Film and TV

A Mountainous Brokeback Update


Brokeback Mountain is steaming along in its platform release. It opened in the UK and was a "massive" hit in London cinemas over the weekend, knocking King Kong off his perch and pulling in £306,725.

I believe Brokeback has only been helped by Larry Miller pulling it from his theaters in Utah, as the move made headlines across the country, increasing the film's exposure. The GLBT Community Center of Utah has issued a call to action, asking its supporters to not spend their dollars at the nearly 70 businesses owned by Larry H. Miller holdings. A prominent Mormon, Miller is the owner of the Utah jazz, and many car dealerships.

Heath_ledger_brokeback_1I reported earlier this week that Heath Ledger has spoken out about the Utah incident, likening the actions of Miller to racism: ""I heard a while ago that West Virginia was going to ban it. But that's a state that was lynching people only 25 years ago, so that's to be expected. Personally, I don't think the movie is (controversial) but I think maybe the Mormons in Utah do. I think it's hilarious and very immature of a society. If two people are loving . . . I think we should be more concerned if two people express anger in love, than love."

Ironweed Films has started a petition letter to Larry Miller. An opinion column in the Salt Lake Tribune calls Miller's actions "his loss": "We can only guess that Miller had not actually seen the film at that point. If he had, he might realize that to dismiss "Brokeback Mountain" as a gay movie would be like passing on Moby Dick as a fish story."

Some Mormons are actually pissed too. Read this column from the University of Utah's student paper: "Religious beliefs are religious beliefs, but the truth of the matter is that a good chunk of Mormons in this community are tolerant of homosexuality and have no problem with the thought of a cinematic homosexual romance, especially when their kids won't be able to get in without a parent anyway. Guess what? Aaron Allen and I, the two chief film critics for The Chronicle, are both Mormon, and both of us loved 'Brokeback Mountain.'"

Brokeback has been doing very well on its own, however, without the help of the bigots. You may have heard that it won Best Picture and Best Director as well as tied for Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams) at the Critics Choice awards.

It has also been selling theaters out in the heartland and red states, places naysayers warned the film would never fly. Lest people accuse me of only reporting the good news, however, Brokeback was snubbed by the National Society of Film Critics. Capote, another of this year's brilliant (and gay!) films, took top honors.

Here are some additional updates:

road.jpg 0418As research for the film, Ang Lee gave the actors copies of Will Fellows' book Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest, according to what Jake Gyllenhaal told Boston's In Newsweekly: "Before we started shooting, Ang Lee and James [Schamus, the producer] gave us books about first-hand accounts of guys growing up in the Midwest and their encounters with men and their attraction to men, and what that was, and even they didn't understand what it was, or what they were doing."

road.jpg Jake also recently talked to Empire magazine about his on-screen kiss with Heath Ledger: "When we kissed it felt like we were exfoliating."

road.jpg The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin went to theaters to get the reactions of straight men who were going to see the movie, finding their reactions to be overwhelmingly positive. Like the reaction of 65-year-old retired state worker Curtis Wittwer: "He counted five reasons for seeing the film: It's a western, it's directed by Ang Lee, the screenplay is co-written by Larry McMurtry and it's been getting rave reviews. Plus, he was egged on after reading a New York Times piece by Larry David in which the comedian satirically complains that watching the movie could turn him gay. 'It was just a beautiful movie. You could feel the pain at the end.'"

road.jpg Columnist Leonard Pitts explores what is behind the "ick factor" that so many discomfited straight men use as their excuse for avoiding Brokeback: "I find myself wondering if this primeval revulsion doesn't speak less to our antipathy toward homosexuality than to our fears about masculinity. I mean, while a movie about two women in love would surely be controversial, I doubt it would present the visceral threat "Brokeback Mountain" does for some of us. I doubt Larry David would be scared to see it."

road.jpg The San Jose Mercury News reports on its status as a chick flick, saying that what it succeeds as "female-targeted emotional pornography," a great description imho: "The sight of Jake Gyllenhaal crying in his truck as he drives away from Ennis (who retreats to an alley and vomits in tortured despair) is enough to make even the bitterest woman swoon. That moment, like so many in the film, feels like an epiphany not because of the gay context but because for once someone other than the woman is crying. Traditionally, women have done the heavy emotional lifting."

Bb_still_4road.jpg The Flick Filosopher MaryAnn Johanson writes an emotional column on Brokeback: "And I wonder too whether now, Brokeback Mountain won't be real now... not a physical place but a cultural space, a tangible moment in time in which some folks' eyes were opened to the pointlessness and unkindness of their bigotry."

road.jpg Greenville, Mississippi will get to see the movie, if theater owners can get their hands on a print of it, but folks in some parts of Queensland, Australia are worried it may never get to them. It is making news in Boise!


road.jpg The Towleroad Guide to Brokeback Mountain

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  1. How long has this movie been out and it's still getting press... Curious when this movie comes out on DVD and maybe PSP.

    It's just opening here (Jacksonville, FL) on Friday the 13th and I've already gotten tickets for me and the boyfriend.

    Posted by: Chuck | Jan 11, 2006 5:21:22 PM

  2. Am I the worst gay in the world? I did not love Brokeback Mountain... I fell asleep a few times, to be honest. After all of your praise and build up, I was so anxious to see it... and wanted to see it with close friends who could hold me up as I fell in their arms after in tears (Hey, I cried all through the first half of Batman Begins, I am sensitive!). But, in the end, besides a few touching moments, I was left rather cold and unmoved... I am a horrible person :(

    Posted by: Jeffrey Todd | Jan 11, 2006 5:25:48 PM

  3. Considering that there wasn't a lot of promotion locally, Brokeback is doing very well here in Manchester, UK. I noticed a lot of straight couples going to see it as well as a few confused gays, "What do you mean we have to queue? To see a gay film!?" It was a long queue as well.

    Posted by: Mark C | Jan 11, 2006 5:37:43 PM

  4. I have to admit I'm with you Jeffrey. While I definitely liked the movie - a lot - and was taken by many of the emotional moments, I'm not feeling the rapture that so many others seem to be feeling. Don' t get me wrong. I'm extremely pleased so many people are connecting with this movie in such a profound way. It just doesn't seem to to be clicking with me the way it should. I think it may be because I was born and raised in new York and never had to question my sexuality nor did I ever have anyone else question it. To myself and everyone around me homosexuality is an accepted reality. I know how fortunate I am to have grown up in this environment, but it makes me wonder if I just don't have the perspective to fully appreciate something like Brokeback. Is there anyone out there with a similar take?

    Posted by: MT | Jan 11, 2006 5:45:22 PM

  5. Jeffrey, my dear troll, you are not the worse gay in the world. You're just different, is all.

    Posted by: diana | Jan 11, 2006 5:47:28 PM

  6. Hey Jeffrey, you are not REQUIRED to love it.:)

    And that pic of Jake in Empire is wonderful. The man is sculpted.

    Posted by: Lady Heather | Jan 11, 2006 5:48:12 PM

  7. i loved brokeback, hated capote. hope that doesn't make me 'confused'

    Posted by: b mac | Jan 11, 2006 6:05:30 PM

  8. TROLL!!?? Diana you hag how dare you :) I'm kidding.. but maybe I'm a junior troll... wow at 26 years old, I guess I'm doomed to a life of emptiness and bitterness!! Thanks for making that so clear to me Diana! ;) HEY MT - I think I am with you, as I was raised in a very open and forward thinking Los Angeles neighborhood... perhaps my trauma free upbringing makes it difficult for me to connect...

    Posted by: Jeffrey Todd | Jan 11, 2006 6:11:48 PM

  9. RE: Sam Alito Hearings

    Hearings get contentious, as if that was actually news? The Democrats got all huffy and puffy about John Roberts' answers, too, and then turned around and overwhelmingly voted for him.

    They're just trying to make news, now - pretending like they're actually doing something for this country, rather than maintaining their status as the Party of No.

    Useless. Utterly useless.

    Posted by: Leon | Jan 11, 2006 6:26:12 PM

  10. I'm totally stumped by gay men who react as Jeffrey did, but so be it. As often discussed, all the hype can definitely diminish, for some, what it actually turns out to be. But what that is, IMHO, is a masterpiece, and that conviction only grows on me with time. Its flaws are dwarfed by its unprecedented strengths. Stumbling upon the last couple of segments of the Critics' Choice Awards, I teared up just to hear Lee and the film announced as winners—particularly after Hoffman won over Ledger. [and I thought a mini riot was going to break out when they accidentally or intentionally-due-to-time-restraints started to cut off Lee's remarks! Perhaps some professional gay political groups should ask this foreigh-born, straight man to give them a little pro bono advice. He's done more in less than two months to open hearts and minds than they have in years.

    Posted by: Leland | Jan 11, 2006 6:36:12 PM

  11. Boise, of course, has an infamous place in gay history as it was the scene of a gay witch hunt in the late '50s. In an oblique attempt [that failed] to undermine a powerful, closeted gay politician, some of his opponents boiled up a scandal out of the fact that several local teenagers were earning money, gifts, and favors peddling their wares to some of Boise's gays. Of course, the buyers were made out as "sexual predators," as Gene Shalit might have said before seeing the light, and the boys innocent victims. The classic account, "The Boys of Boise," describes the perfect-for-film scene of someone discovering that one man had immediately left town upon hearing about the homo hunt--the morning newspaper announcing it and his half-eaten breakfast found still on his kitchen table. Several lives were ruined, some got jail sentences, and one man was killed in an argument with a relative. Now half-a-century later, Ennis and Jack have ridden into town....Wouldn't it be interesting to watch the film with some of the surviving players of that real life drama!

    Posted by: Tagg | Jan 11, 2006 6:52:09 PM

  12. miller evidently refilled the pulled Brokeback slot with the bloody rabid moronic gore of Hostel.
    in America violence trumps sex.
    very sad indeed.

    Posted by: A.J. | Jan 11, 2006 7:12:36 PM

  13. Thanks Andy for this lengthy update. I can't get enough of reading about how this film is doing -- and you are the primary source. So, thanks!

    Different people react to the movie in different ways. I have seen it 3 times, with different groups of friends and everyone has their own perspective on it. One thing though -- we were all talking about it afterwards (and for some of us, several days later). This is probably one of my all-time favorite movies, mainly because it was done so simply, yet was profound on so many levels. I never sobbed during it (I, like Jeffrey above, was initially expecting to, because of all the hype). But any film that has me thinking for days about all its implications, and has me conversing with people about the characters and their lives, affects me even deeper.

    Posted by: randy | Jan 11, 2006 7:37:05 PM

  14. Here in the Phoenix area, a large Mormon population exists and it is a delight to hear how so many closeted Mormons haunt the gay bars. One is a bishop! A real cruiser and is known as such. When one is found out he must rid himself of this sin or he is officially excommunicated as in the movie Latter Days which as you know was written by an exMormon.

    Posted by: dan | Jan 11, 2006 8:00:40 PM

  15. If you didn't think too much of the movie, read the piece by Ms. Johanson. It's a really great read and might give a little more "explanation" about its importance to gay culture.

    Posted by: HKM | Jan 11, 2006 8:07:33 PM

  16. I realize there's a generation gap in the gay community (recently reported on by The Advocate), and that a substantial number of younger gay people have not, mercifully, grown up with the ostracism, invisibility, daily condemnation, and terror that we "older" gay folk have. Still, I don't quite get how that renders younger people immune to the devastating emotions in "Brokeback." Does one have to have been a Jew living in Nazi-era Germany to be moved by "Schindler's List"? Does one have to have been a Tutsi living in Rwanda in 1994 to be stunned by "Hotel Rwanda"?

    Posted by: JOE 2 | Jan 11, 2006 8:39:28 PM

  17. I would just like to make a comment about some of the previous comments posted by some of the younger gay males.I agree that this movie will get different reactions from different people. It will mean different things to different people. But I would hope Regardless of your age, you can be 15 to 99, you could be born, raised and still live on the east coast, midwest or west coast, that you walk away from this movie remembering this. Even though it is told in the past,1963 and over a 20 year span, there are still men in our country that are forced or made to feel that they have to live the way these two charaters did. That there are places still to this day in our country that will treat you the way they were treated, and even killed for being gay and wanting to be with the one person you love. Please dont be blind and think these kinds of things do not still go on in our world today just because it may be more excepted where you live then other parts..

    Posted by: Ken | Jan 11, 2006 10:16:49 PM

  18. Hype does diminish the impact, but my advice is to read Proulx's short story (maybe twice, if so inclined) before seeing the movie. Both are damn good, if not better in combination.

    Posted by: jon | Jan 11, 2006 11:09:13 PM

  19. Very well said, Ken. Although progress is slowly being made, this story has more ties to reality than many people (gay and straight) want to admit. I am very happy that it is being shown all over (well, most places), and if it causes someone to take a closer look at conditions today, even better.

    Posted by: randy | Jan 11, 2006 11:39:24 PM

  20. My yesterdays are all boxed up and neatly put away
    But every now and then you come to mind
    Cause you were always waiting to be picked to play the game
    But when your name was called, you found a place to hide
    When you knew that I was always on your side

    Well everything was easy then, so sweet and innocent
    But your demons and your angels reappeared
    Leavin' all the traces of the man you thought you'd be
    Leavin' me with no place left to go from here
    Leavin' me so many questions all these years

    But is there someplace far away, someplace where all is clear
    Easy to start over with the ones you hold so dear
    Or are you left to wonder, all alone, eternally
    This isn't how it's really meant to be
    No it isn't how it's really meant to be

    Well they say that love is in the air, but never is it clear,
    How to pull it close and make it stay
    Butterflies are free to fly, and so they fly away
    And I'm left to carry on and wonder why
    Even through it all, I'm always on your side

    But is there someplace far away, someplace where all is clear
    Easy to start over with the ones you hold so dear
    Or are we left to wonder, all alone, eternally
    But is this how it's really meant to be
    No is it how it's really meant to be

    Well if they say that love is in the air, never is it clear
    How to pull it close and make it stay
    If butterflies are free to fly, why do they fly away
    Leavin' me to carry on and wonder why
    Was it you that kept me wondering through this life
    When you know that I was always on your side

    Posted by: Always on your side | Jan 12, 2006 12:11:54 AM

  21. Can't get enough Brokeback.

    We moved our Brokeback Guide to:

    We now have a team of volunteers updating it nightly, with a dozen new links each day.

    And our discussion morphed into a big discussion board dedicated to brokeback--8,000 posts since we went live xmas eve. A very bright group:

    Posted by: Dave Cullen | Jan 12, 2006 1:02:33 AM

  22. I read these comments last night, and I've really been thinking a lot about them. I grew up in the rural midwest. I am an older gay man although I was a young boy in 1963. I would guess I've been out longer than some of you guys have been alive (slight exaggeration there). I made a terrible mistake when I was young, and I married and had children, but unlike Jack and Ennis, I came out and have remained friends with my ex-wife. I can relate easily to these two men.

    I can understand why younger, more urbane gay men may not totally relate to the story. Although I know a lot of young, gay men in Minneapolis have. However, you don't need to relate to the situation in order to feel empathy for the characters. It doesn't mean you have to love the movie, but I don't see how any caring human being would not sense the devastating emotions that these men felt. I felt a great deal of empathy for the two wives even though I've never been female or married to a gay man. O.K., I guess I really do have a common outlaw husband who happens to be gay, but you get the idea.

    Posted by: Mike in the Tundra | Jan 12, 2006 5:57:02 AM

  23. Andy, you certainly don't get enough credit for doing a yeoman's job of covering Brokeback Mountain.

    Thank you very much!!

    Posted by: gabe | Jan 12, 2006 9:33:32 AM

  24. OK... don't get me wrong... i didn't feel NO EMOTION... that's not what I meant... I just wasn't buckled over in tears, as I was prepped to do by all of my friends who saw it before me. I'm the embarrassing friend that no one wants to go see sad movies with because I will cry so hard the whole row of seats shake... Many a first date has not progressed to a second becuase of my sensitive buttons. I'm just saying, that like Ang Lee's amazingly powerful THE ICE STORM (which is one of my favorites), I was left emotionally numb and cold and empty... Somehow, the scenes that affected me most were with the wives... Especially Ennis' wife, what a tragic life she had alone waiting for him, knowing the secret... but the part that hit home was Jakes mom, who lived that horrible cold life with her callous husband and knew deep in her heart the secret Jake kept and wanted to embrace it but didn't know how...

    But MAN, this movie must be on to something if it has influenced this many conversations and opened up this dialouge!!!

    Posted by: Jeffrey Todd | Jan 12, 2006 1:01:11 PM

  25. Perhaps if you tried harder enough not to doze off you would've buckled over in tears like most of us did.

    Posted by: gabe | Jan 12, 2006 1:44:52 PM

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