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« My Alito Nightmare | Main | Too mush of a mushness »


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Well, I'm not going to try to talk you into seeing the movie or not. But without giving away too much of the story, here is what I took from it:

Ambiguity: there are real moments of affection and connection between the men and their wives-- Ang Lee does not take the 'easy' way out there, or at least not entirely. And there are more facets to and issues in both marriages than just fidelity/attraction.

Systematic critique: I've read that Ang Lee specializes in movies where characters are in love but for some external reason are unable to realize it, all set amid sumptuous beauty. Certainly this film continues that tradition, but it has something to say, too. To me the central point of the film is that the societal imperative to police homosexuality ensures that *everyone* pays a price for that-- not just Ennis and Jack, but their parents, wives, kids, and everyone else they encounter.

Class: being dirt-poor and desperate to keep your job makes all these issues much more difficult. It's one thing to consider throwing caution to the wind when you know where your next meal is coming from, but desperation breeds caution and the habit of desperation ultimately limits imagination. There's a line toward the end where Ennis tells Jack, "you forgot what it's like to be broke all the time." (or something to that effect). Class percolates through the main characters' lives in various and important ways.

I didn't actually come away from the film with any sense of its being mushy, but that could just be me.


Lance, Lance. This is mush. Brokeback Mountain is not mush.

YMMV, especially since I haven't seen the movie.


Tristan and Isolde is probably not mush either, but is more likely crap.

As for love being a force of nature... I think sex is a force of nature and then sometimes love develops after the fact. I suppose love for ones child could be considered a force of nature.

I do want to go see Brokeback Mountain, mushy or not. From what I've heard though it is not mush and probably shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as Tristan and Isolde.

As for marriage- for the majority of history, marriage had nothing to do with love. The lucky ones had love or grew into love, but for the majority, it was a deal plain and simple.

Cryptic Ned

I agree with your post almost entirely -- but please don't use the advertising tagline as being representative of the movie's theme. Go to your local video store, and the majority of the interesting movies will have seemingly randomly chosen, meaningless phrases on the front of the box.

On the box for Welcome To The Dollhouse, it says "Not all girls want to play with dolls." On the box for The Royal Tenenbaums, it says "Family isn't a word. It's a sentence." These aren't among my favorite movies, but it gives you an idea of how intentionally misleading these marketing things are. Pay no attention to them at all.


OK, I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet, so I can't defend it, though I'm *betting* it's more complicated than mush. But, while I'll certainly agree that Tristan and Isolde looks like irretrievable tripe, the thing that's always interested me about stories like that and Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, etc., etc., is their underlying negativity about the nature of love. Sure, R&J get transformed by it ... and then they DIE. I don't see that love is so much "the answer" in those stories as it is a recipe for personal and social disaster. Maybe a disaster that people can learn from and move beyond, but a disaster neverthless. Now, when I was an 8th grade girl responding to those stories, sure, I fell for the "romance" hook, line and sinker. But it wasn't too long after that that I realized how completely screwed up that kind of love was - and how even the authors of those stories aren't necessarily holding it up as some kind of great state. Willy Shakes, in particular, frames R&J as kind of silly, impetuous adolescents, not exactly role models. And I think the *good* movies that deal with all-consuming love do it that way. Of course, then there are the Titanics ...

Exiled in NJ

Lance, you are a man after my own heart. Surely like me, you've fled the room when someone slips The Notebook into the DVD. I can feel you cringe when the problems of Capt Smith and the White Star Line don't mean a hill of beans compared to Leo from the third deck and Kate from uber-class.

Pam's watching Affair to Remember right now while she ices her knee. While I prefer the original with Boyer and Dunne, both were made back when people could write scripts. Ger thee to Two For the Road, the best treatise on romance ever made.

Anyway, to get on topic, I read Wyoming Stories when it first was in print. Funny but I thought the first of the book, the one about the man driving cross country because his brother was near death, was the most apt to be filmed, and until the Brokeback furor happened, was the only one I remembered. Shows you what I know.


Lance- having just been out I noticed that it is barely February and hearts are up on windows in abundance. One house even had one of those huge lit-up hearts in the front yard. It made me wonder, are you really bringing up your anti-mush stance again for conversation or are you bringing up how much you hate mush so you can pave the way for mush-avoidance on Feb. 14th? Love baby!!! 'Tis the reason for the greeting card season!


Well, I'm glad at least one other person isn't going to see it, and not because of Teh Gay.

In my case, I know I wouldn't be able to take off my Western History Professor's Hat and would spend the whole damn time obsessing about the ways it did or did not do a good job depicting the complexities of Western history, and whether it should be something to include in any future classes on the subject. I don't need that kind of agro!

I'm with you on the mush. Mush is okay, but it's like double-chocolate fudge -- there's only so much a person can handle at one go.


Romances contain a modicum of comedy, farce, or suspense as you well know. Mush is devoid of such. Love Story is mush. Philadelphia Story is romance (farce). Casablanca is romance (suspense). In fact even certain good stories, if properly viewed, are mush, rather than romance. Henry and June for example. Lots of conflict, but basically mush.
I have not seen reports of comedy, farce or suspense in Brokeback Mountain and agree with your impression.


I've often wondered if the "love" portrayed by the media poisons the expectations some people have and actually prevents healthy relationships from developing over time. I know people whose greatest loves, like fish, are the ones who get away and so they go from one to the next trying to land that big fish but never stopping. Maybe a healtheir thing would be a movie that portrayed love as a priviledge. Watch elderly couples if you want to see poignant love; they experience each day together their time left with each other is growing very short.

blue girl

You just crack me up with this mush bidness. And I'm not even sure what your definition of mush is. Is it the same as Mudge's?

Is "The Notebook" mush in your opinion, too? Please give me some concrete examples of what you think of as mush so I can better understand.

And also -- tsk. tsk. tsk.

No one, no one! who considers "Annie Hall" one of their favorites -- would ever, evah! say they also liked "When Harry Met Sally."

Total Annie Hall rip-off (even though I've watch it a gazillion times) of all time!!

Oh. And thanks for the Jerry/Kramer dialogue. I can just hear 'em sayin' it.


David W.

Proving Brokeback Mountain isn't romantic mush to someone who has

"You can't make policemen take the romantic view."

as his very own tagline is a sucker's bet!


I seen it, Lance.

It's mush... and Heath Ledger can't do a Western accent so he constricts his mouth and mumbles his lines.

You seen the latest Cronenberg film?

That ain't mush.


And I'm not anti-romance either, not even at the movies. My favorite movies include Casablanca . . .

OK Lance, I'm throwing down the gauntlet. One day you are going to have to post and explain to me why Casablanca is not one of the most over-rated films ever made.

Even when I ignore the over-quoted cliche lines (admittedly not Casablanca's fault there) There is still just a thin story line that has never held my attention. I've seen it a few times - mostly at the behest of girls I was trying to get into the sack. And I just don't get the allure. The acting is good, but not stellar and the characters don't have any chemestry. Even Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in Romeo and Juliet had more chemestry (or it might be just that I'm a sucker for iambic pentameter)

Every fell free to flame me, but I will not budge from this position. (And just to fan the flames I will also add the Groucho Marx was the least funny Marx brother . . . including Zeppo)


Every fell free to flame me

D'oh, that should read "everyone feel free to flame me"

harry near indy

Great insight, Mudge! Good romances usually have some sort of comedy in them, iirc.

Kit Stolz

I'm with blue girl: You haven't given us your definition of mush. Plus, you claim "Sleepless in Seattle" isn't mushy. Nor, for that matter, "Casablanca." (Why, because the lovers didn't get together in the end? Then "Brokeback Mountain isn't mushy either.)

Thin ice, my friend.


Poor Isolde and Tristan, worn down to smooth pretty nubbins with a crummy guitar ballad. Who is this thing meant for (I am guessing middle-school girls)?

The compelling thing about that story (as with a lot of the romances in the Arthurian cycle), is that the principals are, from the start, powerful individuals (Isolde a sorceress, Tristan a great knight and champion) and powerful antagonists. In the Wagner version, she loves/hates him so much she's gonna kill him on that boat rather than face an arranged marriage. But, wouldn't you know it, things go awry and they drink the Real poison - the Love Drink - and then everything goes to hell. These kids in this movie, OTOH, look like they met at the Gas 'n' Sip. Grand passions, no. Mush, yes. That's a tragedy.

However, I have to fess up to my own mushy guilty pleasures. For some reason, I have a soft spot for Sayonara - maybe it's the very funny parts of the Brando character, maybe it's the earnest Japanophilia of Josh Logan, or the camp value of Ricardo Montalban playing a star of Kabuki - I still find it ripe and irresistible.

But, then, the Puccini that turns on the faucets for me is "Girl of the Golden West" - I'm not even sure why, but it gets me every time. Doesn't even have sustained tunes, just a never-ending yearning. I'm such a sucker! :-)


I'm glad I'm not the only one. I probably won't see it for the same reasons, which are the same reasons I loathe Nicholas Sparks with a white hot passion.

What is this Tristan and Isolde? Is there a new movie I haven't heard of?

Kevin Wolf

Lance, I agree with you too. Despite all the glowing reviews and now the Oscar buzz it just doesn't look like my kind of flick. I did see one review, in the Boston Phoenix, that seemed to confirm your/our view.


you ask for no plot-give aways, so i can only tell you that the way that each character responds to the brick wall of homophobia leads to desolation and violence.

also, that awful "force of nature" line is a
rebuttal to that clinging prejudice that
homosexuality is a choice and therefore an abomination against god and against nature.
a pretty neat trick, given the consraints of
marketing hackery.

give the movie a chance, lance. you're missing something important.

Exiled in NJ

Hitchcock's Maguffin theory explains so vividly what makes a good romance. It happens almost surreptitously, while we the viewers are watching the chase. From 39 Steps to North by Northwest, no one did it better.

Right now, Nick and Nora are doing their romantic thing on TCM; no tinkling piano, no hushed music, just a great couple in love with each other.

Chris Clarke

Dammit, now I want to read Rana's review of the movie.

As for this:

it leads to pairs of fortysomethings talking baby talk to matched sets of schipperkes.

I'd like to hear what your friend would propose as a way of spending time that is more worthwhile than talking to one's dog. Aside from, you know, being self-consciously transgressive.

But mush. I hear you. Why is it so hard to just let the audience feel what they want to without layering goop all over the script? Would it reallly have been so hard for, say, Peter Jackson to just pick ONE mushy ending for Lord Of The Rings instead of twelve in succcession?


Well, Chris, like I said, my friend has issues. I sure miss having my dog to talk to.

Not in baby talk though.

You raised a good point there with LOTR ROTK, besides the fact that the movie was over when everybody jumped on Frodo's bed. Maybe Jackson kept going because he knew that ending was mushy. But why he didn't stop with the crowd cheering the hobbits, I don't know. If he was going to take them past that he might as well have done the whole Scouring of the Shire. But I digress.

The point is that mush isn't just a quality related to the movie's treatment of love and sex. There are movies out there in which the least mushy things about them are the love scenes. I'll think of some for my post defining mush.

Rana, I think it's now incumbant upon you to go see the movie and review it, western history professor baggage included.


Have to agree with daveminnj. Can a movie so unrelentingly steeped in pain be called mush? You have the wrong idea about Brokeback, Lance. It's about surviving unallowed desire, whether by suppressing it or secretly pursuing it, and trust me that neither of these options leads anywhere pretty. It's really the opposite of mush.

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