At First: A movie unafraid to confront how racist-yet-not-racist everyone is! The best American movie since Mystic River! (This was an actual thing that critic David Denby said.)
But Then: Ugh, a movie that thinks it’s fixing racism. And don’t get us started on Mystic River.
Notable Competition: Crash upset presumed favorite Brokeback Mountain (which won a Best Director Oscar for Ang Lee), which made it extra-easy to read the Academy’s love of one and arm’s-length affection for the other as a kind of middle ground of tolerance: Yes, we think racism is bad, but, eh, homophobia might be OK.
Strength of Backlash (1-10): 10. Instant derision over its win made a smooth transition into Crash becoming a punchline unto itself.
Strength of Deserving (1-10): 10. Look, I liked Crash well enough when I first saw it, back when it was just a harmless melodrama with some good actors. But sometimes awards attention does actually make a movie worse by confirming the worst things about it — the pretensions of relevance, the self-congratulatory seriousness, the insufferable Los Angeles–centric musings. Crash is that rare bird.