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January 06, 2006


North Dallas Thirty

Hmmm....well, I was going to comment first on your metaphor.....namely that, you know you've found your man when the mountain stays steep, but the drop-off gets smaller...and smaller....and smaller.


Haven't seen it, have no plans to see it, really kinda tired of hearing about it.

Honestly, it looks boring as sin, and I'm of a generation where people came out in high school. So, this living our adult lives hidden, in eternal angst, if only society . . .

Not the flick for me. This is a film for an older gay demographic than I occupy. I've noticed 30+ seems to be the most suited to it. My gay friends roughly my age or slightly younger? None of them have seen it. Surprising at first, until I gave it a little thought.


Well... I'm 28 and saw BM with five of my friends (ages 23-30). We all came into the movie with similar skepticism. As we waited in the lobby we made plans to barhop after the movie. Sure there were some slow stretches, but when we walked out of the theater hardly any of us could say anything. Nobody was in the mood to go out anymore, so we just kinda said our goodbyes and went home. As I walked home I could feel my eyes watering and I knew it wasn't because of the cold. It didn't actually make it all the way to crying, but I've never felt that way about a movie.

Is it as great as the hype? No, of course not. No movie could live up to the expectations that have been heaped on BM. But it's still a pretty amazing movie.

Craig Ranapia

Well, it looks like London Independent columnist Johann Hari has kicked off the Borkeback-lash in fine style (http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=766)

The film is tender and sensitive and (most important) tragic. And that's why, far from being a radical break, it actually fits into a long pattern of Hollywood's very constrained acceptance of gay people. The rules are simple, and stretch back to the first backlot MGM ever built. There are two types of Acceptable Gay Man: you can be a sexless sissy who is fairly happy with his female friends and waspish one-liners, or you can be masculine and actually have a sex drive - in which case you will die.

Now don't hold back, Johann - tell us what you really think. :) But I've still got one question, how many of the people drooling over 'Brokeback' are exactly the same people who were notably cool towards Lee's earlier 'The Wedding Banquet' - where the non-stereotypical inter-racial couple at the beginning are still together and alive at the end?


Ennis was a sexless sissy?


What an idiot. By this man's logic, Queer as Folk must be the most brilliant depiction of gay life ever produced. The acting and writing might be soso, and the plot lines predictable, but at least there's lots of man on man action!


Does anyone here remember "Making Love"? It was maybe 20 years ago with Harry Hamlin. A positive gay love story . BIG BOMB!


Johann must haver been talking about "old" Hollywood. The Paul Lynnd, Charles Nelson Reilly, Tony Randall types.


The reviewer has a point though. The "Gay men fall in love, one of them is beaten up/ to death," has been done over and over and over again. It's interesting, but been there, done that many a time. In the occasional happy gay movie we get, it's all swishy queens, and "I'm so glad I'm me!" and blahhhhh.

I'm with Craig on the Wedding Banquet. It was probably a more important film in gay cinema. It dealt with complicated issues of love and sex, but it was about gay men leading relatively normal lives, with almost zero stereotypes present, and no one dies in the end (HIV doesn't even make a cameo).

Hollywood's need a cold gay corpse on the slab to wring emotion out of the audience has been done.


Well, there's an interesting kink to Twist's death that isn't entirely obvious unless you've read the short story. Not gonna spoil it (just read the book), but it adds an interesting layer to the whole thing.


I just saw the movie and it made me sad. Reminds me of to many of my own choices and how hard it is to actually get anything out of a gay relationship with the type of guy I'm attracted to. (stoic country types with hats) I think it's more a warning than a movie about gay love. A guy in Colorado...damnit can't remember his name, has been blogging about it for a long time and he's right, Jack didn't need to die to make the point of the movie. They managed to spend their whole lives pining for each other and accomplishing little more than breaking them selves on the shores of society like some many of us try to do. If you ever check out http://bilge.seablogger.com/ you'll read the tale of a gay man in his last days of and how it's affected his life. he's a strong old cuss and might beat it yet but he's got a lot to say about how we treat each other and how our choices play out in the long run.
Maybe we should all run away and remake our world to suit ourselves like Jack Twist dreams of, but truth be told very few of us could leave our ruts. I'm still not sure of what my final memory of both the movie and the story will be but I think it will be about despair.


Spoiler? I've read it twice and I have no idea what you're talking about.

Craig Ranapia


No, Hari isn't an idiot. He's asked a perfectly reasonable question - and I've long believed that the culture is still way more comfortable with gay men as the exotic but neutered "other" or the tragic victim who dies so the audience can pat themselves on the back for having learned a valueable lesson.

I'm as big a fan of doomed romances as anyone - and have the badly degraded VCR of 'Brief Encounter' to prove it - but you know something, I'm not stupid enough to lay too much sociopolitical baggage on what is, ultimately, a well-wrought (if faintly absurd) melodrama.


Hear about Gene Shalit's review on the Today Show?



Craig, gay activists have been bitching about this problem for over a decade. "Movies always show us as a victim/overly persecuted/dramatic/exotic/whatever". OK, does that mean "In and Out" was a better movie? Or maybe "Broken Hearts Club"? Both of them were nice cotton candy/slice of life/"we're all normal in the end" type movies. Nobody dies alone and lonely. Not enough sex in those movies? Then I refer you back to QaF. Very honest and upfront view of gay sexuality over there.

Sure, BM is a very tragic and dramatic movie. But it's a movie, and some movies are supposed to be tragic and dramatic. It's not difficult to go out and find straight movies with the same themes. This one just happens to be gay.


I think I see both Craig and Dan's points here. "Murder" is probably the number one plot device in movies, gay or straight, or if sexuality is irrelevant. Fact is, MANY gay men are killed just for being gay, and BM was just being factual to say "It's hard to be a gay cowboy in Wyoming in the early '60s."

On the other hand, if it were happy-go-lucky like "Broken Hearts Club," would it be doing nearly so well on a per-screen basis? Highly doubtful. Maybe some of those straight guys who would be otherwise uncomfortable seeing it can comfort themselves in thinking, "It's OK, the fag dies in the end."


Malcontent, it's doubtful many straight guys uncomfortable at the thought of seeing BM would even enter the cinema and therefore see the scene where Jack is killed - there's no consolation value (for anyone) in his death. Although useful as a plot device, it was disappointing that Ang Lee reverted to the oft-adopted gay movie formula. There was surely a raft of other ways to bring this story to a conclusion. Unfortunately, the director further embedded the pitiable end dealt to multitudes of gay film characters in the past. While BM is not a story of hope, its end might well have been less formulaic.


From all that I've read, it seems the movie remains more or less faithful to Proulx's writing, so Lee filmed the ending according to the short story.

I think what I'm wondering is how the hype for this movie is turning it into "the most significant gay film of all time!" as the material isn't exactly new to gay cinema.

The answer, I think, is that two attractive twenty-something B-list stars (who swear to god they're not gay, really, no, seriously) are in it. Because if you look at the material itself, I can name more than a dozen gay movies offhand that have followed similar paths.

I don't see this as a great advance for us. "We're victims!" Yes, ok. Everyone's got that message, and if straight people see this film maybe they can learn a Very Valuable Lesson (which they apparently cannot learn unless one of the gay characters is dead by the end).

I don't think my quarrel is necessarily with the film, because I thought the short story was very good. I think I take issue with gay folk who have turned it into so many things, and endlessly discuss "what it means," and pin all these hopes that it will do . . . something to society. It's just a movie. Brokeback Mountain will do about as much for the gay debate as Million Dollar Baby did for euthaniasia.

Which is to say, absolutely nothing at all.


What struck me most about BM was how the gay part, however hyped in the media, seemed almost tangential after having actually watched the movie. There's movie doesn't overplay the drama of it being a gay love affair, it's clear they're not playing that angle for the shock value at all. Their love just happens. There is some drama because of their living situations, but again it's not overplayed. Again, it is what it is. There are very broad themes in this movie that have absolutely nothing to do with the sexuality of the main protagonists. Unrequited love, social mores that interfere with self-actualization, the desolate but striking life in america's far west.

Before I had actually seen this movie, and all I knew about it was the hype, I just thought of it as 'the gay cowboy movie.' Now that I've actually seen it, I think of it as a true love story. That 'Love is a force of nature' is a very appropriate tagline.


I'd also be careful about complaining that the filmmakers had any responsibility for overhyping their moving or making it out to be more than it is. Most of this hype came from the gay press itself and likely wasn't the result of anything the movie's promoters did. BM's official advertising has been pretty low key and sedate (didn't mal post those BM 'for your consideration' press kits that did the complete opposite?).

A lot of the hype also to do with two mainstream, a-list stars agreeing to take on a role as controversial/challenging as this (the fact that they're drop dead gorgeous doesn't help either). The point is - this movie didn't set out to create all this hype. Our reaction, our expectation that this has to be some kind of historic milestone is what has caused all the hype.


Heath and Jake aren't A-list stars. Cute, young, etc., but they don't reliably open films for tens of millions.

I'm not talking about the studio's promotion. I'm talking about the gay community's attaching of significance to a film that, when considered, isn't really.


You're calling Heath and Jake B-listers? I think you're getting your hollywood terminology all jumbled up. You see, there are precise definitions here. Heath and Jake have been on a media tear lately. Mr. Gyllenhaal especially has been on about umpteen billion different magazine covers. The seeming inevitability of BM's oscar cashout adds some serious gravitas points. The "tens of millions" prerequisite is indeed a special club, limited to about ten people. But they aren't A-listers... they're Superstars. To illustrate:

Superstars: Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise
A-listers: Tobey Maguire, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn
B-listers: Nick Lachey, Dakota Fanning, Olsen Twins
C-listers: Jim Belushi, Kevin Federline, anybody on a current, major network reality show.
D-listers: Flava Fav, Steven Segal, anybody from MTV's Real World

I hope this clarifies things for you, Robbie :)


(yeah, that was a joke)

Craig Ranapia

Dan wrote:
Craig, gay activists have been bitching about this problem for over a decade.

I reply:
Certainly, though it all seems rather moot once you've sat through a 'Basic Instinct'/'Showgirls' double bill with a dozen lesbians having way too much politically-incorrect fun for my comfort. :)

I just think Hari does make a fair point. As I've said before, I'm going to see the film because I'm a huge fan of Ang Lee - and you can hardly say there's too many hetero happy ever after moments in 'Crouching Tiger', 'The Ice Storm' or even 'The Hulk'. But, FFS, can Hollywood please stop patting itself on the back for it's "tolerance" and "courage". IMO, that label would have been justified if films like 'The Wedding Banquet', 'The Sum of Us' & 'Antonia's Line' had got any kind of distribution outside the arthouse circuit.

And with all due respect, if Focus Features weren't hyping the whole 'can the red states handle this?' line, then someone should be drawing unemployment right now. And if that's not playing up the shock value - because otherwise, what the hell do you have without the 'gay cowboys eating pudding' angle. Any Merchant-Ivory film with bloody Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, that's what. Or Douglas Sirk, if your tastes are more *ahem* cinephiliac.

To be honest, I think we're seen the culture wars get more than usually stupid this year - Is 'Revenge of the Sith' and everything Steven Spielberg touches covert left-wing propaganda? Does Andrew Adamson want to start the First Church of Aslan? Is King Kong a racist PETA recruiting tool. Oh hell... to paraphrase Freud, sometimes a movie is just a movie.


I remember 'Making love', Dan. I blogged about it, in fact, when BM first loomed.

But I don't recall it as 'positive' - what it was, was very real, especially for the period. Hamlin's Hot Dude Who Won't Commit was of course overdone, as was the straightness of Ontkean. Real, too, was Kate Jackson's anguish.

Why do we look for positive or negative messages in films, anyway? Life doesn't assign such tags to our days, and any deliberate sensibility infusion is just plain bullshit, certainly not to be trusted. Tell a fucking story, tell it well, and make it as realistic as possible.

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