Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Night at the Movies

(This is an old essay from my Geocities site, resurrected for the hell of it.)

I hear that one of the reasons "Brokeback Mountain" didn't win Best Picture in 2006 is that the actual winner, "Crash," is about Los Angeles, which all the actors and writers and directors who live out there and vote for Best Picture can relate to, and none of the characters in "Brokeback Mountain" ever come close to setting foot in a big city.

I can sort of understand that. Now, I don't live in wide open country, and I don't live in a big city either. I grew up in a small town of under 100,000 people, and now live in an even smaller village of about 5,000 (about 10 minutes away from the small town). The small town, Racine, was once portrayed in the Goldie Hawn - Mel Gibson flick "Bird on a Wire" as having a Chinatown in it; I can assure you that it doesn't. But the people who make films live in cities that do have Chinatowns in them, and perhaps they can't relate to a city without one.

So anyway, as a gay man, I'm supposed to have liked "Brokeback Mountain" for the gay content alone. I'm supposed to like "Will & Grace" for the same reason, even though I have a really hard time relating to its characters. I understand the dynamic between Will and Grace, and perhaps once upon a time between Will and Jack; but most of the time, I can't figure out why these characters hang around each other at all. And yet, in spite of the shallow one-dimensional characters and the substitution of attitude and name-dropping for wit, "Will & Grace" managed to win an Emmy.

Was Hollywood's snub of "Brokeback Mountain" a way of making up for the overhyping of "Will & Grace"? Were the voters telling us "You're here, you're queer, get over it"? Well, maybe. Or maybe the Academy would have prefered a movie in which Jack Twist went to Hollywood, got all famous and went to fabulous parties and did cocaine and completely left Ennis Del Mar pining sadly away back in Bumfuck, WY until some tearful reunion scene as Jack, dying of AIDS, returns to his roots to die. Or better yet, Ennis shows up at Jack's palatial estate, because that would be in L.A.

Well, I'm sure "Crash" is a very fine movie. I wanted to see it when it was in the theatres, but it wasn't here in East Boondocks, WI very long, and my partner wasn't interested in seeing it at all. None of the best picture nominees were on local screens for more than a week (I don't think "TransAmerica" played here at all). The only Oscar nominees for 2006 we saw have been "Brokeback Mountain," "King Kong" (technical awards), and "Capote."

And, being from East Boondocks, I can't say I really care all that much about what film gets the Academy Award For Best Picture. A couple of years ago, we saw both "Saving Private Ryan" and "Shakespeare In Love," and do you remember which film won Best Picture?

Heath Ledger eventually got his Oscar, posthumously, for his role as the Joker in the Batman flick, "The Dark Knight." We watched that film recently on TV... it's not exactly a nuanced performance. But then, an actor gets more acclaim for playing Richard III than for playing Henry VI. In a way, Ledger's award was just like those Lifetime Achievement Awards the Academy gives to tremendously talented actors who never got a statuette for their best work.

~ ~ ~

P.S.: You know what else I liked about "Bird on a Wire"? Gibson and Hawn get to Racine on the Detroit-Racine ferry.

The Detroit-Racine ferry?! Come on, Mr. Hollywood Room Full of Monkeys at Typewriters! Was I-94 supposed to be closed? Detroit and Racine are not even on the same lake! Why the hell would there be a ferry going all the way from a big city on the southwest shore of Lake Huron, clear around the lower Michigan peninsula to a little city on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan?


For an additional movie reference to Racine, there is also "Autumn Leaves," starring Joan Crawford, Cliff Robertson, Lorne Green and Vera Miles. 50ish Crawford marries 30ish Robertson, who has told her that he's originally from Racine, but tells the wedding authorities in Tijuana, Mexico, that he was born in Chicago.

I've found that whenever I'm abroad and somebody asks me where in the U.S. I'm from, I might as well say I'm from near Chicago. My reasons aren't as sordid as Cliff Robertson's; foreigners (and, I suppose, Hollywood film makers, too) just aren't likely to know where Wisconsin is.


  1. Paul,
    Can't seem to reach you any other way:
    Send me a working email addres, pls.
    pete of

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