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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
It's a powerful film but not much of a love story, 28 January 2006

I am amazed at the extent to which projection and prejudice can completely obscure the true merits and flaws of a film, but never more so than with this film.

Ang Lee is a brilliant director - concise and dispassionate, with a stunning visual style that is never cliché but always involving. The mountain itself is the most compelling character. By turns soft and yielding, then cruel and even violent. Unfortunately, neither Gyllenhaal nor Ledger are anywhere near its ability to convey emotion.

Ledger's junior league "Sling Blade" impersonation has at least some more gravitas than Gyllenhaal's smirky rent boy attitude. The principal job of an actor is to show us their journey, their evolution from the beginning to the end of the film based on the events that happen to them and their response to those events. Emotionally, these guys start at Point A and end at Point A. Now could that theoretically be a valid choice for an actor? Possibly - if you're playing a sociopath or other severely emotionally disconnected character. Even in that case, however, there would have to be subtle changes, a deterioration at least. These guys show no growth of any kind, even though they're supposed to age 20 years (in that way, of course, they are totally unbelievable as well - they appear to start in their mid-20s and end there as well).

I understand the importance of casting hotties d'annee for commercial reasons (or d'annee dernier in Ledger's case). I also realize it is much easier for women and gay men to project their own fantasies onto attractive young men and I have no objection to that. Frankly, these are very tough roles and I can't really think of any other actors of this age that could necessarily pull it off. I'm sure they exist, but they may not fit the cutie-pie mold otherwise needed for the brain-dead high school romances, T-and-A fests and cheesy horror films that constitute most of what is available for young actors (and the majority of both of these actors' resumes). I admire them for wanting to stretch as actors, but I think they are both completely out of their depth here.

The girls are better. Michelle Williams is achingly believable as the betrayed young wife, while Anne Hathaway gives a stunningly reserved portrayal as the Texas Rodeo Queen who never really dares to know until it is too late. The movie would have been better had it devoted more of its story telling to these two characters.

Frankly, the story is weak. It feels like a short story artificially elongated for the movie form. It's hard to buy the resonance that one summer could have had on the lives of these men considering what a comparatively small part of the movie it comprises.

The bottom line is: when the hell did they fall in love? On Brokeback? They were kids surrendering to lust. Violently. And just barely. They spent their lives getting together for disconnected sexual romps that would have none of the sustenance of real love. Maybe in the hands of better actors this could have been conveyed. It wasn't. The only people Ledger lets us see Ennis love are his daughters.

And Jack Twist's character was even harder to understand. He had to go to Mexico to get laid? In 1978? What about Dallas or Houston? Both of those cities would have had thriving gay ghettos by the mid-70s. And then, without explanation, he replaced Ennis with another guy. A real actor might have made us understand this seemingly bizarre behavior but it just left me cold and confused.

Gyllenhaal's character seemed to be very comfortable with his sexuality from the first time we see him, eyeing Ennis in the rear view as he shaves. This makes no sense at all, especially considering how apparently naive (even for the time) he was otherwise. This also gave him nowhere to go with the character as life would have made him wiser and presumably more cynical. Floundering around in Mexico 25 years later, however, he didn't seem to have become any wiser - and he was already plenty cynical to begin with!

"Far From Heaven," which is far from a perfect film, already covered this topic and managed to make a hell of a lot more sense doing it. Wisely, it focused on the wife (the brilliant Julianne Moore) and the burden she had to deal with. But Dennis Quaid (no one's idea of a great actor) managed to be very convincing as a man facing his sexuality in a repressive time and place (nearly a decade before Ennis and Jack, by the way).

"Brokeback Mountain" is a beautiful film and compelling despite its many flaws. Good try Mr. Ledger - I expect to see good things from you in the future. I'm afraid its back to Donnie Darko II with you, Mr. Gyllenhaal until you get over yourself.

And to all the people - gay, straight or whatever - who use this movie to gauge either one's homophobia or homosexuality, you all need to get over yourselves as well. You can like it, you can hate it or you can just not see it and it doesn't say anything more about you than this is a film you either choose or choose not to see, like or don't like. It's not for everyone but certainly is for some. Let's just relax, people. It's just a movie - neither the best nor the worst. Homophobia is an ugly reality but it has no place in the debate of a film's merits - either pro or con.

What a beautiful film, 26 January 2006

Visually sumptuous, a feast for the senses. This is an old fashioned art house movie done on a grand and immaculate scale. One could consider plot, dialog, pacing and all the other grammatical aspects of film-making but why bother? Is this an important movie with weighty themes? I'm not really sure. It was so dazzling, so purely enjoyable, that for once I just tumbled headlong with abandon into the damn thing, leaving my film school pretensions about "serious film-making" at the door. Of course, pretentiousness is exactly what this film will be accused of by those fishing about to denigrate something so purely entertaining, so decadently realized. There will be lots of huffing about how "Bertolucci isn't the best of the Italian auteurs" and how his themes tend toward the perverse and prurient. What, me worry? Thank goodness we're all adults here and can enjoy a movie about adults - young as they may be - for adults without worrying whether its okay for the Teletubbie crowd. I doubt it will ever see the light of basic cable, much less broadcast TV -- in the US at least. Bible buddies can rest assured they will never encounter this gem. They'd hate themselves for loving it ... just as self-important film "buffs" and critics will dismiss it obstensively for more elevated reasons, but ultimately for the same offense: its unabashed beauty.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
She worked and worked until she was half dead and what did she get?, 4 January 2006

I suspect the dead and near dead contemporaries of Ms. Crawford who still roam Hollywood clutching the legendary blue note cards of thanks from their Goddess ("Bless you, Joan") are behind some of the nastier reviews on this board. Cronyism was and is the grease that makes this sh*tty movie business work and Joan was the master of it. Yes, she remembered the names of every stage hand she ever worked with and sent cards to their wives on birthdays and anniversaries. So what. She was a demented old bag (even when she was young) who was clearly obsessive about this "image" that she thought could (and did, apparently) make up for a nearly total lack of talent or intelligence.

I speak as an expert of all thing Joan so don't even try me on this one. I've seen not only every Crawford film ever released on VHS or DVD (including silents), I caught most of the others on TNT (where she reigns eternally). And, yes, I was inspired to do all this due to Dunaway's stunning and massively under-appreciated turn as Our Dancing Daughter.

I realize that Joan made movies in four decades - long after rivals Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo had turned in their shoulder pads to the MGM wardrobe department. Yes, she nabbed tubby Mr. Steele (probably driving him to an early grave) and, with it the prestige of being a so-called "businesswoman" (she opened bottling plants, people - not unlike the cheesy "appearances" that Adam West and most other showbiz has-beens do following movie and/or TV careers). And yes, she won your industry's most prestigious hallmark of self-congratulation - the hallowed Oscar (not to mention the other two nominations ... why, it's an HONOR just to be NOMINATED! UGH!) Never mind that Louis B. Meyer himself invented the stupid things as promotional tools to allow studio heads to legitimize their "stars." One only needs to see the screaming ads in trade papers or hear the phrase "it was given for a body of work" to understand that these things are bought and paid for by aging cronies to reward their friends for being good little industry soldiers.

The fact is that Dunaway was ten times the actor Crawford ever dreamt of being and her exile from Hollywood as a result of this picture was due to angry little crones joining ranks to punish a transgressor for tarnishing one of their own. "Bonnie and Clyde," "Chinatown," and her Oscar winning (hurray!) performance in "Network" ... the list goes on and on. Compare any of them to Joan's "best" performance in "Mildred Pierce" and Joan is instantly revealed for "Mannequin" she was.

Dunaway's Crawford complains to Mayer that "bad scripts" were the reason for her being called "box office poison" in the late 30s. Please. Joan Crawford was never more an actress than Madonna (and they had other things in common, too - like posing nude and doing whatever it took to climb that ladder). The little shop girl who makes good isn't a far cry from the tough little NYC street urchin who makes good - it's just an update of Hollywood's favorite fairy tale: Cinderella. Except that in real life, Cindy sleeps her way through ranks of the court and then uses blackmail to get the Prince to marry her (and direct her next picture).

So everyone is whining that "Mommie Dearest" is done in the style of a Joan Crawford movie. That only proves my point that a "Joan Crawford movie" is the quintessence of an exploitive, derivative, over-the-top potboiler. It was a choice made by the director and script writer, not the lead actor. So she's to be crucified for not quitting like Anne Bancroft did? She could have just as easily been ostracized for that choice by the black-balling toadies of tinsel town. She tried to make it work and apparently it didn't. Gee, I think Frank Perry is still making movies. Does he bear no blame for this so-called fiasco? The bottom line is: Dunaway is amazing to watch in this movie. Mesmerizing, vulnerable, terrifying. A true tour de force. The fact that the writer put such laughable trash talk in her mouth and the director exercised no restraint on his lead actor is not her fault. She deserves to be recognized for a bravura performance despite it all.

15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Pretty good show, 21 December 2005

I enjoyed this short-lived series (although 13 episodes were shot, only 11 were ever aired). Sunday evening at 7 PM was an awful time slot for family fare, opposite ABC's Wonderful World of Disney. Replaced by the venerable "60 Minutes" - which continues to win that time slot until this very day. Veteran character actor Alex Rocco (usually known for playing mafia types, as in "Get Shorty") plays a photographer with two teen sons (TV teen idol Vince Van Patten - real life son of "Eight is Enough" dad Dick Van Patten and the then-unknown Leif Garrett). Rocco was cool in that 70s hipster dad way - long hair, relaxed attitude and a you-have-to-figure-things-out-for-yourself style of childrearing. As they traveled the country in their Vogue Motor Coach they naturally encountered troubled people and helped them solve their problems. In one episode ("Ghost Story") guest star Stefanie Powers believes her dead twin sister had come back to life and in another ("Prisoner in Sneakers") a teen contemporary of Endy's tries to stowaway in the motor home to escape a detention home. Often ended with one of the boys in trouble (usually Endy) - caught in an undertow, in danger while hang-gliding, etc... Fun for kids but apparently no one else. It'd be great to see it again.