Monday, April 17, 2006


Kissing cowboys

I finally saw Brokeback Mountain this past weekend. I have to say, I have a certain natural pushback when the Hollywood hype machine describes a new picture as a "motion picture event" -- their code for "here we go, breaking down oppressive social barriers once again."

(It's related to, but different from, my resistance to movie peer pressure. The latter is my friends saying, "you must see this," and the former is Hollywood saying "you must see this.")

But I overcame my resistance and was fully prepared to enjoy and be emotionally open to the film. And I will say that the scene where Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhall) kiss at the bottom of the stairs to Ennis's apartment movingly captured the heat between the star-crossed lovers.

But other than that -- and the beautiful Canadian-faux-Wyoming mountain landscapes -- the movie was so ponderously dull and dreary that I stopped watching it about five minutes after that scene. My worst fears had been realized: watching the movie was like taking medicine: it stunk, but was "good for me." Actually, it was more like taking a driving test: a tedious chore that was necessary to get my license to be part of our moviegoing culture.

Literary theorists remind us that there are really only an astonishingly small number of stories in our literary history -- 10 or even 5. One of those stories is "star-crossed lovers." It's Romeo and Juliet. I'm not saying every movie on this theme has to offer a fresh take, but there at least has to be some character development deeper than laconic, pensive stares over the end of a lit cigarette. (See my post on Bill Murray's performance in Broken Flowers.)

My favorite thing about Brokeback Mountain was that it inspired Jon Stewart and his writing staff at the Oscars to put together that fabulous montage of clips from old movie westerns that now seem so painfully obviously gay.

And the most surprising thing to me about Brokeback Mountain was what excellent gaydar the folks of Wyoming had back in 1963. All Jack has to do to give himself away is to start a friendly conversation in a bar. I'd have thought that, back then, even seeing a couple of cowpokes rassling with each other would not have tripped homophobic alarms (as it did with the Randy Quaid character when he spies on the two men at their campsite).

It makes me think of the recent, notorious remark of idiot Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee:
“In our lifetimes, we’ve seen our country go from ‘Leave It to Beaver’ to ‘Beavis and Butt-head,’ from Barney Fife to Barney Frank, from ‘Father Knows Best’ to television shows where father knows nothing.”
If Mike Huckabee cannot see in 2006 that Barney Fife (the late Don Knotts) was about as gay as a deputy sheriff could possibly be, then how could circa 1963 Wyoming folk have been so perceptive?

We checked out Brokeback Mountain this weekend also. I thought the music and the scenes were very moving and I didn't get tired of looking at all that scenery.
I guess forbidden love usually is a good ingrediant for an interesting story - or at least an eyebrow raiser.
I think it was doomed from the first to have a not-so-happy ending.
The whole concept of the Real-man type is funny - making eyes at each other rather than making eyes at the sheep.
I guess you can't expect a Huckabee to understand the subtle irony in Father Knows Best, a show in which, as has been the case from the beginning of family sitcoms (though come to think of it this one was pretty much the beginning), Father is an idiot.

Speaking of which, we just cleared out a rented storage space which for years had held several boxes of books from the kids' early years. Now that they have been picked over for nostalgic treasures, we can give the rest to worthy organizations; what Waste Management gets will be an inexplicable number of Berenstein Bears books. Where did those things come from, anyway? And are they going to be banned in Arkansas or not?

oswodcwl -- So, an Operating system without CDs will -- what?
I wasn't sure what to make of Brokeback Mountain as I was watching it. I knew I liked it, but the pace was a bit slow, and I, too, was disappointed by the seeming lack of character development.

However, when I considered that maybe the pace was intentional--life is slow in WY and life moves more slowly, painfully so, when you don't take risks-- I relaxed and slowed to the movie's tempo.

Perhaps, the characters were developed as far as they could be. Sadly, a lot of people don't have much character (or more accurately, belief in their character--themselves or life) and they die alone and miserable with blood-stained mementos of what was and what could've been.

We had to wait, and so did Ennis, to the very end to see the development of Ennis as a man, and in turn, as a character, when he gets off of his butt and decides to participate in his daughter's marriage. Hey, look at that: He learned something! (Am I remembering that correctly? I saw the movie a while ago...)

Completely agree with you on the point of the unbelievably developed gaydar WY people had. I'm from a small hick town, and didn't have gaydar until I moved to the Bay Area. Only in retrospect did gay people live in my hometown.

(Sorry for the long comment! Maybe I should've wrote my own post.)

kests- A combination of the word "kiss" and "tests." We knew Ennis and Jack aced the kests when they were reunited.
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