December 27, 2005
Yesterday: got down to Camelview Five 45 minutes early and stood in line for about fifteen minutes. Less than a hundred seats left when I got to the window. The movie-goer to my right, at the next window, said, "Two seniors for Brokeback Mountain." I don’t know why, but this struck me as funny, so I said, “Four homophobic pre-pubescents for Brokeback Mountain.” ($24 cash) We came in separate cars (the girls went shopping at six in the morning, Tomas hung out with friends and I stayed home and drew), so we rendezvoused at the get-in-the-actual-theater line for a good twenty minutes while I tried to guess who in line was gay. I would say about 25 percent of those in line were gay (a surprising amount of lesbians in cowgirl hats), but I had to laugh to myself when I realized others were probably playing the same mind game and including me in the gay category. Maybe that’s why I said very loudly a couple of times, “I sure love the hetero lifestyle!!”
Besides my family and Mexican food, I love Westerns and I have some strict criteria for elements I expect and demand in them. The Big One, for me, is big, open spaces up on the screen that dwarf humans in a spectacular way. That is key, and that’s one of the reasons Wild Bill disappointed me so much; Jeff Bridges was great but the film was town-bound. The second expectation I have going in is geographic integrity. Don’t show me Vasquez Rocks north of LA and expect me to believe it’s Texas. And being a Hat Nazi, I want cowboy lids that are accurate to the locale (I hated most of the hats in Silverado: New York actors buying custom cowboy hats in Colorado for a film set in New Mexico). Plus, if it’s a contemporary Western I want funky pickups, windswept ranches and loud, but homely honkytonks. With brassy women who are long, lean and horny. Oh yeah, and cowboys who can actually ride horses and talk like it.
Brokeback Mountain has all of the above, and then some, although one of the leads can’t ride a horse for shit, and I don’t want to name names but it wasn’t Heath.
The opening sequence of a floor to ceiling mountain range with a tint of sunrise at the top and a pebble-sized truck cruising across the bottom, headlights fighting the pre-dawn gloom, set the tone pretty darn good. Contrasting the natural wonders with the decay of Wyoming’s small towns shot through greasy windows and craggy doorways of rusted out trailers was even better. This part is pure Annie Prioux, who is genius at portraying Wyoming trailer trash culture. Several times I noticed visual parallels to Last Picture Show and Hud, both, of course, Larry McMurtry classics made into memorable movies.
The Honkytonk scenes were excellent with distorted, overamped band sounds (Tomas got me the DVD of Forty Year Old Virgin for Christmas and there is a club scene that is so lame where the music is pushed way back and the actors are talking in normal voices on a sound stage pretending to be a bar. Paleeeeze!). The pickups in Brokeback are righteous. In the opening sequence, Jack Twist (Jake Gillenhaal) comes driving into a windy parking lot, turns off the ignition and the ancient hulk of a truck, spits, diesels, and the back wheels give off a last ditch death lurch. For pickup lovers, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Heath Ledger, as Ennis, wears a variety of hats, most of them dead on, but my fave is a rancher’s short brim with a fifties crease on the crown (the movie starts in 1963 and goes into the 1970s). Jake as Jack Twist wears big, pretentious lids, which make him look mighty gay, but then, I guess in a movie like this, that is a plus. Randy Quaid plays a mean, lumbering, bigoted sheep boss with a flat-brim, forest service job on his big, fat head and he’s just a hoot to watch and gives the movie some solid cowboy cred (from The Long Riders to Brokeback Mountain is quite a hike!).
But the biggest shock to me, is that Heath is a cowboy wonder with a perfect, dead-on laconic cowboy dialect and delivery (he’s an Aussie!) If I didn’t know better I’d damn sure think he was related to me. He sounded exactly like some of my Kingman cowboy cousins (one of whom is gay by the way).
So, how cringe-worthy were the sex scenes? I cringed royally at the groping and kissing, but my kids were non-pulsed. Both Thomas and Deena said it didn’t bother them in the least. I hate to admit this but both Tomcat and I cried at the end (that damned guitar!), but the girls did not. “They didn’t have the heat,” Kathy said dismissively. Both she and Deena gave the movie a seven. T-Bell gave it a nine. I gave it an 8.5 (I didn’t like Jake’s hats). So what does this all mean?
Well, for one thing, I predict, in years to come, Jake and Heath will be acknowledged as being “brave” actors and lionized for it by a generation that isn't as uptight as we are. Heath’s next movie, which we saw the previews for, is Casanova, which, you have to admit, is great career timing.
Afterwards we drove in separate cars to Tacos Jalisco on Thomas Road and had dinner together and talked about the movie ($30 cash, includes tip).
"All great change in America begins at the dinner table."
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