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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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“With every table in the dining room occupied and me, the only waiter, neglecting the needs of a good fifty patrons, I approached Roth. Holding out Balls as a numbness set into the muscles of my face, I spoke. “Sir, I’ve heard you say that you don’t read fiction anymore, but I’ve just had my first novel published and I’d like to give you a copy.”

“His eyes lifting from his iPhone, he took the book from my hands. He congratulated me. Then, staring at the cover, he said, “Great title. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself.”

“These words worked on me like a hit of morphine. Like two hits. It felt as if I was no longer the occupant of my own body. The legs had gone weak, the ears warmed, the eyes watered, the heart rate increased rapidly. Barely able to keep myself upright, I told him, “Thank you.”

“Then Roth, who, the world would learn sixteen days later, was retiring from writing, said, in an even tone, with seeming sincerity, “Yeah, this is great. But I would quit while you’re ahead. Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say just stop now. You don’t want to do this to yourself. That’s my advice to you.”

“I managed, “It’s too late, sir. There’s no turning back. I’m in.”

“Nodding slowly, he said to me, “Well then, good luck.”

“After which I went back to work.”
~ Julian Tepper

“Any form of physical or sexual assault is a very serious matter, potentially a legal matter. But I’m also wondering, what about having some kind of “extreme asshole” clause? I know lots of people who have been abused verbally and psychologically. That’s traumatizing, too. What do we do with that?  It takes a lot of energy to be an asshole. The people I admire most just aren’t interested in things that take away from their ability to make stuff. The people I really respect, and that I’ve met who fit this definition, have a sense of grace about them, because they know that there is no evolving and there is no wisdom without humility. You can’t get better if you behave in a way that shuts people off. You can’t! You don’t have all the ideas necessary to solve something. You don’t! I’m sure if you spoke to Harvey in his heyday and said to him what I just said to you, he would believe that he accomplished all that he had because of the way he behaved.”
~ Steven Soderbergh