Thursday, December 22, 2005

Brokeback Mountain

Okay. Well... okay.

Here goes.

I was disappointed... mildly.

Now, I suppose this was inevitable, considering the massive obsession with this movie that has recently taken over my life. But disappointed I was, and that is sad.

First, the good things: Heath Ledger was amazing. The Heath hype is justified, I think. It was really a stunning performance. When he first spoke (well into the film), the accent was rather jarring, but soon it seemed totally natural, and Ennis Del Mar he was. Some have called him "overly affected" or hard to understand, or something, but I disagree... this performance was all it was made out to be, for me. In fact, all the acting was very good. This was a very well-acted movie. Michelle Williams was also great, even though she only had one scene in which to really let loose. Jake and Anne Hathaway were also quite good. And the music was great, as I knew it would be (since I have been listening to it for weeks).

Also terrific was the whole first half hour or so on the mountain. The whole time when Jack and Ennis were warming up to each other seemed marvelously natural, nuanced, and intimate, and the first love scenes were appropriately jarring (first) and tender (later). One scene in particular just had me nearly in tears, it was so beautifully intimate and well-done.

But the film, later on, seemed rather spotty and sterile much of the time. I don't know... I don't really feel like putting it into words right now. But it just wasn't "great cinema" I feel... it certainly was not a masterpiece... it just wasn't visceral and engaging... it was actually very "classical Hollywood" in that the scenes often felt rather staged and sterile, with no particular narrative point of view other than "shoot straight and make pretty pictures". The cinematography, though beautiful, sometimes felt overly composed and too still and faux-respectful, in the vein of Road to Perdition, etc. Sometimes I wanted to laugh a little at how seriously the film seemed to take itself, and that is not a feeling I enjoy. Basically, this is not a film I will continue to obsess over, see repeatedly, buy on DVD, and so on. It is not one of my all-time favorite films. A good film, sure... but not "all-time" worthy, in my eyes.

Here's the thing... I think this film may very well win the Best Picture oscar... but I don't really mean that as a compliment. In general tone (or lack thereof) it reminded me more of, say, Million Dollar Baby, American Beauty, and The Hours (i.e. things that win oscars but feel overly important, overly composed, overly respectful) than, say, Thelma & Louise, Heavenly Creatures, or Safe (films never given their due because they're just so damn good that it looks easy). I don't know. I just feel let down. It's a lot like when I saw The Hours after becoming obsessed with the book, trailer, music, etc... I just felt let down, even though it was a good movie. Maybe it's my fault for becoming so obsessed with things, sight unseen. Oh well.

I still may watch the trailer often (it's a great trailer... makes the rest of the movie seem like mere fat in need of trimming), I still love the music, I still love the story. And I will still see it again, because I want to be sure of my opinion. But I will not be buying the DVD or getting supremely pissed if Brokeback doesn't clean up at the oscars. The deep obsession stops here.

I'll write more about specifics later... as for a grade... man, at times like these, grades seem so reductionist... I dunno... B? A-? B+? Somewhere around there (i.e. not "A"). The disappointment factor is surely throwing me off. No final grade as of yet. And no more Brokeback talk tonight... I'm tired.



Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

aww, that's sad.

But it's true that sometimes the best films are the biggest surprises.

6:13 AM  
Blogger adam k. said...

Yeah, for example, I saw Thelma & Louise totally out of nowhere with my aunt while visiting, cause she said I had to... and now it's one of my all-time favorites, it's just perfect. Wouldn't change a frame of it. I knew the first time I saw it that it was something special, and instantly, I was totally hooked.

But this film just reminds me so much of The Hours (which disappointed me) and M$B (which I wasn't expecting to love, and indeed was not terribly impressed with). It was just... not "slow" per se, not that... just sterile or inert, I guess, as the dissenting critics have said. In all fairness, it's a really tricky narrative to pull off, but I just don't they quite did.

I just kept getting that "this isn't quite right" reaction instead of just taking it all in. It was probably an expectations thing. I was just already so over-familiar with every aspect of it that I was bound to overanalyze.

But what surprises me is the HUGE critical groundswell around it, and especially Nathaniel's grade. I literally never disagree with thim and now here I am liking The Family Stone better than this. Bizaree.

I really must see both of them again.

4:28 PM  
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5:49 PM  
Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

that is strange. Thelma & Louise is one of my all-time faves as well

(you got spam, ma'am)

2:36 AM  
Blogger adam k. said...

Yeah, I guess it's sort of flattering to get spam...? In a way... like, now my blog must be on the map. OK, not really.

Anyway, don't let my reaction to Brokeback color yours. Whenever it gets to Australia, just see it, and don't be influenced by my reaction, Nathaniel's, the awards, or anything else. Go in with no expectations, and see what you think. Try not to get your hopes up too high, and maybe you'll love it. I dunno.

But yeah, Thelma & Louise = the shit.

I bet knowing the music is a lot of what threw me on Brokeback. It makes it impossible not to go "OK, now they're just inserting that music cue THERE" when it might seem totally natural otherwise. Kind of kills it. And I am always disappointed with films after I've read the books their based on. Sigh.

But the real thing was just how muted and "Hollywood" it seemed. The peripheral characters seemed stiff and flat, the cinematography was too still and pristine, the makeup/aging was hard to buy... and for all the great things happening, it just didn't quite add up for me. I think a more indie sensibility/naturalistic approach might've been better.

But I must stop! Do not be colored by my reaction! Go see it blind, and let me know what you think.

3:10 AM  
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10:12 PM  

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