Oscars? I think I’ll write about Brokeback Mountain, instead
Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll let Annie Proulx do it for me, after all she has the right to, not to mention the skills. The following are excerpts from her article published on March 11, 2006 for The Guardian, that you can read in its entirety here. Brokeback Mountain had just lost to Crash.
About who decides which films are good:
We should have known conservative heffalump academy voters would have rather different ideas of what was stirring contemporary culture. Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good.
About the merit of the award itself, which I thoroughly underwrite:
The people connected with Brokeback Mountain, including me, hoped that, having been nominated for eight Academy awards, it would get Best Picture as it had at the funny, lively Independent Spirit awards the day before. (If you are looking for smart judging based on merit, skip the Academy Awards next year and pay attention to the Independent Spirit choices.)
About Seymour-Hoffman winning Best Actor for Capote:
Hollywood loves mimicry, the conversion of a film actor into the spittin’ image of a once-living celeb. But which takes more skill, acting a person who strolled the boulevard a few decades ago and who left behind tapes, film, photographs, voice recordings and friends with strong memories, or the construction of characters from imagination and a few cold words on the page?
About the announcement of “Crash” winning Best Film:
When Jack Nicholson said best picture went to Crash, there was a gasp of shock, and then applause from many – the choice was a hit with the home team since the film is set in Los Angeles. It was a safe pick of “controversial film” for the heffalumps.
Also, Los Angeles Time’s Kenneth Turan wrote his reflections on Brokeback Mountain losing to Crash in an article published on March 5, 2006, and today – after another list of predictable winners – those reflections are worth another mention:
Sometimes you win by losing, and nothing has proved what a powerful, taboo-breaking, necessary film “Brokeback Mountain” was more than its loss Sunday night to “Crash” in the Oscar best picture category.
So for people who were discomfited by “Brokeback Mountain” but wanted to be able to look themselves in the mirror and feel like they were good, productive liberals, “Crash” provided the perfect safe harbor. They could vote for it in good conscience, vote for it and feel they had made a progressive move, vote for it and not feel that there was any stain on their liberal credentials for shunning what “Brokeback” had to offer. And that’s exactly what they did.
Hollywood, of course, is under no obligation to be a progressive force in the world. It is in the business of entertainment, in the business of making the most dollars it can. Yes, on Oscar night, it likes to pat itself on the back for the good it does in the world, but as Sunday night’s ceremony proved, it is easier to congratulate yourself for a job well done in the past than actually do that job in the present.
Needless to say, these are my thoughts exactly. Brokeback Mountain should have won Best Film in the grand scheme of things but eventually proved that it really didn’t need it. After 6 years it’s still as groundbreaking and powerful as ever, late-viewers are being deeply affected despite already knowing all there is to know about it and even more important, who can honestly say that they never heard about it? That’s more than any Oscar could have granted.
I have my own story to tell about Brokeback Mountain and how it affected me, but that will be food for a future post. For today, I’ll just let the pictures talk.