Annie Proulx Pelts the Academy with Sour Grapes

Annie_proulxWith her typically brash economy of language, Brokeback Mountain author Annie Proulx offers up her Academy Award experience, “three-and-a-half hours of butt-numbing sitting” which ended, as we all now know, with a shocker.

Proulx spins her Pulitzer Prize-winning prose into a no regrets diatribe directed at Tinseltown in this Guardian commentary.

On entering the venue:

“On the sidewalk stood hordes of the righteous, some leaning forward like wind-bent grasses, the better to deliver their imprecations against gays and fags to the open windows of the limos – the windows open by order of the security people – creeping toward the Kodak Theater for the 78th Academy Awards. Others held up sturdy, professionally crafted signs expressing the same hatred.”

On “the Academy”:

“Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good.”

On the Best Picture:

“And rumour has it that Lions Gate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of Trash – excuse me – Crash a few weeks before the ballot deadline.”

And on choosing a Best Actor:

“Hollywood loves mimicry, the conversion of a film actor into the spittin’ image of a once-living celeb. But which takes more skill, acting a person who strolled the boulevard a few decades ago and who left behind tapes, film, photographs, voice recordings and friends with strong memories, or the construction of characters from imagination and a few cold words on the page?”

Proulx ain’t happy. And she calls her bitterness as others might see it, signing out: “For those who call this little piece a Sour Grapes Rant, play it as it lays.”

Blood on the Red Carpet [guardian]


  1. Joey says

    Wow, what a great person to have on our team! Her assessment of the “Best” Actor catagory is spot on- it is EXACTLY what I have been thinking and telling my friends for the duration of this awards season. Heath had nothing more to go on than raw, untapped talent, a perfect script and impeccable directing. THAT is REAL TALENT!! Can’t wait to read the rest of this article (at lunch)!

  2. gordon says

    Annie Proulx is dead-on right. This is why the Oscars was such a heartbreaking piece of shit to watch. Any doubts Brokeback Mountain lost because of homophobia? Go read Nikki Finke’s “How Gay Will Oscar Go?” at LA Weekly: she had Academy members coming up to her _face_ and telling her they wouldn’t screen the film. And so didn’t vote for it. End of story.

  3. Anna says

    I wish Annie had taken a different tack with her commentary – perhaps mentioning that the love between her precious Jack and Ennis was still hated and reviled 40 years on. Something that showed the big heart that it took to write these characters was now broken. But she didn’t. She’s bitter and she’s entitled.

    When I rented Crash a few days before the Oscars I was completely stunned at how such a mediocre film even got nominated, let alone presented any real challenge to BBM (or the other 3 excellent contenders.) The script was so corny and contrived it reminded me of a writing exercise in a Screenplay 101 class.

    I feel Annie’s pain. I was especially enraged during the telecast when one of the earlier Crash winners (editing or something) pointed to Paul Haggis in the audience and referred to him as “a force of nature.” He used the Brokeback Mountain tagline to praise Crash! If I were James Schamus or Diana Ossana I would have been LIVID! Maybe they were. Annie certainly ended up in high dudgeon!

    And then Annie had to watch while all them piled on stage to win Best Picture and Paul Haggis went on about ‘tolerance.’ WTF? Racism sadly still exists in this country – but it has become more subtle and nefarious – unlike the obvious, brow-beating Crash. It does a disservice to all the good groundbreaking movies about racism. On the other hand, homosexuality is the only remaining prejudice where you can protest in the streets calling people filthy names and discriminate against them – BUT still claim it’s good old American values and God’s will. A vote for the lousy Crash was a escape route – thus striking a solid blow for Intolerance.

  4. chrstian says

    Aiy, I’m sick and tired of listening to peoples’ rant on the Academy Awards. They were a week ago people. C’est la vie. I’m sorry that “Brokeback” didn’t win the award, but you can’t get everything you want in life. Be glad that the Academy didn’t pick some shmuck of a Hollywood movie like “War of the Worlds.” There is no need for these jaded comments, and people need to move on from this “tragedy.” In other news, “Crash” –– along with the other nominees –– is a great movie, and I’m glad “Crash” brought a prevelant issue to the big screen in a factual way.

  5. says

    To those who think she acted in bad taste – PLEASE. This bizarre sense that the Oscars – always the most skewed, glitzy, and time and again clearly unconcerned with talent awards there ever was – should enjoy sanctity, or even respect, is fucking ridiculous.

  6. Rad says

    Just wait until Mel Gibson comes out with “Passion of the Christ – II”, up against James Cameron’s remake of “Raise the Titanic”…

    Time to let it go, people. Onward.

  7. Sam says

    I’ve been wondering why I continue to feel so strongly about Brokeback’s loss. After all, it’s just an awards show and it was over a week ago. I think it’s because we live in a time when we’re under attack from so many forces from the President of the United States on down; a time when questioning our very right to exist as gay people is characterized as legitimate debate. In the midst of this came a film that told one of our stories with intelligence, subtlety and power. It’s impact and popularity were beyond my expectations. It won almost every major award. In fact, no film has ever won the major awards from the producers, directors and writers guilds and failed to win best picture. When you look at the awards won, Brokeback’s loss was unprecedented. Similarly, when you look at Crash’s performance in the awards season, it’s victory was unprecedented. Why? Crash was, in my opinion, the least worthy nominated film. It was derivitive, over-wrought and obvious. But, it gave the guilty white liberals an out. They couldn’t handle two men in love and the horrible reality of homophobia, so they honored a political film that said “At least we’re not racists!” None of the other nominated films made such an obvious liberal statement as Crash, therefore it won. It’s another slap in the face and this time, it came from supposed progressive bastion.

  8. noahj says

    I have to agree with Christian. “Brokeback” was just a movie and the not coming of the Messiah or landing of ET.

    Instead of all this pointless fury over a movie(!), how about fury over needless deaths because of AIDS, crime, poverty, genocide, and drugs? How about we take all that fury and direct it to the lack of healthcare, destruction of the American pension system, the disintegration of public education, elimination of abortion rights and the slow death of the middle class?

    Screw that stupid movie. There are bigger problems in the world! Do you think if “Brokeback” had won the Best Picture award homophobia would disappear? Would gay bashing or discrimination at work or in housing end? Get real. Bow down to the altar of “Brokeback” and Jake Gyllenhall all you want but you’re praying to false idols.

    Focus on what really counts! How many of you vote? How many of you are active in your communities–not just the “gay” community but your neighborhood? Do you volunteer at a homeless or youth shelter or tutor young kids? Do you make a difference in other people’s lives?


    The David Rich Fitness Naked (and Hot Nude Yoga) ads are horrible! Someone needs to direct them to a good advertising agency. It’s one thing to use sex to sell but it’s another to do so so stupidly that you’re product appears to be porn. It’s just terrible marketing. Everyone knows Bally’s uses hard bodies and sex in their ads but they do so in a smart way that emphasizes their ability to make one fit. Rich’s ads don’t succeed because they’re all about “looking great naked!” Barf!

  9. says

    Proulx is simply showing the Academy their own faces in her polished glass prose. Awarding the Best Picture Oscar to Crash was an insupportable travesty, plain and simple, and I support her decision to say so.

    I invite anyone to compare any two frames of Brokeback Mountain with any two in Crash; the first film displays a level of artistry and directorial skill that is rarely seen anywhere in film these days; the second looks like any HBO hit me over the head docu-drama currently playing.

    Academy voter Tony Curtis told Fox News, without censure, that neither he nor his Academy voting friends would deign to watch Brokeback Mountain, because, among other reasons, “Howard Hughes and John Wayne wouldn’t like it.”

    If “Brokeback Mountain” had been about an interracial affair instead of a homosexual one Curtis would have had his ass handed to him, and rightly so. But no one said a word about his take on Brokeback Mountain. In fact homophobic rhetoric and locker room swipes were the rule, not the exception, since the film’s release.

    Proulx is doing something important (in Orwell’s phrase to see what’s in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle) she’s exploring the implications of some hard social facts that most of us would prefer to remain oblivious to.

  10. Span says

    What an insufferable jackass! “…leaning forward like wind-bent grasses”??? “…the yeasty ferment that is America these days”??? Gimme a break. So Hollywood types shouldn’t decide which films are good – SHE SHOULD?! Annie Proulx can suck my yeasty ferment. Idiot.

  11. david says

    Damn, that was low! How could she have called “Crash”, “Trash”? WTF was she thinking?

    I have lost all respect for her now. A woman that vindictive, even after BBM won several Oscars is just not a good person. Simple.

    I don’t care how good or bad Crash is… what she said was just plain low.

  12. Leland says

    NoahJ: Focus on the fact that you repeatedly miss the point of how cultural patterning—whether in the form of messages media, included films, send or spewed by institutions such as religion and politics—LEAD TO all of these problems you claim to care so much about. E.g., do you think Ronald May He Rot In Hell Reagan popped out of the womb willing to look the other way while AIDS spread like wildfire during his Presidency? He LEARNED such homophobic indifference, and one of the places he learned it was in Hollywood.

    I regularly rant here about the passive nature of too much of the gay community, but do you think “homophobia would disappear… gay bashing or discrimination at work or in housing [would] end” simply if every gay person voted for whom you believe in? Every goddamn, solipsistic neofascist Repugnant and DIMocrat office holder could die in their sleep tonight and tomorrow we’d still be up to our pierced nipples in shit.

    La Rue Towle certainly has its share of residents to whom “gay activism” only means fellatio, but those of us who love sex AND Brokeback Mountain, and are angry at Oscar’s snub, which had less to do with the quality of Crash than the subject matter of BBM, understand that expressing that is a PART of activism, too; a part of the solution that’s going to take a combination of things to realize, not just your collection of bumper stickers.

    They address attacking symptoms not causes, and your myopia is a part of the problem. Climb down off the cross, Jolene. We need the wood.

  13. Kevin says

    Right on! Crash was mediocre from start to finish, and a contrived, forced story. I saw Crash when it was first released and basically forgot about it until the press began to talk about it as an upset for Oscars.

    When one movie, Brokeback, wins every major best picture award and not the Oscar then yes, there is a reason, and it’s not because Crash was superior.

  14. just broke says

    I agree with Span, David, and Noah J. Showed the Academy a “polished glass?” No, more like she showed her ass. Since when does the Academy actually award great films, anyway?

    And to the person who thinks racism has become subtle and nefarious, take it from this black gay person–it hasn’t. New Orleans, anyone?

  15. Gilli says

    Racism subtle and nefarious: who the HELL said that?? Lemme at ’em!

    Proulx said Crash was TRASH: Why is it okay for so many of YOU on this blog to say that, but not the author of BBM?? For that matter, why is it okay for YOU or I to say that we think ANYthing is trash, but not Proulx? She’s not special.

    Andy, Thank you for this interview.

  16. says

    And to the person who thinks racism has become subtle and nefarious, take it from this black gay person–it hasn’t. New Orleans, anyone?

    Yikes, good point.

    The column is definitely a little bitter, but I have to say I was tickled to read it. I little bitterness seems appropriate. I don’t think she’s gone overboard considering her personal investment in the issue.

  17. Anna says

    Wow, I didn’t mean to offend anyone with my point about racism moving in more insidious ways. Sorry for anyone who was insulted. What I was trying to show was the huge difference today between the way racism and homophobia are displayed – loud, marching, venomous homophobia is still acceptable to huge portions of the population. You can see it on TV, in churches, and even on the streets and in front of courthouses. That’s all I was trying to say.

  18. noahj says


    Give me a break. Myopia? Look in the mirror. I actually liked “Crash” more than BBM. However, neither movie is going to change the world because it received the Oscar! Can you name the top Oscar winners for 1988, 1990, 1997, or 2002 off the top of your head? No?

    Yeah, “Brokeback” was a nice movie but that’s all. You can moan at me all you want about how soul-shaking, enlightening, and powerful “Brokeback” is but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s just a movie. And, a somewhat boring film at that. Protesting on Towleroad (Rue Towle? Can we say pretentious?) doesn’t do anything to affect Hollywood. If you want to influence Hollywood buy the DVD or any other gay movie. $$$ talks.

    Lionsgate had an aggressive marketing campaign to get the word out about “Crash” to Oscar voters. “Brokeback’s” studio fucked up by not marketing to Academy members as aggressively. The studio knew it had tough competition but thought it could slide to the finish line. Didn’t work out for them.

    The Oscar doesn’t mean anything in the long term to Hollywood as much as if the movie made a shitload of money. There will be more movies featuring gays as they make more money. Hopefully those movies won’t feature stereotypical tragedy enswirled characters. Maybe they won’t be some cute hetero girl’s flaming bestfriend or the sex addicted loner or go-go boy or insert gay-cliche.

    (Yeah, I also hated “Queer Eye” because it was minstrel show, a gay “Amos & Andy.”)

    Maybe the character will be a detective, football player, doctor, hairdresser, astronaut, mayor or beer bellied favorite uncle. Having images on a constant basis that portray positive images of gays and lesbians is what leads to change not the frakin’ Oscar for a cliched “gay love ends in death” sob story–what a great story for young gay kids!

    Ultimately, “Brokeback” is just another film like so many Hollywood “events” that everyone thinks will change the world. It ain’t so. Frankly, the film is just another movie about tragic gay love. Wouldn’t it be better to see a movie where the cowboys ride off in the sunset happily ever after?

    (“Brokeback” is like the old tragic mulatto stories: a biracial person is torn between the white and black worlds but is never accepted by either, only to see a tragic, lonely end (“Immitation of Love”).)

  19. the yankee says

    uhhhh I don’t know why she has a problem with the voters receiving a DVD. How do you think they do it. It wasn’t the only DVD sent!

    The film wasn’t as good as Crash. The film didn’t win. Why always dig to find something wrong?

  20. Leland says

    NoahJ—perhaps you meant “Imitation [one “m”] of LIFE,” which, given that it was filmed twice, one would think you could get the title correct once. But it is representative of your fractured thinking generally; made up as it is with equal parts careless misreading of what others are saying, ignorance of sociocultural etiology, and moldy Gay Party Line cliches. We’ll try one more time. If you read out loud, and slowly enough, perhaps you’ll get it this time. The Oscar was not just a reward that BBM deserved but a means of enticing more people to see it, to be informed and moved by it, and, yes, to get more postive gay films made. Now you’re agreeing film CAN contribute to societal change—just not this one—though, if it were as gay-negative as you insist, one would think the Right Wing would have been embracing it, encouraging the World to rush right out and see proof of what they’ve been claiming all along, or, as they did with old Mel’s “The Passion of the Christ,” scheduled showings in their own churches. Still, you aren’t alone in thinking that it was somehow antigay, but the number who genuinely share that absurd opinion could be well-fed on a Large Baloney Pizza and a two-liter bottle of Diet Safeway Select. Bon Appetit.

  21. kc says

    That Ang Lee and the producers pulled together this movie after seven years in limbo, and made it profitable and appealing to gay and straight people alike is a feat worthy of Best Picture. The only handicap was the relunctance of certain people in going to view it. Yes, it has changed people’s closed-minded view of homosexuality, made them see that it is love, too. That’s a great accomplishment. It has a place in movie and cultural history. That the Academy had its collective head in the ground will also go into the history book as an example of resistance to cultural progress. To think, it could had been a celebration of progress despite the protestors and the right-wing pundits. Yes, Ebert and Oprah want the stage for their favorite race relationship film ever that is neither art nor trash, just a droning message that will be forgotten when the next car crash film comes along. So many converging forces to keep it safe put the more successful and more effective film unfairly on the backburner. No wonder Annie Poulx was burned up enough to flame some academy ass. You go, Annie.

  22. Chad Hanging says

    I have more respect for her now that she called Crash ‘Trash’. She has no need to prove her ability to articulate and she owes nothing to Crash apologists.

  23. noahj says


    Bitchiness does not subsitute for an intelligent argument. You’re writing style is described best as emaciated pseudo intellectualism, garbed in a frock of cliched wussiness.

    So let me say this again, read it outloud if you must: There are people dying of AIDS, genocide, hunger, and lack of decent health care! Children, women and men are slaughtered and raped every day to settle stupid grudges. If you can’t understand why those issues are more important to humanity than “Brokeback” then may your deity of choice help you gain a better perspective on life.

    Ultimately and sadly, you’ve just proved my point about your over-reaching: a mole hill is not a mountain. Just because you want every one to agree with your opinion that “Brokeback..” was the greatest movie ever, some critics (like Roger Ebert) and other people don’t agree with you. That doesn’t make them all homophobic or ignorant; it means that they have a different opinion.

    More importantly, an award is given to recognize meritorious achievement not to encourage the public to view a movie as you propose. (A little thing called “advertising” is supposed to do so.) But I’d expect that line of thinking from you since your writings indicate that you have a lot in common with the Right-wing propagandists. When someone disagrees with your opinions, you follow the Karl Rove/Ann Coulter destroy the “opposition” logic and decency be damned.

    As for “Brokeback” being anti-gay, I never wrote such. I did, however, imply that it did push tired stereotypes, as does “Queer as Folk” or “Queer Eye for the Straight” or “Amos and Andy” (none of which were ever pushed by the Right). The two things aren’t synonymous.

    Finally, I’ve seen both versions of the “Imitation of Life”; and both the 1930s and 1950s versions trafficked in racist stereotypes just as Oscar winner “Gone with the Wind” did.

  24. Gilli says


    You are clearly NEW to RUE TOWLE. I mean, could you be just a LITTLE MORE INSULTING???

    No one’s perfect, but believe it or not, it is possible to disagree amicably most of the time. And not get other bloggers started. And NOT yourself kicked off the site.

  25. frank says

    i have not read the entire annie proulx rebuttal to the academy awards.the only thing i can say is that after winning the award i went ti see CRASH and was really disappointed at what a simplistic.poorly made film this was. it was typically HOLLYWOOD suds..and nothing more.maybe thats why it won

  26. JackNasty says

    You guys should read the Oscars sites about this. Whatever you think about Brokeback and Crash, I think it’s clear that homophobia on the part of Academy members was a factor in the voting. And that does deserve to be condemned, I don’t care if we are talking about liberals.

  27. says

    Bitter Bitter Bitter

    Damn she needs to chill the F*ck out. I understand her feelings, but Lady Annie should stop with the hate.

    I liked CRASH.

    I like BBM more, but I still liked CRASH

  28. Chad Hanging says

    Can anyone who thinks BBM promotes traditional gay stereotypes ever be happy with any representation of a gay person on screen other than one so ambiguously presented that the audience is left with nothing more than innuendo?

    We’ve come a long way baby. Not.

  29. says

    Thanks to Anna for her comment, “On the other hand, homosexuality is the only remaining prejudice where you can protest in the streets calling people filthy names and discriminate against them – BUT still claim it’s good old American values and God’s will. A vote for the lousy Crash was a escape route – thus striking a solid blow for Intolerance.”

    When I first saw “Crash” I was glad the movie left out gay people, not wanting to be counted among the racist crew depicted in the unrealistic plot. Now that I’ve seen “Crash” three times, now that it’s won the best picture Oscar, I have to say I’m still glad. Having any GLBT people in the film would have given the Academy voters further reason for their cowardly “escape route,” another rationalization that they really don’t find us queers unworthy of the highest accolade they can bestow.

    As a gay man who values “Brokeback Mountains”–story and film–and am profoundly moved by having a segment of our diverse population finally getting its story told on the screen for the first time, and having our kind of love (universal, yes, but the obstacles to which only GLBT people can understand) shown with respect, understanding, and superior artistry, I have to say at first I took the Academy’s rejection personally. No doubt this was a mistake, and I have to admit perhaps some of those who voted for “Crash” were sincere. Maybe some of them weren’t even homophobic. Nevertheless, I still find “Crash,” worthy as its intentions may be, a woefully inferior movie to “Brokeback Mountain” and indeed to all the other best picture nominees.

    I love Annie Proulx’s comments about the Hollywood ceremony and all the “heffalumps” who preferred an inferior movie to the absolute best of 2005. Is she consistent? No. Does she need to be? No again. If it weren’t for her imagination and talent, none of us would be commenting here. As Joey puts it, “what a great person to have on our team!”

  30. says

    >>Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city

    That’s the most accurate and complete description of The Academy I’ve ever heard.

    >>smart-ass jokes by Jon Stewart who was witty and quick, too witty, too quick, too eastern perhaps for the somewhat dim LA crowd.


    Annie’s take on Hollywood is spot-on! To Hell with the Hollywood Heffalumps, they’re not real anyway. Real people know who deserved the award for Best Picture.

    Congratulations Annie.

  31. resurrect says

    “brokeback mtn” was just the cipher that revealed H’woods pseudo-liberalism. Annie’s critique wasn’t so many sour grapes as it was an incisive looked that split open the facade and let me see more clearly. images such as the open call for taxis as a bingo event are striking and revelatory – much the same economy of language and gift for bracing insight that she brought to her short story. A treasure – purely for her talent to see what we miss and to bring us along for the sightings.

  32. Arnie H. says

    The Academy Awards will go the way of the Miss America contest. Each year fewer and fewer people will watch, and eventually it will wind up broadcast on basic cable only.
    If you look at the history of the Oscars, more often than not the wrong picture has won for Best Picture. Brokeback is in very good company.

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