Reviewing the Brokeback story, so far

oscar statuesThis post is really late and I apologize for that. However, I have not been anxious to get back into the Brokeback Hollywood story. However, it is clearly not going away. I told the folks at Poynter.org -- in an email poll they sent me -- that I think it's going to be one of the three or four hottest religion/cultural stories of the year in 2006. More than one friend of mine out on the left coast has said that "Brokeback Mountain" is a dead lock for the best-picture Oscar, in part because the competition is so weak and all of the true blockbusters this year are films for young people that the academy will laugh at.

One thing is certain, it's going to be a very political year at the Oscars. Forget Brokeback Mania for a moment. Here is USA Today on the political atmosphere right now:

Take a look at the early front-runners, and most aren't pulling any punches. Syriana is a searing take on the relationship among the U.S. government, oil companies and Mideast leadership. Good Night, and Good Luck is an examination of the press' will to stand up against big government. Munich takes a cold look at eye-for-an-eye justice when it comes to terrorism.

"Politics are all around us, you can't escape it," says Jeff Goldstein, a distribution executive with Warner Bros., which released Syriana. "It's natural that the best movies are going to reflect what's going on in people's everyday lives."

Politics? Right now that means the war and religion (and or social issues).

So back to Brokeback. According to most people, the film is a quality piece of work and has layers that are not showing up in the cheerleader MSM reviews. And then there is the short story itself, with the hints that each man was, as a child, abused and in some way bent.

Will all of this turn political somehow in the age of blogs, listservs, fundraising lists and talk radio/television? Is water wet? Is fire hot?

We can see the complexity of this situation in the reviews of the film that are starting to emerge from religious publications and organizations.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for example, had much to say about "Brokeback Mountain" and most of it was positive. This resulted in a "L" (limited) rating that said the film was for mature viewers, but was not morally offensive in and of itself. Sure enough, that started a firestorm in an age when the Vatican is learning to read its emails and follow the blogs.

Thus, the rating was changed to an "O" (offensive). As you would expect, Andrew Sullivan is not amused.

Then there is this review from Christianity Today, which dances through some of the same minefields of quality, politics and moral theology. This is not a positive evaluation of the movie, at all. But the fact that it has ANYTHING positive to say could lead to pull quotes in magazines and websites that are more conservative than the CT circle.

And there is the heart of the story that is going to have legs.

Can anyone conservative say anything positive about the film at all, even while debating it? Will anyone in the Kingdom of Hollywood be allowed to raise critical questions about the movie or the wisdom of declaring it to be the gay (or bisexual) Gone With The Wind?

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