Last night while Hollywood was 'quietly judging' poor Jon Stewart as he steered the ol' Academy Awards back into port at it's usual social iceberg; I remembered when I first decided the Oscars were just plain shit.
In 1986, I was just 21 and living in the 'big city' of Sacramento. One day, on a whim I wandered into a mostly empty art house theater in the downtown area. I'd never been in an art house theater before, and aside from the uncomfortable chairs and the 1920's architecture, I initially thought it was like any other Cineplex, just smaller. I saw a movie I'd never heard of by a South American filmmaker I'd never heard of starring one actor I'd vaguely heard of (William Hurt). The movie was Kiss of the Spider Woman, and as the cliche goes, it changed my life.
For the first time I thought maybe movies (and storytelling) could actually do something. Forget that it was Raul Julia playing a political prisoner in an anonymous Latin American prison. And please forget that it had William Hurt deftly playing the most mincing and effeminate of drag queens. Because if you think that's all that movie was about, 1) you slept through it and 2) you're an idiot. Kiss of the Spider Woman was William Golding-ish in scope. It asked THE big questions: why do people do the right thing versus the wrong thing? Are they only inspired by selfish lust or does something more altruistic prompt people to risk their lives for the intangible good?
Within a year, I was living back in Nevada, far from the balmy winters and art house theaters of Sacramento. I watched the Oscars with my mother and sat there in dumbfounded shock when the Best Picture for 1986 went to Out of Africa; a bland movie about lily-white people loving and dying of syphilis in dark-brown Africa. I realized what a lot of other people already knew about the most self-congratulatory and self-censoring business in America. Hollywood has been bending over for conservative America's big raging paranoia hard-on for decades.
Last night Brokeback Mountain lost to an over-blown, wanna-be controversial film about a car accident because Brokeback has fags in it. EeewwW!
While Howard Stern had it right, the 'L' word (lesbians) equal money; the 'F' word sends legions of worried, ignorant Americans scampering for the exits. Both fags and feminists upset the patriarchal dynamic paradigm and it's high time the boys from 'Ave. G' realized that. The patriarchy likes things they can quantify, objectify and above all else, control. Homosexual male sex upsets them enough because it hints that masculinity, like femininity, is a myth and because it implies that male beauty must subscribe to some of the same cruel rules feminine beauty has slaved uselessly under. Men might just have to be as trim, young and pretty as women and where would that leave all these fat, ugly old patriarchs? But male homo love sends the gippers sprinting for their Mercedes SUVs! If some men actually LOVED each other there'd be no ... violence ... no ... war. Wouldn't that fuck up every Halliburton shareholder's day?
I like all of filmmaker Ang Lee's movies. For an Asian working on a green card, he sure can take America's pulse. I quite enjoyed The Ice Storm and the way he showed the hypocrisies of the 1970's without losing empathy for that film's unlucky characters. (Imagine Neil Labute if he had a heart.) But Brokeback Mountain is flawless. Lee took a broadly sketched Anne Proulx short story and made it flesh and blood. And Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal did what actors are SUPPOSED to do. They took a big chance. Who gives a shit if Lee went home with one less trophy last night? I predict this movie will be much like the big ones of old. Like Inherit the Wind, no one will soon forget Brokeback Mountain.
-- Mz M.