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Brokeback Backlash? Annie Proulx Speaks Her (Very Angry) Mind

Many Hollywood observers were shocked when the 2006 Best Picture Oscar went to Crash rather than to Brokeback Mountain, the tale of two homosexual cowboys. Interestingly, the creative types behind Brokeback sent mixed signals about the movie in the first place. They argued that the movie was about homosexuality, that it wasn’t, and then again that it was.

But, now that the movie failed to win the Best Picture award, Annie Proulx is sure that homophobia can be the only explanation. Writing in The Guardian [London], Proulx, whose short story was adapted for the movie, vents her anger about the Academy Awards process. An over-the-top rant like this says a great deal about Proulx and her understanding of what the movie was all about:

The people connected with Brokeback Mountain, including me, hoped that, having been nominated for eight Academy awards, it would get Best Picture as it had at the funny, lively Independent Spirit awards the day before. (If you are looking for smart judging based on merit, skip the Academy Awards next year and pay attention to the Independent Spirit choices.) We should have known conservative heffalump academy voters would have rather different ideas of what was stirring contemporary culture. Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good. And rumor has it that Lions Gate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of Trash – excuse me – Crash a few weeks before the ballot deadline. Next year we can look to the awards for controversial themes on the punishment of adulterers with a branding iron in the shape of the letter A, runaway slaves, and the debate over free silver.

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The hours sped by on wings of boiler plate. Brokeback‘s first award was to Argentinean Gustavo Santaolalla for the film’s plangent and evocative score. Later came the expected award for screenplay adaptation to Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry, and only a short time later the director’s award to Ang Lee. And that was it, three awards, putting it on equal footing with King Kong. When Jack Nicholson said best picture went to Crash, there was a gasp of shock, and then applause from many – the choice was a hit with the home team since the film is set in Los Angeles. It was a safe pick of “controversial film” for the heffalumps.