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Saturday, January 07, 2006

GLAAD Mad at Shalit's "Brokeback" Breakdown

GLAAD Mad at Shalit's "Brokeback" Breakdown

By Sarah Hall Fri Jan 6, 7:44 PM ET

For the most part, the critics agree that Brokeback Mountain is one of the year's most commendable films.

Then there's Gene Shalit's point of view.

The veteran Today show critic has been taken to task by the
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation over his negative review of the gay cowboy western, in which he referred to Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Jack, as a "sexual predator" who "tracks Ennis down and coaxes him into sporadic trysts."

The group claimed that Shalit's statements, delivered during his "Critic's Choice" segment on Thursday's Today show, promoted "defamatory anti-gay prejudice to a national audience," and criticized NBC News for providing the eccentric critic with a platform from which to air his views.

"Shalit's bizarre characterization of Jack as a 'predator' and Ennis (
Heath Ledger) as a victim reflects a fundamental lack of understanding about the central relationship in the film and about gay relationships in general," GLAAD said in a statement. "It seems highly doubtful that Shalit would similarly claim that Titanic's Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) was a 'sexual predator' because he was pursuing a romantic relationship with Rose (Kate Winslet)." [Here, Here.--NS]

GLAAD demanded an apology from both Shalit and NBC News and urged supporters to contact the network and complain.

In addition to offering his searing analysis of the romantic relationship between the lead characters, Shalit commended Ledger's performance in Brokeback and allowed that the film had a "few dramatic peaks." He concluded that Ang Lee's much-nominated oeuvre was "wildly overpraised, but not by me."

"Shalit has every right as a film critic to criticize Brokeback Mountain," GLAAD retorted. "But his baseless branding of Jack as a 'sexual predator' merely because he is romantically interested in someone of the same sex is defamatory, ignorant and irresponsible."

The group reported on its Website that GLAAD representatives had spoken with a Today show producer, who promised to bring their concerns to Shalit's attention.

While Shalit may not be a Brokeback fan, his colleagues in critique have clamored to commend the cowboy drama.

To date, the film has been named Best Picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle and deemed one of the year's 10 best films by the American Film Institute and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

The kudos don't stop there--Brokeback is up for eight Critic's Choice Awards, seven Golden Globes, a Writers Guild Award, a Producers Guild Award, a Directors Guild Award and four Screen Actors Guild Awards, to name a few. And that's before nominations for the Academy Awards are announced on Jan. 31.

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