Friday, February 03, 2006

This week on that reality-TV hit, Fundies vs. Hollywood...

Funny bit in IMDb's news today. That gay cowboy movie is actually doing decent business in Montana, a state so red it's almost infrared. Here's a lengthy quote to spare you clicking over.

Contradicting predictions by commentators that Brokeback Mountain would not attract ticket buyers in red-state strongholds like Montana, the film has actually performed strongly in many of those areas, distributor Focus Features has maintained. (Fox News commentator John Gibson remarked: "I think most people do not want to go into a darkened room with a tub of popcorn and munch away watching two guys get it on." His colleague Bill O'Reilly has opined that the film has received critical praise because the media "want to mainstream homosexual conduct." And he predicted, "They're not going to go see the gay cowboys in Montana.") However, the online magazine Salon today (Thursday) quoted the manager of the Wilma Theater in Missoula as saying that the film grossed $33,006 in its first four weekends there — "one of our best starts for a movie we've ever had." In the conservative town of Kalispell, the film opened last Friday with $3,656. In the town of Whitefish, it took in $2,312 and beat out the three top national draws, including the No. 1 film, Big Momma's House 2.

Hilarious. The piece then goes on to debunk the notion that Hollywood is a town populated entirely by librul fudgepackers, by mentioning that some observers think there may be enough homophobes in the Academy who'll refuse to watch their Brokeback Oscar screeners that the film may be denied its universally-expected Best Picture statuette. It could happen. Then again, it's not like the Weinsteins have a high-profile nominee they can steal it for this year, the way they stole Spielberg's Best Picture for Saving Private Ryan.

Back with other religious-right-goes-nuclear news after the break. (Commercials zapped by BlogiVo.) Welcome back. As you may have heard, fundamentalist hand-wringer Donald Wildmon and his organization of angry-email-senders The American Family Association have been crowing over NBC's cancellation of the series The Book of Daniel, which they didn't like for its (in their words) "depiction of a pill-popping Episcopal priest, his unbelievably dysfunctional family, and a recurring appearance of a ‘Jesus’ character described as ‘sardonic’".

Now, here's the thing. As much of a godless liberal as I am, I happen to be all in favor of the right of Wildmon and Co. to try to get a show taken off the air if they thought it portrayed Christians in an insulting way. Just as I think African-American groups, or gays, or Jews, or Wiccans, or Hispanics, or atheists, or any group who feels they're being maligned, stereotyped, or attacked in a TV show should do the same thing. And just as I think the producers of The Book of Daniel ought to have the right to continue to create their show and seek either a more supportive network, or go via Internet distribution, or DVD, or otherwise, if they feel that criticisms coming from a special-interest group are unjustified and their show's cancellation unfair. That's the fugged-up thing about freedom of speech: it applies to people who don't see eye to eye with you, too! know...I seem to remember something. Remember back before Mel Gibson released his Catholic snuff film The Passion of the Christ, when the Anti-Defamation League was expressing concerns that the film might be anti-Semitic? Remember that? And wasn't it, if not Wildmon himself, certainly right-wingers cut from the same cloth, who were attacking the ADL for expressing their concerns about the movie's depiction of Jews? Hmm? I seem to think it was.

So what's good for the (Christian) gander isn't necessarily good for the (Jewish) goose, it would appear. Ah well. Double standards. Where would religious fundamentalists be without 'em?


Anonymous said...

I have yet to see Brokeback Mountain -- not out of any personal bias against the subject of two guys falling in love, mind, more or less because I just don't feel like seeing a romantic cowboy movie any time in this lifetime (which means I'll probably rent it).

I would like to see, however, the reaction of the Academy. I have to admit, I was slightly peeved by the fact that Brokeback Mountain is up against Good Night, and Good Luck (which I found fabulous enough to see twice in theaters) in several categories. It could be a spectacular flick -- best acting ever done, best script, best directing, et cetera...but at this point, admittedly prejudging it, I think the movie is in the Oscar running just because it's about gay cowboys, and not voting for it would make you homophobic.

I dunno...if Jake Gyllenhall or Heath Ledger were cheating on his wife with another woman instead of a guy, would it still be in the running for so many awards? Is it really that good?

I hope I'm just cynical, and that it really is a fantastic, wonderful movie, worthy of the awards it's gotten/going to get. Have you seen it? Would you say it's fanastic? Worth the $9 to get into a theater, or even a $6 matinee? Truly worthy of the awards it's up for?

Martin Wagner said...

I actually agree with you that it's not always the best picture of the year that wins Best Picture. Forrest Gump certainly was not better than Pulp Fiction, and I don't know many people at all who think Shakespeare in Love was superior to Saving Private Ryan. I haven't yet seen BBM either (and if I do, it'll be a matinee, which is how I see all my movies). So, for all I know, it may well be a quantum level of quality above other nominees this year, though that would be a tough call (I loved Good Night too). Then again, it might not be.

The Oscars are mostly all about politics and campaigning. Right now I happen to agree that the main reason BBM is the expected front-runner is because:
1. It has more buzz than all the other noms.
2. It won the Golden Globe, a pretty reliable Oscar predicter.
3. Ang Lee won the DGA award, an almost flawless predicter of who'll get Best Director.
On top of these things it may truly be the best movie, too. Or it may not. If BBM lost solely because some Academy members stubbornly refused to watch their screeners, then maybe homophobia charges would be legitimate. Then again, if it loses for any reason, I bet someone will be bound to level that charge, even if a different film wins because it honestly is a superior piece of cinema.

As to whether or not the movie would have all this buzz if it were about dysfunctional straight couples and traditional families, maybe, maybe not. There have been a number of movies in recent years that have had those themes and been awards contenders (You Can Count on Me, In the Bedroom, We Don't Live Here Anymore). I won't deny, though, that the gay theme has probably hightened BBM's profile, far above even those movies.

I think the reason Washington (especially today's right-wing Washington) hates Hollywood so much is that they recognize it's a political system all its own, and one they feel competes for the hearts and minds of Americans. But hey, that's democracy!