Scaling The Mountain

Box Office So Far…Brokbackcloseup.JPG
Domestic: 81 Million / Foreign: 67 Million

TOTAL 148 Million
Production Budget: 14 Million
Academy Awards
Original Score
Adapted Screenplay
Best Director

I attended a screening of Brokeback Mountain on Monday with a gathering of friends and others brought together by Gay Fresno. It was a great movie and a great experience. We had good laughs, good conversation and I felt a unity and appreciation in the group. We’re proud this film is out there, getting incredible reviews and making a lot of money. This groundbreaking movie is one of those things that comes around for us only once in a while, and I could feel it in myself and those around me.

Watching Brokeback at the IMAX theater on a big screen was mesmerizing. The film is truly remarkable. It’s a quiet movie, filled with subtlety and carefully orchestrated shots. The acting, especially by Heath Ledger, is superior. I believed every person and situation in this film and I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

I ask myself when I see a film like this if I’m having a positive response because I’m gay. I don’t think that was the case. On the way home, discussing the accuracy and execution of certain scenes, I heard confirmation of my feelings. This is an incredibly moving film, deeply woven with the painful, conflicting emotions and situations we as gay people have been faced with in America.
When I first heard the uproar in the community regarding Brokeback, I questioned if the enthusiasm would prove worth it’s hype.. I was as excited as the rest of my fellow gay boys at the thought of Jake and Heath tumbling through the wilderness in cowboy boots and hats, but since I don’t particularly enjoy what has become of the public movie experience, I wasn’t sure I couldn’t wait for the DVD.
Then came the reviews. I don’t make my decisions by reviews, but I use them to get an idea of the seriousness and quality of a movie. When I saw quote after quote heralding the merits of Brokeback, I made up my mind to see it on the big screen. About the same time decided to gather people for a screening.
Afterwards, I eagerly sought out reviews. It wasn’t enough to just see an "A"  anymore, I wanted to compare notes with the critics. I wanted to see if other people got the same thing out of the film that I did. I didn’t expect what I found. There seems to be a prevailing thread through many of the reviews I read. What they’re saying is that Brokeback Mountain is really not a gay movie, but rather a love story.
I ignored it the first couple of times, but I found it again and again. I rationalized that critics wanted more people to see it, so they were downplaying the gayness of it. Though after seeing the comment a number of times I got a little pissed off.
How is it so many people are saying it’s “not a gay movie” when the two main characters are gay? Yes, Brokeback is a love story, of course, but the people in the love story are gay. To say it’s not a gay movie while praising the love story is to insinuate, in my opinion, that we agree love is a wonderful and miraculous thing, but not if it carries a gay label attached to it. For the record, the director, Ang Lee, is directly quoted in the Outword newspaper as saying Brokeback Mountain is a “gay love story set in the West”.
It’s possible we, as Americans, may reach a time when we as a united group decide to choose intelligence over blindness, when it won’t be necessary to attach themes of sexuality to everything we see and do. This is not that time.  And until that time comes I don’t think it’s anything but prejudiced to decide to remove a theme from a movie so that it plays less brilliantly to those who choose not to open their eyes. Every day in America gay people are degraded and restricted for no reason. To witness the bombardment of prejudice gay people face regarding freedoms and rights in America, on top of the fag-proofing of one of the few groundbreaking and honest mainstream films we’ve been able to see in our lifetimes, is insult on top of hatred.

Gene Shalit apologized for his review of Brokeback. You can watch the video of his review at . There’s so much intrinsically wrong with this viewpoint, it’s hard to know where to start. When Shalit apologized he said his words were merely opinion and that everyone is entitled to express their own. I agree with him. But this is a bit of an unbelievable opinion for one who is a professional in his field. Shalit’s opinion is built on a lack of understanding of gay people. He calls the character of Jack a “sexual predator” who “tracks Ennis down and coaxes him into sporadic trysts”. Shalit focuses on the sex between the men, which while it was in the film was nowhere near the focus or importance of the story.

Shalit actually has an adult gay son who he’s acknowledged and is proud of. He professes complete empathy for gay people, and I believe him. That makes his observations of this film all the more disturbing.

I checked out an interview by my favorite mental patient, Bill O’Reilly.
You can watch him banter with the crazy Michael Medved and the wonderfully lucid Jeanne Wolf at
Bill was riled because the New York Times & the Los Angeles Times ran what he considers to be an unprecedented number of articles about the film, along with running a large number of articles about Air America. He makes the statement that since this has occurred, “we know they’re pushing an agenda”. As usual, O’Reilly will come to certain conclusions without your participation. Please pause your conclusions while he decides certain things for you…
Immediately I wonder how many articles ran in these papers on the last Star Wars picture, but I really don’t feel like looking it up, as I’m sure O’Reilly didn’t.
He went on to say Brokeback wasn’t “doing that well at the box office” This segment being televised even before the wide release of the film, Jeanne tried to explain that success was based on the number of screens it was playing on, but O’Reilly cut her off, as he does when he realizes he’s said something he didn’t check out and he’s confronted by someone who did. Brokeback Mountain holds the record for opening day per screen average for any adult drama film in 2005,
It’s also raking in ticket sales after a wide release on January 6th, to the tune of $41million as of January 22nd, while playing on about 1200 screens, half or less the number of screens every other top ten film in the list is playing on
Check out this review by David Poland at Movie City News. After reading a string of reviews by people who didn’t even come close to understanding the context of the film, this sent me over the edge. After you read his review make sure you click on the links in the box to the right that lead you to a readers response. You can read a back to back debate there between the critic and the reader that reveals a lot. Then click on the second Brokeback review by Poland, who thought he should see the film again since he’d caught so much hell for his first comments.

He denies the following implication of his initial review, but I don’t see how it can be taken any other way. He says,

But here is where Brokeback Mountain lost me… the only circumstance that really stands in their way is the fact that the film starts in 1963. Never mind that Stonewall took place in 1969 and this dusty duo is still whining about their tragic fate into the late 1970s. They are, after all, in the west.”

What this un-enlightened man is saying is that after Stonewall there shouldn’t have been any hurdles that kept gay people from settling down. He even says the characters of the film are not restricted and controlled by American ignorance and prejudice, but that they’re “whining about their tragic fate”.
I grew up in the late sixties and seventies. The only gay person I can remember is Paul Lynde, and while I loved him to death, he wasn’t exactly out of the closet. Poland’s statement has absolutely no basis in reality. And this is not his opinion about the film, it’s his opinion about reality.

These reviews don’t create legislation in our communities, I know that. I’m not trying to say that films aren’t interpreted uniquely by every individual. What I’m saying is that there’s obviously much more blindness in heterosexuals regarding gay people than even I believed there was. It seems they don’t see us as three dimensional people, with the nuances and variances they see in themselves. More than one reviewer stated the character of Jack was obsessed with having sex with Ennis, as if that was his only goal, and that Ennis, while enjoying Jack’s company, had no desire to found a household with him. They don’t see that these men, during their allotted and brief days together  talked, laughed, cooked, slept, worked, wrestled, shared and comforted each other. They only see the sex. What’s ironic is they see the sex because they believe that’s all we’re interested in, and we understand this movie is about denial of freedoms and restriction of love.

These reviewers, who’ve seen countless films and by now should be experts at noticing the nuances in a character’s eyes or movements, or the telling judgments in the expressions of the ones in the background, are blind. If they can’t see and understand the meanings of a well executed film, how can we have hope that ordinary Americans will understand us as gay people?

On the other hand, I don’t think these people are reacting intentionally in a negative and condescending way. I think we’ve just come to a point in our history where there’s no need for the majority audience, no matter how wrong and selfish they are, to impair their safety in any way. I don’t think they see outside their own experiences, which is one of the reasons we go to movies, to see something from another point of view, to see things we haven’t seen before and come away with more understanding.

As gay people who live at least a portion of our lives in secrecy, we’re forced from birth to recognize and learn the ways heterosexuals live and breathe. We watch them flirt, love and settle down. What’s ironic is that our lives are filled with the same emotions, drives and motivations. A large number of them can’t seem to recognize this. Not only are we denied civil rights, but many of them don’t even believe we’re the same creatures.

Yet you don’t see gay people forming organizations in order to deny rights to straight people. You don’t see gay people repulsed by the love straight people share. You don’t see gay people using all our energy to exclude rather than include. You don’t see gay people saying that straight people can’t believe in this mean and judgmental version of a God they’ve chosen to follow.
But a huge number of straight people, it seems, don’t really “see” us at all…


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