About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Last week I, like many others, was saddened to learn about the untimely death at 28 years of Heath Ledger, the brilliant and versatile Australian actor. Heath's death in his Manhattan apartment was a shock to all because he, unlike many other young celebrities, lived quietly under the publicity radar, concentrating on his acting and being a good father for his young daughter.

His death also got me thinking about the influence that a big film can have on movie goers. When I call a film "big" I'm not neccesarily talking about box office appeal and distribution. I'm remembering more precisely those films that stick with me. I care about the film's characters and their relationships with each other. I remember the script, the soundtrack, the setting. And, if I'm lucky, I change my mind about an issue or step out in a new direction as a result of seeing the film. Heath's portrayal of Ennis Del Mar, the introverted, maybe even numb, young cowboy in Brokeback Mountain was big for me--and many other people around the world.

It was in the winter of 2005 that I saw Brokeback Mountain for the first time. It was deeply affecting, a love story of two young cowboys--Ennis, the reserved and conflicted one who believed that in life whatever you were dealt you just had to "stand it" and Jack (played by Jake Gyllenhaal)the optimist who refused to be beaten down by reality. I could sense that others in the theater audience were moved, as I was, by the love story of two gay cowboys who came together at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

My long time friend, another middle-aged straight woman, saw the movie also. We then saw it three or four more times together. As the movie attracted more and more critical acclaim and fans, my friend became interested in a blog site that she found where people began by discussing the movie. That blog quickly evolved into a vehicle for the sharing of personal experiences--either by gay men and women or family members/friends who were dealing with the complexities of living with people they loved--or sometimes hated--who were gay.

The Brokeback Forum was created to serve as the sounding board for countless people who needed to tell their stories after seeing this movie. My friend, who has a background in educational technology, suggested to the forum founder, Dave Cullen, that these stories deserved to be published and she agreed to serve as the managing editor of the book project team. BEYOND BROKEBACK, The Impact of Film by Members of The Ultimate Brokeback Forum was published in spring 2007.

The moving thing about this book is the many ways that a film gave people the courage to make changes that would help them escape a marginalized existence and participate in all the normal pleasures of life--loving relationships with the right partner, friends, family , and work associates. Each chapter is a personal story of, as the title says, the impact of the film on that person's life. In some stories there is resolution, in others not. All are honest and true. I am glad to hear their stories. If you are interested in reading the book, it can be ordered on Amazon.com.

"Danic" is a 58 year old painter who lives with her husband in New York City. She writes about the scene in the movie where Ennis and Jack are goofing off with a lasso: "The metaphor of the lasso moves me because not only does it signify how Ennis became tangled up in Jack and that Jack roped him for life, but also because it means that, as a human beings and souls, we are all tangled up in each other, and The Maker will one day question why we did not love more." Heath as Ennis helped us to do just that.


laurie said...

would you believe that i still haven't seen brokeback mountain?

but i read the short story three times, including once in a literature class where we really took it apart and examined annie proulx's symbolism and language.

it was so frickin' brilliant. i'm just not sure i want to see the movie, after that. the story was subtle and gorgeous.

it's hard for me to feel anything other than "oh, that's sad," when someone like heath ledger dies--i don't know him, i don't really know what his life was like, he's just a face to me.

does that sound cold? your posting is very thoughtful, though, and i understand what you're saying--that his portrayal in the movie was so powerful that it transcended him as an actor.

the power to change lives--especially so many lives-- is not something that is bestowed on very many of us.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

We get so caught up in the idea of movies as nothing but entertainment that when a movie really makes you think it's almost a shock. This was absolutely one of those movies. Absolutely gorgeous.

And the book you're talking about sounds wonderful. I love personal journeys stories, and think these would be very interesting to read.

Faye said...

Laurie, I went the opposite route--saw the movie several times and then read the short story. The short story is not my favorite form of literature for some reason. I don't think you would have been disappointed with the way Proulx's story was used. As in the short story, the film dialogue was spare which fit both the characters and subject matter. I think Proulx approved of the screen adaptation of her story--at least that came across in an interview that I saw with Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana who wrote the screenplay.

I get you about not feeling particularly impacted by the death of a public figure. I guess the Pope was the last for me. Heath's death was such a waste though because of his youth. Like the almost 4,000 in the Middle East. . .

RC--I'm thinking about your comment and all the movies I've seen this year. The ones that really made me think were "The Painted Veil", "Lives of Others" and "A Mighty Heart". I know you're a great movie goer so have you seen any this past year that challenged you in any way?

You would enjoy reading Beyond Brokeback if you're interested in real stories about real people.

Kaycie said...

I haven't seen it, either. Most of the movies that we watch are seen in our living room, and with the kids almost always around, we're careful about the content.

I haven't read the short story, either. I tend to buy the books I read, usually because of some personal interest or a friend's recommendation, or even from browsing Amazon. This isn't the kind of thing that would have drawn my interest on its own, although I would like to read it after Laurie's description.

Celebrity deaths don't really touch me unless the celebrity somehow touched me with their life or work, like Heath did with you. I was a bit sad when Suzanne Pleshette recently died.

Very nice post.

Kaycie said...

Faye, I just looked for your email and didn't find it. I'd like to send you an invitation to my blog. If you'd like, send me your email address at kc10867 at yahoo dot com.

Faye said...

kaycie--I know what you mean about having to be vigilant about the subjects that your children are exposed to when there's such wideopen access for inquiring young eyes. Interestingly had this same discussion with my young pilates instructor yesterday who was trying to figure out how to respond to some political mis-information that her little girl had heard and was all upset about.

Thanks for the invite to your blog. I actually tried to check it out last night and saw that you had put up a sign-in. Was going to go back today and figure out how that worked--my tech learning curve, don't you know! Now I'll just have to send you my e-mail address. Thanks!

SongBird said...

A lovely tribute to Heath and his work in Brokeback Mountain. My mother and I first saw the movie together. We were both deeply affected by it. We have family members who are gay and have shared in their sorrows and joys for many years.

KittyHawk said...

What a nice tribute to Heath, the film, and anyone concerned about equal rights for all.

And thanks for mentioning our book, Beyond Brokeback, Faye. It means a lot to me.

Sad to say, Heath's death has resulted in more sales of our book on Amazon, but maybe that means more readers will begin to understand people who are not exactly like them in every way. ;-)