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About the movie:
"Brokeback Mountain"

Sponsored link.

Stuff that isn't so:

Movie reviewers typically describe the lead actors as:

bulletCowboys. However, cowboys generally herd cattle. This movie is primarily about two sheep herders.
bulletHomosexuals: However, both characters are portrayed as married, sexually attracted to each other and to their wives. They both are portrayed as having a bisexual orientation. The actors are actually heterosexual in orientation and behavior in real life.

The movie was mainly photographed in Alberta, Canada. However, it portrays Wyoming.

From three synopses of the movie:

bulletFr. Tom Condon, OP, student master for St. Martin de Porres Province of the Dominicans, a Roman Catholic order, writes:

"Two sheep-tending cowboys in 1960s Wyoming find themselves unexpectedly falling in love and suffering the heartbreaking consequences, keeping their relationship a secret for 20 years." 1

bulletThe Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences describes the movie as involving:

"Two young cowboys in the 1960s develop a strong bond that turns to love over the course of a summer in the Wyoming mountains. As they share herding duties in an isolated setting, Ennis and Jack find themselves drawn into a relationship--made impossible by the time and circumstances in which they live--that will color the rest of their lives." 2

bulletLifeSiteNews, a conservative Roman Catholic advocacy group views the film differently. They see it as a:

"...propaganda-laden film...Brokeback Mountain works hard to seduce the watcher into sympathy for the 'love' between the hardened but sensitive cowhands, but in fact it is a weighty pitch for legitimizing homosexuality that carefully avoids the raunchier aspects of the original story by Annie Proulx. In her account the men develop a sexual 'taste' for each other that never carries with it such emotional baggage as the movie would like us to believe?sex between the cowboys begins out of boredom and isolation and continues as a sort of physical addiction which they feed on a periodic basis." 3

bulletOur synopsis:

Brokeback Mountain centers on a gay relationship that could not be allowed to exist in Wyoming during the 1960s. The locale may have been chosen as an allusion to Matthew Sheppard's crucifixion during a gay bashing in 1998. The two lead characters, Ennis and Jack, later married women and were only able to be with each other during the occasional "fishing" trip. Ennis was haunted by a memory of his father taking him to see the corpse of a gay man who had been castrated during a gay bashing and abandoned in the field to die. Jack wanted them to settle down together in spite of the danger. He later dies in a gay bashing attack. Tom Condon sums up the movie well when he writes:

"A culture of fear, repression, and dishonesty hinder all the characters as they try to connect with each other. I highly recommend Brokeback Mountain. It touches on many different levels. It is an engrossing story, a plea for tolerance, and a sad, emotional film that will touch anyone who has ever been in love." 1

Overview:

bulletFr. Tom Condon, OP, student master for St. Martin de Porres Province of the Dominicans, a Roman Catholic order, writes:

"What sets this one apart is that it seeks to bring a serious portrayal of a homosexual relationship to a mainstream audience. Usually gay characters are either eccentric celebrities (Capote) or secondary characters (The Family Stone). In Brokeback Mountain, director Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility) and screenwriters Larry McMurtry (Terms of Endearment, Lonesome Dove) and Diana Ossana bring Annie Proulx?s story of Wyoming sheepherders to life. Young Ennis and Jack, looking for employment in the summer of 1963, find themselves herding sheep on the rugged, lonely mountains. They find themselves sharing a sleeping bag one cold night, and have sex. They fall in love, but part ways at the end of the summer. After a two year absence, they begin meeting each other for fishing trips (in which no fish ever get caught) for 20 years.....When Jack and Ennis meet for the first time in two years, they cannot control the emotions they have controlled for so long. It?s a beautiful and startling moment.... 1

A 2 minute, 15 second preview is available free on the Oscar web site. 2

Awards and ratings:

Brokeback Mountain received best picture awards from the Golden Globes (drama), Broadcast Film Critics Association and New York Film Critics Circle. It also received eight Academy Award? nominations -- two more than any other 2005 movie:

bulletPerformance by an Actor in a Leading Role.
bulletPerformance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.
bulletPerformance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.
bulletAchievement in Cinematography.
bulletAchievement in Directing.
bulletAchievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures. (Original Score)
bulletBest Motion Picture of the Year.
bulletAdapted Screenplay.

Director Ang Lee was surprised by the awards and nominations. He told Reuters: "I thought it was a small work of love. I never thought it would play like this." 7

The winners were announced at the 78th annual Academy Awards on Sunday, 2006-MAR-05. ABC covered the presentations. Brokeback Mountain was expected to sweep the major awards, but received only three. Ang Lee won achievement in directing. The movie won for best adapted screenplay and achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score).  Crash was selected as best picture. 8

An informal poll by CNN of the visitors to their website showed that 45% felt that Brokeback Mountain should have won the best picture award; 32% selected Crash and 10% picked Good Night and Good Luck. 8

Subscribers to IMDb, the "Earth's biggest movie database" gave Brokeback Mountain a weighted average rating of 8.0 out of 10 as of 2006-FEB-08. 73% of the subscribers gave it the highest ratings of 9 or 10; 9% gave it the lowest rating of 1. The movie rated highest with females aged 18 to 29, and lowest among males aged 45 and over. 4

Film data:

Release date: 2005-DEC to theatres; 2006-APR-04 on DVD. The DVD release will occur before the theatre run is completed. This is a rare overlap, which has happened because the movie release has been extended.
Rating:
bulletUS: "R" because of sexuality, nudity, language and some violence.
bulletCanada: "14A"

Distributor: Focus Features
Length:
134 minutes.
Director: Ang Lee
Screenwriter: Larry McMurtry
Source: A short story by E. Annie Proulx

Anachronisms and goofs:

bulletNear the beginning of the film, a train with no caboose passes. The film was supposed to portray Wyoming in 1963. But cabooses (cabeese, cabin cars) were required by law on all freight trains before the 1980s.
bulletDuring a dance sequence, a jukebox is playing "The Devil's Right Hand" by Steve Earle. The scene in the movie was supposed to represent activity in the late 70s. The song was only  released in 1988.
bulletThere are a surprising number of continuity errors in the movie: a bottle of whisky that miraculously refills itself, a piece of pie that reconstructs itself, etc. 5

Some comments by reviewers and others:

bulletFr. Tom Condon, OP comments:

Watching Brokeback Mountain, I?m aware that, in some ways we?ve come a long way as a society. But we still have a long way to go. We openly discuss issues relating to gay marriage and the ordination of homosexuals. Yet there is still much misunderstanding, prejudice, and fear. Several critics have wondered whether a straight audience would go to see gay cowboys. But, so far, in limited release, the movie is doing well, drawing a mixed audience. Brokeback Mountain is an exploration of the mystery of the depths of human sexuality and relationship. The bleakness of its open spaces highlights the loneliness and alienation that touch not only Jack and Ennis, but also their wives and children. A culture of fear, repression, and dishonesty hinder all the characters as they try to connect with each other. I highly recommend Brokeback Mountain. It touches on many different levels. It is an engrossing story, a plea for tolerance, and a sad, emotional film that will touch anyone who has ever been in love. 1

bulletTed Behr of MovieGuide, a conservative Christian media ministry writes that the movie uses:

"about 58 obscenities (including many "f" words), 15 strong profanities, ?references to urinating; two extreme scenes of bloody violence include shot of castrated man and man's head is beaten bloody until he is dead, and scenes of violence where men fight and wrestle in a rough way, and homosexual sodomy scene plays almost like a homosexual rape; very strong sexual content includes depicted homosexual and heterosexual sodomy (with a hint of sadomasochism during one or more homosexual scenes), depicted homosexual kissing and groping?etc." 6

The reference to urination was apparently a mention by one of the lead characters that the inside of their tent smelled of cat urine. The reference to castration and bloody head apparently refers to a flashback in the movie to an earlier incident of gay bashing witnessed by one of the lead characters. After having seen the movie, this reviewer was unable to recall any scenes hinting at sadomasochism.

Banned in the Bahamas:

The Bahamas Christian Council took a dim view of the Brokeback Mountain movie and was able to persuade the Plays and Films Board of the Bahamas to ban public showings. Theatre director Phillip Burrows said: "I cannot understand denying people the right to make their own choices." This is the latest in a series of homophobic acts in the island chain, including:

bullet2005: Miss Teen Bahamas was stripped of her title after she admitted being a lesbian.
bullet2004: A protest organized by Christian groups against the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship which had carried 1,600 homosexual passengers to the islands.
bullet1998: A mob chased lesbian couples from Bay Street, Nassau's main shopping thoroughfare. 9

Movie promoted by Wal-Mart:

The American Family Association (AFA), a Fundamentalist Christian group, asked Wal-Mart to boycott the sale of the Brokeback Mountain movie, winner of three Academy awards. Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the AFA, said:

"It wasn't even a blockbuster movie, so if Wal-Mart isn't trying to push an agenda, why would they put it at the front door?"

Kevin Haff of the Washington Blade, a gay-positive group, said:

"Actually, Randy, 'Brokeback' has made more than $165 million worldwide on a production budget of just $14 million. If that ain?t a blockbuster, I don?t know what is. And that number doesn?t include DVD sales, which will no doubt be tremendous." 10

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Tom Condon, "Brokeback Mountain," Faith and Film, at: http://www.domlife.org/
  2. "Nominees: Brokeback Mountain," Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, at: http://www.oscar.com/
  3. LifeSiteNews
  4. "User ratings for Brokeback Mountain," IMDb, at: http://www.imdb.com/. Accessed 2006-FEB-08.
  5. "Goofs for Brokeback Mountain: 2005," IMDb, at: http://www.imdb.com/
  6. MovieGuide's review is at: http://www.movieguide.org/ It appears to require an annual $40.00 subscription to access.
  7. Todd Leopold, " 'Mountain' looms over Oscar nominations. 'Crash' earns six; Clooney picks up three," CNN, 2006-MAR-05, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  8. "Academy Award Nominees," CNN.com, 2006-MAR-05, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  9. John Marquis, "Brokeback Mountain banned in the Bahamas," Reuters News Agency, 2006-APR-04.
  10. Kevin Haff, "Kudos to Wal-Mart. Mega-retailer stands up to religious right, stocks 'Brokeback'," Washington Blade, 2006-APR-05, at: http://www.washingtonblade.com/

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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-FEB-08
Latest update: 2006-APR-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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