So at last we see the movie that stirred up so much fuss last year. The “gay cowboy” movie. And what do we see? Well, they were actually herding sheep. Does that make them sheepboys?
The movie is solemn, and overlong. And about halfway through you realize that, without the gay element, which I quickly began to regard as a gimmick, you’ve got a really conventional story of frustrated love. The gay element wasn’t the gimmick; we’ve seen plenty of homosexual love stories by now. It was the cowboy thing. Was it a secret, somehow, that tough guys can be gay? Plenty of leather boy bikers are. Plenty of macho prisoners are, no matter how much they may protest that it’s just a stopgap until they can get some pussy. And as Willie Nelson told us shortly after this movie came out, “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other.” So what’s the big deal?
It’s not just sex. These men were obviously deeply in love with each other, but felt they had to conceal it publicly. Again, not a new story. If it was just sex they needed, there were 10,000 sheep available, and the occasional Basque to show them how it was done. No, it was genuine passion … but I got to thinking of something else. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. They saw each other once, maybe twice a year if they were lucky. Passion is easier to sustain that way. What would they have been like if they’d been able to live together? Bliss? I doubt it. But who am I to say.
I’m not saying it’s a bad movie. It’s quite good, for what it is. Heath Ledger was impressive, playing a character who made Woodrow Call seem like a chatterbox. Everybody wondered why there was this apparent backlash on Oscar night against this seemingly invincible front runner. Prejudice? I don’t think so. I think it was the voters stepping back, taking another look, and realizing that aside from the sensationalism it just wasn’t Best Movie material. High-brow critics loved it for its literary antecedents: Annie Proulx (and would somebody tell me how to pronounce that?), Larry McMurtry, and critical darling Ang Lee. But when all was said and done, Crash was just a better movie. Much better. I have now seen all 5 nominees, and Academy, you done good. I’d put Munich in second place, followed by Capote, and Good Night and Good Luck. Sorry, Brokeback, you’re not even really a strong 5th place.