best films: #13: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005)
Now it may be rash of me to include such a new release so close to the top 10 of my all-time favorites list, but to me it was one of those sort of surreal moments in my cinema-watching where I knew I was seeing a classic unfold the first time I saw it. Though Brokeback Mountain ended up being totally shafted at the Oscars in 2005, that’s not really what this is about. I could devote a whole other post to the disappointment that was that ceremony. What I’d really like to talk about is the craftsmanship that went into this movie thanks to gifted and so strangely diverse Ang Lee (So… Sense & Sensibility, The Hulk, gay cowboys… natural succession in filmographies right?), screenwriter Larry McMurtry (and of course that minimal though poignant source material courtesy of Annie Proulx’s short story), and that core group of cast members hoisting this movie above your typical western or typical love story. To say the movie is a pleasure to look at is an understatement. Having ventured into the Wyoming countryside many a time, I can vouch that it really is this breathtaking. And thanks to Gustavo Santaolalla’s pitch-perfect score (thank god at least that got its dues from the Golden Guy), this movie is meant to be taken as a traditional western – something that’s hard to achieve in an often cynical modern cinema. And well, it’s easy to see that Heath Ledger is doing his best work here (despite the grandiosity of The Dark Knight, I hesitate to call Ennis del Mar my favorite of his incarnations) as the gruff man of few words whose struggle is so subtle you may miss all that he’s keeping bottled up in that clenched ranch hand jaw of his. We can also thanks this movie for really showing us who the best player from the sudsy TV soap Dawson’s Creek was – Michelle Williams is phenomenal and heartbreaking as doting wife Alma (and let’s be honest – she’s the most memorable and “nasty”-est line).