Year Released: 2005
Directed by: Paul Haggis
Starring: Don Cheadlle, Matt Dillon, Chris”Ludacris” Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Esopsito, Terrence Howard, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Loretta Devine.
(R, 100 min.)
Academy Awards (2006)
"We build our own cages." Paul Zindel
Crash is one of the most frank and insightful presentations of race ever committed to film. Prepare to have you own preconceptions shattered, shorn, and ripped apart like so much highway carnage, your own shiny Porsche of prejudice completely totaled and relegated to the junkyard.
I don’t know if real people toss racial barbs at each other with such abandon as the characters do in Crash, but I suspect they think some of these race baiting slurs. And in this age of sanitized political correctness, where even the phrase “Dutch Uncle” is considered an indiscretion, it is almost refreshing to have that social veneer stripped off. Lancing a festering boil that has only scabbed over on the surface is a somewhat repulsive sight, but none-the-less necessary if true healing is to occur.
Viewing the massive collision that opens the film, L.A. cop Don Cheadle tells his partner that for the isolated inhabitants of this town, crashing cars into each other is a way of communicating. And indeed, the characters in this loosely interwoven plot literally crash into each other’s worlds; they wear their prejudices like medieval armor as they joust with their fellow citizens. However, those weighty self-protective shells ultimately topple many of them.
Perhaps even more intriguing than the fog of racial epithets that envelop Crash are the intra racial insults. A gun toting racist white cop (Matt Dillon) has humiliated the light skinned wife of a black TV director, who stands by helplessly through it all. Afterward the wife taunts her spouse for letting this happen and implies he is not black enough. “The only time you were black was when you watched The Cosby Show,” she spits out.
“At least I didn’t watch it with my equestrian team.” he counters.
Don Cheadle tells his mother that he can’t talk to her on the phone because he is “having sex with a white woman.” He then explains to his Latino partner (also his bedmate) that he referred to her as white solely to infuriate mama.
Two black youths emerge from an upscale restaurant. Anthony (Ludacris) complains that they have received second-rate service from their waitress because they are black. But his devil’s advocate buddy reminds him that their waitress was black, too. “They’re the worst,” Anthony tells him. He then laments the veiled looks and fearful postures of the affluent whites who pass them by. All of this deep analysis, however, is but an ironic prelude to their real business of the evening -- the carjacking a Lincoln Navigator at gunpoint.
An Iranian shopkeeper tries to buy a gun for self-protection, but the gun dealer doesn’t want to deal with “Osama,” as he calls him. However, being a victim of false racial stereotypes doesn’t stop the shopkeeper from suspecting the worst from the hard working Mexican-American locksmith who he thinks is trying to cheat him when he says the door as well as the lock needs to be replaced.
Sandra Bullock, cast against type as the malcontent wife of the D.A., is in a perennial pout, which is not helped when her car is hijacked. (Yes the two intellectual thieves somehow manage to choose the D.A.’s wheels as their quarry.) In her following fit of paranoia she insists the locks to their house be changed, but then loses it when she sees the locksmith is a tattoo touting Hispanic. Once again it is our poor honest locksmith. Himself the victim of violence, he has fled the nightly echoes of gunshots and moved his wife and daughter to a new neighborhood, but his little girl still huddles under her bed. Only when he ties a “magic cloak” around her shivering shoulders does she begin to relax.
By the way, Bullock’s D.A. husband is a purely political animal who regards the racial component of the hijackers both an embarrassment and campaign liability. He goes to great lengths to compensate for this awkward turn of events, even if it means overlooking another crime and bringing down an innocent white cop.
Then just when you are about to condemn all these bigots to their own private circle of hell, we see a few tender mercies, a small chain reaction of little miracles and redemptions that leave hope green. Not everyone is saved of course, but enough to rekindle our faith in humanity.
What better way to celebrate the wonderful melting pot diversity of L.A. than with this comfort food tower. At least some of its main ingredients -- potatoes, mushrooms, and the lemon parsley sauce, all enriched with wine and cream -- are common to Persian, African American, Hispanic, Asian, and European cuisine. The ultimate of comfort foods, fried mashed potatoes, are stacked on each other like a highrise apartment with all the spice and drama of Los Angeles itself.
The dreamer in me cannot help but envision the ultimate L. A. block party, with our Persian shopkeeper sitting down next to the locksmith and his family as they partake of this dish which is sort of like themselves -- crisp walls guarding a soft mellow interior. Perhaps even the LAPD would send a few representatives to be seduced by its pleasures.
Like delicate filled crepes, this dish might inspire the same comment Edward Prince of Wales said of the French delight: “One taste would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman.”
Crispy Potato and Wild Mushroom Tower
Prepare Potato Mix, Mushroom Mix and Lemon Parsley Sauce (recipes follow). Then, on a large plate, place one potato cake and top with two 2 Tbsp. of mushrooms. Place a second potato cake on top of the first. Pour sauce around the plate. Garnish with parsley and chopped tomato. Serves 6 as an appetizer.
- 3 Potatoes, Skinned and Parboiled 15 Minutes, Cooled Completely
- 2 Egg Whites
- 2 Oz. Heavy Cream
- 1/2 Ea. Lemon, juiced
- 1 Tbsp. Chives, minced
- Salt and Black Pepper (to taste)
After potatoes are completely cooled, grate them into a mixing bowl and toss with ingredients. Form into 2 1/2 inch cakes and brown in hot oil. Set aside.
- 1 Tbsp. Canola Oil
- 1/2 Cup Shitake Mushrooms, Stems Removed and Sliced
- 1/2 Cup Oyster Mushrooms, Sliced
- 1/2 Cup Portabella Mushrooms, Sliced
Saute mushrooms in hot oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Lemon Parsley Sauce
- 1 Leek, Chopped
- 1 Stalk Celery, Chopped
- 2 Cups White Wine
- 1 Cup Heavy Cream
- 1 Each Lemon, juiced
- Salt and Pepper (to taste)
- 1/2 lb. Butter, Cubed
Sweat leek and celery in butter until translucent. Add white wine and reduce by 3/4. Add juice of one lemon. Reduce until almost dry. Add cream and reduce by half. Whisk in butter until completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Strain.
Recipe Source: Travel Café TV – Los Angeles
Look under the heading "Crispy Potato and Wild Rice Lasagna."