I feel like rambling a bit about Jeffrey Wells today. He’s easily my favorite film/entertainment journalist, and I’ve been reading his column, following him from site to site, for nearly ten years now. Which is forever on the internet. I don’t agree with him on everything (the things he’s said about The Lord of the Rings make me wonder if we watched the same movies), but I agree with him enough to make it worth it, and especially now that he runs the Wired blog he’s a great way to stay on top of industry buzz.
He saw Brokeback Mountain in Toronto back in September, and posted about it here (scroll down to “Hurtin'”)*. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the infamous journalist who stood up at a Toronto Q&A and apologized for calling it “the gay cowboy movie”. In this write-up (first of many reflections on the film) he says: I never thought I’d say this because I don’t tend to like (i.e., respond to with comfort or true openness of feeling) gay-guy love stories, but I felt this one…it got through and I let it in.
I wasn’t going to see it for another three months, and so it meant a lot to hear this admission from a guy who was not exactly the film’s target demographic. He went on to blog the release and award season more throughly than anyone else I read.
I was going to wax poetic a bit what this meant, but Wells did it himself. In a later column he writes
I don’t tend to like gay-guy love stories. I don’t respond to them with comfort or true openness of feeling…but I felt this one. … I’m pretty average 7-11 so maybe this means something …or not.
I only know that calling this movie a “gay” anything doesn’t feel right. It’s an American heartland drama about two very decent but confused and screwed-up guys. I’m straight but I related, being a little bit on the denying, screwed-up side myself.
Which, I think, is the key to Wells’ coverage. From the moment he saw it he fought against the gay label and argued the universality of the emotions. Any good tragedy is about the identification and the catharsis anyway, but it was just awesome to have Joe Average straight guy saying this.
In general, he maintains a great balance between what is new and fresh and exciting in film, what is old that we need to remember, and what will actually play well in theaters and make you feel something. His column is syndicated at and the Wired blog is at
*I have to giggle; further down in that column he talks about wanting to club Love, Actually over the head with a tire iron. I can identify!
4 Replies to “[Hollywood Elsewhere & Brokeback Mountain]”
i read an article recently, about how it is evil to call brokeback mountain a universal love story. i found it pretty convincing… though, to disclaim, i haven’t seen the movie yet.
ok, this is it: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18712
That was really interesting, and I find it pretty convincing too, of course, it’s been a long day 😉 Although, I sort of feel that it’s a rather delicate point to make in the face of everything else this film had to make it through to find the audience it did. A universal love story that happens to be gay, vs a gay love story that happens to be universal? Like, I don’t know how you’d distill the difference into a soundbite or, as most columns tend to be, an elevator speech. I’ll have to think about it some more when I’m more awake.
Also, it does ignore the fact that there -were- commentators (Wells included) who addressed the fear and the self-hate while also arguing for universality. I mean, good storytelling has to have something for the audience to identify with. *shrug*
(This, naturally, is a response to the article more so than to you 🙂 And also, I have to catch a bus now, so I can’t fine-tune it at the moment.)
i suppose the article does pitch its case in more calamitous terms than necessary.
i mean, if someone is told that this movie is “not a gay movie”, & then sees it & loves it, will that person thus have no empathy for gay people? that doesn’t seem logical…
Plus, it’s not a gay movie in the way that other mainstream movies have been gay movies.
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