Sunday, January 08, 2006

News & Observer writes on Brokeback

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I guess it is a good thing, well... it is. The newspaper of North Carolina's capitol city has an article on Brokeback Mountain today. The Raleigh News & Observer featured the article in their Sunday Lifestyles section:
And you were surprised 'Brokeback' stirred debate? Craig D. Lindsey, Staff Writer January 8, 2006 'Brokeback Mountain" is the resident, talked-about/blogged-about movie of the moment. With its excess of critical praise (including mine), Golden Globe nominations and box office record (highest per-screen gross of any non-animated movie in history), it's being touted as the film that'll take over the Oscars. But that's not what people are talking and blogging about. In the midst of all the "Brokeback" brouhaha, men seem to be going out of their way to say they won't see it -- and then dispensing a really good reason why. Some say Ang Lee's cowboy love story is not their cultural cup of tea. They hate romances of any kind. Or they hate cowboy films. "I'm not really all that interested in cowboy life," Houston poet Eric "Equality" Blaylock told me. "It's just something [African-American males] don't relate to." Others say they're resisting a liberal media trying to guilt-trip them. On his blog (at, Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott called out several such guys, including Slate's Mickey Kaus, who invoked the name of liberal media king Frank Rich of The New York Times in his statement of contempt. "When the film's national box office fails to live up to its hype and to the record attendance at a few early screenings," Kaus writes, "prepare to be subjected to a tedious round of guilt-tripping and chin-scratching by Frank Rich and every metropolitan daily entertainment writer who yearns to write about What the Movies Say About America Today. (Wild guess: They say we're still homophobic!). ... Maybe if we all go see it, Rich won't write about it!" And James Lileks (at complained about Entertainment Weekly's giving the cover to "Brokeback Mountain" (plus an inside story to "Transamerica") over "The Chronicles of Narnia," as if the editors felt that they needed to "encourage movies about cowboys in love, because somewhere in some small town a gay youth looks at the box office grosses, and decides to stay in the closet out of fear he will be eaten by a computer generated lion who manifests the stigmata. Or something like that." (For the record, the magazine did its next cover story on "Narnia.") Leave it to Larry David, co-creator of "Seinfeld" and star of the HBO sitcom "Curb Your Enthusiasm," to boldly go where no straight man would even think about going: He says he's afraid the movie might turn him gay. In a New York Times op-ed piece headlined "Cowboys Are My Weakness," David describes himself as a "susceptible" person -- "easily influenced, a natural-born follower with no sales-resistance." "If two cowboys, male icons who are 100 percent all-man, can succumb, what chance to do I have, half to a quarter of a man, depending on whom I'm with at the time?" David writes. Later, he admits that there are perks when you are part of "the gay business": "I know I've always gotten along great with men. I never once paced in my room rehearsing what to say before asking a guy if he wanted to go to the movies. And I generally don't pay for men, which of course is their most appealing attribute." David's piece was funnier than nearly all of "Curb's" recent season. But you can't deny that there is some truth in it. After all, in this country, some people think homosexuality is an epidemic -- scarier than Communism, folks! -- and some even consider "Brokeback" a recruitment film. If anything was more predictable than the hype for "Brokeback," given its credentials and strategic release, it's the backlash. And the backlash is bubbling away. Baltimore Sun critic Michael Sragow recently revisited Howard Hawks' 1948 western "Red River," starring John Wayne and the notoriously closeted Montgomery Clift, and called it a more striking gay cowboy movie than the "all-too-sane and tasteful" "Brokeback." In L.A. Weekly, writer/critic/gay historian David Ehrenstein called "Brokeback" a "saddle-packing same-sex equivalent of 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.' " Ehrenstein also clocks off a list of truly groundbreaking "queer films," including works by gay filmmakers Gus Van Sant ("My Own Private Idaho"), Todd Haynes ("Velvet Goldmine") and Gregg Araki ("Mysterious Skin"). It's similar to what New York Press critic Armond White did when he slammed "Brokeback" and gave shout-outs to lesser-known films such as "Son Frere," "A Thousand Clouds of Peace" and 2005's "Loggerheads," made by North Carolina filmmaker Tim Kirkman. True, there are films that are more captivating and compelling when it comes to capturing gay culture (and thus never get seen, much less hyped). But you've got to give "Brokeback" props for getting people talking. Hey, I don't see people debating all over the place about "Cheaper By The Dozen 2." Debate is good Films with touchy subjects are meant to be debated, discussed and dissected -- by the people who see them, of course. If there is a film you don't want to see, like "Cheaper by the Dozen 2," it doesn't necessarily mean you hate kids or families or Bonnie Hunt or whatever. It just means you're not interested in seeing it, and you might not be equipped to join the discussion. And remember, no film is going to single-handedly destroy the moral, traditional fabric of our country. (That's been gone for quite some time now, and for those of you who still think there's one, you're just as in the closet as the two cowboys in the movie.) Besides, a friend of mine, a man who has been married for 10 years, saw it, liked it and is just fine about the whole thing. However, he does keep telling me he wishes he knew how to quit me.
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