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How Did Brokeback Lose? Theories Abound

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How Did Brokeback Lose? Theories Abound

by Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press

March 6, 2006 - 7:00 pm ET

(New York City) It was chatted about, joked about, argued about, spoofed. Brokeback Mountain was everywhere in our popular culture - yet it lost the big Oscar it was supposed to win.

Was there a Brokeback backlash? Or was Crash, directed and co-written by Canadian Paul Haggis, just the worthy contender that came on strong in the final best-picture stretch? There were as many theories being offered up Monday as there are Brokeback parodies on the Internet.

One theory was that, despite the hoopla, the endless late-night monologues and the clever imitations, people (Academy voters, that is) didn't really love the soulful saga of two gay cowboys - and perhaps even felt uncomfortable with its themes.

``Sometimes people pretend to like movies more than they actually do,'' said Richard Walter, who heads the screenwriting program at UCLA's film school. ``But this film wasn't really THAT good. What it tried to do was great, sensational. But what it actually accomplished wasn't so great. You can't really buy the love story.''

Film critic Kenneth Turan, writing in the Los Angeles Times, said the problem wasn't with the film's quality. Rather, he said, ``you could not take the pulse of the industry without realizing that this film made people distinctly uncomfortable.''

``In the privacy of the voting booth ... people are free to act out the unspoken fears and unconscious prejudices that they would never breathe to another soul, or likely, acknowledge to themselves. And at least this year, that acting out doomed Brokeback Mountain.''

Gay activists did not necessarily agree.

``I don't think it has anything to do with the subject matter,'' said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest American gay rights group. He noted that Brokeback and Crash both dealt with ``tough issues like indifference and intolerance.''

``I was certainly disappointed,'' Solmonese said. ``But I would trade that Oscar for all the positive conversations that this movie spurred between parents and their gay children, or between employees and their gay co-workers. That impact transcends any accolades.''

Some people focused on the demographics of the typical Academy voter: older, and city-dwelling. Author and Brokeback co-screenwriter Larry McMurtry thought that was key to his film's loss.

``Members of the Academy are mostly urban people,'' McMurtry, who won the adapted screenplay prize with Diana Ossana, said backstage at Sunday night's ceremony. ``We are an urban nation. We are not a rural nation. It's not easy even to get a rural story made.''

McMurtry could have added that not only are Academy voters urban, they are from Los Angeles _ the city that is the heart of Crash, a racial drama depicting the intertwining experiences of an array of characters over 36 hours. The film, featuring a huge and accomplished cast (``Raise your hand if you're NOT in Crash,'' host Jon Stewart quipped to the crowd), also won for original screenplay and film editing.

Brokeback director Ang Lee, who won the directing prize, said he hadn't a clue why the film didn't take the best-picture award. ``They didn't vote for it,'' he said. ``I don't know. You asked me one question, and I don't know the answer.''

But his brother had an opinion. Lee Kang, speaking in Taipei, suggested American bias was involved. ``When the locals are voting, they will have this, whether you call it nationalism or something else,'' he said.

Haggis, for his part, said he hadn't ``for a second'' believed the whispers, which grew louder as Oscar night approached, that Crash had the momentum to overtake Brokeback.

``I didn't believe any of that nonsense,'' he said. ``In fact, we were so shocked. I mean, we're still trying to figure out if we got this.''

Crash came out to mixed reviews in May, considered much too early for a film to stay in voters' minds. But Lionsgate Films reminded voters and critics of the film's potency by flooding them with copies of the DVD late in 2005.

In winning over the heavily favoured Brokeback, the film evoked major upsets of the past, most recently the 1999 triumph of Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan. Another famous underdog champ was Chariots of Fire, which in 1982 beat both Warren Beatty's historical epic Reds and the family story On Golden Pond.

One disturbing difference for the Academy: a lot more viewers tuned in to see those upsets. An estimated 38.8 million people watched Sunday's telecast on ABC _ down eight per cent from last year and the second-worst showing in nearly two decades, according to Nielsen Media Research. Except for the 2003 count of 33 million viewers _ when Chicago took the best-picture award _ viewership hadn't dipped below 40 million since 1987.

So what is to be learned from Sunday night's upset result? Not much, says Walter, the film professor. You just really never know what Academy voters are going to do.

``It's just a crapshoot,'' Walter said. ``You go to Vegas and you put your money on number 17.

``There is NO lesson to be learned from all this. It doesn't mean a thing.''

©365Gay.com 2006

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I can tell you what i think. last year Oscar, most of the winner was out on dvd. that gives the voters the chance to see the movies that were nomanated, the ones that wasn't on video before the Oscars mostly got nothing!

this year only Crash been out on dvd, it was release street date Sept 5 2005, plenty of times for members of the Oscar voter to see the films, none of the rest of the films like Goodnight Good Luck. Brokeback. and the rest are on dvd yet! meaning less chance of the voters seeing the movie

it my theory on this. not alway could be right, but my feeling on it. most of them did not see Brokeback or most of the others movies

which i think there should be a rules, if you vote for a film you should see all of them instead of voting for the only one you seen!. if not. don't vote

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There could be some truth in your theory. I can remember when a movie was usually released to vhs a year after the movies debut to the theater. Over time, this release time became shorter and shorter. And since the release of dvd's, it's even shorter now.

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I know from reading in the past, many voted for movies or actors they knew when they never saw the movie! it could be a good thing if they start releasing movie they hold back until December 25th deadline to be eliglabe for Oscar From around Halloween to Thanksgiving so that they can be release in time for voting, and better movies and actors and actress would wins, instead of voting for friends or hearsay about a movie they never seen, i can understand many of them not getting a chance to see the movies from Christmas to March, like us they don't always have the time to go see them, so releasing them earlier and getting more of a chance would be better than them just voting because of hearsay

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Or even this, any movie released after Thanksgiving would not be eligible to be included in that years voting. But included in the following years list. But the big problem with this would be that people might forget about them by the time voting comes around again.

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I can't say they would forget about them that soon, a few years ago two films got the Oscar nod and they were release as early as February the year before, i Know Fargo was in Feb. Sling Blade was perhaps a couple month later. both were on vhs months before the Oscar

Crash was release by Summer of last year, the only one of the films to not be release by Christmas deadline

and it got mixed reviews, i think had it waited til Christmas and got mixed review it never would had be in the top 5 of the best picture list, just my opinion of course :)

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