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March 06, 2006

Hollywood As "Homophobic As Red-Staters"

Nikki Finke again complains that many in Hollywood didn't bother to see Brokeback Mountain, thus ensuring it wouldn't win.

She claims it's pure homophobia that kept some Academy voters from watching. Errrm, I doubt it. I think actual homophobia is probably pretty hard to find in Hollywood.

People are not stupid. When there's this sort of gushy critical reaction to a controversial "issue" film, people realize that 90% of that positive reaction is just towards the film's message/politics, not necessarily about its actual artisitic or technical merits.

Was Brokeback a good film? It depends on where you draw the line for good -- including mediocre films or excluding them. If you include mediocre movies that have some slight merits to recommend them, sure, it's "good" by that low threshold. The movie was often obvious, didactic, ponderous, slow, tedious, self-indulgent, self-important, self-righteous, and self-satisfied. The dialogue was often absurd-- and had this been a non-gay film, critics would have had a great time ripping into the silly hick-speak ("There ain't no reins on this thing we got" -- imagine Kevin Costner saying that in a non-gay western romance, and what the critics would have said).

People in Hollywood know, as does the rest of the country, that critics (and industry types) often promote films for reasons having nothing to do with a film's actual appeal. Probably they know that better than anyone, having either been the beneficiaries of such liberal-politics goodwill in the past, or perhaps on the bad side of it. (Can't imagine that anyone who lost to Philadelphia can't help but suspect the loss was largely due to political goodwill towards that earlier gay-themed film.)

When you think about it, what the hell was Brokeback about? Sheepherders. Not even cowboys with six guns blazing. Sheepherders herding sheep in some pretty hills. And then a romance, and cheating, and arguing with wives. If this had been a straight-romance, who would have been gung-ho to run out and see this snoozer?

Many think the filmmakers (including the actors) in Brokeback were brave for making the movie in the first place. Fine-- then they can fete them for their bravery, but I, for one, understand if they don't want to take the additional step and spend two tedious hours watching this snoozer.

More Whining From the HeartBrokebacken: America just hates gays, that's all. At least that's the thrust of some reactions:

"Perhaps the truth really is, Americans don’t want cowboys to be gay," said Larry McMurtry, the veteran Western writer who shared the award for best adapted screenplay.

...

But the Oscars saved their big surprise for the end. There were astonished gasps around Hollywood's Kodak Theatre as Jack Nicholson announced Crash's victory in the Best Picture category over hot favourite Brokeback.

No overtly gay love story had ever won a Best Picture statue and the critics immediately asked whether Oscar votes had not backed off from breaking that taboo.

"Film buffs and the politically minded will be arguing this morning about whether the Best Picture Oscar to Crash was really for the film’s merit or just a cop-out by the Motion Picture Academy so it wouldn’t have to give the prize to Brokeback Mountain," said Tom Shales of the Washington Post.

The Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan saw Brokeback’s failure as a sign that Hollywood was not yet ready to grant the topic of homosexual love mainstream respectability.

"Despite all the magazine covers it graced, despite all the red-state theatres it made good money in, despite (or maybe because of) all the jokes late-night talk show hosts made about it, you could not take the pulse of the industry without realising that Brokeback Mountain made a number of people distinctly uncomfortable," Turan said.

"So for people who were discomfited by Brokeback Mountain but wanted to be able to look themselves in the mirror and feel like they were good, productive liberals, Crash provided the perfect safe harbour."

Maybe they just thought they had already overly-praised Brokeback for nominating it for everything except Best Visual Effects and figured that was sufficient to reward the "bravery" of making a dreary, lifeless, obvious film.

Why No Oscars For Open Range, Then? Nice scenery, a sweet romance, a slow, easygoing cadence, good performances in all of the leads.

A good movie, although slow and a little corny, especially in the middle bits. ("They shot our dog!")

So: Why no Oscar love for Open Range, a superior film in all ways?

Oscars are, theoretically, given to high artistic and technical achievement-- not just for tacking a particular subject-matter. Although, of course, we all know that "bravery" in tackling certain subjects is often the true reason films win Oscars. Oscar loves the handicapped, or the mentally challenged, or those who suffer predjudice, or domestic violence, or who suffer the worst possible deformity, by Hollywood reckoning -- physical ugliness (see Theron, Charlize, and Monster).

Still, just because that's often the way Hollywood convinces itself it's doing something ennobling and important, as opposed to just making movies like Porkie's II: The Next Day and Daredevil, doesn't mean it's actually required to do so.

'Sides, they gave the Oscar to another overrated bit of feel-good liberal cinematic piety, Crash. Isn't that penance enough?


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posted by Ace at 01:30 PM

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