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Further comments on the season in film


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Well, we have to talk more about Brokeback, as I’m taking a friend to see it tonight and will report back on what, if anything, a second viewing reveals. [insert 'Brokeback, I just can't quit you' joke here.]

Not much time to post for the rest of the day, but I thought that Munich had the faults of its virtues, so to speak. It has the structure of a thriller, but the story it tells is knotty and ambiguous, a story about which the storytellers themselves are deeply ambivalent. Ambivalence doesn’t make for a rousing thriller, or a satisfying political melodrama. Instead, the audience is left at loose ends, like Avner (the leading character, played by Eric Bana). I thought that was intentional. No, you don’t come away with a message, but are you supposed to? Spielberg is a master at pushing your buttons (“Laugh!” “Cry!” “Scream!” “Cheer!”) and this time he holds back --as he did once before, for the fascinating failure “A.I.” More later. Anyone else?

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I’m short of time again today, but in brief, I would recommend seeing Brokeback again. It repays a second viewing, and more than most films I suspect it will lose a lot on DVD. Even if you have a widescreen state of the art television, which I don’t, the wide vistas and desolate landscapes won’t have the same effect on the small screen.

It is very intense, though. I was okay through my previous tipping point, when Ennis finds the shirt, but this time the killer was the very last scene, with Ennis in his trailer, fingering his little relics. ( To those who haven’t seen the movie yet, this may sound like ruthless milking of the emotions, but it really isn’t like that; it's more of a simple statement of longing and loss.)

It was also worth a second look because my friend, like me at one time a skeptic alienated by the tub-thumping, came to mock and stayed to snuffle. :)

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Paul Parish posted this on the Awards season thread. I thought it might be better placed here. Thanks, Paul.

For Brokeback fans, include me in, it may matter a tiny bit to know that a bellwether is a sheep with a bell on it that leads the herd. A wether, like a steer or a gelding, is a castrato but nevertheless a valuable member of the herd.

The movie awakened a lot of feelings in me that I did not expect -- like you, Quiggin, I know lots of men who talk out of the sides of their mouth just like that -- my uncle John, for starters. By the end of the movie, I found myself seeing my father in a new light -- he was a man who did not expect to be happy in life, and believed as all his people had that "character" was grit, and you judged someone by how sweet they managed to remain in soldiering on against hopeless odds. He came from cattle-men who worked hard unyielding land north of Dallas, where it took 35 acres to sustain one cow, and they'd have maybe starved if oil hadn't come in.

The paradox that makes the movie so powerful it's simultaneously DEEPLY faithful to these people and their values AND subversive with respect to the prevailing homophobia. [My father, by the way, was NOT homophobic - like characters in the last Picture Show -- Sam the Lion in particular -- he was one, and they weren't the only ones, who had a large, generous humanity to them.]

One reason many people don't like the movie is that the values are not articulated -- if you're not ready for it, it does NOT come out and meet you. It's a laconic world (like the state of Maine). Ennis is so guarded in his speech and says so little, this might almost be a ballet, where you look on and have to put it together for yourself what's going on. But if you ARE tuned in, it's like a great performance by a ballerina -- like Mezentseva dancing White Swan for those children in Theatre Street-- where much is held back but the details give a briefly flashed picture of some austere and inviolate inner life that matters enormously.

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By the end of the movie, I found myself seeing my father in a new light -- he was a man who did not expect to be happy in life, and believed as all his people had that "character" was grit, and you judged someone by how sweet they managed to remain in soldiering on against hopeless odds.

Yes. Ennis does not expect to be happy, and he does not try for it (“If you can’t fix it, you gotta stand it”). Jack (and Alma) wriggle around looking for a way out. She finds one and he doesn’t, because she’s tied to Ennis legally, not emotionally -- and she is able to find a man who will be the good provider that Ennis won’t and can’t be.

One reason many people don't like the movie is that the values are not articulated -- if you're not ready for it, it does NOT come out and meet you.

Yes, again -- some are treating it as if it were a “message movie” and that’s the last thing it is.

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THanks, Dirac...

I'd edit that post, since it's been moved from the Oscar Awards thread [but the site software won't let me] --so let me just explain the reference to hte "bellwether," which may seem to come from left field. I was bouncing off a metaphor in an earlier, intelligent comment of Carbro's that the Oscars have sometimes been bellwethers, pointing towards desireable changes in social attitudes.

Also, without getting too personal, I'd add that my father's Texas-pioneer world-view was diametrically opposed to my mother's New-Orleans-civilized outlook on life, and it's taken me most of my life to come to having much of an appreciation of my father's reality -- though he was right about so many things (such as the Civil Rights movement), and Mama was wrong, it was Mama I loved, not him.

I've been thinking all day about him, and how quiet and misunderstood and undervalued he felt and knew he was. My father's only close friend was a black man, my mammy's husband, which embarrassed Mama. Daddy loved Jesse as much as Ennis loved Jack, though I have no way of knowing if the relationship was sexual or not. It's not unheard of in the South for 2 men to care more emotionally for each other than they do for anybody else in their lives.... I'm increasingly inclined to think it maybe was sexual; it certainly had a romantic feel to it, but then, it was like comrades-in-arms. When Jesse was dying, he turned out to have AB negative blood, the rarest type, which was almost impossible to get, even if you were white (this would have been about 1963), and Daddy drove all over the state trying to get blood for Jesse's transfusions. He got it, too. "Jesse died in my arms, son," was all he'd ever say about it.

Well, I guess I did get real personal, but it shouldn't do anybody any harm. I'll go ahead and post it.

Edited by Paul Parish
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Sorry, I've been very busy in a conference in San Diego.

But:

I wasn’t thinking so much of Ennis the character, though, as the way the wives are depicted in the film. As I said somewhere earlier, there did seem to be an anxiety that we might stop sympathizing with Ennis and Jack, however briefly, and so the wives are made more unappealing and whiny than I thought was absolutely necessary. (If this was an Elia Kazan production from 1956, they’d have cast Shelley Winters as Alma.) It seems to me, however, that you don’t have to choose sides. The point is that everyone suffers. Jack and Ennis are in the foreground, and as Quiggin notes, that's where they belong -- it is their story.

I was thinking that yes Lureen and Alma are somewhat unsympathetic, but as it goes, sometimes people who are unloved and neglected tend to turn harsh and cold. Neither Jack nor Ennis love their wives, so it's only expected that their wives become spiteful (Alma) and aloof (Lureen). Thus I don't think Alma and Lureen are inherently unsympathetic people. But in the movie, they become unsympathetic, because we see the movie through Jack and Ennis's eyes. I think it's a tribute to Ang Lee's direction that yes he did make the wives unsympathetic, but he also pulled back and allowed us to see the bigger picture. We saw how Ennis's daughter awkwardly but tacitly understands her father, the way only children can. We see that Lureen never even knew what Brokeback Mountain was. Basically we see that the unhappiness of Jack and Ennis is infectious. Ennis even makes a nice, wholesome waitress spiteful and angry. Watch her first scene, when she's a chatty, flirtatious girl. And then watch her final scene with Ennis, when she spits, "He actually TALKS" (about her new boyfriend). Was the waitress not a nice person? I don't think so.

Edited by canbelto
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A friend just sent me a link to a sharp-worded piece about "Crash" in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The author is apparently a black playwright. Worth a read. Here's a sample:

"Crash" is a sloppy piece of workmanship, a kind of PowerPoint presentation about race that is absurd on its face. But "Crash" is also cleverly constructed to reassure white audiences that all people have racial and ethnic biases and that white America bears no special historical racial burden. This naively balanced view of race relations is the film's main conceit. However, there can be no bona fide balanced view of race relations in America, where generations of white privilege have embedded a special kind of race-based dominance into our culture and history.
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While I feel like Jazmine in Boondocks who protests, "Hey, I LIKED Glitter!" I saw Crash when a black male friend of mine visited Seattle last summer, and he picked the movie. (I knew nothing about it beforehand.) In the long discussion afterwards I had with him, I know there's at least one black male in America who disagrees with Syl Jones' conclusions: that it wasn't heroism that compelled Officer Ryan (Dillon) to save Christine (Newton) from the burning car, it was training, and it was a public situation, unlike his groping scene. Not for a second did Officer Ryan's treatment of his father excuse a single revulsive action of his: while it showed that he wasn't entirely a cartoon, it was the daily exposure that to his father's illness and his burden that fueled the circle of his racism. When Jean (Bullock) falls into her housekeeper's arms, it's pathetic, not cathartic: being the powerless one in the relationship puts her housekeeper in the classic role of being both abused and comforter, and there was nothing in the performance to suggest that the housekeeper thinks otherwise. It's hardly an "awwwww" scene.

As far as Christine being unrealistic, I went to college with a Christine, a privileged young black women whose family came from several generations of privilege and money and not just in the black community. And I saw first-hand the disregard she had on occasion not just for her own safety, but for the safety of others around her, and also her view of class. Because underlying and undermining the relationship between Christine and Cameron is her distain for him on the basis of class: he's not "black" enough, because he can't/won't flash the finger, like she does to Officer Ryan, because he's in the process of making it, and she's already there. He calls her on it -- someone from the horsey set saying he isn't black? -- but it doesn't stick. When she gives it to Ryan, it has nothing to do with institutional racism: she's making an example of Cameron for taking it from The Man and surviving another day, and she underestimates Cameron's anger and understanding of his own situation. It's rather stomach-turning when her fantasy of the macho man is fulfilled by the working class Ryan after he pulls her from the burning car.

Yes, Graham, Cheadle's character is offered his brother's temporary freedom under the guise of "affirmative action," but it seemed clear to me that this is a cynical dig from a better-dressed, bureaucratic Tony Soprano: the casualness of the offer and the "much more sophisticated and systemic hustle" that it represented seemed pretty obvious. It was all too clear that the deal Graham made was a waste of his "get out of jail free" card, but when you throw in the Oedipal card, family can be blinding.

I didn't see Crash as advocating any kind of "we're all racist in some way or another, so it's all even," which was why Angel's, I mean Anthony's character stuck out for me like a sore thumb from the movie, although I didn't get a sense that Haggis' point was that black and white relations were hopeless and that Latino-America was the only source of hope. I came away with one more sense of the long-term consequences of the original Devil's bargain in American history: acceptance of slavery in return for a Union.

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It’s not unheard of in the South for 2 men to care more emotionally for each other than they do for anybody else in their lives.... I'm increasingly inclined to think it maybe was sexual; it certainly had a romantic feel to it, but then, it was like comrades-in-arms.

Thank you for posting, Paul. It may be a bit odd to bring Norman Mailer into this particular discussion, but in his book about Marilyn Monroe he talks about what went wrong in her marriage with Joe DiMaggio, and he remarks of the latter that for men like him, “the times of their lives are spent with men,” not women, and Mailer adds that this is not necessarily “homosexual, but fundamental.” Centuries ago the love between two men, not necessarily a sexual love, it could take various forms, was considered the highest form of affection. I can’t say that I’d want to return to that situation, as I think the low status of women had something to do with it, but it’s worth recollecting from time to time. I did think of it as I was watching, and reading, “Brokeback,” because I wondered if the love between Jack and Ennis has a different intensity because of their sex; I had the sense that neither man would be able to love a woman in quite the same way even if their orientation had been different.

Thanks for the link, Anthony _NYC. In all candor, I can’t really comment on “Crash” without being impolite, and so I’m going to leave the specifics alone, although I would like to say that I appreciate Helene’s speaking up and if other supporters of the film would like to, they are most welcome and I promise not to say anything unless I lose all control. My own general feeling is that picture isn’t an atrocity by any means, there are some good scenes, and in a weaker year for movies like last Oscar season it probably wouldn’t have looked that bad. I rented it recently and it looks much better on the smaller screen. I think it would have been a good made for cable picture.

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Crash sounds preposterous, but I'm skeptical of the idea that Hollywood was afraid of a gay cowboy theme. Certainly it makes few films that warm the hearts of social conservatives, particularly when it comes to sexual mores. This year's winning song was a reminder of that, and George Clooney's acceptance speech was a reminder that the industry is not afraid to speak its mind. And I don't know what the Academy would have stood to lose anyhow. Any self-respecting liberal bowing to perceived conservative pressure would stand to lose that self-respect.

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Having finally seen this movie... :)

Well, Brokeback Mountain is a very good movie, but ultimately the romance didn't move me the way it obviously moved others. I don't understand why Ennis and Jack were not prepared to risk everything and live together, why they weren't prepared to do what Romeo and Juliet did. At certain moments, I felt downright angry with Ennis and Jack, as they sacrificied other people's happiness as well as their own.

That said, the movie itself was masterfully done as were all the Ang Lee movies I've seen. (I didn't see the Hulk.)

I thought that Ang Lee and the screenwriters made it clear--Jack wanted the two of them to get a ranch together, a "cow/calf" operation. Ennis, flashing back on what happened to two old men who lived together on a ranch--one of them was beaten to death and sexually disfigured, even though both of them were "tough old birds"--didn't see a risk. He saw a sure thing, that he, Jack or both of them would be literally killed by their neighbors. Ennis couldn't see anything else happening.

A few notes:

Economics reared its ugly head a few times. The first was when Joe Aguirre (masterfully and repellently played by Randy Quaid) tells Jack that there won't be any work for him this year, having seen Jack and Ennis playing slap and tickle the year before. Aguirre makes it clear that the reason Jack won't be hired is that they were letting the dogs take care of the sheep while they "stemmed the rose(?)". I got the impression that the result would have been the same no matter what they had been doing, since it caused economic loss for him. Aguirre, of course, is written and played as a completely disgusting individual who gets worse every time he appears.

One of the main reasons that Alma didn't leave Ennis would have been economic--one got the impression (at least this one did) that she finally ended the marriage only after finding someone to take care of her and her family. Being a divorcee with two young daughters and a job at the local supermarket would have been worse than continuing to be married to a man who she knew didn't love her--or at least loved someone else a lot more than he did her.

A third instance has been remarked on already, the class differences between Jack and Ennis. Jack seems to have a middle class background--at least his family owned a ranch--and married the daughter of a wealthy equipment dealer. He was comfortable with the wider world and the possibilities that existed there, including quick trips to the border to pay for sex. Ennis, during the last meeting with Jack, tells him that he hasn't been anywhere--makes it sound as if he hasn't been out of the county in Wyoming where he was born--and doesn't make enough money to take care of his family (or to move them out of the apartment over the laundry). He is almost peasant-like in his inability to see anything beyond the next day.

"Brokeback Mountain" is a terrific movie. I love Ang Lee and have seen everything he has done several times--besides, of course this one. I rented "Pushing Hands" to watch again tonight. Even his "failures" (The Hulk) are full of wonderful scenes and great filmmaking and the movies that work, like "Brokeback", The Wedding Banquet", "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (although CTHD is by no means as good as it seemed to many people in the U.S. when it first arrived) may well become classics.

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A third instance has been remarked on already, the class differences between Jack and Ennis. Jack seems to have a middle class background--at least his family owned a ranch--and married the daughter of a wealthy equipment dealer. He was comfortable with the wider world and the possibilities that existed there, including quick trips to the border to pay for sex. Ennis, during the last meeting with Jack, tells him that he hasn't been anywhere--makes it sound as if he hasn't been out of the county in Wyoming where he was born--and doesn't make enough money to take care of his family (or to move them out of the apartment over the laundry). He is almost peasant-like in his inability to see anything beyond the next day.

Yes the class differences between Ennis and Jack became more pronounced as the movie wore on. I got the feeling that both of them started off as in the country underclass, although Jack was probably wealthier. But Jack married into a rather wealthy family, and ended up in the upper middle class. Enough to hobnob with country club folks. But Ennis did not. He married poor, remained intermittently employed, and could barely keep up with child support. Jack had the monetary mobility to see economic feasabilities for himself and Ennis. Ennis did not -- in their last fight, he mentions that he has already lost quite a few jobs because of his trips to Brokeback. Ennis lives paycheck to paycheck, and when you're poor, it's a lot harder to be romantic.

I think BBM touched me because it showed love, and all its complications. Romantic love isn't all cut and dried. Ennis loved Jack as much as he was capable, but he wouldn't and couldn't ditch his mindset and background to start anew with Jack. Love isn't always like Romeo and Juliet, where two people throw caution to the wind and run off together. Two people can share an immense love but there are other ties that bind. For Ennis, it was his poverty, provincial mindset, and childhood trauma. And for people who are frustrated with Ennis, how many times have you loved someone without saying so? How many times have you loved someone and known that it could never work? I'd gather that everyone has had a few instances in their lifetimes.

BBM is not a movie for people who've never experienced heartbreak. I don't think they'd get the movie. For me it was heartbreaking.

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I saw "Brokeback" again yesterday, and found it just as admirable and emotionally devastating as the first time. Since it won the Oscar for best soundtrack, I listened more carefully. The now-famous tune that you hear in every parody of the movie makes a late appearance in the movie. You only hear it a couple of times, and not in the places you'd expect. The soundtrack is really admirably understated, just beautifully done.

Another thing I hadn't noticed was how the much-discussed Thanksgiving scene at Jack's house follows directly one the one where Ennis rebuffs Jack after the divorce. Jack had never been completely involved in his family life (I noticed how often he's shot standing awkwardly in a doorway, not fully at home in his own house), his heart being elsewhere. But now, a life with Ennis plainly being impossible, he angrily claims as his own the only home he has.

What a master Ang Lee is. In the first minutes there's no dialogue and no real action, but with a few perfectly judged strokes he delineates the very different personalities of Jack and Ennis, and already shows a relationship developing between them.

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Ed Waffle writes:

Aguirre, of course, is written and played as a completely disgusting individual who gets worse every time he appears.

Yes, and I thought it was a bit much, although Randy Quaid was very good. After all, the man has a point, even if he isn’t very nice.

Ennis, during the last meeting with Jack, tells him that he hasn't been anywhere--makes it sound as if he hasn't been out of the county in Wyoming where he was born--and doesn't make enough money to take care of his family (or to move them out of the apartment over the laundry). He is almost peasant-like in his inability to see anything beyond the next day.

Ennis is indeed far more provincial than Jack, although I’d suggest that at the beginning of the story, he, like Jack, has his plans for the future, although there’s a suggestion in both the story and film that these plans aren’t terribly serious. In addition, one reason that Ennis doesn’t stay with his jobs is that he’s taking too much time off to be with Jack, as Ennis notes when he tells Jack that he can’t just quit a job and find another as he used to when he was younger. Following what canbelto said, as a working man, he has less autonomy.

Anthony_NYC writes:

In the first minutes there's no dialogue and no real action, but with a few perfectly judged strokes he delineates the very different personalities of Jack and Ennis, and already shows a relationship developing between them.

I agree. I think the time and care put into establishing Jack and Ennis’ affair in its early stages is justified. Maybe there are a few too many shots of the sheep, but these kids don’t understand what is happening to them and nothing’s going to happen fast. It also sets up the rest of the film: paradise lost (I think this is part of what bothers people who say the affair is too idealized – they’re partly correct, IMO, but only partly) and there’s a foreshadowing hint of Et in Arcadia ego.

Addressing GWTW's sense of disappointment -- I can understand why some viewers feel that way. This is a romance in a sense, yes, but it's one where the true story lies in choices not made, things not said, roads not taken -- thwarted lives. So if you were going into the movie with an expectation of seeing a Great Love Story -- which was indeed what the marketing campaign prepared you for -- that was not what you were going to get.

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Anthony_NYC wrote:

...... I wonder if I could solicit opinions about "Munich." From the listless "The Terminal," to "War of the Worlds," where the director seemed to have lost interest in his own movie, to "Munich" now, it seems to me like Spielberg has been off form lately. "Munich" was a much better than the first two, but, like them, it left me unmoved and a little bored. There isn't enough of a payoff by the end to justify its great length. You spend a large portion of the movie wondering little more than how they're going to off their next target. Obviously, it was a deliberate decision on Spielberg and Kushner's part to structure it that way, but I don't quite understand what I'm supposed to take away from the experience. Was I supposed to tire of the violence just as the assassins do? Or was I supposed to grow inured to it, making the final shot a sudden jolt of reality? Honestly, I feel like I really missed something.

I said I’d post more on Munich and didn’t, so here are a few further remarks. The Distant Dad is a recurrent Spielberg trope and is very prominent here. Avner, the protagonist, has no fewer than three father figures: his actual father, who is ill in hospital and is never seen; Ephraim, the Geoffrey Rush character, who acts as counselor and mentor until Avner starts talking back to the principal; and the character known only as “Papa” played by Michael Lonsdale, who reminds Avner, “You could have been my son. But you’re not.” (That is, “Don’t take it personally if I have to have you shot, or something.”)

I didn’t find the film boring or overlong, unusual for me in that I generally come out of the theatre these days thinking, “Cut fifteen minutes.” The effect of the consecutive hits carried out by the team is cumulative, and each one is different.

As mentioned, the basic structure of Munich is that of the “Dirty Dozen” type thriller. Only here, things keep getting messed up, the operations are confused and/or untidy, bombs are too powerful or not powerful enough, etc. In return, the other side responds with its own bombings (“We’re in dialogue now,” says one of the Mossad guys (not a member of Avner’s crew) and he doesn’t sound displeased.)

Most disturbing sequence for me: the scenes in which Avner and his men go after the woman who is responsible for the death of Carl (Ciaran Hinds). The killing has peculiar overtones; it’s almost a kind of sexual violation, and I wasn’t sure how to take it. It reminded me of another scene in a Spielberg picture, “Catch Me If You Can,” in which a hooker played by Jennifer Garner gets screwed by the con man hero (Leonardo DiCaprio) in every sense. In both episodes there’s the sense that a woman who uses her sexuality for ulterior motives is outside the law and deserves anything she gets.

The final shot is as striking in its way as the end of “Brokeback Mountain.”

I agree about “War of the Worlds." It gets off to a genuinely ominous start, and then goes nowhere. I was ready to drown Dakota Fanning like a rat, too.

Edited to add the following:

I forgot to add that the acting in Munich is uniformly good, and it’s too bad that in the recently concluded awards season, nobody got nominated for anything, perhaps it’s because there are few Big Scenes. I particularly liked Ciaran Hinds, Mathieu Amalric, and Eric Bana.

Edited by dirac
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In addition, one reason that Ennis doesn’t stay with his jobs is that he’s taking too much time off to be with Jack, as Ennis notes when he tells Jack that he can’t just quit a job and find another as he used to when he was younger. Following what canbelto said, as a working man, he has less autonomy.

A big theme of BBM is sacrifices. Alma makes sacrifices -- for years she stays married to a man she knows doesn't love her, because of her economic immobility. She finally leaves when Ennis basically says he refuses to support any more children -- it's kind of like Scarlett telling Rhett she doesn't want anymore children. It's dropping the curtain, and I got the feeling that was when Alma truly began to look for a way out. (And did. We never know if her second marriage is any happier than her first.)

Jack makes sacrifices. He has a cold, awkward, distant relationship with his wife, and obviously is willing to make sacrifices to live with Ennis. And as he said, he sacrifices some of his sexual impulses, despite nipping to Mexico once in awhile. But as Ennis points out, they're not the same kind of sacrifices Ennis has to make. Jack can truly go live off somewhere, start a ranch, etc. He has the economic means to do so -- he also has the knowledge and the business sense, just from watching his wife and working for his wife's family. Ennis, OTOH, has simply quit jobs to go to BBM with Jack, and this kind of intermittent employment is what keeps him trapped in his life. He has to find some way to make child support payments. He has to find some means to support himself. The fact that Jack is very willing to support Ennis is something that probably never occurs to Ennis. Ennis's background and his life have told him, "If you can't fix it, you have to stand it." It's very telling that at the end of the movie Ennis is living in a trailer. Had Ennis been the one that died, Jack never would have ended up in a trailer.

BBM is a "love story" in the sense that it's about this love between two people. But I think its message, "Life's more complicated than that," is depressing and may be why some people found it boring. They want to see Ennis and Jack in love, happily smiling at each other the way most movies are. The depressing things that result from Ennis and Jack's relationship are ... well, depressing. But I think it's a very good movie about the bonds between humans, how they do form or are NOT formed (despite marriages and children). As an example, yesterday the division at the job where I'm interning got dissolved in a "reorganization." When we heard the news, our big boss was crying, people everywhere around the office were crying. I started crying, because I've become very close to a lot of these people, especially my boss/mentor. These are people who have worked together many years, some of them in their own way developed a love for each other, and to have it arbitrarily torn apart is painful. But that's life, too.

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I got the feeling that was when Alma truly began to look for a way out. (And did. We never know if her second marriage is any happier than her first.)

I think we’re meant to understand that it is happier. Isn’t Alma pregnant at the Thanksgiving dinner, or was it just her dress? (Note, however, that Alma’s new hubby uses a wussy electric knife to cut the turkey. :blink: )

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While we're on the subject of this year's films, I thought I might talk about a film that hasn't been discussed much, Capote. I find this an interesting film because of the different reactions it draws. I saw the film and thought what Capote did was loathsome -- I didn;t care that he was betraying two sociopathic killers. I thought two wrongs didn't make a right, and I thought the self-loathing and guilt Capote feels became the heart of the story. On the other hand, I have a friend, who is politically even to the left of me, who felt very differently. He said the Hickcock and Smith were con-men, and in many ways, they were conning Capote to buy time for themselves. He felt no sympathy for them at all. I didn't either, but he reasoned, "These two monsters killed an entire family for no reason, if anything Capote helped them way more than he should have, and he doesn't really need to feel much guilt for anything, except for maybe toying a little with Perry." So I thought it was an interesting reaction. We're both politically to the left, but he thought the killers conned Capote, and I thought Capote conned the killers. What do you think?

Edited by canbelto
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A bit of both, I'd say. Very few people would have unmixed motives in such an instance. I thought the film was too hard on Capote, but I also think your friend is a bit hard on Smith and Hickock. (And is it okay to kill a family if you think you have a reason?). It is pretty clear that Capote could have done more to aid his chatty convict friends, whose legal defense was unimpressive, to say the least. He wouldn't have been handing them a get out of jail free card by doing so; he would have been doing his part to ensure they got a fair shake before the law as was their right. It's far from clear that they got that fair shake.

I had occasion, in the course of doing some research on Capote, to note that more than one reviewer raised the question of a possible moral issue involved at the time of the book’s original publication. It’s a sticky situation. “Betrayal” is too harsh a word, though.

they were conning Capote to buy time for themselves.

Possibly, yes -- to stay alive. They weren’t buying time to get out of traffic school. :clapping:

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I'm surprised no one else saw Capote, considering the attention it received over the past year.....

I pulled Annie Proulx's collection Close Range off the shelf to take another look at the story "Brokeback Mountain" -- I hadn't referred back to it since seeing the picture. I'm again struck by how faithful Ossana and McMurtry were to the story, and how they had to invent relatively little.

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This is the first year ever that I saw all the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture. I thought "Capote" was superb. Like "Good Night, and Good Luck," it's a small gem of a movie, beautifully made. I admired the New York party scenes, with everybody laughing too much in that self-congratulatory way--very true to life! The performances by Hoffman and Keener were justly praised. My only tiny quibble is I wish they'd left off the explanation at the end about how Capote never finished another book, eventually drinking himself to death. The implication is that this was due to his bad conscience, which seems unnecessarily judgmental and a little bit manipulative.

I never read "In Cold Blood" and knew nothing of its genesis before seeing this movie, but the title has a double meaning for me now.

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I admired the New York party scenes, with everybody laughing too much in that self-congratulatory way--very true to life!

Yes. And the way they treat Harper Lee as if she were Capote’s toy poodle. I thought the contrast between Kansas and the big city was a bit broad, however.

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One thing I did like about Capote was that it got the "glib, sophisticated NY socialite" thing out of the way quickly. There's the cocktail party scene, and the joke about his scarf, but the heart of the movie is firmly centered on Capote's moral conumdrum, which I like.

Edited by canbelto
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