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“Brokeback” Breaks: Why All the Fuss?

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By Andrea Meyer
IFC News

What is left to say about Brokeback Mountain? The so-called “Gay Cowboy Movie” is a shoe-in for the most hyped movie of the year award, spurring the kind of commotion that makes studio publicity departments salivate.

Besides nabbing the cover of every rag in the country, evidence of the craze includes Oscar buzz surrounding Heath Ledger, Ang Lee, Michelle Williams and the movie itself. Cyber-discussions about “the year’s most daring love story” have apparently reached new levels of anticipatory hysteria, largely based on an epic trailer. And the conservative contingent has chimed in, with angry Wyomingans declaring there’s no such thing as a gay cowboy. But we all know a little controversy never hurts at the box office — or as producer and co-president of Focus Features James Schamus puts it, “It’s a Focus movie if someone out there hates it before we’ve even made the movie.”

With all the bantering, bickering and blogging, the burning question begging to be asked is: What’s the big deal?

As we all know by now, Ang Lee’s epic love story charts the 20-year romance between Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), a couple of Marlboro men hired to wrangle sheep on a desolate hillside in Wyoming. What starts as friendship built swigging whiskey around a campfire shifts when they share a tent on a cold night and find themselves having confusing sex that eventually leads to what neither man would ever refer to as falling in love. The feelings that overwhelm Ennis and Jack materialize in spite of themselves, in spite of their intention to live normal, wife-and-kid kind of lives, in spite of a society that cannot accept their bond.

Their tale is tragic and not that unusual. It is romantic, heartbreaking, complex and sweet. The movie’s not daring. It’s a big, beautiful weepie about lovers — soulmates even — whose passion never fades even as their union is thwarted by forces beyond their control. It’s Romeo and Juliet, for God’s sake, only both star-crossed sweethearts are guys. At a recent junket, Ledger, who calls his character, “a homophobic man in love with another man,” said, “I think daring and brave is what the firefighters are when they’re putting out a fire. We’re just telling a love story.”

Ledger doesn’t believe there’s anything especially risky about “Brokeback Mountain.” “I never thought I had anything at stake,” he says. “I feel pretty safe. I was always okay with the subject. For me it was an opportunity to work with such brilliant material, a brilliant director and such an interesting, complex character, and it was a story that hadn’t been told. It was a story that has never made it to screen.”

Maybe that’s what has sparked all the hubbub. “Brokeback Mountain” is that rarity in Hollywood: a story that has never been told. When co-screenwriter Larry McMurtry, who is also the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Lonesome Dove,” first read Annie Proulx’s gut-wrenching short story on which the film is based, he said he “felt a little frisson of ‘why didn’t I write this’? It’s been there my whole life and Annie wrote it and I didn’t.” Fresh stories are like buried treasure in Hollywood, something we might discover in the wild mind of Charlie Kaufman, but rarely in a genre as firmly entrenched in its conventions as the Western. It’s the kind of precious jewel that deserves Oscar talk, Internet hysterics, and a dose of conservative backlash just to whip up the box office numbers.

“I refuse to see portraying homosexual love as daring,” said Anne Hathaway, the princess of tween flicks who plays Gyllenhaal’s wife, who has her own take on the hype. “It’s daring because it’s very rare to find a Hollywood love story that’s honest. That is daring.”

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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