Sour Grapes Rant

I’m in the midst of Annie Proulx’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories, from which comes the short story “Brokeback Mountain.” The stories are typically stark and beautiful, although sometimes the bitterness and bleakness get to be a bit much. (As they did in the flatly unreadable Accordion Crimes.)

But speaking of bitter and flatly unreadable, Proulx had a column recently in the Guardian, where she gives us a vinefull of sour grapes about Brokeback’s failure to win an Oscar. I can certainly sympathize with her depiction of the ceremony — “the hours sped by on wings of boiler plate. … three-and-a-half hours of butt-numbing sitting” — but couldn’t she have figured out how annoying and trivial the ceremony would have been, and stayed in Wyoming? Would she have carped as loudly had Brokeback won?

Reading it made me happy it lost, to be honest; while it was a better film than Crash, Good Night and Good Luck was more timely, more beautifully shot, and better acted than either one of them. Proulx says,

Hollywood loves mimicry, the conversion of a film actor into the spittin’ image of a once-living celeb. But which takes more skill, acting a person who strolled the boulevard a few decades ago and who left behind tapes, film, photographs, voice recordings and friends with strong memories, or the construction of characters from imagination and a few cold words on the page? I don’t know. The subject never comes up. Cheers to David Strathairn, Joaquin Phoenix and Hoffman, but what about actors who start in the dark?

I don’t know that either is less of an acting challenge, but one could say that Heath Ledger’s main job in the film seemed to be to say as little as possible while maintaining the exact same expression on his face. One could say that, in particular, after enduring the brickbats Proulx hurls at everyone within reach including the bystanders.

“For those who call this little piece a Sour Grapes Rant, play it as it lays,” she concludes her column. I just did.

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