39. Brokeback Mountain

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Movie: Brokeback Mountain

Release Date: December 9, 2005

Director: Ang Lee

Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Randy Quaid.

Tag Lines: “Love Is A Force Of Nature.”

Relevance: In 2005, I was an out and proud gay man with a boyfriend and somewhat happy existence. It was a long road for me to get to that happiness and bliss, a road filled with drama, turmoil, divorce, repression and depression. But thankfully I survived that rocky journey to see two clichés proven true: there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it does get better. Little did I know that I would be reliving some of that journey again through the eyes of Ennis Del Mar.

‘Brokeback Mountain’ was released in early December in limited theaters. As soon as it was released it was getting glorious reviews from critics and tons of Oscar buzz. Deemed the “gay cowboy” movie, based on the short story of the same name by Annie Proulx, it was a film that I knew I would be eventually seeing in theaters. By the end of January 2006, it finally received a wider release right around the time it was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture. The film was a commercial success and eventually became the highest grossing movie of the five Best Picture nominees.

I went to see ‘Brokeback Mountain’ alone during its opening weekend. Being alone was probably one of the wisest decisions I ever made. I loved the movie, but it was an extremely emotional one for me to get through. Take away Wyoming and the cowboy hats, and it was like I was watching my life play out before me on the big screen. Heath Ledger’s portray of Ennis Del Mar was all too real for me. I felt the character’s guilt, inner conflict, self-hatred and confusion all too well. By the time the credits were rolling, I was an emotional wreck. I think I even cried myself to sleep that night.

Despite the film making me a blubbering fool, I adored it and went back to see it in theaters, this time with friends. Although I was still emotionally affected by the movie, I was able to contain it to just a few tears that a wipe of the jacket could easily make disappear. My friends, also gay, liked the movie, but not to the extent that I did. I don’t think they were able to relate as much to the characters living in the closet as much as I could. They came from the group of gays that were always out and proud and had the attitude of “get over it already.” Sometimes “getting over it” is a lot more difficult for some people, with my life and Ennis Del Mar’s as living prove.

As I have mentioned many, many times before here on this blog, I was a huge Academy Award fan. I loved all things Oscar. It was my Super Bowl. It was an evening of snacks, champagne, and an all day viewing of television from red carpet preparations to the red carpet to the telecast. I even stayed up for all of the after party coverage and back stage interviews, which also gives me time to go over my picks of who won the statue that night. On March 5, 2006, the TV that I owned at the time got a dent the size of a nickel on the bottom of the screen when ‘Crash,’ a movie that I despised, beat out ‘Brokeback Mountain’ for Best Picture. I couldn’t help it, I hurled my remote at the TV as soon as I heard it. That evening I went to bed without watching any of the post-award shenanigans. Basically, I was pissed.

Eventually I got over that Oscar night, although I still feel ‘Crash’ is one of the worst Best Picture winners of all time, and focused more on my love for Ang Lee’s masterpiece. When ‘Brokeback Mountain’ became available on DVD, I purchased it immediately and re-watched it again. And sobbed again. In fact, every time that I watched the film, my emotions always took over and I ended up weeping by its finale. It was a stunningly beautiful movie to look at, well acted, had a gorgeous score but more importantly had a story that I could relate to one hundred percent. The movie was recognized by the Library of Congress in 2018 when it was added to the National Film Registry for being a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant film.” For me, it was significant from day one.

Today’s Thoughts: “He always said he wanted his ashes scattered on Brokeback Mountain, but I wasn’t sure where that was. I thought Brokeback Mountain might be around where he grew up. Knowing Jack, it was probably some pretend place, where bluebirds sing and there’s a whiskey spring.”

I watched ‘Brokeback Mountain’ today with my husband. Watching a movie with my husband in the theater is one of my favorite things to do. Watching a movie with my husband at home can go one of two ways, good or not so good. Today’s viewing of ‘Brokeback Mountain’ was not so good.

It started off absolutely fine. We were both on the couch snuggled up together with only a few questions from him that I had to answer. Even if he has seen the movie, he often forgets plot points or facts about the film. One of today’s question was “When doe Maggie Gyllenhaal show up?” I had to explain to him that she was not in the movie. As the movie played on, my husband, who can barely ever sit still started stirring. By the end of the movie, he was full on decorating for Christmas right in front of the television. I tried to stay focused on the movie, but was quite distracted. This is the first time that I ever watched ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and didn’t full on sob. At least I could thank him for that.

Despite my husband, ‘Brokeback Mountain’ was still a wonderful, sweeping, epic romantic drama that really does melt my heart every time. I love absolutely everything about it. The direction is superb as is the incredible acting by its glorious cast. Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams all give fantastic performances. And I just love the story, despite it being heartbreaking and devastating. It has been even more difficult to watch since 2008 after the untimely death of Heath Ledger. What a tragic loss, as he was one phenomenal actor.

‘Brokeback Mountain’ marks the return of the penis as it is the twenty first movie on my list of most influential movies of all time to show a penis. Important stuff, I know. Nevertheless, if it so moves you, check out the twenty other films that show the male form in all of its naked glory here: 47. Fight Club, 92. An American Werewolf in London, 93. Angels in America, 105. American History X, 110. Shortbus, 112. A Clockwork Orange, 113. Weekend, 120. Sex and the City, 133. Porky’s, 139. Trainspotting, 144. Fargo, 183. Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 199. Six Degrees of Separation, 209. The Fisher King, 295. Being John Malkovich, 296. Wildcats, 332. The Crying Game, 335. Born on the Fourth of July343. Sideways and 357. Amadeus.

‘Brokeback Mountain’ is more than a movie for me, it is a reminder of how difficult and horrible my life was and how lucky I am that I escaped pretty much unscathed. The movie is simply stunning and I highly recommend it to anyone that loves a dramatic romance movie. Just keep those Kleenex close by.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing, Ang Lee (winner), Academy Award for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana (winner), Academy Award for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score, Gustavo Santaolalla (winner), Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year (nomination), Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Heath Ledger (nomination), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Jake Gyllenhaal (nomination), Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Michelle Williams (nomination), Academy Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography, Rodrigo Prieto (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Ang Lee (winner), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana (winner), Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, “A Love That Will Never Grow Old,” Gustavo Santaolalla, Bernie Taupin (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Heath Ledger (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, Michelle Williams (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, Gustavo Santaolalla (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Ang Lee (winner) BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay – Adapted, Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Jake Gyllenhaal (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Heath Ledger (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Michelle Williams (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Music, Gustavo Santaolalla (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Rodrigo Prieto (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Geraldine Peroni, Dylan Tichenor (nomination), SCreen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Heath Ledger (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Jake Gyllenhaal (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, Michelle Williams (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (winner), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Director, Ang Lee (winner), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress, Michelle Williams (winner), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Heath Ledger (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, Jake Gyllenhaal (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Writer, Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Composer, Gustavo Santaolalla (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Song, “A Love That Will Never Grow Old,” Emmylou Harris (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Ang Lee (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Director, Ang Lee (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead, Heath Ledger (nomination), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female, Michelle Williams (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director, Ang Lee (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Heath Ledger (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Director, Ang Lee (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor, Jake Gyllenhaal (winner), National Film Registry (2018), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Ang Lee (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, Heath Ledger (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay, Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana (nomination), PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, Diana Ossana, James Schamus (winner), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana (winner).

Ways to Watch: Peacock, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon Prime, DVD Availability.

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