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This week:
Brokeback Mountain

Filthy says:
"Woo Doggie!."

The National Western Stock Show is in town, and it's a big damn deal. For two weeks every January, cowboy from all over the midwest fill every cheap and mid-level hotel in the metro area, and crowd the locals out of bars and restaurants. They always wear their Stetsons as a way to identify themselves. They bring boatloads of horses, cows, pigs and ducks. And they leave shitloads of shit all over the floor. You can walk around, look at the animals in their pens, go to rodeos, then buy a critter, take it home and turn it into jerky.

With the Stock Show in town, I figured I'd see Brokeback Mountain. I hear, though, that some people are shocked because it's a gay love story. Most people weren't expecting to see a couple of bohunks making out. That's because most people have never been to the Stock Show. I have, a couple of times. And from what I've seen I'd guess there are some cowboys who are openly gay. Let's say 95% of them. The other five percent are closeted. They're the ones with the smaller feathers in their hats, or black eyeliner instead of the purple the others wear this year. The Show is both a literal and figurative meat market; an opportunity to have naked rodeos, check out the stitching on each other's jeans, and roll around in the hay, feeling it's cool, golden husk tickle the private parts.

I saw Brokeback Mountain Friday night, with Stock Show cowboys packing the theater the same way they pack their denims: as full and tight as can be. I got there a little late and had to sit behind the biggest hat in the joint. So, my review is tainted slightly by the fact I only saw the top two-thirds of the screen. I couldn't hear much either because of the cowboys' rowdiness. Every time Jake Gylenhall and Heath Ledger kissed or hugged, the cowboys whipped out their pistols, shouted "Yee-haw!!" and fired a few rounds into the ceiling. Even a wistful glance from long-lashed Gylenhall would prompt a few to throw their hats into the air or stomp their boots.

I can't answer the media's hot-button question of whether America is ready for a gay cowboy movie, but I can tell you that gay cowboys are. And that's every single one of them.

Brokeback Mountain starts with two alienated young men in the 1960s who love ranching and meet while spending a summer together herding sheep in Wyoming. Ledger is the quiet one. His parents died when he was younger, and he has no home. Gylenhall is the louder and more aggressive of the two. He dreams of being a rodeo star even though he sucks at bull riding. Their relationship develops slowly, from a common concern about doing the good job, to loneliness, concern and drunken assfucking. The sodomy caused the most gunfire in the theater and caused one patron to jump out of his chair, whip out a giant lasso and swing it round and round as he screamed "Yeeeee-dawggggy!"

At the end of the summer, Gylenhall and Ledger go their own ways and on to marriage, children, steady jobs. But both feel empty without the other. Ledger marries Michelle Williams, a plump-faced cashier who makes babies as easy as I make wet farts. Despite kids and a wife, Ledger sticks to his cowboys dreams and works on a local ranch, rounding up cattle, tying knots, sleeping on dirt. Gylenhalll marries a wealthy man's daughter, stops chasing his dreams, grows a Freddie Mercury mustache and a gut, sells farm equipment and occasionally sneaks down to Mexico for a Dirty Sanchez from the boys. During the Juarez scene, a few cowboys at the UA Denver West shouted, "Bisteca!" Whatever that means it led to more gunshots, hooting and hollering.

Ledger may or may not be gay. His physical interaction comes from his genuine love for Gylenhall. Gylenhall genuinely loves him. Gylenhall's character is gay, and needs physical contact from men. It's just that he prefers to get it from the man he loves.

The story follows the two men's troubled lives into middle age. They meet up a couple times a year, lie to their wives about what they're up to (although Williams suspects), and head back to Brokeback Mountain for some sweet, sweet love. Or, as the cowboys I saw it with said, "That dem thar's Grade A Rump Roast! Yeehaw!" Ledger and his wife divorce, Gylenhall never loved his to begin with. Ledger is not ashamed of his gay romance so much as he is afraid of what would happen if others found out. He dates other women and lives in poverty in order to pay his child support and still be a cowboy. He forges a depressing life beyond Gylenhall because his first love is ranching.

Gylenhall is a bit greasier. He has less moral backbone and more need for Ledger. He lies more easily, and he's desperate. By the end of Brokeback Mountain, Ledger could almost move on, but Gylenhall becomes ragged and broken. He has convinced himself that what is missing from his life is Ledger. He believes his old pal will be the cure for all his shortcomings and problems.

The truth is that, had they stayed together and been open, Ledger and Gylenhall would have been screwed. This is obvious from the beginning of the movie from its tone, which is standard New Yorker short story. That is, nobody is ever happy, we just pretend to be and true, deep sorrow is always one tiny revelation away. You know right away that someone will be looking wistfully off into the distance at the end of the movie.

I don't know how much I could have liked Brokeback Mountain if it hadn't been interrupted by all my fellow moviegoers drawling. "Yeah, I reckon that's how I'd fuck him, too, with his drawers down around his spurs and his hat all cockeyed like that," and "Aw, shucks," and "Git along now, you li'l trollop!" Needless to say, I flinched during the first few hundred pistol shots, but I got used to them by end.

Still, I liked it all right as a character study and less as a story. I felt for both Gylenhall and Ledger because they're identifiable and sympathetic. It might be a cliche to say the story transcends the gay content, but it is a love story first. It's just that if it weren't about two men, it wouldn't be very unique.

The story is methodical. Some cowboys might say slow. A few hollered, "Goldarnit, start kissin' again, you durn fools!" It loses a lot of steam in the second half once it's established that it can't end happily, but keeps moving toward an inevitable end.

The setting of the movie, in Wyoming, is beautiful. The man in a black hat nudged me at one point and said, "Who wouldn't want to do some ass-reaming in those purty mountains?" Director Ang Lee gets the details right. It's always windy there, and there are spaces that are as flat as a taxi driver's ass. Even in the middle of summer, the snow can come down pretty good. Some of the secondary characters, too, were broad. This is particularly true of Gylenhall's wife and father-in-law who are both almost cartoonish in their emptiness.

Gylenhall has big ol' lashes that drive the cowboys more nuts than the tight butts they proclaim a passion for in bumper stickers. His character is a bit more obvious than Ledger's, and he acts it that way. He's pretty damn good, just not exactly subtle. Ledger has the Oscar-bait role. He's an Aussie playing a hardset rancher with a drawl, and he has to do most of his acting with steely glares and lip pursing. It's the sort of shit the people who give out awards eat up like nitrous poppers at a Castro Street New Year's Eve party. He is good, though. He has a good idea what those ranch-hands in the Chuckwagon on 285 in Laramie are like at six a.m.: two word sentences and lots of looking out windows.

There weren't many dry eyes in the theater when the lights came up. I wasn't particularly moved, but I'll be damned if every cowboy didn't have smudged eyeliner and a quivering lip. While Ledger and Gylenhall's love is unique, neither of them are particularly special outside of it. The cowboys would disagree, though, and many walked out hugging, sniffling and literally knocking boots. One big ornery son of a bitch wiped his nose as he walked by me and said, "Makes you think, don't it? I'm going back to camp tonight and telling Cookie how sorry I am for making fun of his vittles."

Brokeback Mountain is worth seeing, mostly because of how delicately and sympathetically it handles its main characters. Three Fingers, but for God's sake, try to see it with a bunch of urban phonies. Those God damn gay cowboys are too fucking loud.

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Kevin Thomas of the LA Times

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is "Delightful and funny!"

Casanova is "an elegant, dizzying romantic comedy!"

Hoodwinked is "Imaginative!"

The Matador is "A poignant comic gem... contemporry in tone but has that combination of sentiment and worldliness of beloved Hollywood classics!"

Filthy's Reading
Tom Perrotta - Little Children

Listening to
Go Go Airheart


Stop Making Sense