In New York City's Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.
Philip Seymour Hoffman,
Clifton Collins Jr.,
The story of the life and career of the legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles, from his humble beginnings in the South, where he went blind at age seven, to his meteoric rise to stardom during the 1950s and 1960s.
Biopic of the iconic French singer Édith Piaf. Raised by her grandmother in a brothel, she was discovered while singing on a street corner at the age of 19. Despite her success, Piaf's life was filled with tragedy.
Two young men, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, meet when they get a job as sheep herders on Brokeback Mountain. They are at first strangers, then they become friends. Throughout the weeks, they grow closer as they learn more about each other. One night, after some heavy drinking, they find a deeper connection. They then indulge in a blissful romance for the rest of the summer. Unable to deal with their feelings for each other, they part ways at the end of the summer. Four years go by, and they each settle down, Ennis in Wyoming with his wife and two girls, and Jack in Texas with his wife and son. Still longing for each other, they meet back up, and are faced with the fact that they need each other. They undeniably need each other, and unsure of what to do, they start a series of "fishing trips", in order to spend time together. The relationship struggles on for years until tragedy strikes. Written by
Ang Lee's devastatingly beautiful "Brokeback Mountain" is a magnificent achievement. Early in production, the film was dubbed "the gay cowboy movie." The term is a tragic simplification of what is actually an exquisite love story, gay or straight. "Brokeback" is quickly shedding its nickname and breaking down barriers as more and more people actually see it and succumb to its beauty and heartache.
The film is small in budget, but epic in scale and vision. It begins in Wyoming in 1963. Nineteen-year-olds Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) have been assigned a flock of sheep to guard on Brokeback Mountain. Ennis is a taciturn ranch hand who in one conversation with Jack says more than he has in an entire year. Jack, a part-time bull rider, is the more extroverted of the two. They make an unlikely pair, but Lee handles the developing relationship with great tact so as to make sure it is believable.
One night, after a long evening of drinking, Jack and Ennis surprise themselves by having sex. The scene is an awkward experience not only for the characters, but for the audience watching them as well. Had the sex been between a man and a woman, the scene might not have been given a second thought. The fact that it breaks from tradition, presenting a so-called "forbidden love" unabashedly up-close and intimate, is part of what makes the film such a cinematic landmark. "This is a one shot thing we got going' here," says Ennis the next day. "You know I ain't no queer." "Me neither," replies Jack. Quite the opposite is true, however. That fateful night on the mountainside sets into motion a tumultuous romance that will span two decades.
After their summer on Brokeback, both men eventually marry and have children. Ennis finds a loving and devoted wife in Alma (Michelle Williams). Jack meets a real live-wire in Lureen (Anne Hathaway), whose father owns an expensive farm equipment business in Texas. One day a postcard arrives for Ennis postmarked Jack Twist. It is the first word he has heard from him in over four years. The two reunite in a tryst of wild passion, and are once again caught up in what they thought they had left behind on Brokeback Mountain.
As the years pass, Ennis and Jack meet only for the occasional "fishing trip." During one of these trips, Jack suggests he and Ennis buy a ranch together somewhere in the country. Ennis dismisses the idea as a fantasy. "Bottom line is, we're around each other and this thing grabs hold of us, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and we're dead." Ennis recounts a childhood memory of a man who was tortured and killed because he lived with another man. His father made sure he saw the body.
The rest of the story I will not reveal because some events are better left to be experienced in the theater where their power can be fully absorbed and appreciated.
"Brokeback Mountain" would not work half as well as it does if it were not for the multitude of fine performances throughout. The women are uniformly excellent. Michelle Williams, a long way from her days on "Dawson's Creek," gives a performance of somber perfection. One scene in particular in which she confronts Ennis about his fishing trips is almost enough to guarantee her a nomination come Oscar time. Anne Hathaway, best known from Disney's "The Princess Diaries" films, shines as well. The extremely talented but often overlooked Randy Quaid, Linda Cardellini, and Anna Farris each have brief but memorable roles that, despite their brevity, are integral parts of the story. Jake Gyllenhaal caps off a great year with his superbly nuanced performance as Jack, a doe-eyed optimist who grows tired of only being able to see Ennis two or three times a year. As Ennis, Heath Ledger delivers the performance of a lifetime. Ennis is a man of few words, but when he does speak, it is as if the words are literally punching to get out. Ledger proves that sometimes less is more as he uses his body to express things that words alone never could. Ledger is, in a word, brilliant.
Screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana deserve recognition for adapting the eleven-page short story by Annie Proulx into a two-and-a-quarter hour film. Dialogue in the film is sparse, but it only serves to make each word uttered that much more important. When Ennis says, "If you can't fix it, you've got to stand it," our hearts break because we know there is nothing that should need to be fixed.
In addition to being one of the most compellingly acted and written films of the year, "Brokeback Mountain" is the most stunningly photographed. The tagline, "love is a force of nature," fits it perfectly. Ang Lee and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto use every opportunity they have to connect the power and beauty of nature (lakes, streams, clouds, rain, snow, hail, thunder, etc.) to the most raw and complex of human emotions. Brokeback Mountain itself is a symbol of freedom for Jack and Ennis. It is the only place they can go to truly love, and be loved, with no restraints.
"Brokeback Mountain" is a film of limitless possibilities. Its true power lies within its ability to linger and haunt long after the final credits have rolled. It forces us, as any good film should, to ask questions, questions about the world and ourselves. As I sat and watched "Brokeback" I couldn't help but wonder what life might have been like for Ennis and Jack had they found each other today. Would their fates be any different? I would like to think so.
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