BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (Ang Lee, 2005)
Every few years, I'll get a feeling that a particular movie is going to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and there's no possible way it's going to lose. I don't get this feeling every year, because sometimes there's more competition and the race isn't as clear-cut. I remember thinking that OUT OF AFRICA and AMERICAN BEAUTY would win the Oscar when I didn't know anything about them except that their posters made them look like winners (for the record, I haven't seen OOF and I thought AB was a load of hooey). Anyway, I've got that feeling again with BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and this time I've even seen the movie. Mark my words: there is no way this thing isn't going to win the Oscar for Best Picture. And this time, it'll be a worthy winner. Now, that's not to say it's my favorite movie of the year (Wong Kar-Wai's 2046 is).
But BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is a movie Hollywood can be proud of. While I'm sure being The Gay Cowboy Movie (actually, they herd sheep) has done nothing but help its cachet in Hollywood, and I'm sure some people will vote for it just to send a message, the movie renders criticism of it somehow being an affirmative action pick void by the undisputable power of its story and the filmmaking behind it.
Ang Lee has built his career on skillful observations of human interactions, and from THE WEDDING BANQUET all the way through HULK and to this movie, he's focused on characters whose repressed emotions tear them up inside (or cause them to turn into the Hulk). The characters Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play in BROKEBACK love each other deeply, but they know that there is no way their romance can work. At one point Ledger's Ennis Del Mar says, "If you can't fix it, you've gotta stand it." My fiancee says that's a very Chinese attitude to take; the social order is not something easily knocked from its foundations.
Movie snobs might accuse Lee of being "middlebrow," as if being able to use classical moviemaking techniques to tell moving stories with realistic characters were an inherently inferior skill to those employed by filmmakers who push the stylistic envelope. If you ask me, being able to extract an intimate story of four characters from a book to life on the screen using the inherently elaborate, time-consuming process of filmmaking is a pretty remarkable artistic feat. Just think of how many lousy movies there are.
Ang Lee (d) 8
Heath Ledger 3
Jake Gyllenhaal 4
Randy Quaid 6
Michelle Williams 2 (DICK)
Anna Faris 2 (LOST IN TRANSLATION)
Linda Cardellini 2 (LEGALLY BLONDE)