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At THE MOVIES: When Brokeback Mountain Met America:

Recently, a student asked President Bush whether he’d seen Ang Lee’s masterpiece, Brokeback Mountain, adding that he thought the President would “love it.” Bush shook his head and said no, he hadn’t seen it, but he’d be glad to talk about ranching. While some people might feel the need to lambaste the president for his response, in fact, it was a nicely handled bit of politics. He didn’t say he wouldn’t see it, nor did he take the opportunity to criticize liberal Hollywood or Gay America.Here’s is my plea to the President to see the film:Dear President Bush:I have never written you a letter nor did I ever think I would. I know you’re busy fighting the war on terror and all, but I thought I should draw your attention to one of the best films released this year. I have heard that you like to listen to Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell, which shows me you have decent taste, and so I have to echo the sentiments of the student who addressed you last week: you would love this movie.Ang Lee is at the height of his directorial power. Having already made a trio of very different but equally outstanding and original films — The Ice Storm, Sense and Sensibility and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to his resume (I have a feeling Laura might have seen those films), he’s outdone himself this time around. Mr. President, he didn’t make a movie about gay cowboys; he made a movie about loneliness, isolation and not living in a world that accepts you as you are. It is a beautiful, haunting story, one I know you won’t forget.Brokeback Mountain is a western of a different kind. Like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, it shows the vulnerable side of the cowboys we have all grown up with in films, and perhaps those you grew up around back in Texas, you know, before the dark days of well, before you found Jesus and all. You may have known an Ennis Delmar or a Jack Twist. And if you didn’t know them, perhaps you weren’t looking hard enough.The film opens on two cowboys who herd sheep up on Brokeback Mountain one summer. It is just the two of them for endless days and nights. For whatever reason, they end up getting close in all kinds of ways, not just in the way everyone is talking about. Ennis Delmar (played by one of the best actors of his generation, Heath Ledger) has never found anyone he could be himself around until Jack comes along. Likewise, Jack (played by the equally marvelous Jake Gyllenhaal) finds in Ennis a soul mate. But that’s where the giggling stops.Most of their lives, they try hard to deny the truth inside of them. You can imagine how hard that must be in places like Texas and Wyoming – where you get killed for exhibiting “deviant” behavior. But you know as well as I do that people, yes, even god’s people, come many different ways. And if you honestly believe that certain people are damned to hell for being born a certain way then I’m afraid I have misjudged you. I don’t think you really do believe that; I know you are smarter.But even if you aren’t ready to accept the idea of gay people in your heart yet, perhaps you are interested in seeing just a plain old well made movie. You might even want to see it just so you can debunk its genius – though I know if you sit down and watch it, you and Mrs. Bush will be crying like babies. The script is written by producer Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry. You must know McMurtry’s work like Lonesome Dove. If you don’t, ask Laura about him. But I feel sure you not only know his work but have read much of it. If you haven’t, I know Laura has. You have to admit that if a tough old coot like McMurtry can “go there,” you most certainly can.You won’t find a better acted, emotionally moving, universal love story than this one. After about fifteen minutes, you aren’t watching two men together so much as you’re watching how living a life that is a lie can destroy everyone around you. The women you’re forced to marry, the mothers who watch and witness your pain, your own need to drink the pain away. It is as simple as the sun coming up yet more complicated than you can imagine. As Ennis says, “If you can’t fix it, you have to stand it.”It is my hope, Mr. President, that you will take the time to open your heart and mind to Brokeback Mountain. You will be the better for it – a better husband, a better father, a better president, a better man.

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