Thursday, December 15, 2005

Brokeback Mountain

While we await the Monk's review of Brokeback Mountain, which some critics are calling the best picture of the year, Rod Dreher thinks it will flop overall but explains why critics are gushing. In a word, ennui.
[In case you are not already aware Brokeback Mountain chronicles the unlikely love affair between two married cowboys played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhal.]

[The Greatest Story Ever Told]...would be Brokeback Mountain, or so it would seem from the slobbery, but entirely predictable, press coverage. (My favorite comment so far: New York magazine critic Ken Tucker's declaration that, "You either buy into this tale of men in love or you join the ranks of those who've been snickering during the movie's prerelease trailers, and who can be divided into the insecure, the idiots, or the insecure idiots.") ...Brokeback Mountain might actually be a great movie, but I work such long hours and have so many responsibilities around the house that on the rare occasion when I have an opportunity to see a film, I can't work up much enthusiasm for spending that time and money watching two dudes betray their wives and children cowpokin' each other...

I predict "Brokeback" will be a box office flop, and we'll see a long, pearls-clutching round of media bashing of Red America for being insecure and idiotic. But really, film critics are insanely insular. I was one for seven or eight years, and they are almost to a man quite liberal. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but it's clear to me why so many people distrust film critics, and are mostly right to do so.

You know, it's not only liberal cultural politics that separate most critics from the mass audience, but something harder to pin down. It has to do with experience. Critics live in such a rarefied and aestheticized world, seeing five to 10 movies a week, that they quickly grow bored with the sameness of movies. Without quite realizing it--this happened to me as a conservative--critics become suckers for novelty, especially of the transgressive sort. [emphasis added] At its worst, you end up with a theater full of the most important film critics in North America at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival, roaring their approval of the creepy and misanthropic Todd Solondz's film "Happiness," which featured, among other transgressive delights, a comic set piece showing a suburban dad trying to drug his son's little playmate so he could anally rape him (he succeeded). It was one of the sickest movies I've ever had to sit through, but it received rave reviews--and, unsurprisingly, flopped at the box office. We're a nation of insecure, idiotic Philistines, ah reckon...

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