I've yet to see Brokeback Mountain, which has inspired encomia all across the Web, as if this were the first and best gay movie ever (though it probably is the first about gay shepherds/cowboys in Wyoming set in the pre-to-post Stonewall Era). I probably will see it at some point, but Littlemilk at Unbeached Whale has a take on it as the "Cinematic Gay Craze" that I sort of agreed with. Direland has links to other views which similarly depart from the chorus. Then again, it is an Ang Lee movie, which does recommend it, and supposedly the acting is great, the love story is truly moving, and the scenes of the Canadian landscape-masquerading-as the Equality State (though I think the story also takes place in other Western venues) are enchanting.
But the whole premise just...doesn't grab me at all. Heather Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal inspire yawns (I can't think of any other movie the former was in, though the latter was pretty good in Donnie Darko). A friend who's also a big sports fan suggested, and I agreed--even though I haven't yet seen the film but read reams about it--as we were chatting on the phone and praying for the postcard-perfect New England Patriots not to wheedle their way back to the Super Bowl (they didn't, the Denver Broncosousted them), that it's sort of like the Gay Aryan Shepherd/Cowboy Movie. Maybe it should the DL Shepherd/Cowboy Movie. Littlemilk says that the beauty of the two stars "cancels itself out." (Perhaps there are some shepherds/cowboys of color or other folks in it, I don't know, not that there have to be any people of color in an American movie for me to watch and enjoy it, since I am a big fan of David Lynch's films, as well as a great deal of Hollywood classic cinema and film noir, to give several examples). When I heard that one of the protagonists dies by the end, I sighed and thought, this sounds like the usual Hollywood mainstream narrative about gay lives. But I've been told that the film goes does go to some interesting places. So at some point, I'll probably go see it. I bet it'll be very popular overseas....
Update: Writer Meghan Daum has an incisive and hilarious piece in the LA Times, "A Breakthrough on Brokeback," on what's really going on in Brokeback Mountain (at least from her straight, female perspective). Quoth she:
Talk about something being worth the price of admission! For women, "Brokeback Mountain" is kind of like a vacation from our own brains, at least the part of our brains that obsesses over relationships. Instead, we get to watch men express the feelings we always want them to express but often end up doing for them. The sex, whatever the brand, is incidental compared to the unprecedented purity of male emotion on the screen.
Gay men may relate to this film in more complicated ways, but from where I sat, the effect on heterosexuals seemed pretty clear-cut. To my left was my (straight male) date, who I occasionally caught checking his watch and hiding his eyes during the love scenes (though he claimed he was simply rubbing them). To my right was a woman who, when she wasn't talking back at the screen ("Say yes, Ennis! Say yes!") was loudly sobbing through much of the picture. For my part, I was just pretending Heath Ledger was vomiting because of me.
Though what "Brokeback Mountain" amounts to, in effect, is female-targeted emotional pornography, both sexes of all inclinations could learn a thing or two from it. By acting like men but emoting like women, by embodying both sides of the divide, Jack and Ennis cover all the bases of the romantic equation. This makes more conventional movie characters — male or female — seem woefully one-dimensional by comparison.
Speaking of Direland, he has the goods as usual on his site. There's a tribute to Gilles Deleuze, that inexhaustible well (I saw his book on Francis Bacon for the first time today); information on the ongoing persecution of homosexuals in Iran; exposés on the CIA's site for kids, on how Abramoff helped fund the GOP's anti-gay agenda, a piece on NSA whistleblower Mike Tice and the broader scope of the secret, warrantless eavesdropping/wiretapping, and a scathing piece, which I'm linking to directly, on how mediocre gay TV is. And those are the topics for just the last few weeks.
Sueyeun Juliette Lee and Eric Baus are two of the coolest people I met for the first time in 2005. Juliette, a talented poet who also runs her own handsewn book press, hosted Christopher Stackhouse and me last fall when she organized a reading at Amherst Books for the publication and début of Chris's lovely chapbook, Slip. It was one of the most enjoyable readings I've participated in in years, and several local writer-scholars, including Keguro and Ronaldo V., were in the house. Now, Juliette has three poems online in the Coconut 2 and a chapbook from Coconut entitled trespass slightly in, which you can read online or download. There's some tight work in it!
An author I'm reading for the first time, as a result of a student's thesis: Miriam Tlali (at left, photo from Webhustlers). The book: Muriel at Metropolitan (Longman, 1979). It's certainly one of the more challenging and enjoyable texts I've had to read for work purposes in some time, and I'm glad to have learned about her. Next on my list, her Between Two Worlds (Broadview, 2004).
RIP Shelley Winters. This blowsy Brooklynite, who went on to win 2 Best Supporting Actor Oscars, the first as the obnoxious wealthy wife in the Diary of Anne Frank (1959) and the second as a racist mother in A Patch of Blue (1965), and who also gave the alltime unforgettable (and hilarious) performances in The Poseidon Adventure (1975), also shares something in common with T. S. Eliot, Betty Grable, Chuck Berry, Dick Gregory, and Nelly: she's a native of St. Louis, born on Newstead Avenue in 1920, or 1922, depending on who's telling it. She's even has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.