"Crash" is not the best movie of the year, but its joined the elite company of such mediocre best picture winners as "Driving Miss Daisy", "Forrest Gump", "The English Patient", "Shakespeare in Love", and "A Beautiful Mind". Were they the best movies of those years? These things happen. I don't see it as an anti-"Brokeback" message, but rather a skillfully orchestrated pro-"Crash" campaign that worked big time.
Critics, guilds, and audiences propelled "Brokeback" to unimaginable heights, helping it reach people who may never have seen it otherwise, its made nearly $80 million and is still going. Its a winner whether The Academy gives it the top trophy or not.
Anthony Kaufman has had some insightful reactions to awards season this past week, but I actually differ with him on one point... The Independent Spirit Awards IS the primary place for movies like "Brokeback," "Capote", and "Transamerica". If sights are set on A.M.P.A.S. as the arbiter of quaility specialty film, the Indiewood business and the quality of the films themselves will only suffer as they try to please the Academy.
"Brokeback" deserved its best picture prize at the Spirits, but "Crash" as best first feature? Perhaps the Spirits need some sort of two-tiered system, limiting the bigger films to just a couple of key categories. And prizes like best first feature and the Cassavetes Award should be given to the true indie films, particularly undistributed work, that really needs a boost.