The bond that I share with my dad regarding
the movies has always been singular: we both love cowboy
movies. I can never quite put my finger on what I love most
about cowboy flicks, the Western in general; maybe it's the iconic
characters, the loners, the guys that spend much of their time
promoting justice and little of their time in a shower stall.
Dad's favorite is "Tombstone", that great modern Western with Kurt
Russell, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, a young Thomas
Haden Church, a gratuitous Jason Priestley. The action is
solid but the acting is better; Kilmer should have won the Oscar for
his performance as Doc Holliday, and who can forget another
forgettable Bill Paxton performance as Whiny Second Fiddle?
For me, I love so many Westerns that I have
a hard time picking one. While "Tombstone" is high on my list,
I have always liked "High Noon", "Unforgiven", "Dances with Wolves"
and "The Wild Bunch." Shit, I'll watch "The Quick and the
Dead" or--worse--"Posse" if they are on TV, because I just love
watching cowboy flicks so much.
The biggest difference between those
previous cowboy movies and the new Ang Lee flick "Brokeback
Mountain" is that this new entry into the cowboy genre is set in a
bit more modern era: the 1960s and 70s Wyoming and Texas
frontiers, instead of life a hundred years earlier. As such,
there are modern conveniences available to our protagonists, be it
running water, automobiles, and mechanical bulls.
The other main difference: "Brokeback
Mountain" is about, in the words of the immortal Adam Sandler bit,
two guys fucking.
I haven't run the numbers yet, but I think
that this is the first cowboy film I have ever seen and liked that
has a main plotline centering around cowboys in love. And,
judging from the insane totals of film critic awards and Oscar buzz,
it will be the first film to have a shot at an Oscar that is about
two guys that like to take "fishing trips" away from their wives in
order to bone in the Midwest countryside.
Heath Ledger, who usually appears in
marginal-to-awful flicks (he starred in the year's worst movie so
far, "The Brothers Grimm"), does
yeoman's work as Ennis, a loner out to make some money in the summer
of '63 at a sheep herding gig in Wyoming. His partner in this
endeavor, former stranger Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhall), becomes a
fast-yet-required friend as the twosome spend their time watching
sheep along with their lives flying away in the extended summer
season. One night, seeking refuge from the cold outside, Ennis
joins Jack in what turns out to be the first of many casual
encounters for these two young bucks...and even though Ennis claims
after the first dongfest that he is 100% straight, we all know he's
lying and that we are going to explore just how tough it is to play
the role of gay lover during a time where folks didn't seem too
comfortable with the idea that their neighbor might be a homosexual.
Co-written by "Lonesome Dove" scribe/legend
Larry McMurtry, "Brokeback Mountain" has sparse amounts of dialogue
but a bevy of great reaction shots, idyllic landscape shots and
vivid imagery of men loving other men. The visuals of this
movie really do the speaking for us in long stretches; the dialogue
gets you from one scene to the next but then it's up to the acting
of our leads (in addition to their respective wives, played by
Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway) and they deliver on all levels.
The problems for this film came in the form of the "Eyes Wide
Shut"-like one-note transition score (play something different, for
chrissakes!!), the aging process of our leads as we get to know them
over the course of nearly 20 years, and a lack of explanation in
terms of the men not seeing enough of the two wives, the families of
the men, even the summer liaison office contact (played by Randy
Quaid). Sometimes, the film is fast-forwarding so fast that
you are not sure you even really saw anything; I'm pretty sure one
of the sequences cuts three or four years into the future, without
any real warning. I was asking my friends if I had missed
something, this was happening so quickly.
But, you can't have it all, right?
(And, if the men in my group had their druthers, "having it all"
would have meant having Hathaway show up at our collective front
doorsteps to say hi each and every morning the way she says hi to
Jack in a naughty backseat sequence. Whoa, easy "Princess
Diaries" girl!) In a year where films have generally been
good, but not great, I think that "Brokeback Mountain" will have a
legit shot at the Best Picture Oscar due to all of its buzz right
now. Is there anything that Ang Lee can't direct???
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard