Brokeback Mountain is a 2005 film directed by Ang Lee. The screenplay was co-written by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. The film is based on a short story by noted author Annie Proulx originally published in the New Yorker magazine almost a decade earlier. Brokeback Mountain is the tale of two homosexual cowboys played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal whose struggle with their own feelings toward each other is cast in a much larger light as a struggle against their own homosexual urges in general. This struggle is portrayed through both men marrying women in an attempt to present a portrait of themselves to the world as stereotypically straight men working within the aggressively straight world of the cowboy.
While often considered a groundbreaking film in the world of gay cinema—the result of being a commercial success, critical darling, award-winning effort helmed by a prestigious director and featuring a cast of up-and-coming Hollywood heavyweights all within the context of a neo-Western genre—harsher critics disagree. More negative critiques have pointed out that Brokeback Mountain is actually a conservative reaffirmation of the Western’s aim to eradicate non-white culture since minority characters are virtually nowhere to be seen. Furthermore, these critics suggest the movie offers a reactionary view of homosexuality by pointing out the two main characters make every attempt to quash their urges before finally making their love story just another tragic tale of gay love. Thus the ending reinforces the societal norm by destroying the attempted sexual subversion.
Despite the strongly oppositional critical voices raised either in favor or against the film being a groundbreaking achievement in gay cinema, it was widely acknowledged as a superior example of filmmaking come awards season. Ang Lee and the movie’s two screenwriters all picked up awards for their work at British Academy Awards (BAFTA), the Golden Globes and the Oscars. While Brokeback Mountain was awarded the Best Picture honor by BAFTA and Golden Globes voters, it infamously failed to take home the top honors from Oscar voters. The rare split in which two different films were honored for Best Director and Best Film created much controversy afterwards in which the preference of Crash was seen as an anti-homosexuality statement by Oscar voters.