Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Not that there's anything wrong with that

Bunch of Academy Award nominations, huh?

Eight of them, is that right?

Doesn't matter.

Doesn't matter that it was so important to Uncle Merlin.

Doesn't matter that a whole lot of intelligent people whose movie-going judgment I respect swear to its wonderfulness.

Doesn't matter how many awards it's won. Or didn't win.

I'm not going to see it.

I won't see it in the theaters and when it comes out on DVD it's not going into my Netflix queue.

The horsemen of Brokeback Mountain are going to pass me by.

And don't get any ideas! It's not because it would make me uneasy in my manly man-ness. I'm sure it would but that's not the reason I won't see it.

Jake could spend the whole movie frollicking with Anne, Heath could romp with Michelle until the sheep came home, with only a few manly glances and the minimum of manly words passing between them and nary so much as a manly bearhug to show their love, and I wouldn't go.

I won't see it for the same reason I won't see Tristan and Isolde.

Because it's mush.

I hate mush.

Especially Hollywood mush.

No use pointing out that Tristan and Isolde is obviously a bad movie aimed at teenagers and Brokeback Mountain is a great movie made for grown-ups.

Mush is mush.

I suppose now you're going to argue there's a difference between mush and romance?

You're right.

I just don't trust Hollywood to know the difference.

Couple weeks ago I wrote about the Liberal and Conservative tropes that weave their way in and out of Hollywood movies. Among them, one that appears as both a Liberal and Conservative notion, is the idea that LOVE is the answer. Always. Love is the be-all and end-all of life. Love is permanent, monogomous, and transformative. It's all consuming, all defining, it's all you need.

In real life, this is how love is defined by stalkers, fabulists, and eighth grade girls about to make a really big mistake.

The enchanting Enchanting Juno puts it exactly:

Everytime I see the trailers for Tristan and Isolde - particularly the bit where she asks him who he has loved before her and after her, knowing that the answer must be no-one, I want to reach into the TV and kill them.

Why is it that the literary and cultural definition of great true love is EXACTLY the same as deeply unhappy, therapy-worthy, bad, bad love in the 21st century?

On top of this, in the movies Love always means being together for always, which usually means that movie romances end in marriage or at least with the promise of an exchange of rings ahead.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-marriage. I'm not like the Wodehouse character who insists that marriage isn't a means of preserving love, it only embalms the corpse.

And I'm not anywheres near as bad as a friend of mine who thinks marriage only exists to subsidize the mortgage companies and home building industry.

Marriage, he says, doesn't transform anybody, it just shrinks them down into a pair of timid consumers whose conversation mostly revolves around deciding which bills to pay, what new gadgets to buy, and who's going to make the trip to the repair shop to get fixed that broken whatever you never wanted in the first place.

Sounds like Kramer counseling Jerry on marriage, doesn't he?

Kramer: What are you thinking about, Jerry, marriage? Family? They're prisons! Man-made prisons. You're doing time. You get up in the morning, she's there. You go to sleep at night, she's there. It's like you gotta ask permission to use the bathroom. "Is it all right if I use the bathroom now?" And you can forget about watching TV while you're eating.

Jerry: I can?

Kramer: Oh yeah. You know why? Because it's dinnertime, and you know what you do at dinner?

Jerry: What?

Kramer: You talk about your day. "How was your day today? Did you have a good day today or a bad day today? Well, what kind of day was it?" "Well, I don't know, how about you, how was your day?"

Jerry: Boy.

Kramer: It's sad, Jerry. It's a sad state of affairs.

Jerry: I'm glad we had this talk.

Kramer: Oh, you have no idea!

Where True Love doesn't lead to marriage, kids, mortgage payments, flooded basements, and arguments over where to spend the holidays, my friend says, it leads to pairs of fortysomethings talking baby talk to matched sets of schipperkes.

My friend has issues.

Me, I'm not so bad. And I'm not anti-romance either, not even at the movies. My favorite movies include Casablanca, Annie Hall, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, Shakespeare in Love, Bringing Up Baby, High Fidelity, and Groundhog Day.

Once upon a time, God help me, I even enjoyed Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally.

No denying it, those are all romantic movies.

But none of them are mush.

And, you probably noticed, not one of them was made within the last five years and only two within the last ten.

You can argue that something changed in me, but I'm convinced that something changed in Hollywood and nobody out there can tell the difference between romance and mush or if they can they prefer to make and market the mush.

The odds are against Ang Lee's having bucked the trend.

Oh yeah?

Ya think?

Prove it, without giving away too much of the plot. Prove that the tag line "Love is a Force of Nature" is just advertising bilge and not Brokeback's guiding spirit.

As far as I can tell from all I've read and heard from people I trust, the "tragedy" of the story is that Jake and Heath can't be together for always.

Sounds like mush to me.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Nevermind a bitter old cynic like me. Tell us your favorite romantic movies then go read Grishaxxx's lyrical response to Uncle Merlin's lament.


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