Wednesday, April 05, 2006


ER review: 'Brokeback Mountain'

Dr. ER bought the movie and we watched it last night. At the end, she was sniffling and wiping tears -- and I have to admit the shirts thing is an awesome metaphor.

The movie is so much better than the short story, which is so rare. Larry McMurtry is ALL OVER this flick, and I mean that in a good way.

Dr. ER and I both are familiar with Childress, Texas, which added interest, and we both know Lake Kemp, which is spittin' distance from where we used to live in North Texas, and was mentioned in passing (when Jack and the new ranch foreman were talking on the bench outside the benefit supper-dance).

The sparseness of the original story allows room for the Wyoming (actually Alberta) scenery to become an important secondary character almost in the movie, and it provides room for the deliberate pacintg of the movie.

We both hooted when we saw Randy Quaid was the sheep foreman! And, being raised in Cow Country, I just can't look at two men on horseback amid a bunch of sheep without laughing.

The short story upon which 'Back was based fails. Annie Proulx, on her Web site, says she aimed to explore "the homophobia of the West" or some such. Didn't happen.

In the short story, the violence directed at the boys is suggested but not clear. The violence done to Jack at the end of the movie is clearer than in the book, but question marks are deliberately left. Even the guy who spied 'em doin' it through the telescope (Randy Quaid) didn't do them harm -- just gave 'em shit, as if he wasn't surprised that they wound up gettin' after it. Bein' shepherds and all.

Antisheep and antisheepherder mythologizing in Cow Country has it that doin' it with another boy isn't but a step removed from doin' it with a sheep. I am not trying to be a smartass.

This is me bein' a smart ass: That's why sheepherds wear tall-topped boots with their britches legs tucked in 'em: To have a place for the sheep's legs.

"Brokeback Mountain" is a great flick. I cannot see myself being one of those boys -- and that is one of the circumstantial truths that helped me shake -- is helping me shake -- the judgmentalism I grew up with.

I can imagine myself doing all manner of sin; the fact that I cannot imagine myself being homosexual, or engaging in a homesexual sex act, suggests to me strongly that "sin" has nothing to do with such orientation, at least no more or no less than any other sexual orientation or kind of sex act.

But I absolutely can see those boys in that situation. I came away from the movie "getting" the multiple layers of tragedy involved, and feeling real empathy for two men tangled up in "something" in a world where they couldn't be themselves.

What do y'all who have seen it think. What do y'all who haven't seene it think?

For a better discussion of the Western genre, including a good thread on Brokeback Mountain, go to Bitch, Ph.D's Monday post, "Why I Love Westerns."


Since I saw the movie before reading the short story, it's difficult for me to compare the two--the written word always has more impact for me if I don't have a preconceived visual. I do think, though, that Proulx is one of the better writers publishing today (The Shipping News was an incredible read, but please, please, please don't watch the movie version.)

And the scenery in the movie was like an additional character. Overwhelming at times, and certainly spectacular. Made me very glad I saw the film at the theatre.

Anyway, my reaction to the end was similar to Dr. ER's. Big, fat, silent tears. It was just so sad to see Ennis holding onto Jack's memory that way.

"Tragedy" is indeed the word.
I can say that I don't plan to spend the $$$ to see it in a theater. Most of the DVD flicks I watch come by way of my kids. It's not probable that one of them will buy it. I don't have any premium movie channels on my cable so I won't see it there. I don't rent DVDs. Looks like I'll have to forgo this cultural event, at least in a timely manner. Some day maybe it will show up in edited form on Bravo or the Nashville channel.
Now if it had stared Charlston Heston and Robert Redford I might make more of an effort.

Shepherds on horse back?
I always heard the boot thing was for goat-ropers. Shepherds don't wear boots. They aren't comfortable to walk in.
I was more impressed with the movie after I read the short story and could see what a masterful job McMurtry and the other writer (the woman with the funny last name) did of capturing the essence of such a simple exploration. The violence of how Jack met his end was equally vague in the short story, I thought, with Ennis imaging or suspecting that was what had happened. I also thought it was interesting to see how this relationship -- so foreign in form to them both -- evolved and changed in the ways a lot of regular relationships do. That it ruined Ennis' life from beginning to end was hard to watch.

Gowing up out in ranch country, I can't say if similar situations happened -- I tend to guess not often, it's a small country -- but I sure knew a bunch of people young and old alike who had encountered tough times and just stumbled through their lives instad of taking control and living them.

I generally like Proulx's writing but I mostly love her ability to capture quirky and unique cultures with people who live hard but choose it. BTW, she spent half a year or so in the Texas panhandle and wrote a book about it a couple of years ago, That Old Ace in the Hole. Mediocre story line but so much Panhandle lore, reading it was like listening to my mother, grandmother and aunts talk around the table on Sunday afternoons.
Braingirl! I'm so glad you commented. I remember you turnin' me on to Proulx several years ago.

Also, I finally ordered that "Cowboy in the Kitchen" cookbook you recommended at least a moon-and-a-half ago!
Pure bullshit from FOTF, which doesn't realize that when the White Citizens' Council failed to denounce the KKK, it shared the stench of the Klan:

Wal-Mart Targeted for Selling 'Brokeback Mountain'

Wal-Mart made the decision to stock its shelves with
copies of the DVD "Brokeback Mountain," despite protests
from a pro-family group, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The gay-themed film hit stores Tuesday.

The American Family Association (AFA) urged people to
contact Wal-Mart, beginning last week, and ask the retail
giant to not stock the controversial movie.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said by selling the film, the
company was not advocating for a specific lifestyle, but
responding to consumer demand.

But Randy Sharp, director of special projects for AFA,
said, by selling the movie, the retailer is helping to
normalize homosexuality in society.

"How many copies are they going to have to sell to recruit
the losses of customers who they've offended and will no
longer shop at Wal-Mart?" he said. "It wasn't even a
blockbuster movie."
Most of the people who would be offended by "the thought of" Brokeback Mountain, haven't got much choice but to shop at Wal-Mart. Not much chance a boy-cott would work, in fact it might increase sales among the curious.
"I cannot see myself being one of those boys"

can you not imagine the lifetime of anguish one must suffer, in being restrained by social attitudes, to deny their innermost self? much of ang's work is based on that theme.

or would that be "constrained"?

Drlobojo, I find that snooty condescending attitude highly offensive. Insinuating that dumb ol' trailer trash people are the only ones that would be offended by perversion is an elitist attitude of the worst kind.

This is why your intelluectual snobbery doesn't get any credibility over at my place, and with actual intelligent people everywhere.
ER, why don't you give that lifestyle a try? Since you think fudgepacking is so mainstream. Go find you a little flower child and get your asshole reamed good and proper. After all, you Democrats have been trying to do that to Bush since 2000.
Anonymous, you sure got a purty mouth.
Another pearl before a swine you say.
Actually Mark I was refering to the fact that in rural America Wal-Mart is not the store of choice it is the only choice for a store. Rural America is one of the main bastions of orthodox evangelicals, who would be the ones most "offended by the thought of" (because they won't actually see it)Brokeback Mountain. Thus in that they have to shop at Wal-Mart that being the only store arround, it is unlikely that they will boycott Wal-Mart because they are selling the DVD (which will probably go down to the $5 bin soon anyway).

Mark, you take offense as quick as you give it, and if you can't find it you invite it. If it won't come on its own, then you create it.

Keep it up and all your dreams will come true.
"Actually Mark I was refering to the fact that in rural America Wal-Mart is not the store of choice it is the only choice for a store."

Actually, maybe in your little corner of the world, there aren't any other stores except Walmart, but even in the most sparsely populated areas of the country, the people have cars. They can drive to the big city and go to Dillards.

Your explanation doesn't hold water. I believe I was right in my original assessment.
Mark, western Oklahoma empties into the Wal-Mart Supercenters in the Oklahoma City metro area on the weekend. As usual, you don't have a clue as to what you're talking about.

Why don't you write a post about how you used to be a bigot? Wait, you'd have to quit being one first.

Drlobojo, this is an amazing condensation of Mark! Bravo!

"Mark, you take offense as quick as you give it, and if you can't find it you invite it. If it won't come on its own, then you create it."

KEvron, yes, I can see that. But I cannot imagine inserting my penis into any orifice of a man, or receiving another man's penis into any orifice, or appendange, of my own. I can't believe I had to spell that out. Come on, people!

You two anonomi, take it outside, jerks.
ER, don't be too hard on Mark. He has had a tough week. First one of us "snooty" "intellectual snobs" got to him at his work and threated his very livelyhood. That kind of thing eats at all of our souls. Then he gets pulled over by of all things a Maryland Conservation Officer and has his territorial domain of his car invasively searched by an obtuse authority figure.
Hell, better that he lash out at an imagenary on-line enemy at a safe and insulated distance that doing it closer to home and for real. Anger and depression are nasty things to deal with. I'll not condemn anyone who is trying to deal with them, unless they actually in reality threaten me.
So people can get in their cars, drive by Wal-Mart in their little town and go to the big city to shop at Dillard's. Yeah. Here in Oklahoma that could be a 100 mile trip, one way. And last I checked, Dillard's didn't sell toilet paper or any of the other basics of life.
I don't shop at Wal-Mart because I have other options, but Dillard's sure isn't on the list of close substitutes in my world.
Washington County MD, where Mark lives, had a populatio of about 131,000 in 2000.

In 2000, in Oklahoma, the bottom 24 counties' -- TWENTY-FOUR -- populations added up to that.

There are only FOUR counties in Oklahoma with as much population as Washington County, MD:

Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland (suburb of OKC). Marks "rural county" would be the fourth most populous in Oklahoma, just ahead of Comanche (Lawton, city of about 90,000 plus Fort Sill).
"....I cannot imagine inserting my penis into any orifice of a man"

c'mon, er! that's not what the film is about, nor does the director encourage the viewer to extend his empathy to that extent. it's not about fucking; that's just the superficial vehicle for the message. it's about devotion, longing, desire and denial. it's about oppression.

it's about freedom, plain and simple.

I agree, KEv.

I wrote:

"I cannot see myself being one of those boys -- and that is one of the circumstantial truths that helped me shake -- is helping me shake -- the judgmentalism I grew up with."

I was referring specifically to being attracted to a man that way and to homosexual sex acts. It is my inability to imagine myself having such feelings for another man, and my inability to imagine myself do those things, that suggest that whatever else homosexuality, it is no more or no less a sin than any other sin, which was the point of my remark.

Then you wrote:

" 'I cannot see myself being one of those boys'

"can you not imagine the lifetime of anguish one must suffer, in being restrained by social attitudes, to deny their innermost self? much of ang's work is based on that theme."

Then I wrrote, attemopting clarify the fine point:

"KEvron, yes, I can see that. But I cannot imagine inserting my penis into any orifice of a man, or receiving another man's penis into any orifice, or appendange, of my own. I can't believe I had to spell that out. Come on, people!"

The movie is about two people's desperate longing to be together in a world that won't let them be together. You're right: The sex is way down the list of what the movie is about.

However, without the sex, at least strongly implied (and it is NOT baldly depicted, BTW, to those who haven't seen it) and other intimacy, there wouldn't be a movie to the movie.
sorry, er; i don't mean to seem contentious. i'll let it go.

Go ahead, cast the first stone. You're the only one who can, apparently.

And I get awfully protective of poor ol' Ennis and Jack when I read of people reducing their very rich characters into what orifices would be used for what.

A tangent before getting to the movie:

[One of my best friends is a very high-powered attorney whose partner is a kind, generous first- grade teacher. These two men have a long-standing relationship and have adopted two children -- children that nobody else wanted. The idea of love between two men seems perfectly fine to me because I've seen how much my friend and his partner give to our society and to their children. I'm more than fortunate to know them, I'm blessed to know them. And I've watched them help their daughter with homework and work to discipline their son appropriately, and never have I seen two children more loved. Theirs is such a moving, kind, generous life that many hetero couples could learn from them.]

Back to the movie:

I'm touched so very deeply by the movie, especially the part where Jack's remembering Ennis humming to him near the campfire, with Jack sleeping like a horse, standing up.

But the whole relationship between these two gentle souls tugs at me almost every day since I've seen it and most of what I think and feel about it is inarticulable at this point.

I've ordered the screenplay, because I can tell that Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana took the nugget that was the short story and turned into something sublime. I want to read their scene setups; their character directions, the whole thing.

I want to better understand Ennis. I already understand Jack, I think. Ennis was so powerfully taciturn that sometimes I found him inscrutible.

No movie has touched me this much since I first saw, "The Mission" (Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons). And I can count on one hand movies that have transcended the two dimensions of the big screen to become three (perhaps four?) dimension life lessons -- and life enrichments for me.

Thank you for this beautiful, cinematically divine Annie Proulx, to Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana and to the man who gave this story cinematic flesh and blood, Ang Lee.
Good to see you alive and functioning again, three & eight.
It was such a beautiful film. Every summer we drive out West for a few weeks, and every summer I want to disappear into the mountains and never come out again. I have to confess that I was less interested in the plot or the characters than I was in just seeing Wyoming (or, rather, Alberta doing a good job of pretending to be Wyoming) on the big screen. Still, it was moving. I went back afterwards and hunted up my copy of Close Range and reread it, and the film just gave amazing life to that story in a way I've never seen a film do for fiction.

A good friend of mine, a network engineer and former cowboy, has been giving me grief about the film because he thinks that it will send the message that cowboys (or sheep herders, or whatever) can't be kind and sensitive unless they're gay. I've been trying to tell him that that's not the case, but I feel like the media blitz surrounding the film has convinced him otherwise.
oh, and here in my Midwestern state where most people live in towns of 2,000 people or fewer and at least an hour away from major cities, a lot of the downtowns which used to be thriving places are shut up, including the grocery store, and everyone shops at the Super Wal-Mart Center. That's what there is. Wal-Mart.

I suspect that the folks who shop there are probably a whole lot more sophisticated than the AFA guy gives them credit for, though. It always boggles my mind as to why the media and the big chains kowtow to the AFA. They may be loud and shrill and indignant, but they often claim to be speaking for more people than they actually do.
Thanks for stoppin' by, S. Witch.

I am itchin' to see Alberta in person now, myself.

As far as yer ex-cowboy friend's concerns, I think Brokeback is so "out there" as a movie that it doesn't say much more than what it says.
Staircase With, tell your pal that some of us grew up among some of the most kind, generous, sweet men who were cowboys. I guess that those of us who NEED to know this is true DO know it's true and the rest can be damned. My granddaddy and my own daddy, his brother David (who works cattle in the mountains in Colorado -- Silverton, Durango area) -- all of them the kindest people in the world. Cowboys all, at one time in their lives. I can remember uncle David picking me up off the ground when I was a little kid, after I'd done a stupid thing -- stood directly behind the horse. The horse kicked me but good. In
Brokeback Mountain, when Ennis comes up to Jack and tells him that he's sleeping on his feet like a horse, that scene conveys (and even Annie Proulx describes it thus) a non-sexual kindness not unlike I felt from my uncle when he helped me up off the ground. Hmm, I seem to remember that Daddy and David also had to pick me up off the ground the first time I hit the electric fence, too. It's the silent, stoic cowboy who likely has more love of people, family, nature, animals, than any other kind of person we can think of. What I wouldn't give to be in a more earthy existence, side-by-side with cowboys.
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