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DVD Reviews

HTF Review: Brokeback Mountain



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#1 of 301 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted April 02 2006 - 06:13 AM

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Brokeback Mountain






Title: Brokeback Mountain
Rated: R
Screen format: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Year first released: 2005
DVD released: 4/4/2006
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal
Sound Formats: English & French Dolby Digital 5.1
Length: 2 Hours 15 minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French



Plot: 4/5
In the summer of 1963, sheepherders Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) begin a homosexual relationship that spans their next twenty years. Each struggles to fit this secret affair into their family life, careers and other accomplishments. They battle the stigma society places on this kind of relationship, and ultimately have to deal with their own beliefs regarding this forbidden love.

Action Factor: 2/5
Not surprisingly, the action is very minimal in this film. There are isolated points of activity dealing with the sheepherding lifestyle and a few rodeo scenes, but for the most part this film celebrates the laconic, thoughtful life of simple (and poor) country folk.

Surround sound & music: 2.5/5
The musical score was a good fit for the story: slow, deliberate, and a little haunting. There were very few moments I ever noticed life in the surrounds. One storm scene has some effects in the rears, but even the rodeo scenes lacked much surround activity. Bass performance was likewise minimal, almost nonexistent. The dialogue is notably muddied at times, however this is likely a factor of the southern drawl combined with shy characters rather than any real deficiency in the soundtrack.

Visuals Effects & Video Quality: 3/5
There were no notable effects scenes in this movie, any that were present were well hidden. While the cinematography is breathtaking, the palette of this film is somewhat muted. I feel that the overall look of the movie loses a little impact because of the minimal saturation, but it does match the emotional ‘feel’ of the plot. I did not notice any significant edge enhancement. Grain however is notable in many scenes, especially in the skies, which was sometimes distracting.

Acting: 4/5
Both Ledger and Gyllenhaal hold up admirably dealing with this tough issue, turning in brave performances. Both believably mimic the mannerisms and accents of their characters, which is notable for the fact that Ledger is Australian and Gyllenhaal was born in Los Angeles. Much of their performance is silent, relying on facial expressions to convey sadness, frustration, anger and confusion. The strong supporting cast includes Randy Quaid as their boss Joe Aguirre and a knockout performance by Michelle Williams as Alma Del Mar, the spouse who catches on to Ennis.

Extra Features: 3/5
While not a treasure trove of special features, this “Four Star” collection edition does include 4 solid featurettes. ‘Directing from the Heart’ profiles Lee’s involvement with the progress of this film from short story form to his vision on screen. ‘From Script to Screen’ consists of interviews with script writers Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana on their choices in adapting Annie Proulx’s short story. ‘Sharing the Story’ is a behind the scenes look at the making of the film, including interviews with the cast, crew and producers. ‘On being a cowboy’ looks at the lifestyles of sheepherders and rodeo cowboys, and interviews the experts who trained Ledger and Gyllenhaal in preparation for this film. There are no trailers or commentary tracks on this edition.

Overall: 4/5 (not an average)
Brokeback Mountain wound up taking home three Academy Awards: Best Director for Lee, Best Score for Gustovo Santaolalla, and Best Adapted Screenplay, for McMurtry and Ossana. It was nominated for five more, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Ledger),
Best Supporting Actor (Gyllenhaal), Best Supporting Actress (Williams), and Best Cinematography. It won 60 other awards and was nominated for a further 41.

Despite all of these accolades, it is a hard movie to digest for a lot of viewers, many of whom are not used to confronting its central issue so directly. Brokeback asks its audience to put themselves in the shoes of its characters, and to think about how they would react if they found themselves in love with someone of the same sex. While it celebrates the power of love to overcome so many complications, the somber tone and tragic end of the story echo the grave reality: this is a tough situation to be in and a hard life to lead.

While it is not practical to wonder if this movie would have been quite so successful had it dealt with a different central issue, the temptation is there. The pace and tone of this film are definitely atypical of what works for mainstream audiences. Perhaps its greatest success comes in just getting people talking and thinking about the issues.

Ultimately I was left with mixed feelings on this movie. As a character study it certainly is one of the most honest and compellingly human pictures I have seen. Artistically, the look and tone of film are truly unique and complement the subject matter entirely. In the end, it is not a movie I truly loved and want to see again multiple times, but it is a fine artistic film with a strong message, and gives viewers a lot to think about in their own lives, perhaps even too much.

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#2 of 301 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted April 02 2006 - 11:14 AM

Quote:
gives viewers a lot to think about in their own lives, perhaps even too much.


You had me until that last in the review. I understand people not liking this movie, not understanding it and being afraid of it. But there is no such thing, in my experience, as giving people "too much" to think about. If anything, we need more movies like this that make us think and confront our fears and prejudices rather than the juvenille crap we're force-fed on a regular basis.

#3 of 301 OFFLINE   Arnie G

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Posted April 02 2006 - 11:37 AM

Thanks for the review. Posted Image

I'll be picking this up on Tues. for sure.
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#4 of 301 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted April 02 2006 - 01:09 PM

Quote:
But there is no such thing, in my experience, as giving people "too much" to think about.


You are welcome to that opinion, but I tend to disagree. Its arguable that things like hate crimes exist because people dont want to face the possibility, however minute that they themselves could be gay. On the other hand, I hardly think forcing people to confront the questions head on is fair, or even helpful.

Had this film been the product of another studio I dont know how likely I would have been to go and rent or buy it on my own accord. On one hand I am intrigued by the positive press and mega accolades this film garnered, which are even more impressive given that it was such a small production. On the other, I am comfortable in my straight sexuality and the message this film brings, that erstwhile straight people can and do fall in love with members of the same sex and keep it hidden from family and friends is not something I like to spend too much time thinking about. And there are any number of other issues that confront us today that I dont like to think too much about.

In the end, I probably would have bought the disk, but I am rare in my circle of family and friends in that I simply love movies of all kinds. It will be interesting to see how many of my friends and relatives buy or rent this movie and to compare notes with them. As of right now the only person I know personally who has seen the film hated it, and he is openly gay! =)

Sam

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#5 of 301 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted April 02 2006 - 01:59 PM

Sam,

Obviously we are going to disagree about all this, but I'd argue that there are some times confronting people head on is the only way to get a point across. I'm not a fan of the 2 X 4 by any stretch of the imagination; I don't think BM is that 2 X 4. It's not a gay rights movie, it's not arguing for same sex marriage...it's simply a character study of two people in love who happen to be male.

It's the same thing as if this was a male-female story. The idea that confronting an issue is "bad" or "wrong" doesn't fly with me. The only way to bring things out into the open is to put them out there for people to talk about. When issues are not put into the public consciousness is when we have problems, certainly not when the discussion and debate is there.

My parents are two of those people who would never rent or watch BM because they know it's a "gay" movie. It makes them terribly uncomfortable to even say the word gay, which is very unfortunate because their inability to accept homosexuality as part of the world just like war and religion has prevented me from talking to them since last June. This movie isn't going to change minds but the discussion it starts might.

#6 of 301 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted April 02 2006 - 02:09 PM

On that we totally agree and my review notes that it is the film's strongest point.

Sam

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#7 of 301 OFFLINE   ScottR

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Posted April 02 2006 - 03:05 PM

Brokeback is a hauntingly beautiful film about love and missed opportunities. I am forever changed by it. It spoke to me on so many levels, not the least of which is the lesson that true love is rare and once you get a hold of it, you should never let go. I can't wait to own this and cherish it forever!

#8 of 301 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted April 02 2006 - 03:07 PM

i thought it looked slightly soft.
i also noticed something in the sky that was almost flicker in a few shots.

i didnt notice much EE either but there was something going on that reduced detail except in tight closeups.
the bridge about 15 minutes in had some EE above the support cables. "too early in the summer to be sick of beans."
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#9 of 301 OFFLINE   Vincent_P

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Posted April 02 2006 - 03:14 PM

Am I the only person who has a problem with the fact that this reviewer has a section that rates "VISUAL EFFECTS & VISUAL QUALITY" as one and the same thing? As if visual effects alone are a marking of good visual quality on a DVD release, or on a movie in general? In that case, I guess since the 65mm photographed LAWRENCE OF ARABIA has very few visual effects, in this reviewers mind it must not have good visual quality?

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#10 of 301 OFFLINE   Jeffrey:K

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Posted April 02 2006 - 03:26 PM

Am I the only person who has a problem with the fact that this reviewer has a section that rates "VISUAL EFFECTS & VISUAL QUALITY" as one and the same thing? As if visual effects alone are a marking of good visual quality on a DVD release, or on a movie in general? In that case, I guess since the 65mm photographed LAWRENCE OF ARABIA has very few visual effects, in this reviewers mind it must not have good visual quality?


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#11 of 301 OFFLINE   MattHR

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Posted April 02 2006 - 03:28 PM

Quote:
It's not a gay rights movie, it's not arguing for same sex marriage...it's simply a character study of two people in love who happen to be male.


Which is why the movie connects with so many people on different levels. But the central theme -- one that everyone can relate to -- is summed up in the final scene. The pain of regret -- of opportunities wasted, of words left unsaid -- is a pain we all experience in life. That pain was so beautifully depicted by Ledger in the final scene -- it still haunts me.

Ennis's personal conflict with his homosexuality is nothing compared to the pain he must now endure -- a pain caused, in large part, by this conflict.

A simple message to be learned from the movie is really an old cliche that can never be repeated enough: Live today as there may be no tomorrow. Ennis realized this too late.

#12 of 301 OFFLINE   MattHR

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Posted April 02 2006 - 03:38 PM

Quote:
Am I the only person who has a problem with the fact that this reviewer has a section that rates "VISUAL EFFECTS & VISUAL QUALITY" as one and the same thing? As if visual effects alone are a marking of good visual quality on a DVD release, or on a movie in general?


It's a little known fact that there are several visual effect shots in BM. The producers opted out of the Oscar category for "best visual effects" to retain the illusion. For the "intimate" scenes, Ledger and Gyllenhaal were each shot separately -- then digitally combined in post. They referred to each other as "Jar-Jar Dinks" during the filming of these scenes. Posted Image

#13 of 301 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted April 02 2006 - 03:45 PM

Quote:
Am I the only person who has a problem with the fact that this reviewer has a section that rates "VISUAL EFFECTS & VISUAL QUALITY" as one and the same thing?


Well.....I, was thinking that "Surround Sound" and "Music" are really two completely different things that don't have anything to do with each other.

I would think separate sections on the Video presentation of the film on DVD and Audio presentation of the film on DVD would give you plenty of room to explain your opinions of music, visual effects and anything else that stood out to you during your critical review.

Also, numerical scores for "Action Factor" and "Plot" seem rather out-of-place. 2/5 for a film which "celebrates the laconic, thoughtful life of simple (and poor) country folk" seems kinda silly. OTOH, you gave King Kong only a 4/5 for "Action". While you could work in your opinions on the types of film you are reviewing...numerical scores on categories outside the DVD review itself seem difficult and superfluous.

Sam, you are to be commended for taking on this daunting challenge of writing DVD reviews on the HTF. Posted Image Good luck!

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#14 of 301 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted April 02 2006 - 05:10 PM

Yeah, those categories work well for more action oriented movies but not so well in this case. Each of our reviewers has a slightly different angle they play the categorization in, and mine is still evolving. Will go back over some of the other more recent reviews and give this some work.

I live in fear that you guys will get used to Mr. Boulets work on the Narnia writeup and demand that level of output on every review =)

Quote:
The pain of regret -- of opportunities wasted, of words left unsaid -- is a pain we all experience in life. That pain was so beautifully depicted by Ledger in the final scene -- it still haunts me.


Very true and well said. I wasnt as emotionally affected by it as you were but you are correct, this element is universal and something viewers of all walks of life can chew on.

As for softness and flicker, I can't really agree. The closeups especially looked plenty sharp on my screen. Did see some noise in the skies, maybe thats what you saw as flicker?

Thanks for the kind words, its been an adventure so far. I'm pretty thick skinned and I know this is a somewhat polarizing movie so I expect there to be some... interesting... back and forth on it! As it turns out I am not as enamored with this film as many others are, and thats fine. I will give my opinion on what I think works and what didn't and readers can either agree or disagree and note why. Perhaps we can all learn something new and learn to see a little differently.

Sam

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#15 of 301 OFFLINE   MattHR

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Posted April 02 2006 - 05:23 PM

Sam-

You'd be wise to interpret the criticisms as "suggestions." We here at HTF can be a pretty brutal bunch -- without even realizing it. Your "thick skin" will come in handy.

Guys: Give him a break. He's still a bit "wet behind the ears." And he's right to "live in fear" -- they are big shoes to fill. Not that he needs any more pressure... Posted Image

Relax and you'll be fine. Posted Image

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#16 of 301 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted April 02 2006 - 11:46 PM

Abdolutely Matt, but when the criticisms are valid and I can give them thought and make changes where they are due, I'm not feeling pressured at all, I'm loving the feedback. My comment about living in fear was mostly in jest, tho my fellow reviewers have set high standards and I will endeavor to meet them.

Sam

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#17 of 301 OFFLINE   Shawn.F

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Posted April 02 2006 - 11:49 PM

I predict a 2-discer by Christmas on this film. For a film this popular, those extras are pretty weak.

#18 of 301 OFFLINE   DeeF

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Posted April 03 2006 - 03:09 AM

Anybody who has this DVD, does the cover actually look like the picture posted above?

#19 of 301 OFFLINE   Juan C

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Posted April 03 2006 - 03:52 AM

The Canadian cover is much better, without that silly frame:

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#20 of 301 OFFLINE   DeeF

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Posted April 03 2006 - 04:12 AM

My copy doesn't have a frame at all. It looks like that cover, but without the white borders and the big mention of 3WinnerAcademyAwards at the top.