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Episode 75: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

  

90 members have voted

  1. 1. Is BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN in The Canon?

    • Yes!
      76
    • No!
      14


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Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall are cowboy lovers in Ang Lee's Oscar winning movie... but are they Canon? It's up to you to decide after listening to this episode.

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I actually agreed a lot with Amy in this episode. I'm going to vote yes, but a soft yes. A yes that's more based on the historical significance than the actual movie. The movie was certainly well acted, and amazingly emotionally impacting, but for some reason the film itself didn't quite click with me. This was my first time seeing the movie, having grown up with it as "the gay cowboy movie." And it was much more than that. It was this weird punchline for most of my life. I'm 27 and the movie came out when I was in highschool, which isn't exactly your most broad-minded time in life, so I just kind of ignored it. And I'm glad I finally saw it. It's a very important movie, and I agree with Devin, a much better movie than Carol while dealing with a very similar topic. But the thing this movie really has on it's side is the historical significance. It really is a huge mile-stone in America being okay with a gay couple, and seeing that it's all just about love. It's really sad that most of the country is still struggling to realize that it doesn't matter what other people are doing, it's their own business, and this movie is a really interesting artificat from a time where things were starting to change. I'm not sure why this movie didn't quite work for me though. I thought it was good, just not great. But who knows, that could just be my own personal preference, which shouldn't get in the way of the fact that this movie does belong in the Canon.

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This was my first time seeing the movie, having grown up with it as "the gay cowboy movie." And it was much more than that. It was this weird punchline for most of my life. I'm 27 and the movie came out when I was in highschool, which isn't exactly your most broad-minded time in life, so I just kind of ignored it. And I'm glad I finally saw it.

Same for me Patrick. An ex actually tried to watch it with me, and I only made it about 15 minutes in before I made her turn it off. Granted, my overall taste in movies was very different back then too.

 

I loved this movie. The love story at its heart is of course beautiful and heartbreaking and completely captivating, but what really sets it apart for me is how it deals with the passage of time. The time jumps go by without comment. Several times throughout the movie I found myself halfway through a scene before some little detail showed up to indicate how much time had passed; a song on a jukebox, a new hairstyle, the kids growing up. Most movies would have thrown up title cards with the year each time a jump happened, but Lee lets time do what it does in life... just slip by sometimes without our noticing it until we suddenly realize just how long its been.

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I was fresh out of high school when this came out, 18 years old. I went to see this with someone I'd never seen a movie with, an on-again/off-again friend dating back to middle school. She was one of the first people I cam out to a few years prior. In the time since I was out to just about all of my friends at school and most importantly, my mom. Living in what I guess we could call the soft South--the suburbs of Orlando, far from the beach with equal numbers of rednecks and Disney transplants--I dealt with homophobia regularly. While I did a great job at concealing my sexuality around strangers, you would still overhear the slurs. Or my personal favorite, the racist/homophobic check that assholes do, where they say something awful to see how you react, to see if you're with them.

 

This film felt monumental. As mentioned in the podcast, while there were gay characters in some media it was usually niche. Suddenly, at this pivotal time in my life, there was a movie with TV commercials about gay characters who were not caricatures. This was a glimmer of hope in a very dark time. We were a year into the second round of G.W. Bush, when Congress contained even more moralist conservatives than the first time around. In February 2004 Bush announced his support for a constitutional same-sex marriage ban. It really felt like the queer community was losing the battle. But along came this film and its box office success. I will never forget watching a group of blue haired women walk out of the theater after the sex scene. I remember thinking to myself with a smirk, they paid for it.

 

That does not even begin to touch on the film itself. The acting is incredible, the characterizations are perfect. Devin and Amy had a back and forth on cinematography, and while I agree with Amy that it is more functional than dazzling, there are some absolutely gorgeous shots. In particular, I love the framing of Ledger between the two walls of the alleyway as he has the panic attack. The big open sky behind him turns the shot into something out of a modernist painting.

 

So of course, this is a hard yes from me. If it were not for the release of this movie, I might not have felt comfortable enough to come out to my father less than a month later while drunk on New Year's Eve. This film did a lot for me personally, but just as much for the queer community as a whole. Decades (if not centuries) from now the critics and the historians will still be revisiting this one.

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Brokeback Mountain is both a good movie and a historically important movie, but as one of those young people who grew up in a world which has "always had" Brokeback Mountain it doesn't really hold up. While it is still famous and significant, when the LGBTQ communities for the MCU or Star Wars are some of the most dominant communities around the most post popular modern films the impact of Brokeback Mountain is lessened. It's a good movie but it feels dated in comparison to the content on modern TV in terms of progressive content.

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I have to say No. While the performances were great and it showed that all the actors had serious potential, the movie as a whole isn't all that impressive. I feel all the actors and even The director have had better movies.

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Voted yes.

 

One minor correction: Three non-best-of-the-year movies from the 21st century that made it in before Brokeback Mountain include Battle Royale, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Oldboy--unless I misunderstood something.

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I am voting yes for a very simple reason: This film made me FEEL deeply for these men.

 

Side note: My favorite Ang Lee film is The Ice Storm.

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And somehow this movie lost Best Picture to Crash. Hell, any of the other nominees that year were preferable to Crash.

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And somehow this movie lost Best Picture to Crash. Hell, any of the other nominees that year were preferable to Crash.

 

That moment and this year's Oscars are strongly linked. Crash was the Academy patting themselves on the back and not worrying about systemic racism for another decade.

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When I first saw it in 2005, I liked it plenty, but probably wouldn't have said it was Canon-worthy.

 

Cut to January 2008, watching it just after Heath Ledger's death, and the tragic irony of that final scene hitting me like a ton of bricks.

 

Yes on Canon.

 

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And somehow this movie lost Best Picture to Crash. Hell, any of the other nominees that year were preferable to Crash.

 

What's crazy is that there were some terrific nominees that year. Capote is great. Munich is an underrated film, even for Spielberg. Heck, Good Night and Good Luck would at least have been interesting--though it never would have happened. I sincerely would have preferred if the unnominated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had won over Crash. But really, it just means that the best Oscar... is time. ^_^

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Second-best ending to any Canon podcast episode ever, second only to when Devin and Amy read each others outros.

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Hard yes. There's basically nothing I don't like about this film from the actors, cinematography, and score. It all works perfectly.

 

I'm a bisexual woman, but this film was really important to me growing up because it was the first film I ever remember seeing with gay characters in it (I was 12 when it hit DVD and was able to rent it-I hid it from my mom and got it through my local library). The cultural impact this has had really can't be overstated.

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Ok, guys, what leads me to say yes to Brokeback Mountain is simple. I'm pretty much a dude, I go skating, surfing, scuba diving, most of my friends are straight, we watch soccer and movies and drink beer, I'm pretty smart most of the times and really dumb sometimes - and I happen to like guys. I struggeled quite a bit. Part of that struggle came from not having any role models, like at all. To be honest, there still aren't many really good gay films with a positive message or strong characters (or, god forbid, with both of it). Brokeback at lest got the characters-part right. It's probably the only shot we really honestly got of a gay love story with the guys living happy together at least for some time.... The only other discussion-worthy film I can think of would be WEEKEND, a British 2011 film - which was such a small event that the only chance of an episode would probably be if a guest came along with this as a suggestion.

 

Ok, now, with that soul searching stuff out of the way, here are my thoughts on the film making: I've never gotten quite warm with Ang Lee's directing style. I more often than not feel that he's a bit too formulaic for my tastes. This holds true for Life Of Pi, and it also is true to me for this one here, which, had it won best picture, let's be frank, would have probably had a backlash just as much as Dances With Wolves or Chicago. If something makes a film legendary, it's NOT winning these awards. Being the perpetual underdog helped this film to build a reputation that's a bit too large for its own good. I think it's simply a fine small film, based on a really, really well written script with some interesting characters. It is, however, by no means as daring a film as its subject matter. That's certainly a bit of a hard pill to swallow from an artistic point of view, but at the same time I'm pretty sure it's what made the huge success possible in the first place.

 

So, yes, and it was a fun episode as always. Cheers!

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I vote no.

Heath Ledger was so mumbly-mouthed, I couldn't even understand what he was saying.

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Ok, guys, what leads me to say yes to Brokeback Mountain is simple. I'm pretty much a dude, I go skating, surfing, scuba diving, most of my friends are straight, we watch soccer and movies and drink beer, I'm pretty smart most of the times and really dumb sometimes - and I happen to like guys. I struggeled quite a bit. Part of that struggle came from not having any role models, like at all. To be honest, there still aren't many really good gay films with a positive message or strong characters (or, god forbid, with both of it). Brokeback at lest got the characters-part right. It's probably the only shot we really honestly got of a gay love story with the guys living happy together at least for some time.... The only other discussion-worthy film I can think of would be WEEKEND, a British 2011 film - which was such a small event that the only chance of an episode would probably be if a guest came along with this as a suggestion.

 

Ok, now, with that soul searching stuff out of the way, here are my thoughts on the film making: I've never gotten quite warm with Ang Lee's directing style. I more often than not feel that he's a bit too formulaic for my tastes. This holds true for Life Of Pi, and it also is true to me for this one here, which, had it won best picture, let's be frank, would have probably had a backlash just as much as Dances With Wolves or Chicago. If something makes a film legendary, it's NOT winning these awards. Being the perpetual underdog helped this film to build a reputation that's a bit too large for its own good. I think it's simply a fine small film, based on a really, really well written script with some interesting characters. It is, however, by no means as daring a film as its subject matter. That's certainly a bit of a hard pill to swallow from an artistic point of view, but at the same time I'm pretty sure it's what made the huge success possible in the first place.

 

So, yes, and it was a fun episode as always. Cheers!

 

So uh, you like, wanna go fishing some time?

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Yes for a lot of reasons. Top of the list, it's one of the most intensely believable love stories in modern movies. There is actual fire between the leads and Gyllenhaal and Ledger are both amazing. I'm a trans woman, and at the time I was in my first year of college and closeted, and the yearning and holding back of Ledger, the repression, in itself makes this canon worthy for me. He perfectly captures something that had only fleetingly been captured, and never before on such a big mainstream film.

 

Also, to Amy's point about Jack Twist's sexuality, he's clearly gay. We see him go to Mexico and pick up a male prostitute and basically tells Ennis that he can't "make it on a few high altitude fucks" (paraphrased). He could just fuck girls on the regular if he had any inclination for that. I think Ennis is too, but due to the horrific nature of the early memory of the gay men (which he recounts) his repression is far deeper than Jack's. That's why it's Jack who imagines living a life together while Ennis is stuck dealing with that trauma and fearing what he sees as the inevitable. And to anyone who says "they have wives and children" please know that doesn't mean crap. In reverse, I don't care how straight you are if most men started fooling around with another guy they'd get hard and have sex. In fact, give it a try. You'll probably have fun :)

 

Another thing this movie gets absolutely perfect is what it's like performing masculinity when you are considered a failure at masculinity. Unlike me though, these guys are actually the real deal. So there's this dissonance between like the prototype of American masculinity, cowboys, and the perception of homosexuality as being inherently feminizing. Obviously this is bullshit. The most masculine dudes you will ever meet are gay leather types, but in pop culture there is the sense that to be gay means to fail at masculinity. And scenes like Jack putting his father-in-law in place just really show how false that notion is. The story punctures a hole in the perception of gay men and allows for a wider range of popular representations of gay men that weren't very present before.

 

There are some things that stick out as a bit off, just in the largely straight people making a film about gay people inevitable way (like the only thing we get is Jack with the Mexican prostitute, no way he doesn't go cruising. I want that scene!), but they're really minor and pale compared to how much is done perfectly.

 

As for the end, it seems pretty unambiguous to me what happens. Anne Hathaway gives a very rote answer, while the camera shows the truth. And the injuries she describes are basically all blows to the face. But this is how you describe the death of a gay man in that era. Much like many early AIDS victims diagnosis and cause of death was hidden by family members after the fact out of shame/homophobia. I've never once doubted that Jack was beaten to death, and maybe this is down to having a queer lens while watching, whereas straight viewers (much like the straight family members telling the story) will more often give equal weight to the lie.

 

Wonderful story, beautiful film, amazing performances, and culturally significant. Total canon movie. (sorry for the long entry)

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I was so pissed about that Oscar loss because I was so sure the film that I genuinely believed was the best picture of the year was going to win. That almost never happens.

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Watching the film again after many years, I had mixed feelings about it - the staging and framing of the scenes which I remembered as being very astutely executed, seemed diminished and obvious at times, but on the other hand the Western iconography seemed more appropriate than I remembered. I know Amy talked about the cinematography being all about the pretty vistas and the postcard images, but I think it serves the story well to frame such an intimate story within these monumental landscapes because the scenery is quintessentially American and seems to invite freedom, but the characters are trapped and repressed by their circumstances and standing in opposition to conventional ideas of manliness that you associate with this kind of imagery. Sure, the scene where they tell each other that they are not queer could have been filmed under an unassuming tree, or against an unremarkable pile of rocks, but with the valley stretching out before them and the waning light, the moment, which could be completely banal, already hints at the fragility of this paradise they have created for themselves.

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Voted yes.

 

One minor correction: Three non-best-of-the-year movies from the 21st century that made it in before Brokeback Mountain include Battle Royale, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Oldboy--unless I misunderstood something.

 

 

They were saying that this will be the most recently made movie to make it in that wasn't a best of the year episode, but you're correct that Mad Max:Fury Road is newer.

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Yes! And by the way, I am not ashamed to admit my love of The Notebook. While it isn't the best thing Ryan Gosling has done, it was the best part of a terrible blind date.

 

I'm 27, and I grew up in a small Ohio town (1,100 people) with a large Italian-American and rural farmer population. I can honestly say that I grew up knowing 0 LGBT people until I got to college in 2006. When Brokeback Mountain came out, I was 16 and at the height of a proto-masculine nerd persona that I was trying to portray to people. I always knew that I was a bisexual man, but I never acknowledged it as a reality. While Brokeback Mountain was a turning point culturally, bringing out the worst in and enlightening many, I can't say that it changed my life. What it did do was get people talking about homosexuality more, and I was able to see that not every person was hateful and bigoted - much of the problem was ignorance. I now had that one code/qualifier movie to see if I was going to find someone I wanted to spend time with. "Have you seen Brokeback Mountain?" would immediately bring out a person's feelings about homosexuality (and of course film) in my later high school and early college years. That alone makes this an important film worthy of the Canon as well as show how fantastic the four principle actors are as well.

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So, I think people are selling the impact of this movie and it's historical significance re depictions of gay men for a bit more than they're worth. To be clear, I voted yes for this to be in the canon, but I think the impact of this movie is overstated. I don't think it changed much of anything in the culture. It was actually coming right around the time that lots of states were passing the first constitutional bans on gay marriage (at the state level) and anti-LGBT laws that were as bad or worse than what's happened in NC. It's impact on the culture was, I think pretty subtle and amounted to folks being able to quote the line "I wish I knew how to quit you." Although Ill admit I could be wrong just because of where I'm from: Utah, where the biggest theater owner in the state refused to show the film because it showed gay men in a positive light. Maybe it didn't affect us here.

 

However, I think what it did do is have an impact on the much more insular culture of the the studios and movie industry itself. I think it made people in the industry realize that movies with gay characters could tell relatable stories that mainstream movie-goers would pay money to see. It took forever to get this movie made and it went through several directors and leads before it did. Then it proved this kind of story can be a financial success, which opened the door for a lot of other projects. Though, even that lesson doesn't seem to have sunk in that deep. Movies an TV shows amazingly still pigeonhole gay characters, stereotype them and don't often let gay characters carry films.

 

I think what makes this movie worthy of the canon is a few different things. 1. The fact that it was the first mainstream movie to show deal with LGBT issues in a subtle, human, emotionally relatable way and that also made a bunch of money. 2. That it was the film that largely launched the more serious careers of 4 important actors, 3 of which are still doing great work today. 3. It's the best film of a great director, Ang Lee. 4. The performances are just so god damn good.

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