WEIRDLAND: Brokeback Mountain and Milk

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brokeback Mountain and Milk

"Unlike the hoopla over Focus Features' previous gay-themed awards magnet, "Brokeback Mountain," which was drawing calls of agenda-pushing from right-wingers months before it opened in 2005, there's been hardly a peep in editorial pages or on talk radio.

Admittedly, the election is a major distraction. But Focus also is doing something deliberate: It's eschewing publicity for the Sean Penn vehicle, keeping it out of the high-profile fall film festivals and heavily restricting media screenings.

"The best way to help this film win over a mainstream audience is to avoid partisanship, and the best way to avoid partisanship is to let people find out about the film from the film itself," said one person involved with the film.
Focus plans on selling "Milk" in part as a story of hope and change (Harvey Milk, a member of San Francisco's Board of Superviors until his assassination in 1978, won equal-rights battles against great odds), just as it sold "Brokeback" as a love story.

The ploy was logical with "Brokeback." It's less so here.

Like "Brokeback," "Milk" features a gay romance. But unlike "Brokeback," "Milk" is made by gay filmmakers, features the polarizing Penn and puts itself squarely in a political context. Milk's fight against California's anti-gay-rights Proposition 6 -- a drama the movie deals with in great detail -- spookily parallels the current California fight over Proposition 8, a measure that would ban gay marriage".

"As supporters of California's Proposition 8 ballot initiative picketed last night's San Francisco premiere of Milk, producers of the film fired back at allegations that Focus Features is hiding their spiritual follow-up to Brokeback Mountain because it's too gay to promote during an election season. In a letter to The Hollywood Reporter, Focus chief James Schamus slams the report, citing the film's "most explosively received and appreciated trailer in the history of our company" along with a litany of gay tie-ins.

[...] But when it comes to courting the audience that propelled its last gay-themed film to unprecedented financial and critical heights? Yes, Focus is more than willing to take their money".

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