Saturday, January 26, 2008


A Fifty Hanky Movie

The Columbus Dispatch : Actor wore his fame modestly: "What you see is a strapping 28-year-old with sleepy eyes, an amused crinkly grin and out-of-control blondish hair, dressed on this particular occasion in a hooded sweat shirt and ripped jeans.What you get is a lot less obvious: a serious but hard-to-pin-down actor disguised as a California stoner."

My initial reaction to Heath Ledger's death was strange, in that I wasn't terribly familiar with him. It was shocking, but I wasn't sure why I cared. Then I was unclear why the media was so, so very interested. I mean, it was one Oscar nomination for an indie film...what's the big deal? OK, he's a hot dude, but that didn't seem to explain this frenzy. Ironically, I had DVR'd Brokeback the week before, and had been all but avoiding watching it, assuming, as my Dad said, watching a gay rights film when I already know they love the same way everyone else. The problem, as the week wore on, was the constant showing of clips of a movie that I hadn't yet seen. I don't like seeing trailers and snippets when I intend to watch the movie, because it takes me out of it when I am watching (basically waiting for the part I have already seen). So, last night, I reluctantly turned on Brokeback Mountain, thinking I would watch the first fifteen minutes and then turn off what I fully expected to be a cheesy film.
You know, when the awards ceremonies were happening that bestowed the many awards on this movie, I remember thinking that the cheering was probably simple cheers for gays and gay rights. I was wrong, really wrong. To think that anyone could write that material is other-worldly. How anyone could put together those sequences, those words, that love is unbelievable. I don't even know how someone can imagine a love like that, that palpable, deep, longing love. I can't imagine anything like it in real life, and haven't a clue how someone could dream it in their wildest imagination. If this movie had been about a heterosexual couple, it would be a classic, as in Casablanca and the many beloved love stories over the years.
Ang Lee deserved his Oscar as well. The cinematography was another character in the film. Be it the clouds on a beautiful day or the snow-capped mountains, or a river that runs quickly past this love affair, the place mattered.
There were no bad performances in this film. The girl who is in ER took me out of it a bit, but she did pretty well playing the uneducated, vulnerable young girl who wanted a man no matter. She was that woman. We all know that woman.
And Heath Ledger and Jake Gylenhall are so their characters that the viewer is allowed to see the conflicted men and not the movies stars. The simplest scenes, with so little to say, say the most. That is what they always say on "Actor's Studio" is really acting. And saying those words in that dialect is as difficult for the well-educated as Shakespeare. The strands of words were uttered effortlessly. I am sure some of the scenes were difficult for straight men to portray, but those had to be easy in comparison to the type of preparation an actor would have to do to get these characters right. Both of these men got these characters absolutely right.
I have to say that I am a bit haunted by the movie. Maybe it is a reminder of some random feeling of loneliness, but I don't feel that way often at all. Maybe it is, well hell, I don't know what it is. It was powerful. That's what I know. It's a shame that so many think of it only as the gay cowboy movie, because it is so much more. So very, very much more.

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