You never know what wacky line you're going to find leafing through the back pages of Time magazine, and in placing their bets in this week's elapsing issue, Time film critics Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel predict "Brokeback Mountain" will win the Best Picture Oscar. When they try to guess a reason why it might confound the betting line and not win, they suggest: "The Academy remains a somewhat conservative body, and although this is a handsome and superbly acted film, it may not yet wish to endorse that 'gay cowboy' movie."
That avoids the question: if the Academy is so moderately conservative, then what explains the rash of nominations for "Brokeback," and "Capote," and "TransAmerica"? In fact, they contradict themselves a bit in their note on Felicity Huffman's Best Actress nod for playing a guy who wants to be girl: "Terrific performance in a picture that has not found an audience. Its transgressiveness doesn't even set it apart in the year of Brokeback Mountain and Capote." If the Oscars are a field of "transgressive" films, how can the Academy nominating them be even remotely conservative?
Corliss and Schickel have to wax poetic over the politics of "Brokeback" as they describe how it got this far, and how America has gone from repression to enlightenment: "It isn't a feel-good movie. But it is a movie it feels good to vote for: attractive representatives of a discriminated-against minority find a few moments of happiness in a more repressive America before tragedy claims them. Now, in a somewhat more enlightened era, we are made to feel pity and even a touch of terror for them."
Corliss is the same man who groused at the end of last year on the "Charlie Rose" show on PBS: "That we are saying in 2005, oh, isn't it nice there's a good love story involving two men? How far behind is everyone?"
PS: In this accompanying web exclusive, Corliss predicts "Brokeback" will win Best Picture, Best Director, and sweep the supporting-acting categories. He also touts the Palestinian suicide-bomber flick "Paradise Now" in the Foreign Film category, another sign the Academy isn't remotely conservative:
Paradise Now, a very good film on an incendiary subject (a Palestinian suicide bomber). Three years ago, the exemplary satire Divine Intervention was denied a Foreign Film nomination because Palestine, whence the film originated, was deemed "not a country." That rule was changed, and there's a distinct possibility that on Oscar night the winner will be "from the Palestinian Authority." Can Hamas' election victory scuttle a movie's chance at Oscar?