LA - Gateway to Heaven
or Trapdoor to Hell?
Ok, I'm an LA Native. Born at Queen of Angels
Hospital. If you know anything about LA, it's that most people in the city - aren't from here
. They come from other parts of the country, they come from other parts of the world - to bask in the glow of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive and Malibu.
Or in realty, to look deep into the belly of the beast with the mistaken belief that it doesn't look back...
Details over the flip.
(The Photos are mine - taken around town on my Cellphone Camera)
Many people are currently discussing Crash
as a movie about "Racism", but I think they are missing the point. Crash
is movie about LA. It's about how disconnected
people in this city are from one another, and often from themselves.
The Racism was simply a manesfestation of that disconnection. It's the most obvious way to display it - but there are also disconnections between Don Cheadle's character and his mother, disconnections with his brother. There were a clear disconnect between Sandra Bullock and her D.A. Husband - and between Terrence Howard and his wife.
All of these groups of people - were of the same race!
I was born and raised here, and it was something I never really noticed or realized - no, that's untrue, I knew it - hell, I was essentially proud to have survived it.
I've read diary comments that state that the film was too strident, too over the top -- "Oh, yeah yeah, everybodies a racist - I get it already". No, you don't get it - everyone is frustrated and unhappy in this so-called paradise to one degree or another because they've learned to equate their personal worth, and the worth of those around them - to finances. Big fat gas-guzzling SUV's and Hummers (So Freudianly named) with spinning rims, a big fat juicy well-paying job so you can have a huge house that requires a maid (who you don't trust) and a lock (which you can hardly remember how to open).
People in this city live in constant fear, constant anxiety -- and they take it out on each other, sometimes on themselves. This city has no heart.
I didn't used to believe that, I used to love LA and was proud to be from here - but after moving away and living in Sacramento for 7 years working as a Consultant to the State - that changed. Consulting is what I used to do until Enron destroyed the California Budget and I had to limp back home with my Wife and our cats - broke, nearly destitute - to live with family in L.A. (The fact that I came back from Sacramento - where LA Hate runs quite high - is not a factor to be dismissed, there are reasons people in Sac hate LA, the chief one being LA's complete and total lack of soul as well as the blight of living in the shadow of "Paradise".)
There was a scene on West Wing a few weeks ago that truly struck me. It was between the C.J. Cregg and the Chinese Ambassador where he stated "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, all of your ideals are financial - not ethical."
That's LA, in a nutshell.
When I saw Crash - I saw the L.A. I had returned too. It's become about Bling and MORE Bling. Millions of orally fixated people filling their lives with useless shiny SHIT just to try and feel sated. And when you spend most of your time and energy accumulating or pinning for trophies - trophy cars, trophy homes, trophy wifes - you usually spend the rest of your time worrying about how you'll lose them. Whose going to take them away from you? The result : you have almost nothing but bitter, self-absorbed, needy, strident people with an occasional angel - like the locksmith and his daughter - here an there.
And the angels in this city are being overrun.
I watched the film on DVD - and then listened to it with the commentaries of Don Cheadle and writer/director Paul Haggis which was even more iluminating.
Paul started writing this movie after he'd been car-jacked. He started to wonder about the two men who put a gun in his face, where were they from - where they life long friends - had they known each other since 7th grade?
Other scenes also came directly from real life. While interviewing a Latino actor whose parents were from El Salvador and Guatamala who claimed that "he loved all people equally". Paul asked him how he would feel if someone called him a "Mexican".
"I aint no fucking Mexican." he angrily responded. So much for limitless brotherly love. This sentiment was woven into Don Cheadle's scene with his Latina girlfriend.
The scene where Terrence Howard confronts the
you're friendly neighborhood jackbooted thugs (uh, LAPD) in a near suicidal move -- is real. That actually happened to Terrence, he's just lucky he didn't die that day.
The scene were Sandra Bullock is explaining on the phone to a friend that "I'm angry all the time, and I don't know why..." just as that friend blows her off for some trivial B.S. is priceless. There's no empathy in the relationship there - no heart. It's all "Me, me, me..". That's why she was pissed off - she didn't have any real friends, except for the one person she hardly recognized as a person - her Mexican maid. That realization causes her to grow, albiet ever so slightly.
Oh, and the film isn't totally without humor -- one running inside joke is that all the Asian persons in the film are referred to as Chinese ("There's a China-man under the truck!") - they are in fact, each and every one, Korean. Even at the end of the film, when Ludacris takes two giant steps forward by putting his own anti-racist pseudo-enlightenment bullshit to the test and freeing several Korean Boat-people from certain Slavery - he still takes one step backward and ignorantly calls them Chinese.
If you see this movie as simply being about racism, you're missing the point. It's about the fear that drives to racism to flourish. How Terrence Howard's fear allows him to let the police humiliate his wife -- and how that drives a wedge between them. And ultimately how that very same officer overcomes his fear to save her life after a car wreck.
I've long felt that the only way to defeat racism, and defeat the emptiness in our hearts - is through courage. Having the courage to take the risk that your worst fear just might be true, you just might lose everything you have, everything you've struggled for - but be willing to stumble forward anyway. That courage is the Magic Cloak of self-assurance, humility, grace and compassion that this city is sorely lacking and desperately needs.
Finally, I believe that Crash shows the LA that Hollywood sees. Most Hollywood stars and producers aren't from here. They aren't natives. As they struggle on their way up through the rungs of the industry, many of them enter the city as I did on my return from Sacramento - desperate, hopeful, hungry, nearly destitute - often getting several years to see the not-so-bright parts of town up close and very personal.
What many of them saw is what I see. It's what Paul Haggis saw when he was car-jacked and then showed on the screen in that film. And that is why Hollywood reacted so vicerally to the film, they recognized the truth of it in a way that native Angelino's have become too callous to notice. And that is why no other movie nominated this year - fine though many of them were -- truly had a chance against Crash.
I know I jumped up and cheered when it won. So did my wife.
Hell, even the cats nearly danced a jig.
[Update: Let me just respond to multiple comments about the film beind predictable and/or contrived in one shot - my point here isn't that "Crash" is or isn't better than any of the other films, it's that "Crash" uniquely spoke to something that many people in Hollywood responded to personally. It reflected their own attitudes, anxiety and fears as Angelinos. It spoke to me in that way as an (reluctant) Angelino. The other films simply didn't do that in the same way and hence, didn't have a chance IMO.)
Vyan (Crossposted on Truth 2 Power