George Dubya woulda been proud of us this weekend. Yep, we heeded his 9/11 rallying cry (“Go out and shop!) with Midwestern abandon this weekend. Meaning, the lady friend and I (and her visiting parents) went out to eat Friday (a quick bite at D’Amico & Sons) and Saturday night (a lengthier meal at Moscow on the Hill) and saw a couple movies.
The movies were two that have received a bit of attention lately: "Match Point" and "Brokeback Mountain." WARNING: I’m about to talk about something other than food for a moment. But this still relates to the “consumption” theme—I did go out and consume.
Now, I’m a Woody Allen fan. Let me qualify that: I’m a Woody Allen fan of most everything he’s done (that doesn’t include his adopted daughter turned wife, however. Weird.) up to and including "Sweet & Lowdown." That movie, starring Sean Penn, is one of my favorites. But his work has, shall we say, slipped in recent years, to the point where I haven’t even bothered to see his last two films.
But "Match Point" is supposed to be his return to greatness, and a Hitchcockian-style thriller, of all things. Every review I read reported it was the best thing he’s done in at least a decade. And now, this morning, the screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award.
Did these folks see the same film I did?
This is a lousy, lousy film, from the plot line right down to Allen’s usual strength, the dialogue. David Denby’s "New Yorker" review said the beginning is slow…shit, man, the first hour and 45 minutes are slow. Mind-numbingly slow. Even some passionate scenes between Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers doesn’t do anything to liven the film. And anyone hoping to see Ms. Johansson in the buff will be sorely disappointed (again, thwarted!). But even a lingering, full-frontal nude shot of the curvaceous starlet (sigh) wouldn’t make this film any more tolerable. I don’t often check my watch at the movies. I was doing it repeatedly with this one. The lady friend’s father was letting loose huge sighs of boredom and disbelief. Two hours in length, I thought it was at least three. The last 15 minutes or so pick up after the pivotal crime is committed, and the amusing British police tandem began their investigation. Had that started earlier, and more tension infused with the audience wondering if he’ll get away with it, that mighta been something interesting. And that was the whole point of the film. Some people have all the luck, and some don’t. There. Summed it up in a sentence for ya. Save your dough. I wish I woulda crept across the hall into the theater showing "Capote."
Jut makes me wonder why the reviewers chose this Allen movie as a success, when they easily (and justifiably) have panned his last four. Perhaps they’ve been wishing for his return to form for so long…
With all the hype surrounding “Match Point” and its actual horridness, I wasn’t holding out much hope for "Brokeback Mountain." I was hoping it would be good, however; I didn’t want to have to defend myself to some of my conservative-leaning acquaintances that this was just the “liberal media” advancing the homosexual cause (of course, those making the accusations haven’t seen the film. Kinda like Dubya admitted last week).
Yeah, even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve heard about “Brokeback Mountain.” It’s the “gay cowboy” movie. I don’t know, considering these guys do get married, have families (with varying degrees of success) wouldn’t you at least call it the “bi-sexual cowboy movie”?
I had recently a discussion with an acquaintance who won’t go see the movie under any circumstance. It shouldn’t have been made, he said, it promotes poor values and attacks and undermines one of American culture’s greatest icons: the cowboy.
“Yeah,” I said. “That would be like saying there’s gay NFL football players.”
He didn’t like that, but it underscores a point with many people so against this movie: they can’t get past the physical part of sexual attraction to see the complexities of the human being. Or they feel threatened by the physical part of it, for any number of reasons. Speaking of the physical part of it, there’s only one instance, aside from some an aggressive lip-lock by the two men meet after not seeing each other for four years. I think what really makes the film difficult for those that don’t want to see it, is that they might actually empathize for the characters.
And that’s the reason the film is so powerful: it transcends sexuality. It’s a story about two people who fall in love and, for whatever reason, can’t be together. It’s a common story. The fact that it’s two guys puts a whole different spin on the agony of separation, and the fact that it’s a couple cowboys in the American west in the 1960s…well, this is just good ol’ storytellin’. Two gay guys separated in Greenwich Village in the 1960s? That’s not going to be that compelling.
Is this one of the greatest movies ever made? No. But it certainly is a powerful one, and given the disappointing year in movies it’s been, certainly deserving of a Best Picture nomination. And definitely the Best Actor nod for Heath Ledger, who wound himself so tightly into his character, Ennis Del Mar. He speaks in low, gruff, pointed sentences, the pain in his life furrowing his face into a fist.
Speaking of transcending sexuality, a good book: Bia Lowe’s "Wild Ride." An author who happens to be a lesbian I read in graduate school. The essay collection wasn’t all about her sexuality, but when she did write about it, it was so masterfully crafted—that doesn’t mean disguised, mind you—that you understood her as a human being, and not with the label “lesbian.” Still have it on the shelf, actually. I should take a look at it again.