I've Already Picked My Best Picture Oscar

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The culmination of the "awards season" is fast approaching with this weekend's broadcast of the 78th Annual Academy Awards. Commentator Clarence Page, syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, says there are a number of worthy films up for the best picture Oscar, but he's already made his pick.

ED GORDON, host:

Up next on NEWS and NOTES, NPR's Senior Correspondent Juan Williams and his Washington Insider's Review of the week's latest developments inside The Beltway on POLITICAL CORNER.

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GORDON: You're listening to NEWS and NOTES from NPR News.

GORDON: I'm Ed Gordon next time on NEWS AND NOTES, his beating was televised around the world and spotlighted police brutality in the black community. Fifteen years after the Rodney King beating have any advancements been made in police community relations? That's next time on NEWS and NOTES from NPR News.

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GORDON: The culmination of the awards season is fast approaching with this weekend's broadcast of the 78th annual Academy Awards. Commentator Clarence Page says there are a number of worthy films up for the Best Picture Oscar but he's already made his pick.

CLARENCE PAGE (Reporter, Chicago Tribune):

Even when it's set in the past or the future, a good movie tries to tell us something important about the way we live now. The Motion Picture Academy likes to think of itself as doing important things and this year's Oscar nominees show it.

For Best Picture, this year's big cartoon style epics King Kong, Harry Potter, Star Wars didn't even make the cut. The five that did were clearly for grown ups, real grown ups. This is the year for independent renegade movies that entertain but also challenge us with questions, big questions. Capote asked us how ethical a reporter should be even with two mass murders. Munich asked us how far we can behave like terrorists in order to fight terrorists. Good Night and Good Luck shows how TV can bring down a demagogue when it isn't creating them. Broke Back Mountain asked whether a cowboy can find true love and still keep his wife. But my personal favorite is Crash, a movie that asks the Rodney Kinq question, can we all get along?

Crash is usually described as a movie about racism in Los Angeles but that's sort of like saying Moby Dick is about a fishing trip. Crash tells multiple interlocking stories of whites, blacks, Latinos, Koreans, Iranians, cops and criminals, rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless. None is what he or she appears at first to be. Crash gives its characters unexpected qualities that play against their stereotypes, good and bad. Flushing them out and complicating them like the people we know in real life.

There's the young black male played by hip hop artist Ludacris, complaining about white people's fear of young black males just before he pulls out a gun and carjacks two white yuppies--played by Brandon Frasier and Sandra Bullock. But the victims are not totally innocent either. Frasier turns out to be a prosecutor who's willing to cut some serious ethical corners to save his political career. Bullock has problems to, she's just angry all the time she says and doesn't know why.

A black homicide detective tells racist jokes about Latinos to his Latino girlfriend who's also a detective and trades racial slurs with an Asian woman.

An elegant black TV director loses his cool after he confronts a racist cop on the streets and a racist producer on the job. Yet the white cop also shows a selfless devotion to his ailing father and remarkable heroism toward a black woman whom he molested during an earlier traffic stop.

Sure if Crash has a weakness it's in the way its drama sometimes grows out of coincidences like that as if Los Angeles only had a couple dozen people living in it. Yet the coincidence amazingly works as if the biggest city is brought down to size by the smallness of our minds when we're angry all the time and don't know why.

I like all the Oscar finalists this year. That's got to be a first but Crash is my picture of the year because of what it tells us about the year and the times. Good movies try to tell us about how we live now. Crash tells us with the bold full throttle frankness that we seldom hear in real life even when we should.

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GORDON: Clarence Page is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Chicago Tribune.

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