From my upcoming review in The American Conservative:
The director and the screenwriter of "Babel," the Golden Globe-winning "Best Drama" of 2006, have been feuding over who deserves credit for their trilogy of movies, which began with the Mexican "Amores Perros," followed by the American art-house melodrama "21 Grams." Is director Alejandro González Iñárritu the sole "auteur?" Or are he and writer Guillermo Arriaga the "auteurs?" Their spat culminated at Cannes, where the director banned the screenwriter from attending "Babel's" screening.
Although the screenplay is more fundamental, directors get the publicity because their jobs are harder. The writer resembles a staff general who draws up a battle plan on paper during the long years of peace, and the director a line general who must execute it in the fog of war. On the set, directors must make countless quick decisions because the budgetary burn rate sometimes exceeds $1,000 per minute.
"Babel," however, renders this debate academic because there is blame enough for both in this interminable Oscar-whoring ordeal. It's as contrived and implausible as last year's Best Picture, "Crash," but infinitely less entertaining. "Babel" is a compendium of all the mannerisms most irritating in contemporary prestige cinema.
In its scenario's portentous, tragic stupidity -- every single character in this glum epic that sprawls across three continents can be counted on to do whatever would be most moronic at the moment -- "Babel" resembles an Ingmar Bergman remake of "Idiocracy."