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By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Schamus-less: NYRB Brokeback exchange continues

Over at Filmmaker, Peter Bowen prints a letter from Brokeback Mountain producer James Schamus that continues the letters-page kerfuffle from New York Review of Books between Schamus and writer Daniel Mendelsohn about the movie’s marketing; apparently NYRB thinks the first exchange suffices. Schamus: “In his reply to the few corrections in my otherwise laudatory response to his review… Daniel Mendelsohn calls me, and my work as a producer of Brokeback and as the head of the studio that distributed the film, “discomfited,” “embarrassed,” “defensive,” “bluster[ing],” practicing “obfuscatory sophistries,” “actually falsifying [the movie’s] content,” arguing “with breathtaking disingenuousness” and “evasive coyness” my “heated but ultimately self-destructive protestations” against his charges that I and my colleagues have consistently sought to “closet” the film’s central gay themes in our marketing of it. BBM-affiche.jpgOf course, our very success ($150 million in worldwide box office to date) is prima facie proof of the efficacy of our sinister methods “in so aggressively marketing this gay story to the ‘heart of America’”: how else could we have snookered so many millions of people into embracing such a gay film? Mr. Mendelsohn was, as I so gently put it in my response, “unfair” in his original depiction of our marketing; he is viciously mendacious in his latest reply, and NYRB readers deserve at least a brief correction: it is important that, as gay subject matter continues to enter further into mainstream culture, parochial nay-sayers such as Mendelsohn are at least asked to maintain the minimum standards of honesty in discussions of such matters… I will gladly provide a full refund to any New York Review reader who bought a ticket to Brokeback Mountain, and who feels that he or she was misled by our marketing campaign into not knowing that the movie’s central story was an epic romance between two men.” [There’s more, more, more at the link.]

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“I find it hard to believe that it’s pure machismo. It’s too simple of a thought. I don’t know what the reason could be. I also think that it makes sense that, as time goes by, filmmaking should become more of a women-dominated activity. To me, of course, I feel like it’s going to happen. It seems to me that, especially for a certain cinema with its own language, you need to take a lot of risks. And women receive a type of education that allows much more for failure than the type men receive. It is easier for a woman to take risks than for a man. But I’ll also tell you another thing, women need to learn to master the tools, to solve technical problems, to control unscripted situations. There is also a totally macho attitude that many women have internalized in terms of not solving certain technical problems on their own. That also makes them a little less capable… Female DoPs often think that their technical area is limited to pen and paper. And that’s wrong. You need to learn a lot of things to be a good DoP. For me, machismo breeds both a masculine education and a nefarious feminine education. Macho culture engenders an education for men and another for women. The education for men we already know, and is easily criticized. And the nefarious education that machismo has for women is exemplified by women who ultimately ignore how to use tools, who—when something breaks, or when it gets dark—are rendered useless and get desperate. Women who do not even know how to build a fire. They don’t know how to deal with these situations, because these were activities that have traditionally been delegated to men. That can make us… not very… prone to achieve certain things. For me, we first have to fight against our own education, and also against an external model of erasure that has rendered women less capable than men in certain fields.”
Lucrecia Martel

“When my first book came out in 1978, and Carter was president, the top tax bracket in the US started, at that time, at one hundred thousand dollars a year; the federal income tax was 70 percent. Now, that may be excessive—I mean, it certainly was excessive—but the people who are rich now are psychotically rich. It’s stupid amounts of money that people have, and they pay no taxes! And they are allowed to make money in ways that you were not allowed to make money before. So there used to be all kinds of laws in this country. All kinds of regulations: usury laws, laws that regulated the amount of interest you were allowed to charge, bank regulations—all this kind of stuff. These were laws made by humans. They could be made again by humans. There is no reason why people should be allowed to make billions of dollars. It’s a stupid amount of money. It’s just simply stupid. And no one earns a billion dollars. You earn twelve dollars an hour. These are stupid amounts of money. No one should have them.”
~ Fran Leibowitz