The gay people I know are so anxious to see themselves portrayed as romantic leads in mainstream Hollywood movies, and justifiably so, that they've lost perspective on last night's Oscars.
By 10am this morning I had received dozens of enraged calls, emails, and text messages. Friends were livid that "Crash" beat "Brokeback Mountain" last night. Kenneth Turan of the LA Times wrote a desperate, angry piece that claimed that "Brokeback" was defeated by the secret homophobia of Academy voters (though he does not bother to explain why they awarded it best Director and Adapted Screenplay). He not only derides "Crash" as standard, manipulative Hollywood fare, and a "feel-good film about racism," but his outraged piece seemed to imply that "Brokeback" was the only other nominee in the category, and was, in its own right, basically flawless.
Even Google has gotten in on the act... as Gawker reports, if you type in "I'm Really Glad Crash Won" you get, "Did you mean "I'm Really Glad Trash won?"
Sorry, but I don't agree with the sore losers. Yes, homophobia exists all over the place, including among Academy voters, but the "Crash" victory probably had more to do with the thousands of DVD's sent to voters, and the six-figure Oscar spending spree on its behalf. "Brokeback" had garnered endless awards, and is the highest grossing best picture nominee. Is it really the victim of an anti-gay conspiracy?
Even if you agree that "Crash" allowed liberals to feel they had examined their souls just enough to avoid feeling compelled to vote for the unpalatable "gay cowboy" movie, none of that changes the flaws in "Brokeback". As much as many of us love the theme of the film, and what it represents, it was by no means a perfect movie. That is really a faulty premise on which to debate the "Crash" upset. Even New Yorker critic David Denby pointed out the first half of Brokeback feels no more engaging than flipping through a stack of postcards.
I also disagree that "Crash" was a feel-good racism film. It was much more complicated and disquieting than "Brokeback", which some argue had nothing more to say than it was hard being a closeted sheep herder in Wyoming in the 60's, and, yes, love is important. A beautiful film, to be sure, but it is far too easy to let its banner cause cloud an accurrate perception of the movie itself. Not that "Crash" was any better. Most people I talked to felt it was on-the-nose, and ham-fistedly directed.
Like a lot of people, my favorites of the year weren't among the final five. Of those, personally, I admired "Munich", and the much more pressing, timely, and challenging issues it illuminated. I wish the Turans of the world would explore the resistance to that film in our current political climate... a much more psychologically revealing endeavor, to be sure.