Swingin’ Out For The Weekend

I wish I’d found the time this week to tell you about watching Womb Raider at the olde curiosity shoppe that is the Yangtze Cinema, or muse about the tumbleweed silence that follows whenever I tell people that I enjoyed the sex scene in Brokeback Mountain and wish there had been more, but unfortunately I didn’t, and this weekend it’s SEAjam time again.

I will regrettably be much more inept at this one than I was at last year’s. I’m totally out of practice and unfit these days, which means that last year’s goal of dancing with Frankie Manning is pretty much off the cards this time. Being wholly outdanced by a 92-year-old man is fine, but I’d rather not have him carry me fainting off the dancefloor.

But anyway, I just wanted to say that I know this blog’s been rather meh lately, and I do intend to pick things up again once my work/life balance improves. Or rather, once I TAKE POSITIVE STEPS TO IMPROVE my work/life balance. I read my first ever self-help book recently, can you guess?


  1. Hi Michelle,

    i don’t know if you can “Dance” to it???/?????
    but i recently became the proud owner of Nouvelle Vagues self-titled album of the same name- which is called “Nouvelle Vague”

    its all Kool Kovers-“The Guns of Brixton”- “Love will tear us apart” and “making plans for Nigel”-to name but 3, however my favourite is definetely, either “teenage Kicks” or “Friday Night Saturday Morning”, maybe?

    but my question for you is this-
    “Cover versions” are they ever even better then the real thing?

  2. Brian: Am afraid I haven’t heard of Nouvelle Vague but if their cover versions are at all William Shatneresque, you already know which mutual friend of ours will love ’em…

    notchy: It would’ve been less tangential if you’d met the new Lara’s crotch last night.

    Tamara: It’s called Getting Things Done, by David Allen. I lied, though – that book doesn’t contain any hackneyed phrases like the one I used. I like it a lot though. What suits me best about it is that it doesn’t even attempt to get into all that whole goal-setting / positive thinking / quasi-spiritual namby pamby sort of self-help tripe. It just tells you the best way to force yourself to do stuff.

  3. “Am afraid I haven’t heard of Nouvelle Vague but if their cover versions are at all William Shatneresque, you already know which mutual friend of ours will love ’em…”


    Good to hear you’re well on the way to REALISING YOUR TRUE POTENTIAL there Michelle. Where’s that top albums of 2005 list?

  4. Re: Nouvelle Vague — I seem to be one of few that do not like Nouvelle Vague. I just don’t get what’s so great about a French woman singing nonchalant cover versions.

    How’s this for tangential. Try the FF+G and Extreme combination. Now, now, down boys.

  5. Molloy: Cheap shot, though well spotted. Make your own damn top 10 album list and then you’ll see how hard it is to write one!

    Nat: Not sure I’d have much to provide in the way of discussion. Contrary to the general hype about the movie, I don’t think it provides any particularly profound commentary about love or societal repression or what have you. I just think it was an interesting story, well told and well acted, and I liked the sex scene.

    Russ: I can hear that “Russ laugh” all the way from Singapore as you play with the Bounceometer.

  6. No… as I said in the review on my blog, I didn’t think it had a particular agenda either. But it was beautifully made, and Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal (as Ennis and Jack – not sure about them IRL) are beautiful, and I identified with it all, and I’m obsessed and have seen it three times (and counting). Etc.

    So there. ;)

  7. Nat: I agree with you that it’s a well made film, although my particular preference is towards what I suppose could be called flashier/edgier cinematography (eg. Fernando Meirelles for City of God and The Constant Gardener) than Ang Lee’s usual style. Ang Lee’s style always feels to me like Clint Eastwood’s – very mature, very worthy, has Oscar written all over it, accomplishes everything the film requires, but somehow doesn’t particularly touch me either.

    I don’t find either actor particularly attractive but acting-wise Heath Ledger was amazing. Jake Gylenhaal, meh. Way too obvious for me. He was cruising Ennis so blatantly in the first minute of the film I’m surprised he hadn’t been beaten to death years before that.

    I can’t say I identified with any of it either, because I don’t think it’s a love story. You don’t build love over a summer’s worth of romps in a mountain and scattered meetups for sex for the next few decades, that’s just lust and infatuation. (I actually find Ang Lee’s other gay film, The Wedding Banquet, much more touching.)

    In general, I just don’t have much sympathy for married guys who can’t keep their dick in their pants, no matter who else they’re screwing or for what reasons. I have a little sympathy for Ennis, who paid quite dearly for his failed marriage, but Jack pretty much just kept up his cushy lifestyle with his rich wife, AND chased ass as and when he could get it.

    Alec observed after the movie that if they’d been cheating on their wives with other women, girls probably wouldn’t be going as crazy over this film as they are. To this I’d also add the observation that in the original story, the cowboys were fairly ugly. Imagine the same story in the same setting, except with Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffmann cheating on their wives, and with other women. I’m fairly sure the shine on the film would fade for many people.

  8. Probably not the place for a drawn-out debate, but it’s interesting how differently we perceive it.

    I think the key thing I would say is that while it’s pretty clear adultery’s unjustifiable whichever way you look at it, I don’t think holding it up alongside a hypothetical heterosexual version of the story is a fair comparison. I think it’s not just a love story, but pretty pointedly a gay love story in a very homophobic rural setting. Seems to me that if you take that away – well, naturally the shine would fade. As far as the more universal impact of the film goes, the way I see it, it’s the recognition of forbidden love (in whatever shape or form), stunted lives and all the associated emotions that you take away with you – perhaps most easily told this way because society’s generally become pretty much desensitised to most other notions of ‘forbidden-ness’.

    As for the question of whether it was love or lust, to me it was love with a healthy dollop of lust, which is fine by me (and I do believe you can build a love over a single summer that will stand the test of time).

    Heath Ledger blew me away with his portrayal of Ennis, which struck me all the harder when I saw an interview with him after the film and couldn’t see a single smidgen of Ennis in him. Gyllenhaal’s performance, I think, is easy to overlook on the first viewing, but easier to appreciate afterward. Undoubtedly it helped that the actors were pretty (Giamatti and PSH – now there’s something you might not particularly want to wake up to) but I’m willing to believe that a cave-chested caliper-legged Ennis, all other things being equal, would still have made the same impact on me.

    It’s certainly not sympathy (for the men, at least – the women are a different story), though I’m not quite sure how to quantify it. It’s certainly gotten under my skin, though.

    Now, I’m not sure any of the above makes sense and I’m not game enough to stand up and have a battle of intellects because I’d almost certainly lose ;), so I’ll leave it there…

  9. I’ll try to keep this comment short, as I’m sure I have nothing to say which you won’t already have read in the ‘Life’ section of your particular Sunday newspaper.
    To my mind, Ang Lee is a story driven director. His films always have visual flair but never the spectacular artistry of say, Tim Burton. The plot delivery is always orthodox. For instance, I can’t imagine Ang Lee directing something as stylish as Momento or Pulp Fiction.
    By keeping a quiet canvas he allows the quality of the story and acting to shine through. The craftsmanship is fantastic but it does lack the ‘wow’ factor.
    His outstanding ability must be his flexibility. He seems equally comfortable in any time or country of movie type.

    I thought the acting from all characters was excellent. Jake Gyllenhaal was fine; he was just unfortunate enough to share the screen with an outstanding Heath Ledger. The character of Jack was obvious but so are a lot of gay people I know. I just assumed that he was the more screamingly gay of the two. Jack was clearly predominantly attracted to men. The character of Ennis is more interesting because he’s not so clearcut. Is he gay, bi or is his relationship with Jack an aberration?

    The moral question is quiet vexing. I do believe that people fall in love in instants. At least I continue to fall in love in instants. Mature relationships are another matter. They take years of work, arguments and sacrifice. But one doesn’t need to have a mature relationship to be in love.
    That the two characters love each other is not really in doubt. The moral question is whether that love should be nurtured and expressed. By doing so they bring about not only their own destruction but also that of their innocent family members.
    This is what I meant when I made the comparison to a heterosexual affair. Just because a man loves his 20 year old mistress doesn’t make him a hero of love.

    One possible response to the film is to say, “ahh, but if the two characters had lived in a liberal society they’d never have married those women but instead lived happily ever after. And Oscar Wilde would have married Bowsie instead of Constance.”
    There are other responses but I’m developing a case of mid afternoon snoozyness. And I can’t frolic naked on the mountainside in order to wake myself up.

  10. Alec, I like a lot of what you’ve said and you expressed your “hero of love” point far better than I initially did.

    But much like my own reactions to the film, your response seems an intellectual/artistic response rather than emotional. It doesn’t really shed any light for me on why it would get under the average person’s skin, as it seems to have done.

    (The average person being defined not solely by reference to Nat who is a rather above-average person in many respects :) but by reference to the general sentiment I’ve sensed in pop cultural discussion of the film.)

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