March 6, 2006

"Brokeback Mountain" wins Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay

There seemed to be a bit of a brokebacklash against the gay cowboy movie for being overhyped, but it still won a couple of big awards it hardly deserved.

A reader who knows a lot more about movies than I do, however, one who used to attend regularly Henri Langlois's Cinematheque Francaise in Paris in the early 1950s when Truffaut and Godard were always camped out in the front row chainsmoking while they worshipped John Ford and Howard Hawks, takes issue with my dismissal of "Brokeback:"

Have always admired and enjoyed your work, so was a trifle saddened to see your, well, kind of innocent/naive, comments if you'll forgive my language, on the odds of a couple of fellows as depicted by Ledger and Gyllenhaal in "Brokeback Mountain" coming together in love or passion.

Let me just cite some Hollywood gay gentlemen who kept their sexual orientation strictly in the closet: Rock Hudson (didn't he play a cowboy in "Giant" come to think of it?), Tab Hunter (just came out this year in an autobiography), and that longtime couple of Cary Grant and that stalwart hero of so many Westerns Rudolph Scott. The great American public never knew, and few out of a tight little world in Hollywood did either. It only came to light long after the two gentlemen in question had passed on.

One of these days I need to write about the maturation of Cary Grant's sexual orientation, which was always a little vague and undersexed, from, perhaps, primarily homosexual to primarily heterosexual as his private insecurity and narcissism slowly developed into a self-confidence and sense of humor to match that of his screen persona. (That's not supposed to be possible, although I imagine it helps straighten a man out if he is surrounded on the job by women like Sophia Loren, for whom the mature Cary cherished an unrequited passion of many years, one that broke up the third of his five marriages.)

But let's focus on his onetime roommate, cowboy actor Randolph Scott. Scott's best roles, such as "Ride the High Country," came late in life in rugged little films his own company produced. I have no idea what, if anything, went on between them, but Scott was clearly an impressive man, who was also highly successful outside of acting. For example, Scott, a former football player, was the only movie star admitted to the extremely anti-Hollywood Los Angeles Country Club before Ronald Reagan in 1989. (For example, Bing Crosby, who was probably the most prominent recreational golfer in America, couldn't get into LACC even though he lived on its 13th fairway.) To get in, Scott had to prove to the LACC that he'd made a separate fortune as an investor in the oil industry.

Now, I could buy the analogy of Heath Ledger's macho cowboy to Randolph Scott. But what I can't then buy is Jake Gyllenhaal as Cary Grant, especially in this role, where he's whiny and looks rather like Alfred E. Neuman.

... As for the film, I thought it much more a study of loneliness than anything to do with homosexuality. Somehow that kind of blind, spiritual desolation, particularly common or so it seems to me, is especially American. I found it a terribly sad film and one most moving as well on those grounds.


On the other hand:

"It's not like ["Brokeback Mountain"] was written by somebody with any sense of what goes on in gay life, be it rural or urban," says David Ehrenstein, author of the book "Open Secret: Gay Hollywood, 1928-2000," of the E. Annie Proulx-written short story that was the basis for "Brokeback." "I just didn't buy it. But the thing about it that's a surprise for some people is the idea of this being a serious relationship that the film takes seriously."

Ehrenstein found such films as "Mysterious Skin" and "The Dying Gaul" more authentic last year, but acknowledges that their much stronger homosexual content limited their audience - and their appeal to Oscar voters.


I'm not a big fan of "Capote" (although I'm a huge fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won Best Actor), but I'm impressed the filmmakers resisted the temptation to butch Capote up a little to make it more politically correct by "undermining stereotypes about homosexuals," a la "Brokeback Mountain." Of course, that would have been hard to get away with for anybody over 40 or so. With all his talkshow appearances, Capote was, along with Paul "The Joker" Lynde and Jim "Gomer Pyle" Nabors, one of the triumvirate of flamers who were on TV almost nonstop during my childhood.

(By the way, what was the deal with Jim Nabors always singing the National Anthem at LA Rams NFL games in the early 1970s? Was some guy on the Rams' PR staff his boyfriend, or what? Or didn't anybody in all of pro football notice there was anything swishy about Nabors?)

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

No comments: