This movie has a fair amount of starpower behind it. It's directed by Ang Lee, written by Larry McMurtry and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger and Randy Quaid. Critics are already falling all over themselves to praise it. It is the top Golden Globe nominee with seven nods. It was the big winner at the New York Film Critics Circle awards, nabbing awards for best picture, best director (Lee) and best actor (Ledger). It will certainly contend for many of the major Oscars.
I was struck by how delusional some of the breathless comments were from some critics about "Mountain". This one really jumped out at me:
"A lot of people among critics are responding to it because it is so daring," said Gene Seymour, chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle.
Daring? A sympathetic treatment of gays by Hollywood is daring? Uh, in a word, no. "The Passion of the Christ", a production about the last hours of Christ's life in Aramaic and Latin, THAT was daring.
Now, compare the box office of the two.
Critics are a bunch of iconoclasts whose main function is to extol movies that most people either haven't seen, hate or can't relate to, in order to make themselves seem smarter and more sophisticated than Joe Six-Pack. Probably to compensate for the fact that they have no real creative talent of their own. Deep down they realize what a meager gift it is to be able to eloquently piss in someone else's corn flakes. (And yes I realize the inherent irony in making such a statement on a blog.)
This situation reminds me of 1999's "Boys Don't Cry" another critical darling that no-one saw. According to Box Office Mojo, "Boys Don't Cry" grossed $11 million dollars at the box office. Let's assume an average ticket price of $5. I know that is likely a fairly conservative estimate but I'm trying to factor in the variance in ticket prices (even though probably most of the people that saw "Boys" did so in major media markets like New York and Los Angeles) and matinee prices. At a ticket price of $5, that means just a little over 2 million people saw the movie. That's not very many in a country of almost 300 million people.
Let's be honest here. "Boys Don't Cry" is a film about a transsexual. Do you know a transsexual? Does anybody you know know a transsexual? Most Americans simply can't relate very well to the issues in "Boys Don't Cry". And yet it was a critical darling. I think one can detect a similar parochialism in last year's "Sideways". Most of Americans don't know "Merlot" from moonshine; most of us aren't frustrated novelists. And yet this movie was nominated for "Best Picture"! I think this will be the case with "Brokeback Mountain". Do you know [m]any cowboys? If you do know any cowboys, are any of them gay?