(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, August 10, 2015

10 Years of Brokeback Mountain: A Love That Will Never Grow Old

Artwork by Ellygator


Ten years ago next month, Brokeback Mountain had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival. Based on the acclaimed short story by Annie Proulx, the romantic drama of the secret passion between two ranch hands in rural Wyoming during the 1960s became an iconic, universal depiction of tragic love, gay or straight, and a modern movie classic.

Directed by Ang Lee and featuring heart-breaking, career-making performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, Brokeback was a breakthrough in queer cinema, a "gay movie" (that never uses the word "gay") that was a crossover hit with audiences and a critical darling. It was also a pop culture touchstone, for better or worse. Vaguely homophobic late night talk show jokes about that "gay cowboy movie" and YouTube parody videos of "Brokeback..." versions of other movies were all the tasteless rage for a while after its success. More positively, the film inspired countless coming outs, books and even an opera, and had an influence on the mainstreaming and acceptance of GLBT storytelling in popular entertainment that we are still seeing today.

Artwork by Cataclysm-X

When Awards Season 2005 began, Brokeback Mountain started raking in the gold, from the Independent Spirit Awards to the Golden Globes to the various industry guilds and critics groups. Yes, we all know what happened on Oscar night, but Brokeback did lead the field with ten nominations and won three, including one for director Lee. Looking back at the history of the Academy Awards, one can see that when there was a split between Best Picture and Best Director winners, it is usually the latter that more strongly stands the test of time (for example: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre over Hamlet, The Quiet Man over The Greatest Show on Earth, Giant over Around the World in 80 Days).

Standing the test of time is what the National Film Registry is all about. Established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, the NFR is the United States National Film Preservation Board's selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress. Each year, the NFPB selects 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films", showcasing the "range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation". To date, 650 films, from Casablanca and All About Eve to Midnight Cowboy and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, have been selected for the NFR.

Artwork by thegoldentimes

To be eligible for inclusion in the NFR, a film must be at least ten years old. Which brings us back to Brokeback Mountain. Only six films (Raging Bull, Do the Right Thing, Goodfellas, Toy Story, Fargo and the nature documentary 13 Lakes) have been inducted into the NFR the first year they were eligible, and the ten-year-old Brokeback Mountain should be the seventh... and you can help that happen. The NFPB accepts recommendations from the public for movies to be included in the NFR. Public nominations can play a key role when the Film Board is considering their final selections. For example, the selection of the 1986 basketball drama Hoosiers was attributed to a letter-writing campaign from the citizens of Indiana, where the film was set. If Indiana can do it for Hoosiers, we can do it for Brokeback Mountain.

To nominate Brokeback Mountain, just follow the instructions given on the NFR website here. While you're at it, you can also nominate up to 49 other movies you would like to be considered as well; all the information you will need is at that link.

Or, for a quick way to have your voice heard, just cut and paste this statement, "I would like Brokeback Mountain (2005) to be considered for selection into the National Film Registry.", into an email and send it to with the subject line "NFR 2015".

A decade later, fans are still finding it hard to quit Brokeback Mountain. With its rightful induction into the National Film Registry, it will be preserved and remembered for decades more.

By Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: The Queer Online Database and the Out Movie Guide.

1 comment:

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