–respect, understanding, forgiveness, compassion, and justice. It’s how we feed that spiritual hunger that makes any one of us truly capable of the most heroic actions or the most vicious of actions.

When the “Good Guys” Do the Killing

posted by doug howe

My wife and I viewed two movies this weekend, and we saw a lot of killing. “Firewall” is the new Harrison Ford release. In it, he’s the “good guy” and kills a lot of the “bad guys” who are holding his family hostage. We also finally saw “Munich,” in which Eric Bana plays the “good guy” who kills a bunch of bad guys and a veritable plethora of those hangin’ around them. A spiritual person must ask: What do we think about movies that show that much killing? How do we feel when the “good guys” are doing it? This is especially relevant these days, where we hear a lot about terrorists who believe they’re honoring God when they kill.

We embarked upon the following discussions:

  • Is killing justified for a spiritual person?
  • If so, by whom, and under what circumstances?
  • Who decides?

At this point, the only thing we can agree on is the fact that it’s an important discussion, one of the values and benefits of living in a culture where art not only imitates life, but leads us to reflect upon it.

Kwan’s Song

posted by dilshad d. ali

What was that I just heard? Was that the collective voice of America sighing in sympathy when it heard that ice skating darling Michelle Kwan–winner of silver and bronze Olympic medals and numerous national and world championships–decided to drop out of this year’s competition because of a nagging groin injury?

Kwan, 25, was somber and stoic at her press conference Sunday when she made her announcement (though her eyes revealed the depth of her pain at never winning the gold). Plagued by her injury for months, Kwan worked hard to recover her winning form before succumbing to her fate. Her stated reason at the conference said it all: “I respect the Olympics too much to compete, and I don’t feel I can be at my best.”

Kwan was America’s star, the athlete around whom NBC organized its Olympic coverage, and the athlete for whom, I suspect, the entire Olympic-watching American population was rooting. I am sad also. When a person works so hard for so long and personifies the grace, faith, and dignity of her sport, you can’t help but want her to win the one thing that persistently eluded her.

But that’s also what makes the Olympics the Olympics. You just never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes athletes–such as speedskater Dan Jansen, who finally won a gold medal after chasing it through three Olympics–make good on a promise to the world. Sometimes, like Kwan, they can’t. I applaud Kwan for her efforts and for bowing out gracefully, instead of losing on the ice. I hope she continues to have the faith that has sustained her through all these tough and glorious years of skating.

Grey’s Anatomy Survives Its “Code Black”

posted by dilshad d. ali

It’s an idea that’s been done to death–what would you do if you knew this was your last day?–but still last night’s Part 2 of the “Code Black” episode on “Grey’s Anatomy” triumphed despite being laden with clichés.

The show had it all: In one incredulous storyline, intern Meredith Grey was holding an unexploded bomb that had gotten lodged inside a patient and which could go off at any minute and kill everyone at the Seattle Grace hospital; in another storyline, chief resident Miranda Bailey (who is perhaps the most solid, stable character on TV these days) was panicking while in labor because her husband was in a car accident on the way to the hospital and was now in the OR undergoing tricky brain surgery.

Every emotion was tugged at, every hidden feeling was revealed, and every character got a chance to shine. It was over-the-top, it was maudlin–and it was great. And though there was nary a mention of God or faith, belief was the underlying current in the show. A belief in revealing what is important, in accepting your fate, in letting your guard down, in stepping up, in letting go.

For a show that was pulled along by “Desperate Housewives” for most of its first season, “Grey’s Anatomy” has found its own footing this year among the hospital drama genre. Long ago I gave up on “ER” (end the show already!), and I never even went for “Chicago Hope” (which died a long time ago). Even “Scrubs,” which is a comedy, is starting to wear a wee bit thin. But the two-part “Code Black” episode proves for me that “Grey’s Anatomy” is the hospital show to watch these days. These characters are really personable, quirky even, and human through it all. It was Ellen Pompeo’s show last night, as she went through a gamut of emotions, from composure to fear to anguish to a near breakdown.

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