Thursday, February 16, 2006

"Brokeback": $106m Global Receipts; Congress Reacts

The gay cowboy movie "Brokeback Mountain" continues to rake in the buck at the box office. According to its earned more than $106 million in domestic and worldwide release so far.

If that kind of money isn't enough to persuade Hollywood to make more gay-themed movies for both the gay community and other moviegoers, nothing will.

"Brokeback" is also a topic of concern for Capital Hill's two newspapers, Roll Call and The Hill. Roll Call teases on its web site with this bit of news:

Brokeback Resolution
By Mary Ann Akers
February 16, 2006

> They swear it has nothing to do with “Brokeback Mountain,” but a group of Senators, mostly from cowboy country, has introduced a resolution designating July 22, as “National Day of the American Cowboy.”

If you subscribe to Roll Call, you can read the full article here.

Those intrepid folks at The Hill found a Congressional angle to the movie. Honestly, before reading this article, I had no idea "Brokeback" had any connection at all to Congress, and I'm sure glad The Hill found a way to write about this Oscar-contender. Some excerpts:

> The question “Have you seen ‘Brokeback Mountain’?” is enough to send members of Congress running in the other direction and their spokespeople into a frenzy of excuses about why their bosses have no answer. [...]

> Lawmakers often decline to speak on subjects, and that’s often telling. Of 14 congressional Republicans’ offices called for this story, only three would comment. [...]

> Those in places such as Utah, Texas and Virginia, however, tended to shy away from the movie that has grossed scores of millions of dollars and earned eight Oscar nominations — more than any other this year.

> A spokesman for Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said his boss has not seen the movie and “probably won’t go there,” as far as commenting the movie’s effect on politics. [...]

> The politics surrounding “Brokeback Mountain” are complicated for some lawmakers. Talk about it and risk alienating voters. Don’t talk about it and risk appearing insensitive.

> The movie has not only been seen as normalizing elements of gay life but also has created a new term for it. The term “brokeback” is now synonymous with “gay” and is often used in a derogatory way. The film has also been fodder for countless gay-cowboy jokes among late-night comedians. [...]

> Later that week, a reporter asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) if she had seen the movie. She claimed to have tried to see the movie five times, but each time that she went to a theater in her heavily gay San Francisco district it was sold out. According to a staffer, Pelosi has not had time to see the movie since then because of the State of the Union and other scheduling conflicts.

> Rep. Barney Frank (D -Mass.), one of two openly gay House members, would not say whether he had seen the movie. He said he does not discuss what films he attends or what restaurants he frequents. Nonetheless, he said the movie has had a strong political impact because it “demystifies how gay couples behave.” The beginning shows a “healthy gay couple” that is later confronted with “very difficult real-life issues.”

> Most conservative members whose offices were called for comment on this story did not respond. They include House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), among others. Many more liberal offices were willing to respond. [...]

> This is not the first film to reverberate so strongly in the political world. Jack Pitney, a professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College, says movies have influenced politics since 1915. Pitney points out that when Woodrow Wilson hosted the very first White House screening, he chose “The Birth of a Nation,” which celebrates the Ku Klux Klan.

> “The film served as a recruiting device for the second version of the clan,” Pitney said. “It also mobilized the NAACP to protest.”

> “Brokeback Mountain” has not yet mobilized troops for a culture war, but a politician’s reaction to the movie is one way for voters to determine in which foxhole a politician lies.

Nice balanced and informative story, wouldn't you say? A few aspects surprised me though.

First, I can't believe Pelosi and her staff couldn't find a way to secure her a ticket to the movie in her own San Francisco district. I'd think after the first time or two of going to the box office and finding it sold out, someone on Pelosi's staff might have thought to buy an advance ticket for her. Or maybe ask the theater manager to hold a seat for the congresswoman, or perhaps buy a ticket online?

Second, I think this is one time when Barney Frank can break his rule about not discussing movies. C'mon Barney. You weigh in on practically every other gay social and political matter. Tell the reporter if you've seen this flick and what you thought of it.

And last but not least, openly gay GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona has more of a link to the film and its setting than Frank, from urban Massachusetts, so, yes, I think he should also have a comment on "Brokeback" and if he's seen it. I wonder if The Hill tried to reach Kolbe or if his office had nothing to say.

Now, on to the Oscars for our gay cowboys!

-- UPDATE --

A friend in DC just sent me the full article from Roll Call. Here are some selections from the story:

> “This has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘Brokeback Mountain,’” Jude McCartin, spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), told HOH, adding, “as it was first introduced last year long before this movie was on anyone’s radar.” (Or gaydar, as the case may be.) [...]

> The chief sponsor of the resolution, Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), said in a radio interview Wednesday that “cowboys are highlighted in movies and have been for some time, but cowboys and cowgirls helped establish the American West.” No word on whether he saw the movie either. Thomas’s spokesman, Cameron Hardy, said Thomas sponsored the resolution last year “before the movie and again this year.” [...]

> And no, Snepp said, the Senator has not seen the gay cowboy flick. “The only Oscar nominated movie Sen. Allen has seen this year is ‘Walk the Line,’ which he greatly enjoyed while annoying his family by singing along to all of Johnny Cash’s great songs.”

> As for co-sponsor Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), well, he is always a co-sponsor, his spokesman said. “July 20 is his birthday,” spokesman Dan Whiting said. “Of course, that is just coincidence, I am sure.” [...]

> A spokeswoman for Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Elly Pickett, gave a very serious and thorough explanation of how Wyoming has played a critical role in establishing a national day to observe cowboys. She added, “Sen. Enzi has not seen the movie.” [...]

> Aides to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), another co-sponsor, also didn’t want to go there. The normally chatty Reid spokeswoman Rebecca Kirszner said only, “The American cowboy is part of Nevada’s history.”

> So there you have it: On a bipartisan basis, none of these cowboys in the Senate will broach the “Brokeback Mountain” issue. Maybe Willie Nelson made them nervous by releasing on iTunes on Tuesday the gay cowboy song “Cowboys are Frequently, Secretly (Fond of Each Other),” which was originally written in the 1980s.

Gosh, pardner. All this yakking in DC gives me a hankerin' to catch the flick agin!

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