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Brokeback Mountain –A Limited Success & A Rorschach Test

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 6:12 am - March 3, 2006.
Filed under: Gay America,Movies/Film & TV

Seven years ago, when I decided to move to LA to pursue a career as a screenwriter, I wanted to write (& sell) good scripts with gay characters as I believed (and still believe) that the best way to improve the lives of gay and lesbian people is to promote a more positive image of us. I had hoped to show that just like the overwhelmingly majority of Americans who seek intimate relationships with those of the opposite sex, those of us who seek intimacy with our own gender have similar longings (for affection, understanding and lifelong commitment) and suffer similar sorrows (when we cannot find love — or lose that love). But, as I watched movies and studied the box office, I realized that not many straight Americans would go to see a gay-themed movie regardless of the power of the story or the quality of the filmmaking.

While I continued to work on some gay scripts (completing one and now producing a lesbian-themed short while recently returning to a second (half-finished) gay romance), I have focused more on straight romances, while frequently bringing in a gay romantic subplot as the script’s “B” story. I just didn’t think studios would take a risk on gay-themed movies. And those that they did produce would only be released to a small number of theaters in a handful of cities. Thus, I was delighted when I read last year about the upcoming release of Brokeback Mountain. I hoped that a film helmed by a director as gifted as Ang Lee would prove me wrong and that a gay-themed movie would do well a the box office.

And while the film has done better at the box office (currently at $76 million) than any other film nominated this year for best picture, I, like Mickey Kaus, remain unconvinced that it has done as well in the heartland as some of its fans claim. While Michael Moore‘s movie topped $100 million at the box office in the summer of 2004, Byron York, in his book The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, found that the film “had done the vast bulk of its business in the usual blue state urban centers (and in … Canada).” Given the number of gay people I know who have seen Brokeback multiple times (and the stories I have read about others doing so across the country) as well as the reports I have heard (from friends and acquaintances) of sold-out (and near capacity) screenings in D.C., San Francisco, New York and L.A., it seems that this film is also appealing to a more urban crowd — and may not be experiencing as much crossover as the media has claimed.

That said, the movie is hitting home for a lot of people, most of them gay. And not just gay people. Gay audiences alone, even with multiple viewings, could not sustain a box office this solid. Straight people must be seeing the film as well.

It seems that this movie has played particularly well with gay men born before 1960, those who, like the characters in the film, grew up in an era where there was much more social pressure than there is today to live a heterosexual life. Indeed, I have yet to meet a gay man born in the 1950s (and before) who had seen the movie and was not blown away by it. Those gay men (like your humble bloggers) who were disappionted by the film were all born in the 1960s — or later.

I think one reason the film so moves these people is that it, in many ways, tells their story. Social pressure made it difficult for them to come out — or to make lasting a clandestine, youthful romance. To be sure, those aren’t the only ones moved by the flick. I know many younger gay men — as well as a number of straights — who have found that the film resonates for them as well. Perhaps it is the universal message of the film — of the power of love and loss.

And perhaps those who, either because of social pressure, their own stubbornness, their own pride or some other mistake of their own doing, cut themselves off from someone they loved deeply and so lost forever their connection to that beloved individual, find that Brokeback tells their story. It may well remind them that if they had realized what really mattered, they would have acted differently — when they had a chance to change things — and so spared themselves much sorrow and solitude. Indeed, this is also a theme of a number of great movies such as Gone with the Wind and The Remains of the Day. Brokeback is the first film from a majort to tell this universal story through a gay romance.

It is significant when a gay romance does this well at the box office, but we should not read too much into its success. Its success makes clear that there is a substantial market for quality gay films, but it’s not so clear how far that market extends beyond urban areas and university towns.

As one who didn’t particularly love the film (while appreciating many of its qualities), it’s been particularly amusing to read (& hear) the hype, both positive and negative, about the film. Its fans — as well as gay organizations and many in the gay media — act as if it’s the new Star Wars, a quality movie which has won over audiences from coast to coast, places in between and around the world. Some of its fans have been quick to criticize those not enamored of the film, accusing them of harboring anti-gay animosity. They just can’t seem to recognize that some may have a generally positive attitude toward gay people, but just not care for the film.

And then there are those, mostly from the extreme fringes of social conservatives, who are appalled that the movie has gotten so much media attention. Many of them have faulted the film without even seeing it, figuring that because it’s about those horrible “homosexuals,” it just has to be bad because “homosexuals” are bad.

It’s almost as if one’s attitude toward the film is like a Rorschach Test* which helps explain an individual’s attitudes toward gays. Those who have not seen the film, yet are dismissive of (or hostile to) the flick, probably have negative feelings about gays. Those dismissive of anyone critical of the film tend to define everything in terms of their sexuality (or are insecure in that sexuality as well as in other aspects of their lives) as they are quick to dismiss any criticism of gays (or approved culture product featuring gays) as smacking of bigotry. They don’t see people as individuals but as members of a group. While those who have mixed feelings about the film — and its success — tend to see gay people as individuals, as gifted and as flawed as everyone else. And for those who just didn’t like the film, well, we’ll need more data before making further judgments about their character.

Whatever the film says about its viewers, it has, as Mike, a reader, wrote in an e-mail to me, opened “a flood of dialogue all over the world about being gay. That is the key, discussions and debates are springing up all over the planet about this movie.” We should be grateful that it has increased, as Mike put it “people’s awareness and perspectives about being gay.” It allows people to see that a gay man can delight in the intimate company of another man just as a straight man can delight in the presence of a beloved woman. And the loss of that love can hurt him as it would a straight man in similar circumstances.

While this movie may not have hit home for straight people in the heartland, it has hit home for a pretty substantial audience — and not just gay men. It is beginning to do what I had hoped (and sometimes still hope) to do with my scripts — to show the depth of our relationships and the reality of our longings for intimacy and affection. While the market for such films may not be as great as for such heart-warming straight romances as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it proves that there is still some interest in gay stories well told. And offers the hope that this medium may still serve to improve the image of gay people here in America — and around the world.

-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com

*After writing this, I googled to see if others had used this reference and found that in an article in USA Today on February 22, Scott Bowles noted that, “‘Have you seen Brokeback?’ has become a dinner-party Rorschach test of gay tolerance.

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58 Comments

  1. Brokeback Mountain is to gay movies what Donovan McNabb is to Black quarterbacks. But, come on, look at some of the other pieces of crap that win Oscars on a wave of hype and Hollywood insularity… and I’m thinking especially of that Uber-Crapfest, American Beauty.

    Comment by V the K — March 3, 2006 @ 7:26 am - March 3, 2006

  2. Good luck in your screen writing.

    “I, like Mickey Kaus, remain unconvinced that it has done as well in the heartland as some of its fans claim.”

    My tries-not-to-be-but-can’t-help-himself homophobic brother saw it in Beaumont, Texas, and thought it “was well done.” That’s success for me. It would be helpful if you, and Mr Kaus, would cite some specific numbers and some specific claims to show this “…not as well…as.”

    Of course it would appeal to urbanites. Isn’t that what the producers expected in the first place? It’s a $14 million project. Doesn’t that indicate the prospects of a limited audience?

    Certainly there is not controversy, is there, that the film did/is doing well on the east and west coasts. Just what, though, is a virtual failure in the heartland?

    The attempts to amend state constitutions against us are not going to change overnight because of a single movie. The movie can’t be expected to change behavior. It can be expected to nudge attitudes.

    We can’t expect any more from it than that.

    Enjoy whatever cross-over success “Brokeback Mountain” attains. It’s lagniappe.

    And keep on writin’!

    Comment by Gene — March 3, 2006 @ 8:55 am - March 3, 2006

  3. Completely off topic, but your name was taken in vain over on Cathy Seipp’s blog, here.

    Comment by rightwingprof — March 3, 2006 @ 9:24 am - March 3, 2006

  4. Too funny, prof. Especially when that nutjob Ehrenstein calls Bruce and Dan “picnic ants” in the comments.

    Comment by V the K — March 3, 2006 @ 9:58 am - March 3, 2006

  5. Where does the “I in general don’t like the movie formula so I am not seeing it” person fit in on the Rorschach. I can say that it did show in our small theater in my fairly small town (although only at the 9pm showing). But considering the only other nominated films that showed at the theater were Walk the Line and I think Munich very briefly, that is pretty good.

    No I didn’t see it-like I said the formula doesn’t appeal-I like happy endings-and the quickest way to make me not care for a movie is to make one of the main characters die or make me leave the theater feeling depressed. I also can’t take my kids to it, and the majority of my movie watching of late involves those that come with a G or PG rating. I didn’t even get a chance to see Walk the Line, which I wanted to see.

    I do think it would be nice to see more gay couples outside of comedy in film. I would just like their stories to have happier endings.

    Comment by just me — March 3, 2006 @ 10:37 am - March 3, 2006

  6. I do think it would be nice to see more gay couples outside of comedy in film. I would just like their stories to have happier endings.

    Someone recommended Big Eden to me recently, though I haven’t seen it yet myself and can’t vouch for it. But it seems to fit the “Homos find happiness in the heartland” bill.

    Comment by Throbert McGee — March 3, 2006 @ 10:57 am - March 3, 2006

  7. #5
    Stay away from Hamlet.

    Comment by hank — March 3, 2006 @ 10:58 am - March 3, 2006

  8. It is better to see a gay love story, however flawed you might think it is, be successful. The last “big” gay theme movie to be a big hit was “Birdcage”. While a funny movie, with a huge hetro audience, it had a flaw much more serious. Everyone gay in that movie was a drag queen or lover of one, and that is the image taken away by all those who saw it. And we wonder why strs don’t understand us.

    Comment by John F — March 3, 2006 @ 11:18 am - March 3, 2006

  9. I’ve been surprised by the number of str8 friends who have seen it or expressed interest in seeing it. Of course, I live in L.A.

    Comment by Dale in L.A. — March 3, 2006 @ 11:57 am - March 3, 2006

  10. Vera still can’t see what all the fuss over BBM is (do the math: Bridges of Madison County + Torch Song Trilogy = BBM).

    I did notice the lead actors seem to go out of their way to reinforce their heterosexuality in interviews with the press. Why’s that?

    Apparently, it’s now award worthy to pretend to be sexually attracted to someone you’re actually not. Imagine that! In Vera’s day this was considered “Flirting” and was done for various reasons in almost any situation. Additionally, it was a lot of fun!
    Who knew we were on the cutting edge of being thespians?

    For GPW’s consideration of adapted screenplay:

    Vera always hoped Hollywood would finally film Peter Lefcourts outrageously funny/touching/insightful novel ‘The Dreyfus Affair’

    (see here: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&isbn=0060975598&itm=13

    Comment by Vera Charles — March 3, 2006 @ 12:11 pm - March 3, 2006

  11. #2 – You ask for evidence for the thesis that Brokeback has mainly done well among urbanites and college towns; but then completely concede that thesis, a sentence later.

    Comment by Calarato — March 3, 2006 @ 12:19 pm - March 3, 2006

  12. Dan,

    Good luck with your screen writing, that’s a rough way to make a living until you finally “break in to the big time.”

    I think that it’s a shame that people want turn a movie into a Rorschach Test of overall attitudes. I didn’t see Brokeback Mountain, but not because it was a “gay” movie; simply because it’s a “tragic love story.” I feel very much as “Just Me” does in the comment above. Personally, I don’t enjoy “tragic love stories.” It doesn’t make any difference whether they are gay or hetero. I perosnally prefer to go to the movies to enjoy myself, I can experience enough tragedy in life to not need to witness it portrayed in film.

    By that I don’t mean any critcism of those who do like such movies, but merely to point at that there are a lot of people who simply don’t enjoy “tragic love stories,” and that has nothing to do with being homophobic.

    “Gone with the Wind” is often called a “great movie,” and I can accept that definition, BUT I also know that I’ve seen one time in the last 30 years — on VHS, I didn’t got to see it when it was rereleased — and decided that, “yeah, it’s okay, but I don’t care to see it again.”

    On the other hand, I tend to rewatch the “Police Academy,” and “Pink Panther” movies every five years or so. Sure, they are “brain dead slapstick comedy,” but I still get laughs from them, and I like to laugh.

    I think that you’re on the right track to write in gay love stories as sub-plots in other movies. I wouldn’t have any problem with the gay love plot being the major “romantic sub-plot” in the movie, as long as the movie’s main plot was one I wanted to see. I’d still have enjoyed “Tomb Raider” if Lara Crofts had been a lesbian — granted that it would have been a personal disappoint for my fantasies! — but then I enjoy “action films” like “Tomb Raider.”

    I think that it’s also to do as you suggest and have the gay romantic plot be only one the the romantic sub-plots in the story. It’s fine with me if it’s the “major sub-plot,” but the fact that it’s only one of them tends to have it fit within the overall scheme of society where there are a lot of romances going on, and not all of them are gay.

    When evaluating “Brokeback Moutain,” people need to recognize that a lack of interest in the film may well have nothing to do with a person’s attitude toward gays. Many “great stories/movies” are not the box office success that other more popular story lines become.

    I’ve read all of Shakespeare more than once, but the plays that I reread most often, and have almost memorized, are “Hamlet,” and “Julius Caesar,” not “Romeo and Juliet.” That doesn’t mean that I think love and romance is BAD, it only means that I find the other stores MORE interesting. Other people obviously can have different preferences.

    Thanks for your excellent blog that offers a worthwhile “window for the world” into the variety of attitudes that exist in the gay community. I’ve recommended it to many of my friends, both straight and gay, and those who have commented to me agree with my impression.

    All the Best.

    Comment by Ralph — March 3, 2006 @ 12:23 pm - March 3, 2006

  13. Since money seems ot be the hallmark of what a successful movie is in this discussion, lets do the math. A $14 million dollar movie budget, with a miniscule marketing budget, brought in $76 million domestically and $51 million internationally for a total of $127 million in gross revenues. That’s nearly a 10:1 ratio of cost to earnings. Sounds good to me. Narnia at $180 million production cost, with an enormous marketing budget, brought in a wopping $668 million. That however is a mere 3.7:1 cost to earnings ratio. Contrast that with the $150 million budget for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which brought in $890 million for a 6:1 ratio. Sounds like its a bit more than a limited success. And look at the outrage over the nominations that Narnia didn’t get but Brokeback did, generally argued as Narnia made more so should get more except for the “anti-Christian” movement in Hollywood. Harry Potter brought in $200 million more than Narnia and got only one oscar nomination, versus Narnia’s three. How can this be, since this “pagan” film was surely the tool of the Hollywood secularists to push America’s children away from god? I guess hysteria, like wonders, never cease.

    Comment by Mr. Moderate — March 3, 2006 @ 12:31 pm - March 3, 2006

  14. Well I do think there is an anti Christian bias in Hollywood. That said I haven’t seen enough of the other movies to say for certain Narnia go snubbed, I do think last year the Passion sure enough got snubbed, and is probably a better example of that argument than Narnia, given the fact that Narnia was a PG rated children’s movie. The only films I saw in the last year were children’s movies, if we were discussing an Oscar nomination for best Children’s movies for the last year, I can certainly provide a lot of input.

    But money isn’t always a good judge of what a good movie is-after all I couldn’t stand the movie Titanic (back to the fact that I really don’t care for that romance formula), it raked in tons of money, and won the Oscar (and I still don’t get why that one won). I have seen the movie all of one time, and the idea of watching it again makes me think of torture.

    But movies are in fact art, and just like any other form of art, a movie is going to appeal to some people and not to others. I have a real dislike for the type of romance formula where the star crossed lovers have an unhappy ending (usually one of them dies). Finding Neverland was nominated last year, I recently saw that one, and wish I hadn’t-it wasn’t a terrible movie, and Johnny Depp looked quite fine in it, but it was depressing-I don’t ever want to go near that movie again-I would rather watch Pirates of the Caribbean if I want to see Depp. I actually enjoyed that movie far more than Finding Neverland, and have watched it several times-because I liked it-and it had a happy ending.

    Comment by just me — March 3, 2006 @ 12:47 pm - March 3, 2006

  15. Indeed, I have yet to meet a gay man born in the 1950s (and before) who had seen the movie and was not blown away by it.

    Yes, you have: me.

    Comment by rightwingprof — March 3, 2006 @ 1:03 pm - March 3, 2006

  16. Just me, in #5, this Rorschach isn’t entirely perfect. We need more data about those who don’t see it but don’t blather on about how bad it is. Maybe given the facts you offer it just says something about the kinds of flicks you like.

    And Throbert, I totally lived Big Eden and join that someone in recommending it to you.

    Vera, I will look in to The Dreyfus Affair.

    And Ralph, thanks for your kind words. I love the original Pink Panther flicks and while I have not see Police Squad, love the Naked Gun movies, particularly the first one.

    Rightwingprof, looks like I may have to update my post. 🙂

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — March 3, 2006 @ 1:31 pm - March 3, 2006

  17. #11 Um, Cal, there is no argument about where the film did well; the question is the meaning of it doing “as well in the heartland as some of its fans claim.” What is the claim, specifically? What is the criteria for assessing its relative success?

    If it did well, at all, isn’t that at least some success?

    Comment by Gene — March 3, 2006 @ 3:12 pm - March 3, 2006

  18. I was revving up my picky jets to say “Litmus test”, not “Rorschach test”.
    Every work of art is a Rorschach test — your enjoyment depends on what you see in it.

    Brokeback OTOH is being shallowly used as a litmus test — with only 2 diametrically opposed opinions.

    Yes, go see Big Eden. It’s quite darling, and more.

    Comment by Miss Grundy — March 3, 2006 @ 3:38 pm - March 3, 2006

  19. I wonder how BBM will be received in the red states when the DVD is released. Specifically, I wonder whether the local Blockbusters be carrying it for rental.

    Comment by raj — March 3, 2006 @ 4:05 pm - March 3, 2006

  20. Here in New York City, the press always seems to minimize the number of people at gay events. Aerial photos of The Great Lawn, covered with people, will be reported “50,000 at event”. It can accomade 200,000.
    Why then , with Hollywood notoriously secretive about box office receipts, would it “jack the numbers UP?”

    And as far as Academy Awards go. They don’t give them to childrens movies. I.e. Narnaia, Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz, etc.

    Julie Andrews notwithstanding, I can’t think another actor who got one for a kiddie flick.

    The Passion wasn’t in english. There again, I can’t think of an actor in a Hollywood film who ever got the award in a nonenglish speaking role. Can anyone else?
    (Patty Duke hmm.).

    Comment by hank — March 3, 2006 @ 4:52 pm - March 3, 2006

  21. I think the proof of the business will be in the DVD release. Due to the content / subject matter, I suspect that there are many people out there who want to see this movie, but would not see it in theatres. With the anonymity of mail order / internet, I’m guessing this movie will do a huge business once it’s released for the home markets.

    Like many, I’m hoping that “The Dreyfus Affair” finally gets made. (Actually, I’ve been hoping to see a film version since I first read the book in 1993) If nothing else, Brokeback Mountain proves that mainstream actors can play serious gay characters without any loss to their appeal as actors for other projects. Dreyfus Affair is great because it’s relevant, funny, satirical and (for those who don’t want tragic romance) has a very happy ending.

    Comment by Kevin — March 3, 2006 @ 5:03 pm - March 3, 2006

  22. “Well I do think there is an anti Christian bias in Hollywood.”

    Despite what I said a few threads ago about Christian themes in movies, I agree with you on this, but I think the reason is pretty benign. Hollywood was basically invented by very determined and talented Jewish people who were frozen out of the WASP business world, especially banking. Don’t mistake this for some nutzoid anti-semitic the-Jews-control-everything rant; it’s no different from Chinese owning most Chinese restaurants. It’s no big thing. Anyway, not only would they have centuries of reasons to be antagonistic towards Christians and Christianity, but they also were going through thier own process of secularization, and were likely to low-rate religion in general. There aren’t that many movies I can think of that are especially sympathetic to Jeiwsh themes, for that matter.

    Comment by Jim — March 3, 2006 @ 5:06 pm - March 3, 2006

  23. Maybe I should get The Dreyfuss Affair and get to work adapting that for the screen!

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — March 3, 2006 @ 5:18 pm - March 3, 2006

  24. They already did a movie on the Dreyfuss Affair, staring Richard Dreyfuss ironically. It was called Prisoner of Honor.

    Comment by Mr. Moderate — March 3, 2006 @ 5:26 pm - March 3, 2006

  25. And as far as Academy Awards go. They don’t give them to childrens movies….The Wizard of Oz…

    I’m not sure that I would call WoO a childrens’ movie when it was released. Regardless, if it hadn’t been released in the same year as Gone With The Wind, it probably would have won at least a couple of Oscars. As it was, GWTW won virtually everything except for best actor.

    Comment by raj — March 3, 2006 @ 5:59 pm - March 3, 2006

  26. Being rather centrist myself, I know that I can count on a liberal to tell me what I want to hear, and a conservative to tell me the harsh truth. So here you tell me, the truth is that even for the straightest gay movie ever made, the red states just ain’t that into it, and my suspicions are confirmed. Can you imagine any other gay characters that act straighter or more conservative than Ennis? I can’t. So as much as it hurts I believe you, as I never *really* believed those stories about BBM playing well in the red states, except for some pockets of liberals who see it because they are “supposed” to see it- it didn’t make any sense. Even though when Ennis and Jack say “they ain’t queer”, and they ain’t kidding- red state straight people don’t want to see it. Never have, and evidently never will- not if they couldn’t even take this movie.

    And it does seem to fit in with what I’ve experienced personally. I drove over an hour to the “big city” of West Palm Beach to see it the first time, and it was packed with gays and old people, who sat quietly crying and I was thrilled. Then weeks later, when it came to very red county of St. Lucie here in the red state of Florida, and the theater is half-full. Some leave halfway thru the movie ranting about “queers going nowhere”, and others talking about the marks on Ennis’ hands must be AIDS, and that Jack probably commited suicide. Needless to say, I won’t be seeing it again until it comes to DVD.

    I do think that it is the best movie of the year, but the backlash already means that Oscar won’t see it that way. It was all over the infotainment shows that Crash is going to get the gold, and since it won’t win best actor, or supporting actress, or score, and probably not supporting actor (even though he dies, and Oscar likes the gays who die), it will be left with the consolation prize of Director, and maybe Cinematography. Big whoop.

    What is worse is that the liberals have convinced themselves this “success” means America is ready for more gay movies, and what is getting the greenlight? “The Mayor of Castro Street”! Can you imagine a bigger flop than a biopic of Harvey Milk?!? I can’t. How they managed to snag Bryan Singer as a director I’ll never know. When this sucker flops, and it will flop BIG, maybe that will kill all this “gay movies make Americans nicer to gays” bull. Although maybe not before the absurd gay baseball fantasy “Dreyfus Affair” gets filmed, and flops even worse.

    Frankly I’m surprised that you expressed ambitions to “promote a more positive image” with gay themed films. It has never worked for liberals, it’s not going to work for you. Sad but true. Name one liberal movie that wasn’t already preaching to the choir and changed anyone’s mind on anything.

    Comment by Rick Dagneau — March 3, 2006 @ 6:02 pm - March 3, 2006

  27. 24: Actually, The Dreyfuss Affair is a fictional novel about 2 professional baseball players who have an affair. The Dreyfus Affair (one s) you’re thinking of is about a French military captain sent to Devil’s Island for espionage.

    26: Don’t count anything in or out (pun intended) until they open those envelopes in about 48 hours. The only trend major Hollywood will ever follow is where the money can be found. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, with its overt Christian themes, came after “Passion of the Christ” scored such a big hit and (not surprisingly) Disney used the same marketing company for this movie that Mel Gibson used to market “Passion” to churches.

    As an independent film, Brokeback cost $14 Mil to make and is now up to $76.3 Mil. (and counting). Even after nearly 3 months, it has an interesting trend of going down the charts as new movies are released, but has climbed back up during the week (it was #8 yesterday). Depending on what happens Sunday, it could get more of a goose next week, not to mention the home video potential as I mentioned earlier.

    You call The Dreyfuss Affair an “absurd gay baseball fantasy”. Being that Hollywood has made big bucks on absurd fantasies and baseball movies over the years, who knows what might happen if you put gay in the mix.

    Comment by Kevin — March 3, 2006 @ 8:01 pm - March 3, 2006

  28. I THINK that part of the disgruntlement that many of us feel about “Brokeback Mountain” is NOT about the film itself, but rather with the amount of “over-hype” that it has received from the intelligentsia. I have no problem believing that it’s a “pretty damn good movie” for those who like “tragic love stories.” I’ve also heard from a number of people that the scenery (in addition to the actors involved) is quite spectacular. As I mentioned above, I don’t like “tragic love stories,” so I didn’t go to see it.

    By the same token, I didn’t go to see Gibson’s “Passion of Christ” because I don’t want/need my religion dramatized. I prefer for it to be between me and God, I don’t want a cinematic interpretation of it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that it was a great movie for its genre. The box office reception establishes that to my satisfaction.

    The fact that the “intellectual establishment” wants to ignore or denigrate ” . . . Christ” while trying to make “Brokeback Mountain” the litmus test (I’m an engineer, I agree that’s a more appropriate analogy) for peoples’ attitudes toward gays is the hypocrisy that I abhor. The idea that that I should go to a type of film — “tragic love story” — that I don’t like, simply to prove that I’ve nothing against gays offends me and denigrates gays. Just because a story is about gays doesn’t make it the kind of story that I like. Had it been an action adventure film, and equally as well done as “Brokeback . . ” is alleged to be, I’d probably have gone to it and enjoyed it.

    To make seeing a movie a litmus test of one’s attitude toward gays is to suggest that gays are not truly people but so mono-dimensional that ONLY their sexuality is important. That’s absurd. The last time I looked, gays were human beings, as fully rounded as any other human beings and existing in many facets and on many planes. Their humanity is NOT merely the result of their sexual orientation.

    Such a concept is as absurd as suggesting that a hetero’s humanity can be fully defined from only the list of sexual committments he’s made in his life.

    Either approach is a denial of the infinite potential of humanity.

    Thanks again for great, and very though-provoking discussions.

    All the Best,

    Ralph

    Comment by Ralph — March 3, 2006 @ 9:49 pm - March 3, 2006

  29. 20: Sophia Loren (Two Women) and Roberto Begnini (Life is Beautiful) are 2 who come to mind who won Oscars for non-english speaking roles.

    Comment by Kevin — March 3, 2006 @ 9:59 pm - March 3, 2006

  30. #24…Um…”The Dreyful Affair” from the 1990’s is about baseball.

    Comment by Gene — March 3, 2006 @ 11:24 pm - March 3, 2006

  31. I have to say that one reason some gay people don’t understand why people don’t like Brokeback is because many of us like it so much that we can’t understand someone not liking it. I’m one of that camp… Although I can intellectually understand that some people may simply not like that type of movie, it still doesn’t make sense to me on a visceral level. (This is the same phenomenon when straight guys talk about liking women. I understand intellectually that they do, but I still don’t “get it”.) Of course, I am sympathetic, because there are types of movies that I don’t like as well. I detest horror movies, for example (which doesn’t even begin to explain why my partner always insists that I watch them with him), and even if someone says “Hey, X movie is really good!”, it’s still a horror movie. Sorry, this is probably incredibly incoherent… I’m sleepy and about to go to bed. 🙂

    Comment by John S. — March 3, 2006 @ 11:37 pm - March 3, 2006

  32. 21: Kevin, as far as the Oscars, I predict big headlines of how Brokeback ends up the big loser of the night, (as the media is just waiting to tear down what it built up) while still blaming Brokeback for the lousy ratings of the telecast (predicted by YahooNews, as one of the lowest-rated Oscar telecasts yet).

    I further predict Brokeback’s DVD sales will be smaller than expected, as the gays can only buy it once, and people who didn’t want to see it before (whether it’s because they can’t stand guys kissing or don’t like sad movies) won’t want to OWN it later. It might do decent business on Netflix, but straight people won’t want to own it, in their homes where their neighbors can see.

    Yes, I will be the first to agree that Brokeback has had some success, particularly in comparison to what was expected of it, but as has been pointed out here- it made only small inroads to middle America, not the massive influx that movies like “Narnia” and “Passion” do, and *those* are the movies that Hollywood will continue churning out. Remember, this is NOT really a Hollywood picture, but the pet project of Diana Ossana that NO ONE in Hollywood wanted to produce until Ang Lee was attached. Not exactly portents of lots of great gay films in the future from Hollywood.

    27: Yes, it has made a nice profit to investment ratio for Focus features, but that’s an isolated incident, with the least offensive gays to put in America’s face. Do you really think something like the Dreyfus Affair, with it’s “happy gays” ending will make $75 mil? I call it an “absurd fantasy” because the story is so unrealistic, with America rising up in support of two gay ballplayers. Sorry, not today’s America, maybe in another 200 years, if ever. Without major stars (which, sorry, still ain’t happening) I think it’s making “Broken Hearts Club” money- $1.7Mil. Maybe $3 Mil for inflation.

    And I notice you didn’t remark on the Harvey Milk biopic. Seriously, does *anyone* want to see that? Talk about a downer!

    28: For that matter, I notice no one mentions the “intelligentsia” getting all “litmus test” about “Capote” or “Transamerica”, probably because no one is about to go out and see either one of those movies.

    Comment by Rick D — March 4, 2006 @ 12:09 am - March 4, 2006

  33. Dan. I have no dollar figures as to how Brokeback Mountain’s domestic gross breaks down between coastal urban areas and the so-called heartland. But I thought this observation might be interesting:

    When BBM finally arrived in conservative, heavily Catholic, not particularly gay-friendly Omaha seven weeks ago it was in two megaplexes and a single screen “indy” theater. It is still in Omaha but about a month ago added three more megaplexes. I know the owners of three of the megaplexes and am sure a film wouldn’t still be on six first-run screens after seven weeks if it weren’t still drawing respectable crowds.

    Some straight friends in Omaha, who saw BBM in late January, said the audience at the theater they attended that night was mostly male-female couples.

    P.S., Dan, you revealed a different side when you said you enjoy the “Naked Gun” films. We’d all go nuts if we didn’t sit back occasionally and laugh our heads off. I also enjoy the old “Airplane” films; they’re not only funny but the star and I went to the same high school.

    Comment by Jack Allen — March 4, 2006 @ 1:39 am - March 4, 2006

  34. Sorry Dan & Vera…

    “The Dreyfus Affair” has already been announced as being in production with a release date projected for 2008.

    No word yet on the director and cast.

    Eric in Hollywood

    Comment by HollywoodNeoCon — March 4, 2006 @ 11:42 am - March 4, 2006

  35. Although I can intellectually understand that some people may simply not like that type of movie

    Chick flicks, you mean. That’s exactly what BBM is: a chick flick.

    Comment by rightwingprof — March 4, 2006 @ 11:43 am - March 4, 2006

  36. Somebody asked why some straight women would see it?

    Think “Chick flick with all hot guys”.

    Comment by Calarato — March 4, 2006 @ 12:19 pm - March 4, 2006

  37. Think “Chick flick with all hot guys”

    Exactly. And why would you expect straight men — the prime market for theaters — to even contemplate going to see that?

    Comment by rightwingprof — March 4, 2006 @ 3:41 pm - March 4, 2006

  38. For the Rorschach test, put me down as another person who didn’t see it because the storyline just didn’t appeal to me. As a proud and massive dork, I have a simple equation: if it doesn’t have a robot, alien, demon, evil wizard or ninja in it, I won’t go see it. If it had been a movie about a pair of bishonen ninjas who were gay lovers, I’d have been there opening day!

    Comment by Etain Peregrine — March 4, 2006 @ 4:25 pm - March 4, 2006

  39. My husband insists that BBM is a chick flick with guys. And based on the formula, I would say the assessment is probably right. My husband is more along the lines of Etain in his movie preferences, although you can throw in the Police Academy/Airplane/Naked gun type comedies as well.

    I like happy ending chick flicks okay, but the tragic ending chick flicks or the sisterhood type movies aren’t my thing (I have seen Steel Magnolias all of two times-once at the theater and once with my mom, because she wanted me to watch it with her-I would almost rather stick a needle in my eye than watch it a third time, although I would take SM over Titanic any day-at least SM has some good comedy lines in it).

    Comment by just me — March 4, 2006 @ 4:47 pm - March 4, 2006

  40. And I notice you didn’t remark on the Harvey Milk biopic

    His only claim to fame was that he’s a gay martyr. He was an idiot, whose idea of contribution was passing a dog-poop pickup law (though of course you have to be an idiot to get elected in SF). But pictures celebrating idiocy are popular these days: see Grizzly Man for an excellent example.

    Comment by rightwingprof — March 4, 2006 @ 5:22 pm - March 4, 2006

  41. #32: ’28: For that matter, I notice no one mentions the “intelligentsia” getting all “litmus test” about “Capote” or “Transamerica”, probably because no one is about to go out and see either one of those movies.’

    I’m not exactly sure what this means. At any rate, I also saw “Transamerica” while I was in NYC, which I enjoyed, but didn’t find as artful (cinematographically) as Brokeback. But I enjoyed it, especially when the main character (I’m awful at names) finally makes it home to his/her family… Still haven’t seen “Capote,” but mainly because I (perhaps naively) believed that it would come to local theaters in Kansas, given that it’s about Kansas. But no.

    Comment by blog responder, resurrected — March 4, 2006 @ 8:04 pm - March 4, 2006

  42. rightwingprof writes: “That’s exactly what BBM is: a chick flick.”

    Yes, apparently a Satanic one which will force unsuspecting people (who don’t think there’s anything wrong with beating gay people to death) to cheat on their husbands and wives, which never happened before gay culture told them they had to …at least, according to rightwingprof’s posts in the Aslan vs. Brokeback thread… pathetic. Truly pathetic.

    Comment by blog responder, resurrected — March 4, 2006 @ 8:08 pm - March 4, 2006

  43. #40
    Yes, Harvy Milk was an idiot. But more idiotic was the “twinkie defense”. What a time.

    It’s great that Phillip S. Hoffman captured the voice and mannerisms of Capote (so did Robert Morse in Tru…he won a Tony) and that Felicity Huffman (with the help of great makeup artists) convincingly plays a man becoming a woman. But these seem like trick pony performances. Sure, very flashy, but basically not terribly difficult.

    Comment by hank — March 4, 2006 @ 9:56 pm - March 4, 2006

  44. Sorry, Hank, Harvey was not only an acquaintance, but wholly instrumental in defeating the Briggs Initiative. Yes, he was a diehard socialist. So we had our disagreements. But he almost single-handedly made Briggs the issue, and what a fool Briggs was. Without Harvey, gays could not teach in our schools. Harvey was the first “out” gay politician. We had our political differences. But I never doubted his “courage.” The night he and Moscone were assasinated, a pall fell over the city. It was so palpable, people were crying in the street. In front of the old Midnight Sun, even I could no longer contain my grief. Sometimes we need to get “beyond” differences and see that which binds us. That night, that lonely and horrible night, nobody could assauge the tears. And for all their faults and all their foibles, they defeated the first reactionary hostility. Yes, we had our differences, but that night, ALL were ONE.

    Comment by Stephen — March 5, 2006 @ 12:12 am - March 5, 2006

  45. 40 & 43: Harvey Milk did more for people (not just gay people) than most. Liberal or conservative be damned, your name calling of Mr. Milk is completely unnecessary and nothing short of mean-spirited and flat out wrong.

    44: Thank you for your eloquent and honest response.

    Comment by Kevin — March 5, 2006 @ 12:55 am - March 5, 2006

  46. And I notice you didn’t remark on the Harvey Milk biopic. Seriously, does *anyone* want to see that? Talk about a downer!-

    I think people would rather see this film than some of Hollywood’s recent biopics, like that brilliant idea to make a movie about the host of “The Gong Show”. I think people would rather see this movie than yet another film version of a TV show. Harvey had an interesting life and his death is fodder for melodrama.

    -It might do decent business on Netflix, but straight people won’t want to own it, in their homes where their neighbors can see.-

    You seem to think that straight people are going to go around looking for any sign of BBM in their neighbors’ homes, or that this will be a cause of great controversy if one is found. Many straight women would have no problem owning this DVD.

    It’s certainly easy to see this film as a failure. I think many gay men have gone out of their way to view this film as a failure, because this validates their “America will never accept us, we’re so terrible,” mantra.

    This film has been talked up as a failure from the beginning, and has surpassed expectations every step of the way. But if people want to look for the Oscars as the voice of America (even as the simultaneously criticize the Oscars for being too liberal and out of touch), then fine. You’ll have plenty of company when the media (which is always more than happy to scapegoat or stereotypes gays) goes on about what a failure BBM is. They’re just reinforcing their own propaganda, not what actually exists.

    Comment by Carl — March 5, 2006 @ 1:00 am - March 5, 2006

  47. #44
    Sorry, I miss-spoke. My perception of him at the time was strictly “east coast”. We heard about his politics, and that he was gay. Not much else. Also, I didn’t know the man. Epithets fly so freely here, I guess I caught the bug. I apologize.

    Comment by hank — March 5, 2006 @ 9:19 am - March 5, 2006

  48. Yes, Harvy Milk was an idiot. But more idiotic was the “twinkie defense”. What a time.

    I don’t see anybody trying to make a movie idolizing the morons on the jury, do you?

    And yes, Harvey Milk was an idiot.

    Comment by rightwingprof — March 5, 2006 @ 12:07 pm - March 5, 2006

  49. I will say this one more time…

    Thank God it’s Oscar Sunday.

    When all is said and done, and the Monday morning glad-handing and mutual handjobs are over, everyone here will kindly do me a favor and LEAVE MY INDUSTRY ALONE.

    Well, at least until next year.

    Eric in Hollywood
    If you don’t wanna see my movie, then don’t buy a fucking ticket. Belive me, I’ll get the message… 🙂

    Comment by HollywoodNeoCon — March 5, 2006 @ 12:09 pm - March 5, 2006

  50. 32: Geez, is your other name “Debbie Downer”? You go so far as to say it won’t do well on DVD with people who wouldn’t see it in theatres because their neighbors are peeking in their windows? Headlines about it being the big loser? Not close to a worthy film until Ang Lee was attached?

    I’m really curious to know why there are gay people (assuming you’re gay) who keep beating this drum of negativity about this film, even though it is clearly a hit (both in regard to financial and artistic standards). Could it be that there are some gays out there who are nervous that gay relationships are being shown in the light of being ascribed to “normal” people? i.e. No one lives in a big city, no one works in a high powered job, no one is in the entertainment industry, no one is a drag queen, no on one has AIDS, no one has a mincing sidekick, etc, etc. Previous well-received movies (like The Birdcage) were “safe” movies because the gays in them were placed in a position of being second-class and the main-stream audiences could live with it. Now, we have material that’s making people a little nervous because there is no niche to put them in, but it’s still holding it’s ground.

    Not only Brokeback Mountain, but this year there are other solid performances from people acting in films outside the norm (Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and Felicity Huffman in Transamerica). Hoffman’s star has been on the rise slowly for years and the attention given Huffman has been due in great deal to her parallel success in “Desperate Housewives”. All of them have been steaming full throttle with great successes in the awards season this year. True, the boxoffice for them is not near anything like Harry Potter or Narnia, but so far nothing has been around to really de-rail the Brokeback Express.

    Comment by Kevin — March 5, 2006 @ 12:58 pm - March 5, 2006

  51. 49: Remember that Monday morning glad handing and handjobs are *never* over in Hollywood…. 🙂

    Comment by Kevin — March 5, 2006 @ 12:59 pm - March 5, 2006

  52. #48
    I think there was a TV movie.

    Comment by hank — March 5, 2006 @ 1:00 pm - March 5, 2006

  53. Kevin said…

    “Remember that Monday morning glad handing and handjobs are *never* over in Hollywood….”

    True, but that is far more tolerable than having every blogger in the fucking universe telling me how my industry is single-handedly destroying Western Civilization.

    And that includes my ball-busting mother, who seems to think that simply everyone is clamoring for me to make a sequel to “The Wizard of Oz!”

    Fucking amateurs….:)

    Eric in Hollywood
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 12 hours of Oscar coverage to enjoy…

    Comment by HollywoodNeoCon — March 5, 2006 @ 1:14 pm - March 5, 2006

  54. Thank God it’s Oscar Sunday.

    Is there anybody who actually has ever watched the damn Oscars, BBM or not? And why would you, when you could do something interesting, like clip the dog’s toenails?

    I mean, sheesh, who cares?

    Comment by rightwingprof — March 5, 2006 @ 2:20 pm - March 5, 2006

  55. Btw, on the off chance anyone is interested, here is an article about gay themes in some popular anime titles and a description of Yaoi:

    Perhaps the oddest use of gay characters in anime is yaoi: romances between young gay men that are created by women for female audiences, especially adolescent girls. “A lot of the lesbian imagery that we see in American pop culture is meant to tantalize male viewers,” says Central Park Media president John O’Donnell. “The opposite is true in Japan: A lot of the male homoeroticism in anime is meant for a female audience and is written by females for females.”

    In some ways BBM could be viewed as the first live action American produced Yaoi movie. And probably not the last.

    Anyway linky goodness for you:

    http://www.highbeam.com/library/docfree.asp?DOCID=1G1:110809191&ctrlInfo=Round18%3AMode18c%3ADocG%3AResult&ao=

    Comment by Etain Peregrine — March 5, 2006 @ 2:24 pm - March 5, 2006

  56. Could it be that there are some gays out there who are nervous that gay relationships are being shown in the light of being ascribed to “normal” people? i.e. No one lives in a big city, no one works in a high powered job, no one is in the entertainment industry, no one is a drag queen, no on one has AIDS, no one has a mincing sidekick, etc, etc.

    If “normal” means that gays cheat on their spouses and ditch their children so they can run off and have sex, yeah, Brokeback qualifies.

    What I think is more likely is that there are gays out there who need Hollywood to validate them and thus brook no criticism of the homo Passion of the Christ, even though what it shows gays as being unable to commit, making promises they won’t keep, disrespecting marriage, and neglecting their children.

    And now, it seems, if you don’t swear unquestioning fealty to Brokeback, you’re no longer gay.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — March 6, 2006 @ 1:48 pm - March 6, 2006

  57. “If “normal” means that gays cheat on their spouses and ditch their children so they can run off and have sex, yeah, Brokeback qualifies.”

    Oh god, if that’s how you’ve rationalized the film, I feel sorry for you. There were 7 or 8 layers of reality about what the 2 lead characters were stuggling with. You can only comprehend the literal one.

    Please, stick with “Saw II” and “Curious George”. Neither will challenge your emotional intelligence.

    Comment by D'Alessandro — March 11, 2006 @ 12:24 am - March 11, 2006

  58. Declaration of Heaven on Earth!
    Chant this prayer & we will have heaven on earth:

    Dearest, greatest, holiest!
    Please give us all, the full heaven on earth!
    I thank you, & I worship you.

    For more information, please visit http://www.normism.org !

    Dear blog moderator please allow this immensely important message as a public service message.
    Many thanks in advance!

    __ Bab-ul-Janna

    Comment by picture of zoroastrianism — March 12, 2006 @ 9:21 pm - March 12, 2006

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