Why *Brokeback Mountain* did not win Best Picture

by on March 6, 2006 at 7:45 am in Film | Permalink

Let's see how few words I can explain it in...

Hollywood controls system, not fixed but rigged to favor picture with greatest elasticity of profits with respect to favorable publicity.  Too many people won’t see BBM, plus fear that Hollywood looks out of touch, Crash!

1 joshg March 6, 2006 at 7:56 am

Crah was terrible.

2 scott cunningham March 6, 2006 at 8:16 am

I don’t know why all the reports are noting an upset because Crash beat Broekback Mt. for Best Picture. The Best Picture was very crowded with excellent films, and many critics favored Crash over Brokeback even before last night. For instance, Roger Ebert listed it as his third favorite film of the year (Crash being #1).

As for the other categories, Philip Seymour Hoffman deserved Best Actor many times over Heath Ledger, even though Ledger was outstanding. Hoffman is showing himself to be the greatest character actor of my generation (gen X), and the Capote character was much more complex a part than Ennis. It covered much of the same repressive self-hatred, but had humor and sparkling brilliance, while Ennis was a more monotone character. I don’t think any other actor could’ve hit Capote like Hoffman did. He’s a chameleon.

I would’ve preferred Michelle Williams over Rachel Weisz for Best Supporting Actress, as her performance was brilliant and tragic. But no one can say Jake Gyllenhal deserved to win over Clooney. Ang Lee rightly won for Best Director, as he was the genius behind making Brokeback so great. But to say that Brokeback lost for reasons unrelated to Crash’s artistic merits is silly (to me). Crash was phenomenal.

The only upset I saw was Batman Begins being completely overlooked for Best Director or Best PIcture nominations, but that’s just me.

3 Ted March 6, 2006 at 8:43 am

That more people saw BBM than Crash doesn’t change the relative elasticity of demand for the two movies.

I think Crash won because of its innovative Oscar-marketing campaign, which was to send millions of dollars of free stuff to the mass of Oscar voters who aren’t used to getting nice free stuff. In a year without a clearly dominant picture, and with first-past-the-post voting, this was enough to win it. An economist would further note that it’s the picture with the highest elasticity that can afford to spend the most on this sort of marketing campaign, so Tyler’s right in a way, but is leaving out the intermediate step.

4 scott cunningham March 6, 2006 at 9:25 am

Okay, that’s true. My point about profits isn’t relevant to Cowen’s argument. But, why would the future profits, and the respective elasticities of a movie, be a criteria voters use at all? Aren’t votes for Best Picture cast by all members of the Academy – actresses, screenwriters, directors, etc.? Why would they care about the profits that Lions Gate will get from a win? It’s such a decentralized process that I can’t believe that argument is credible.

Ted’s argument that the voters were paid off, more or less, is more realistic, but how is that an intermediate step in Cowen’s point? (apologies if it’s obvious).

5 joshg March 6, 2006 at 10:05 am

Wait voters can relate to modern day LA, can not relate to 1960s Wyoming, can relate to Elizabethan England?

6 Tyler Cowen March 6, 2006 at 10:14 am

Note that many voters have a stake in the result, or they are friends of people who have a stake in the result. Apply Gary Becker’s model of pressure group influence, and you get a value-maximizing result. It would be easy for the Academy to set up a group of 20 stern critics who vote only on merit, but they don’t. Ask yourself why not.

7 Ted Craig March 6, 2006 at 11:16 am

Wait voters can relate to modern day LA, can not relate to 1960s Wyoming, can relate to Elizabethan England?

Have you seen Shakespeare in Love? Elizabethan England was a stand-in for Hollywood.

8 Chris Bolts March 6, 2006 at 1:44 pm

I didn’t see any of the films and I only saw the last five minutes of the
Oscars. Seeing Crash win didn’t come as much of a surprise because, as
Tyler pointed out, Hollywood is still a very conservative town and top
honors given to a homosexual film is still taboo.

9 tylers March 6, 2006 at 2:10 pm

Wait voters can relate to modern day LA, can not relate to 1960s Wyoming, can relate to Elizabethan England?

Yes. Did you see “Shakespeare”? My first comment upon leaving the theater was “I’ve never seen a picture so thoroughly pitched at the ‘Academy’ before.” It was all about actors and writers being so good at their craft that their passion overcomes all barriers, even sorts out their peronsal lives, while propelling them to immortality. What Hollywood type doesn’t relate to that?

Brokeback, however, was set far, far away from Hollywood. The Thanksgiving scene, with the with white-painted brick and the NFL game, was so dead-on with my own experience it gave me the creeps. Moreover, the characters’ uncritical and complete acceptance of their culture’s homophobia is pretty alien for your average Hollywood type.

10 superdestroyer March 6, 2006 at 3:07 pm

Black America sees Crash as their movie. My guess is not one black or Hispanic member of the Academy voted for BBM. The last thing the minority members of the Academy were going to do is vote for a movie about two white, gay sheepherders that was directed by a Chinese immigrant. The results are a results more of demographics and market segments than of economics.

11 ModalHubby March 6, 2006 at 3:23 pm

It’s funny that everyone assumes that Brokeback Mountain was even in 2nd place. What evidence is there that this is the case?

I was a bit surprised that everyone thought that Brokeback Mountain was so likely to win (and voted with my $ on TradeSports.) My impression after seeming BM was, “If the other man had been another woman, nobody would have looked twice at this movie.” It was less inspiring than dozens of other Westerns or Love Stories, and at least a few Western Love Stories. I assumed that most of the bettors were betting based on the hype, rather than having seen the film.

Although Anne Hathaway certainly was cute — she’s grown up a LOT in the past few years since “The Princess Diaries” and “Ella Enchanted.”

12 Dave B. March 6, 2006 at 4:48 pm

“Black America sees Crash as their movie.”

Any evidence for that assertion, superdestroyer?

13 milo March 6, 2006 at 4:54 pm

I just don’t understand how ‘Crash’ even got nominated. What was so amazing about this film? Am I the only one that thought the dialogue was god-awful and contrived?

14 joshg March 7, 2006 at 8:17 am

Alright. I didn’t see Shakespeare in Love. I’m out of my element here.

15 J.Carlos Roman March 8, 2006 at 1:38 am

I’m HISPANIC,I’m not gay,and I saw BBM.I would have voted for BBM for best picture(over CRASH).So much for stereotypes.For me BBM is a story about LOVE,LOVE that can’t be helped or controlled.It is also about the need for TRUTH in life.TRUTH OVER LIES.This important themes are what BBM is all about.
I guess we will to make many more movies dealing with these badly needed topics.The fact that Hollywood can not deal openly with undeniable LOVE that happens to be in the “wrong place”,and the fact that a majority in the US can not deal with LIFE AS IT IS,proves the point that we are still in bad need of movies that are “out of touch” with MAINSTREAM HIPPOCRISY and MAINSTREAM addiction for “comfortable LIES”.
Small wonder we have a president that lies ALL THE TIME,a war that denies our most fundamental principles,and a dying democracy.

16 nate March 8, 2006 at 9:17 pm
17 reader March 10, 2006 at 1:13 pm

The contradiction between being a rodeo cowboy, or living in a rodeo culture, and being gay is not a superficial contradiction.

Wyoming is Native American Land (and so are the Canadian Rockies, where the film was shot). Walking over those prairies, through those streams, over those mountains is like walking over the bones of exterminated Native Americans. The nourishing, virgin-like energy one receives viewing that scenery, more than what one would receive in the Himalayas, the Black Forest of Germany, maybe even Cambodia etc., is due to the active, spiritual, topographical protection, cultivation and caretaking provided by those long gone, tens of millions of Native Americans.

Just think, those tens of millions of caretaking, nature respecting Native Americans were exterminated so that a few million settlers and their descendants could, herd sheep and cows over their land, have rodeo shows, play around in bars etc. They replaced that semi-paradise with what we have today. Let’s not talk about the rest of the country.

America, compared to other parts of the world, Asia included, is still virgin territory. However, people like Ang Lee come from cultures thousands of years older, and he and other directors from Asia (e.g. Night, director of Sixth Sense) know full well that events that have taken place even 500-800 years ago are only an historical day, if not hour away in the minds and behavior of people; the presence, social, emotional, spiritual etc., is still very strong. People like him, however, have rejected the necessary act of processing one’s identity, are full of deep but very subtle self-hate, and find it convenient, really so easy to bring that project of denial and self-hate to virgin territory. This project’s objective is to assure White Americans that they don’t have to deal with their past or who they really are in order to become ‘good’ people (a necessary mental state maintained by some Taiwanese due to their own painful legacy; see almost all of Lee’s previous films).When such people with such an agenda look at Native Americans or Black People, e.g. some big Black woman from the so-called ghetto, suffering, oblivious as to why, but not even dreaming of selling her soul, her inner disposition for what others have already done for a crumb (e.g. validation from the descendants of American settlers), it causes enough rage in such people to hyper-drive the agenda of assuring Americans that they don’t have to deal with anything truly painful in their lives: “Forget the niggers, the redskins and dream of a better world, take the easy route, many will help you, for a discount price.†

The same settlers that raided Indian territory, squatted their lands, massacred tens of millions of them, tricked them into selling their land, worked with the government and the military to achieve all those goals and more, used the ideological banner-when it was suitable-of the destitution and the quest for survival as a justification, are the same settlers who in the name of the ‘white survival’ they so miserably, mistakenly hold on to, could and can not even tolerate a 10 percent population of Native Americans living amongst them in one state. Now, that same mentality, concerned about survival, naturally has the same attitude toward gay people, whom they look at as decreasing the odds for their view of White survival. That’s the deeper, more complex motivation behind their behavior. Thus a gay man or woman with courage should be able to see that the contradiction, the real problem lies in the participation in that rodeo, settler culture, not the fact that that culture does not accept gays. Get it?

That means if everyone in Wyoming or Alberta decided that they were going to accept gay people wholeheartedly and still go on with the rest of their lives, this should still present a serious problem for any gay man or woman who wants to participate in that culture.

It is actually the other way around. Once you can confront all of the real contradictions in society, the root causes of serious problems which restrict the freedom of everyone, once you can pinpoint just exactly what are the most serious pathologies in a society, (Racism/White Supremacy, fear and persecution of women, viciously imposed poverty, historical denial and the neuroses it causes, the Western World’s fear of absorption and the loss of dominance, to name a few) and are ready to make a PRIORITY of confronting all of these problems, then you become free to practice any form of sexuality you want, in fact you will even set an example.

Oh, and I forgot. During the period in American History where Black people, mostly Black Men, were lynched in fanfare, the highlight of the spectacle was chopping off the genitals of the (to be)lynched person. That act had, has and always will have deep symbolic meaning for racist/white supremacists, and it is not so hard to figure out why. The genitals represent the genetic material of the person. They are perceived as the threat. 9/10th of the world’s population of non-white people coming together in full love with 1/10 of the world’s white population means love ensues, we all live together in peace and harmony, but the white color (not person) disappears. That is unfortunately a problem for more people than you think. That’s why Lyndie England (a woman)shaped her hand in the form of a pistol and pointed it at the genitals of an already humiliated Iraqi prisoner.

It is no accident that the same thing occurred (the lynching in retrospect) to a gay man in Brokeback Mountain. People who believe in Racism/White Supremacy perceive homosexuality to be as great a threat to White survival as the presence of non-white people, not to mention those non-white people approaching white people with the offer of peace, harmony and life together, resulting in the absorption of White, as they some see it. That’s the problem. If you can deal with that, you can deal with anything with one hand tied behind your back.

18 Ky December 24, 2006 at 2:52 pm

Because of what happened this is my last Oscars!

19 Anonymous October 14, 2008 at 12:05 am

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