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BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

8 January 2006

Ellen, Shelly and I went to the first showing of Brokeback Mountain here in Davis.  It was the 12:45 p.m. show and we wondered how many people would show up.  As it turned out, the theatre was more than 3/4 full, so a good showing.

It's a beautifully shot, beautifully acted movie and I was drawn into the story.  No question that I liked it and I'm glad to see that it's getting the acclaim that it's getting, but there was something "off" about it for me and I couldn't figure out what it was.

Then I read a comment Steve had left in a guestbook and my feelings began to gel....

...what was missing was a truly full-blooded gay romance. This was a movie written by a straight person, directed by a straight person and acted by straight people. If this were a tragic hetero love story, we would have seen much tenderness in their scenes together. Holding hands, lying together, tender kisses, loving embraces, etc. What we got was one violent sex scene, one violent kissing scene and then lots and lots of noble scenes where they stood on mountaintops talking about how tragic their lives are.

Where was the love? Where was the romance? Where was the tenderness? The flirting? The touching? The caressing? If they weren't fishing, what were they doing out there besides looking all noble?

This is a movie for straight people who don't want to see us in love, but want to see us acting like martyrs. I still liked the movie, but I missed the romance and the love that others are putting into it.

Bingo.  That's the missing element.   This seems to be the kind of gay relationship that a straight world wants to believe in, where true "love" isn't really possible, but it's all about the sex.   "When this thing grabs me," I believe Ennis says at one point, explaining his inability to get Jack out of his head.  Of course this was set in 1963 when times were much different than they are now, but still--it was just the two of them, a mountain and lots of sheep.  A little tenderness might not have been out of place.

Alexandra Billings (who has a fabulous journal--you should acquaint yourself with her) asks, about director Ang Lee...

What is he trying to say? Is it about prejudice? Is it some kind of mirror? Is it to remind us of Gays gone by? That wasn’t clear to me. So, through all the great images and performances, I couldn’t have cared less about these men and their hang ups, because I don’t understand why we need more films about Homosexuals in turmoil. Can’t the Gays be happy? Someone, somewhere, for the love of God, write a screen play where the Gay Guy gets the Gay Guy. Write something that has to do with the Gay Girl hooking up with that perfect Gay Girl. Write a story about a Transsexual who is actually happy about her transition. Because, those people exist. Really. Honestly. I know them. They’re friends of mine.

It reminded me of the old movies of the 40s and 50s, where it was almost an unwritten rule that if someone made what society considered a morally "bad" choice, there had to be some unspeakable consequences.  The woman who gets pregnant out of wedlock loses her child, or dies in childbirth.  The cheating spouse contracts some fatal disease or gets killed, or has a change of heart only to see all she suddenly realizes she cares for taken away from her.

It's like an old fashioned story where these two guys have to be punished because they love each other.  But they can't even say the word "love,"  though their relationship lasts for more than 20 years.

It was a good movie to make.  It's wonderful that it's getting so many accolades, but, as Alexandra and Steve ask--can't we have a "happily ever after" gay themed movie?  Does a movie about gay people, by definition, have to end tragically?

To add insult to injury, NBC Movie "critic" Gene Shallit panned the movie, which is his right (I speak up for critics, even if I disagree with them.  Some of my best friends are critics :) ), but in his negative review, he chose to totally mis-characterize the character of Jack.   Here is this young gay guy who finds a young man he is spending an entire summer alone with attractive, and suddenly Shallit sees him as one of them nasty predatory gay guys who can't keep their hands to themselves.  He must have seen a different version than I did.

I have written to The Today Show to express my outrage, not at the negative review, but at using what is supposed to be the "critic's corner" to bare a little blatant homophobia and add fuel to the fire that all a gay guy wants is to get in another guy's pants.

But then, just when all looks bleak, along comes Nathan Lane on Letterman to put it all in perspective.  This is a video, which takes awhile to load, and I hope it stays up long enough for lots of people to see it.  It's absolutely marvelous.

Go see the movie.  It's worth seeing (and you won't understand all the attention at all the awards shows if you don't).  It's good that mainstream gay-themed movies are being made and accepted.  But go with the knowledge that there's a reason why they're called "gay" -- and it's not because they spend all their time looking morose and leading lives of quiet desperation.  I'd suggest that for a chaser, you watch a nice, sweet, happily ever after gay film, but nobody seems to be making those.

Maybe you can catch a performance of "The Big Voice" instead ('cause that's a sweet, happily ever after gay musical).

 

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