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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

—1. Overview (multimedia)
Overview Basic (dial up speed)
Reviews and Blogs
Cast and Crew
Photo Pages
Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
Posters (Heath Ledger)
Production Notes (pdf)
—9. Spiritual Connections
—10. Presentation Downloads


Brokeback Mountain was a movie that I was actually looking forward to seeing. To see it on the weekend of the HJAG along with Chris Utley and Elisabeth Leitch, fellow reviewers from Hollywood Jesus, was almost a moment of euphoria
after all, we had the nice little meal from Bill's Bar and Pub across the street and everything was almost perfect. I should have seen the foreshadowing that lay ahead when a seagull resting on the eaves of the Egyptian Theater in Seattle decided to use my shirt sleeve as a toilet.

I was as drawn in to the movie prehype as much as any movie I have seen. I have already received criticism from the religious right, condemning my perspective that
The Crying Game is my favorite love story ever filmed. So from my respect of that particular movie, I knew that as a follower of Jesusoften times criticized by the religious right, and a male married to a loving wife with childrenI didn’t have the preconceived stereotypes and prejudices as many would have seeing this movie. I had heard from friends who are gay, and others who weren’t (along with reviews), to be ready for the heart tugging ending and great story. I actually wanted that movie, I desired, longed for, and hungered for the ending that would cause many who don’t understand homosexuality to have a better understanding, a deeper love, and a compassionate understanding to see gay people as just that, people first, with a different sexual persuasion. I cringe every time I see the Bible Thumping Televangelist blasting homosexuals along with every perverted word imaginable. Truth is I never felt compelled to throw the first stone at anyone. I also don’t quite understand the need to emphasize certain aspects of life or preconceived “sin” more than others. Seems to me that many could equally look at pride, greed, gluttony, and other things that are in the views of many, “sin.” Truth is, virtually all movies with actors involve people that the Bible says are in “sin.” The need to pick on any particular group is a question that has caused me more than one headache, trying to figure out the rationalization of some.


I wanted
Brokeback Mountain to address issues in a real way that would cause a better understanding of the homosexual community. I wanted it to provide characters that the Homosexual community could look up to, respect, learn from and admire to some extent. I wanted that because we all deserve some measure of hope and understanding. For years, this medium has given the issue far too little mainstream exposure and not enough real questions and issues have been asked as a result of the movies being made. With the exception of Philadelphia, staring Tom Hanks and the controversial Crying Game, not many movies with primarily gay characters has received mainstream recognition. The press this year, for whatever reason, has resoundingly praised Brokeback Mountain. With all of the hoopla I was expecting great things.

The acting in the movie is quite good; in many regards I would personally consider it exceptional, especially Michelle Williams who wonderfully plays the part of Ennis Del Mar’s wife. I was also impressed with the character Jack Twist played beautifully by Jake Gyllenhall. While at times the character of Ennis Del Mar is wonderful, I was detracted by the mumbling of Heath Ledger in playing of the part. I don’t personally blame Ledger but Ang Lee who, in my opinion provides poor direction, and shows in the inability to fully understand the characters he is presenting. For example, it is typical for cowboys to mumble; I know this because of living in Kansas, and in the past in Oklahoma. Those places are unique in that while they may be metropolitan areas, it don’t take long to find a “real cowboy.” The real cowboys often mumble because of the fact that they are speaking with a dip of snuff. Yet, while you see no cowboys dipping tobacco in this movie, you do see them often times smoking. At this point I draw the conclusion that Lee or someone on staff has likely heard cowboys speak, just never figured out why they speak the way they do.

There are other issues with the direction of this film that I had problems with. There is little character development with the exception of the two primary lead characters. Even there, the character development leaves one with questions. Some of the press has spoken about the fact that people will be speaking of the movie long after they see it. I believe that assumption true, but they are not speaking on themes as much as they are trying to figure things out. I won’t answer or ask any of those questions here, but rest assured, you will know what I am speaking about when and if you see the movie.

I also had issues with the editing of this movie and the make-up. In critical scenes, on male characters you see make-up blotches on a lead character, especially in close up scenes. Then the editing jumps from one scene to another with little or no continuity or relevant transition. Not just in transitional scenes, but in critical scenes. These things provide a distraction that hindered the enjoyment and educational process of the movie.

There is an abundance of spiritual symbolism that is a primary component for the characters in the film. From discussions on denominational differences, to theological issues, those questions arise. The first sexual encounter of the characters should not be lost in the fact that it occurs when one individual fails to fulfill his responsibilities in looking out for the sheep he is responsible for. There are images of cowboys carrying sheep to safety in the same way that we have seen images of Jesus, or King David carrying sheep. The transitions from religious discussion in the movie, tied in with the responsibility to watch the sheep, and then the failure to do so, leads to the first homosexual act in the movie; I believe that is more than a coincidence.


There are other themes, such as infidelity, commitment, and more that come up in the movie. Those themes are centered around characters who openly admit that at one time they were actively involved in church. While not involved in church for much of the movie, they recognize the need to provide spiritual opportunities for their children, including taking them to, and picking them up from church. This raises questions: Why is faith so critical to the characters and their families? What happened to that faith? Why aren’t the lead characters consistent in that faith? These are all valid questions. One can even take the concept further; has the church missed the boat on the issue of homosexuality? How do the actions of the church affect those who are gay? How does the church address the struggles of faith that are asked in the Gay Community? All questions worthy of discussion
and all questions largely not addressed with any conclusion, or even editorial comment provided, in the movie where the themes are evident and a part of the lives of the characters.

There are other questions that one could ask, especially questions those in the church could ask themselves. I have to admit, that I am not as troubled with acts of sex between a male and female in a movie as I am acts of sex between two partners of the same sex. Why? I will give
Brokeback Mountain credit for causing me to reflect on my own views and reflections in a way that I haven’t before. Why we view some issues as being wrong, or even more wrong than others, is an appropriate question. Especially in light of a belief system that sees any “sin” or “wrong” as being disobedient to God. In many ways, it seems to drive home a misconstrued, inconsistent God—a God that people have difficulty figuring out. I can't help but believe that God is far more consistent than I am, and doesn’t have the varying areas of “wrong” that I sometimes have in my own life. In that regard, Brokeback Mountain caused me to reflect with positive results.

Unfortunately, reflecting on things
not addressed in a movie doesn’t constitute a good movie. I went in with high expectations and left feeling that Brokeback Mountain is the most overhyped, disappointing movie I have seen this year. It is unfortunate because the gay community deserves better. They deserve a film that will give them heroes, lasting love, and hope. They deserve a movie that will cause the public to reflect upon them as people, a movie that will cause open and honest discussion of spiritual things. For me, Brokeback Mountain fell far short of any of those expectations.

On a scale of 1 – 10, for the company of 3 that went to see the movie together, plus the sea gull which left me a little present on my shirt, a very disappointing 3.

Overview

26 Comments:

Blogger Chris Utley said...

Mike, it was a pleasure seeing the film with you and Elizabeth!

Regarding Heath Ledger's performance, as I meditated on the film while writing my own review, I think I pretty much got a handle of why Ennis Del Mar was portrayed as such. His posture & demeanor - specifically his heavily mumbled voice - indicated that Ennis had a deeper internal struggle than mere homosexuality: the spirit of isolation. He was isolated, withdrawn and disconnected - both horizontally and Vertically. Every fiber of his being demonstrated it. If we look closer, we'll see more of ourselves than we care to see.

More on my review. Check it out.

5:01 PM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Chris, you bring out a great point here, and I really enjoyed your review. I look forward to the one from Elisabeth as well. Great job friend and look forward to the next time we get to go to one together.

8:04 PM

 
Blogger Chris Utley said...

Is that so? According to this, God doesn't hate anyone:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Since gays and lesbians are in the world, it seems that they fall under this category as well.

:o)

12:06 AM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

God forbid that I would have given it a good review. Chris is correct, God hates sin, not the sinner. God hates the sin of judgment and pride just as much as any sin, in fact, those are the sins that ultimately destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, not homosexuality and sexual sin as many would have you believe, at least according to scripture. How can I be a pastor? The same way that many other pastors are that do movie reviews. Again, your misapplication of theology in my opinion on your part. We are all called into ministry. We are all "ministers" ministers to people who are in sin. I guess one could say the same about Jesus to some extent that you have about me, and no I am not comparing myself to Jesus, but using your reasoning, "How could Jesus have ministered to a Demon possessed person, after all he hates the devil." Same for Paul, and other individuals in scripture who saw past the sin and into the sinner. "How could Jesus have ministered to a woman caught in sexual sin?" And the list could go on and on. News Flash! The Gospel isn't for people just like you, it is for all. Quit being like a Pharasee and start being more like Christ in showing others love for them. And before you come back and explain the love you have, start showing it instead of spewing off homophobic comments which lead people away from Christ instead of drawing them near. By the way, hope you have visited every other review site on the planet that have reviewed this movie, many of them negatively as have I and made the comments, truth is though, I doubt you have done that to even 2 other sites. The difference though is that my negative comments are based on the technical content, not the subject matter. Tell me a single movie that doesn’t have as a theme someone who is in according to your definition, “sin.” Truth is you can’t. /Even the movies like the Passion, which appear to be about Christ are not really about him, they are about his love for people in, guess what? “Sin!”

1:28 AM

 
Anonymous James Powell said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:33 PM

 
Anonymous James Powell said...

Hey Mike,you rock. You are exactly what a pastor should be. I used to go to Chruch. Bad News! so much condemnation... l am not oriented toward women. I was born different than other boys. It's the way it is. I was surfing the net for "Brokeback Mountain" and somehow came to your review. Do you have any idea what it is like. Believe me it is difficult. I was so amazed be your review. All I can say is thanks. This is the first time I have come across a pastor like you. Excellent --but I am confused about church. I guess I would rather not go. Too much negativity. How would I find someone/pastor like you here in Orland?

7:35 PM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

James thanks for the kind words and know that despite what others think, say, and/or do, it does not change the fact that God has a compassionate love for you. I would be glad to correspond and help in any way I can, drop me an email and we could go from there. I would also say that there are more and more pastors who understand the need to show Christ's love, for far to long, the church has been chasing people away from the love of Christ, it is high time that we started drawing them to the love of Christ. I am convinced that we don't draw many people in while throwing rocks. In short, I think I know some of what it is like for varying reasons, it is one of the reasons I believe God would have us understand and love each other instead of condemning and judging them. My email is mike@furches.org look forward to hearing from you.

7:09 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,
You had some quite interesting things to say and raised some important questions. One thing you said was that you weren't troubled with acts of sex between a maile and female as with two males and why we view some issues as more wrong than others. It is true that all sin separates us from God, but I don't think that all issues can be separated as "sin" and "not sin". Heterosexual sex within marriage was God's idea. He created Adam and Eve, male and female and told them to be fruitful and multiply. Within marriage sex is beautiful and commanded by God. There is no time that homosexuality is right, just as sex with animals is always wrong because neither are what God intended for men and women. Fortunately for us Jesus came not only to pay the penalty for all our sins (which is death), but to free us from the sin that enslaves us. That gives all of us hope that Jesus makes it possible to become like Him and not think that we are condemned to sin because "we were all born that way".

8:14 AM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

I would agree with your comment, the only correction I made is that I stated that the act of sex between a male and female does not bother me "as much." I agree that any act of sex outside of marriage is sin according to God's Word. I also believe though that there are numerous sins, that the church seems to focus on more than others, I would like to personally know why it is usually the “sexual” sins that are at the top of the list. All sin, any sin, condemns us to Hell without Christ. I also believe strongly though that while some may respond to direct confrontation, that ultimately Christ presented himself in such a way as to cause others to ask him questions. In other words they came to him seeking answers. There is an excellent book called the Counseling of Jesus that explores this approach quite thoroughly. I believe that Scripture gives evidence to the fact that most of the time that was because individuals saw and recognized the love of Christ, in contrast to the condemnation of the religious leaders. They were compelled to learn from him because he showed them love when no one else did. Christ comes to set us free from sin, agreed? Yet, how he draws us to him is certainly different from one individual to another. In addition, truth is, Christ loved us, while we were sinners, or as the Greek seems to indicate, despite the fact that we're sinners and in continual sin. That love and forgiveness is for all of humanity, unfortunately the church hasn't done a very good job of illustrating that love. Another point here is that while we may be tempted to sin in some areas more than others, the temptation is not the sin, it is the giving in to the temptation that we sin. Of course Jesus takes this a step further in his teaching on the Sermon on the Mount. That is however, a whole other debate that gets most all of us into trouble without the forgiveness of Christ.

9:52 AM

 
Blogger Rhea said...

I appreciate your open-mindedness and willingness to be friends with homosexual people, but I must disagree in several ways with your post. First of all, though noble, the desire for a movie to be an example for gay people everywhere is simply ridiculous. One way that heterosexual and racial priviledge in this country is enacted is the fact that white heterosexuals' behavior is never thought of as indicative of their entire race/sexual orientation. All too often people of color and non-heterosexuals are judged as a whole based on the actions of a few people. I loved the movie and took it for what it is, a fictional piece of art, not a manifesto. I was very impressed with your respectful musings on the movie (maybe except for the bird feces analogy:). I do not expect many Christians to understand this movie. I am a follower of Jesus who has the priveledge to live in San Francisco and be exposed to many types of people who love Jesus in ways that would simply be denied elsewhere. I am married and was very touched by the kind of love expressed in the movie -- the kind of love that tears you up inside, that you would be willing to die for. I am fully aware that most people who read this post will not agree with me and may be angry with what they read. I just felt like my perspective may be an interesting one for you to consider.

11:22 AM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

rhea, I appreciate your perspective and would be less than honest if I didn't state that I have my own issues to address with homosexuality. I make some mention of that and believe it is critical that I see people first as people. I learned this when adopting my son. I was told that I should always refer to him as a child of biracial origin as opposed to a biracial child. It seems like such a little thing, but in reality it is not.

I realise that there is much for me to learn. I hope I was clear in my review that my criticism of the movie was not so much against the content as it was the technical aspects which I think fell far short, at least for me they did.

I would hope that you always feel welcome to come in and voice your opinion and your views on any of the blogs of the HJ staff or certainly myself. I value debate and the learning process.

I am glad that the movie was good for you. I really am, I wish it had been more so for me. It probably started with that darned seagull. (:^)

In closing here, I don't expect a movie to speak for an entire group of people, but I do long for movies like the Crying Game that address issues that can be done in a brilliant way, while at the same time, provoking thought and positive attributes.

Blessings and thanks for your comments.

12:15 PM

 
Blogger Rhea said...

Wow thanks for that loving and thoughtful response to my post. I am used to Christians freaking out at me when I express views that are a bit different from mainstream. You rock. Congrats on your adoption -- my marriage is an interracial one and we plan to make "children of biracial origin" one day as well, God willing!

5:35 PM

 
Anonymous Justin said...

One thing I like about this site is how people think outside the box. I read an article in Relevant magazine once that dealt with the church's response to homosexuality, and how as "lovers of others" we have somehow missed the mark by not treating homosexuals with the same respect and love we treat our heterosexual friends with. It definitely touched me on a certain level, cause I have always struggled with homosexuality in a judgemental sort of way. I struggle with others too, but some sins, like sexual or things of that nature are more apparent so to speak, they stick out by virtue of their physicalness. I think this is why christians focus on these sins as "worse" and others as "not as bad". I, like you, think this is a wrong mindset, but I understand where they are coming from. I myself deal with lust on a heterosexual level, pornography and things of that nature. I've had homosexual thoughts in the past...only cause I believe, kind of along the same line as Mr. Utley does that the longer we isolate ourselves from true biblical community, the more we seek out things to make us feel connected...be they pornography, or homosexuality. I think the level of which one goes depends upon their openmindedness and inhibitions, or even just loneliness and how deeply it is felt. There was a Between Thieves song that said "Alone is not a number, but a state of mind.", I've always agreed with that. And as I think many Christian thinkers are starting to realize nowadays, donald Miller was one that really hit me over the head, people need to be loved, and God needs to love, and we need to be lovers as much as we need to be loved. I don't think the answer to sin is to hate oneself for the sins they commit as many churches seem to espouse in their direct rejection of persons for the sins they commit, but to know God loves them, and He extends grace. And for us to love them, and extend them grace to grow on their own. who knows, they may strugle forever with homosexual thought, but they at least know they are loved, and appreciated, and respected, and not looked down on. I think this is what is being cried out for in the end here, to be loved...

I wil probably not see the movie, but that's for my own personal reasons. Personal convictions, etc. But thank you, thank you for standing up for love. Love is a beautiful thing, cause God is love.

8:42 PM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

rhea, you can only imagine the comments I get from Christians, http://www.thematforums.com/myforum/?show_topic=12528&forum_id=11 gives some indication of that. There are others on that board which I frequently visit. Just know that the measure of a Christian is ultimately Christ and love. The question becomes do we love like Christ? I pray I do. Thanks again and God's blessings on your marriage,and any time you disagree, go for it.

4:31 AM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Justin, thanks as well for your comments. I am troubled by the so called "love" displayed by many Christians. As made mention in a very long discourse on the thread mentioned above in the previous post, I am okay with the fact that some become followers of Christ out of fear. I personally have issue with those individuals though when they think everyone else should come to that same relationship. If God truly is love, we must ask ourselves, What is love and how do we display it? I make many mistakes, I am not always able to love, but I hope the measure of which people judge me by is the love and authenticity of my walk with Christ. Don't have to worry too much about me trying to love, I remember how horrible of a sinner I was, and am, and I also recall it was love that drew me to Christ, not the love that ridicules and puts down, but the love that has open arms and embraces.

4:35 AM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Hate to do this and hope that the person needing it reads it. I received an email the other day that I really wanted to answer regarding this movie. I accidently deleted the email and wanted to come on and ask that the person email me again. I really apologize for this. My mail filter program though does crazy things sometimes and I want to readers to know, that I will always respond to the emails. mike@furches.org

7:53 AM

 
Anonymous JD said...

Hi, I`m from Germany. In terms of my knowledge of the enhlish language I have to say that I`m a little bit out of practice. So I`ll keep this short ;). YOU`RE DOING AN AWESOME JOB HERE!!

5:15 AM

 
Anonymous Aaron said...

If you wanted a movie that was positive, I would recommend "Rent." It doesn't stereotype, judge, or just focuson the gay relationships. It is all about love, though.

'Thought & Humor' by Howdy, I really do not appreciate your spamming of all of the Hollywood Jesus reviews of Brokeback Mountain with your little clever quotes. Quoting the Bible is great, as is expressing your views on a topic. Cutting and pasting a super-long manifesto into a bunch of comment boxes without being willing to say anything is not. That said, the stuff about the study was a little interesting.

2:13 AM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Aaron, thanks for the heads up and truth is I haven't seen the movie Rent although I did see it on Broadway a few years ago. I would love to see it and probably will. I would also add that Thought & Humor would be more than welcome to comment and engage in dialog, but let's keep the discussion amongst people and not cut and pasting. Each review at HJ is with a different twist, so different discussions pertaining to the review would be nice. Thanks again and I'll be looking for the DVD.

4:34 AM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Jd your english is a lot better than my German, thanks for visiting and the kind words.

4:35 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found your site. Your comments encourage me. I am a follower of Christ who struggles as the character Ennis did. I'm not sure why I'm this way, but I know that, so far, God has not changed me, in spite of my begging. I have a wife and children, and I believe that I must be faithful. The disconnectedness and isolation depicted by the Ennis character was so real to me that I have been unable to shake it in the five weeks since I saw the movie. So, in sum, the movie had a profound impact of a not-so-good kind in that I saw myself and now feel pitiable but not pitied, longing to be known but not known or knowable.

11:06 AM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

I just returned from viewing Brokeback Mountain for the second time, this time with my wife. I have to say I was moved more this time for whatever reason. I noticed much of the obvious that I commented on in my initial review, and then some. For example, I didn’t notice the first time that we only see much of the right side of Ennis’s face. This due in large to the fact that Heath Ledger has had his left ear pierced and the pierce holes show up rather easily. Something that was not typical with Cowboys in the 60’s or even for that matter even today. All of the technical things aside I got more out of the story this time.

Truth is, in a lot of ways, Chris is exactly right in his take on the movie. It is a truly sad story that again, moved me several times, especially the end scenes. If doing it over again, I would have given a higher rating than I gave on my initial review. I still think the movie is over hyped and not as good as many proclaim it to be, but it is still nonetheless a quality movie. The cinematography is outstanding and the story of friendship and the need of friendship is powerful. I would go so far as to say that for those that had trouble with it the first time, to watch it again, see if you enjoy the movie and story more the second time. My wife even liked the movie and my daughter loved it. The second viewing gave me more of what I wanted with the first viewing, more of a understanding of people who happen to be gay, and more of a desire to befriend and show them the love that they, as does every human, long for, and need.

Anonymous, I can feel more for the struggle you must be going through. I’ll be praying for you, for the struggle that Ennis went through is a sad and difficult struggle. I wish I had answers for you, I really do, but truth is I don’t. What I can do is state that if you ever want to talk, or express how you are feeling, or maybe even just have someone pray for you, to let me know. Email me at mike@furches.org I keep those contacts confidential and appreciate the fact that God can use me to share his love with someone else, even in the tough times. I’ll also say to one who read the review earlier and emailed me, I accidentally lost the email address of one individual who contacted me. I really did want to respond to you, please email me again, I promise that no matter what I am doing, as soon as I get the email, I’ll respond to you.

4:32 PM

 
Anonymous Oren said...

Wow. First of all please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Oren, I am an Israeli, and subsequently, a jew. I've taken to visiting HJ recently after reading an enlightening review by one of your wise peers, but have'nt until today read any of your reviews.

While viewing Brokeback Mountain it dawned on me that if ever there was a film whose reviews on HJ I'd love to see, this would have to be it, and so I arrived here.

The review aside (I found the film better than you had described, but that is probably because I had no elevated expectations going in...) I was genuinely touched by your responses to the various readers' comments. It is very rare in today's world for a compassionate and understanding voice such as your own to find it's way through the (For the most part.) intollorent and fanatical image of neo-con american christendom.

I wish you and your ministry the greatest of luck and success, and may your light shine brighter than that of those who wish to dim it.

Oren (orengoldschmidt@gmail.com)

2:55 PM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Oren, thanks for the comments, I did think more of the movie after the 2nd viewing. I would even encourage those who struggle with the subject matter to see the movie 2X. I have heard of several who had the same experience. Thanks again, and Blessings.

6:57 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The depth of your review and the understanding of God's love (as opposed to "God's damnation") is something I connect with. I was raised in a loving, Christian home... but I have found that as a lesbian, the Christian community has left me feeling cold and unwanted. I connect very deeply with what you are saying here, but I ask that you cut the movie a little slack. It's one of the first of it's kind. It's opened a few eyes and a few ears, but I will say that expecting a social revolution from one movie is a little much to ask. Otherwise, I agree with you on many point. Especially those in your responses to other commentors. You are perhaps one of the better Christians I have met in recent times. After all, God is love. And if you spread love, your setting a fantastic example for God.

12:28 PM

 
Blogger Jon said...

Mike, you wrote an excellent review.

I too, really didn't like Brokeback that much. I found that it just didn't really go anywhere, and the characters weren't terribly interesting. It's more of an essay on existential angst than it is a love story or "gay film." And I've seen plenty of gay-themed films that are far better, such as Lilies, Latter Days, and Mysterious Skin.

Lastly, I am gay, I am a Christian (of sorts, at least!) and I appreciate the attitude of you, Dave, and all of HJ in building bridges of understanding, and extending the love of Christ.

Jon
My Blog

11:35 PM

 

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