Sometime back, Joe Perez posted an entry in his blog complaining about Crash winning the best picture Oscar over Brokeback Mountain. I commented that I'd seen Crash but not Brokeback, and that Brokeback would have to be awfully good to deserve the Oscar over Crash. I said I looked forward to seeing Brokeback so that I could decide for myself.
Well, I've finally seen it, and I have to confess that I liked Crash far more. I'm not saying that Brokeback was a bad movie by any means. I enjoyed it, and I'm glad I saw it. Furthermore, I think it had important things to say about the impact of forbidden love on those caught in its grip and in its orbit, and about how all the more tragic forbidden love can be when there's no good reason for it to be forbidden, despite what onward Christian soldiers of bible-thumping fudamentalism and Brokeback protestors dressed in devil suits would have us believe.
Yet, Brokeback left me strangely unmoved. I enjoyed the skillful acting, the majestic scenery, the glimpse of Western Americana, and the novel treatment of an important theme, but for some reason I can't quite nail down, I never felt emotionally involved with the characters or the story. While my wife and sister-in-law sat sniffling and wiping away tears through several scenes, I felt amused and touched that they were touched by the story, but I felt little or nothing directly toward the story. And it's not that I'm incapable of feeling moved by a film. When the racist cop in Crash rescued from a fiery death the black woman he'd harrassed earlier, I felt tremendously moved, and tears welled in my eyes that I tried my best to conceal from my wife. But when I saw Ennis smell Jack's clothes and clutch them to his breast, I admired Keith Ledger's acting but felt nothing more.
If this had been a similarly crafted film about forbidden love between women or between a heterosexual couple, would I have felt more? I was certainly moved as a teenager by Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet. But that was an eternity ago, and I have changed profoundly since then, and not necessarily for the better in all ways.
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