05 February 2006

Academy members afraid of "Brokeback Mountain"?

In a piece in the current issue of LA Weekly, Nikki Finke bitch-slaps the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and points out that Brokeback Mountain might not score as many Oscars as it could -- not because it's not a great film, but because it will go unseen by homophobic judges.

An excerpt:
Given that it's Oscar time, I nominate the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Bunch of Hypocrites. That’s because this year’s dirty little secret is the anecdotal evidence pouring in to me about hetero members being unwilling to screen Brokeback Mountain. For a community that takes pride in progressive values, it’s shameful that Hollywood’s homophobia may be on a par with Pat Robertson’s.

Despite the hype you’re reading in the press and on the Internet about Brokeback, with its eight nominations, being the supposed favorite to take home the Best Picture Oscar on March 5, Crash could end up winning. The issue isn’t which film is better. The issue is more like which movie was seen by the Academy. Frankly, I find horrifying each whispered admission to me from Academy members who usually pose as social liberals that they’re disgusted by even the possibility of glimpsing simulated gay sex. Earth to the easily offended: This movie has been criticized for being too sexually tame. Hey, Academy, what are you worried about: that you’ll turn gay or, worse, get a stiffie by just the hint of hunk-on-hunk action?

That Brokeback isn’t the Oscar favorite may have been foreshadowed at the SAG awards, when Crash topped it for best picture and Philip Seymour Hoffman won over Heath Ledger. Remember: Truman Capote was so unthreatening — as compared to the in-your-face sexiness of Ledger looking longingly at Jake Gyllenhaal’s loins — that Johnny Carson used to invite him into the nation’s living rooms as a frequent guest on The Tonight Show.

It’s not that Crash isn’t Oscar-worthy and Brokeback is. Both are good, if flawed, movies. Crash makes up in aesthetic bleakness what it lacks in subtlety -- Los Angeles is a city of minorities divided but colliding, duh! -- but it’s also gripping and powerful. Brokeback gives us something we haven’t seen before -- closet-case sheepherders tastefully presented so they redefine the notion of love. But it’s also slow and ponderous.

Look, I do understand the degree to which the cowboy has been an iconic figure in motion pictures through the ages. Also, that many geriatric Academy members not only worked on oaters, but also worshipped Audie Murphy, Gene Autry, John Wayne and other saddle-sore celluloid heroes. And that only an equally iconic figure like Clint Eastwood could redefine the genre in Unforgiven in a way that didn’t turn off the old-timers. But, jeez, I’m not just talking about the geezers. I’m talking baby boomers and younger Academy members who are sketched out about seeing Brokeback.

Sure, even without seeing the movie, they could feel guilt-tripped or succumb to a herd mentality to vote for the gay-cowboy movie and strike a blow against Republican wedge politics and religious hatemongering. But, if they don’t, then Brokeback may lose for all the Right’s reasons.
[Read more.]

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