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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

After the Oscars

I've met Larry McMurtry and consider it one of my greatest honors that he signed my copy of Lonesome Dove right under: "Merry Christmas, Mom -- we love you," and my sons' names. Gee, I feel like he's part of the family, now! I've been to his book store in Archer City. I love his books, the way he writes women, the way he captures nuance and character.

I've met Diana Ossana. We talked for about half an hour. I had no idea she had any connection with Larry McMurtry at the time, not until later. She was gracious, helpful, gave me career advice and I have often thought about that visit and how I hope someday to have the opportunity to let her know how much I appreciated it. (I also look back at a couple of comments I made, like Lonesome Dove being one of my favorite books, and the look in her eyes as she was trying to figure out whether or not I was brown-nosing. I'm so glad I had no idea at the time.)

I wasn't overly interested in Brokeback Mountain at first. It just sounded depressing and sad, and I was not in the mood to be depressed and sad. But then I figured out who had written the screen adaptation and had to go, and as I've written elsewhere, I was so captivated I ended up having to go back again and take more friends with me.

Seeing Brokeback win awards at the Golden Globes made my night. Finding out how much Diana Ossana had to do with bringing the story to the screen was inspirational, and I was thrilled to see them chalking up awards.

Seeing them win for best screenplay, and seeing Ang Lee win for best director at the Academy Awards was fabulous.

Seeing Crash win for best picture caught me off guard, but I've seen bigger surprises at the Oscars, and I have to admit that I just relished the underdog winning, and let it slide. Yes, I'd wanted Brokeback to win, but I could see how Crash could win. It even occurred to me that with so many strong contenders it could have been a very close vote between three or four films, with Crash edging out the others.

And then I forgot about it.

Until I read Annie Proulx's rant in the Guardian.

I'm appalled. I thought the class was supposed to be in "literature" and Hollywood was supposed to have a corner on the crass. Evidently not.

I will never be the writer she is. I will never win a Pulitzer. And I'm certainly no expert on film, and the jury is still out as to whether I'll ever have any success there. But after sitting on this for several days, I decided to go ahead and respond to it.

I thought her content was abysmally ignorant of film and her attitude was indeed too sour to expose to public scrutiny. And remember, I loved Brokeback Mountain and would have loved it to win.

" (If you are looking for smart judging based on merit, skip the Academy Awards next year and pay attention to the Independent Spirit choices.)"

Excuse me, Ms. Proulx, but the Independent Spirit awards are based on the MERIT of INDEPENDENT FILM. Now, if that's the only merit you believe should be considered, maybe you do think that's the only award to pay attention to, but that's about the equivalent of saying, if you want smart judging pay attention to the Animation category, or the Foreign Feature category. It's one part of the industry, and not the only one deserving of recognition.

"We should have known conservative heffalump academy voters would have rather different ideas of what was stirring contemporary culture."

I'm just guessing here, but I'm thinking that LA-based Academy voters are probably exposed to more racism issues (subtle and overt) than overt prejudice over gay issues, because gays have been more assimilated into the arts than minorities have. And yes, I do know that many Hollywood folks are still in the closet, but it's not because of industry politics, but because of general public perception. And the fact is, a racial minority can rarely be closeted, and will have to deal with racism daily. Am I saying one is worse than the other? No I'm certainnly not, but Ms. Proulx certainly is, by insisting that racism is "yesterday's" issue and the story SHE wrote is the contemporary one. Excuse me? Then she claims they're out of touch with their own segregated city .... um, I'm not sure what she meant by that, but when she called CRASH "Trash," she lost any respect I might have had for her opinion. Has she actually seen it? It was a wonderful film, far more complex and difficult to make work than Brokeback. There are many reasons why it could attract votes that have nothing to do with Hollywood being homophobic. How about, it was filmed in LA, brought work to LA, not Canada? It was filled with stars willing to take non-starring roles to be a part of a story that spoke to them. How about the fact that it didn't have the push and pr rush Brokeback had, yet hung on as a small independent film that would not die...

And so what if DVDs of CRASH were sent to all SAG-members? A member of my family (who is a SAG member) got one here in Dallas. But if they'd sent copies of HERBIE GOES TO VEGAS, does she think those idiot actors would have voted for it over Brokeback?

" But which takes more skill, acting a person who strolled the boulevard a few decades ago and who left behind tapes, film, photographs, voice recordings and friends with strong memories, or the construction of characters from imagination and a few cold words on the page? I don't know. The subject never comes up. Cheers to David Strathairn, Joaquin Phoenix and Hoffman, but what about actors who start in the dark?"

Give me a freaking break. Yes it's damned hard to portray a character that the public has very, very, very real ideas about -- whether it's a real person or beloved characters like Scarlett and Rhett, Harry and Snape. Damn, it's hard when public expectations are sky-high and people are poised and ready to pounce in anger if you not only don't get the emotional content right, but also dont do it the way they wanted to see it -- whether you're portraying Johnny Cash or Truman Capote or June Carter.

I'm assuming she must know of what she speaks when she talks about "cold words on a page." All righty, then! Those must be her cold words she's talking about, because I have to assume from the script that McMurtry's and Ossana's were warmer. As difficult as Ledger and Gyllenhaal's performances were -- and I would have been delighted to see either of them win -- sorry, Annie, but not enough people had read your short story to come in and be thrown out of the story if the guys "got it wrong." They had to reach for deep emotional depths, as did the guys who were portraying real people. They did a superb job, as did the guys who won. The issue isn't that it's harder for Ledger and Gyllenhaal than it is for Phoenix, Hoffman and Straithearn. You could build a case that it's easier IF you believe that this is a valid argument to begin with -- but I don't accept your argument in the first place.

And if you're really believing that the only reason Brokeback didn't win best picture is because of those homophobic heffalumps -- what about Hoffman's Oscar? Wait, maybe they didn't realize Capote was gay. (ahem)

And when you're keeping score? Brokeback's three Oscars include Screenplay and Director -- which puts it head and shoulders above the technical awards for King Kong. To compare their scores like an Olympic medal count is ludicrous.

And finally, how sad that you've diminished the great achievement that is the film, Brokeback Mountain, by treating its recognitions, its awards, its acclaim, its box office, and whatever positive impact it may have had on peoples' lives by acting as if none of it means anything without the Oscar for Best Picture.

My warmest congratulations to all involved with Brokeback Mountain.

And to all those nominated who didn't win, and managed to keep their sour grapes off the record and out of the public eye, and be gracious and generous of spirit in public.

Chalk up another one to the Literary Hall of Shame for novelists who make fools of themselves dissing Hollywood. I guess Anne Rice and Tom Clancy needed company, anyway.

(Diane addresses Proulx's rant from another direction, and as usual, much better than I do!)



At 8:07 PM, Blogger Candace said...

Whoa! Great rant!
Who knew she was such a small person?

At 8:17 PM, Blogger pooks said...

Oh, I think we're all capable of being small but most of us try to refrain from being so small in public! Drunk, maybe? I dunno.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Candace said...

I HOPE you're not referring to the other night when met for dinner after seeing Kinky -- I was only a little TIPSY, I tell you!

At 5:36 PM, Anonymous alexandra said...

That was some rant Darling! ;-)

At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad I stuck with the whole blog entry as I throught this would be praise for Annie (yes, it was apalling wasn't it?)

At 8:51 PM, Blogger pooks said...

I hope she was drunk, and hit "send" before she could think better of it. Because if she did that sober, wow.

Thanks for stopping by!


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