Tuesday, January 17, 2006

response to the Golden Globes, which I didn't watch, on the question of Brokeback Mt, which I still haven't seen

I've been insanely busy: visiting my committee and workshopping my first diss chapter, attending a great series of talks on kissing and early cinema and marxism as a realism, schmoozing with assorted grown-ups academic and otherwise, wearing lots of black for personal and professional reasons, driving, flying, drinking to forget and sleeping in strange beds . . .

So I didn't see any Golden Globes and I still haven't seen Brokeback Mountain but I was moved to respond to EL who recently added I Hate The New Yorker to the blogroll at My Amusement Park. (Thanks!) MAP only allows comments from team members. I'd love to try out for the team, but, barring that, here goes . . .

****

On Golden Globes and Brokeback Mountain, EL who seems to have actually seen the performances in question, writes,

"Okay, 4 for Brokeback. Good. Best Dramatic Picture, Best Director, Best Song, and Best Screenplay. But NO HEATH???

Nominations for all the Desperate Housewives (just because they felt bad about leaving Eva out last year, I guess), but the one non-DH, Mary Louise-Parker from Weeds was the winner. DH won best Comedy, though, upping that queer quotient.Felicity Huffman got lucky on Transamerica and Philip Seymour Hoffman on Capote; in other words, two fine actors were rewarded, as they deserved, but for playing queer, of course. (So, why not HEATH?)
Geena Davis (President Mac Allen) won for Commander in Chief. So, what does it all mean?

1. Hollywood-America has embraced liberal values: feminism, queers, drugs.

2. Hollywood-America still sees performing these liberal values as a particular challenge. (Imagine, a female president: what material does an actor have to work from?)

3. Heath better get an Oscar or people are going to be mad. Including me."

Original Post, with images.

***

Why No Heath, A Response.

I'd argue that Hollywood-America doesn't embrace liberal values, it constructs them . . . in a kind of backwards way.

Practices of sex and gender in Hollywood-America (love this term, btw) are and have been VERY radical throughout the 20th C, maybe not more radical than other everyday practices, but more influential. Hollywood-America's representations of sex and gender have been tempered (read liberal, watered-down) representations for the mainstream of the radical possibilities for sex, gender and power that can and do exist. Read any Hollywood memoir. Or watch Celluloid Closet.

This actually explains WHY there's no Golden Globe for Heath. (Actor plays) queer masculine figure who submits to heterosexist repression and plays straight? Nothing new. Give the Golden Globe to Cary Grant or Rock Hudson or Tom Cruise or George Clooney or you name it . . . all of whom can be understood as queer masculine figures playing (and thereby defining and creating) the straight American hero. Hoffman or Huffman playing (more or less) OUT characters is then a breakthrough.

But the significance of BM may be that extra "(Actor plays)" in the equation: The great thing about BM, then, would be that Hollywood-America reveals its participation in the construction of mainstream masculinity as a performance of repressed queer masculinity . . . and that's a bit more difficult to sell-abrate right now.

Does this make any damn sense? I'm working on it . . . All I'm saying is that we've been taught what masculinity and femininity are by radical queer Hollywood actors, who have been mocking, and playing, straight. And that rocks, but it's nothing new.

The first image accompanies the lines, "Look into my Eyes" as Bette Davis and Geraldine Fitzgerald confront their feelings in Dark Victory (Goulding, 1939). This image ends a scene entirely constructed on the two women NOT looking at one another in poses much like that in the Brokeback Mountain promotional poster- where the two figures are looking down and not at one another in a kind of criss cross position. That would be the second image.


I've commented on this promotional image from Brokeback Mountain before, but I think the image, and film, at least as I saw it, through Anthony Lane's descriptions, are all about repression.


Finally, Dark Victory also features Ronald Reagen (below, center), who later complained, in his autobiography, about having to play this "one of the girls" part too queer, to satisfy Goulding, whom Reagen thought was projecting.






Other notes for EL - Here at this critical juncture we never got into SITC, for one, because we have no cable. For two, because we didn't find it sexy. Not the boys, not the girls, not anybody. My next problem, the un-sexiness of Sex in the City.

And you will all be tickeled by this. EL has links to a blog after my own heart - I Hate Boomers. Love the title, know the feeling.

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2 Comments:

Blogger mzn said...

I'm feeling a bit contrarian today so fasten your seatbelt.

Part of me wants to say that debating who should or shouldn't win these idiotic awards is beneath us but fwiw Hoffman is great in Capote, a movie I found quite uninteresting since it failed to give me a reason to care. All I paid attention to was Hoffman and he was compelling all by himself. Ledger is no better or worse in Brokeback. If his performance were obviously the best and he had been robbed then I would see why we need to look for an explanation, but that's not the case. If anything, because Ledger's performance is understated and Hoffman's is showy, it makes it easier to see what Hoffman is doing as "acting." You might say this proves your point, that Hoffman is acting "gay." But Ledger could have played Ennis in a showy way and still have been playing him straight.

Rereading Lane I am inclined to agree with him to a point. The film isn't really anything like a western. Hats and shirts don't make a film a western. It's really a story of doomed love like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or Brief Encounter. You long for the characters to be together but you know that they cannot. You are right, however, that he misses a good chance to give his criticism more political bite. The film has a strong rhetorical force and his review doesn't seem to have been equal to it.

Sex and the City is funny even if it's not sexy, but it is most appealing as a soap opera, which doesn't need to be either.

And I suppose I should leave this one at My Amusement Park but I'm not really wanna be startin' something. Anyhow, the idea that DH getting an award is "upping that queer quotient" leaves me nonplussed.

11:15 PM  
Blogger zp said...

Counting and keeping a tally of what one identifies and/or defines as queer or feminist is frustratingly reductive, given the complexities of Hollywood performances and industry practices . . . I think I even have a problem with the assumption that we visually identify (with) figures on the screen, ie that IS gay, that IS not, that IS like us, that IS not . . . but somewhere inside this problem is the implication, which I think is still interesting, that film teaches us how to behave, or at least gives us something to work with . . .

1:21 PM  

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