FROM MY OWN PRIVATE COLLECTION "Brokeback Mountain" (2005)

It's happened before.

While they usually make good on handing out the coveted Best Picture trophy to the actual best film of the year, Academy Awards members will periodically slip up in a big way and reward their top prize to a decent film instead of an excellent one.

Notable years where this took place include: 1941 (How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane), 1964 (My Fair Lady over Dr. Strangelove), 1979 (Kramer vs. Kramer over Apocalypse Now), 1980 (Ordinary People over Raging Bull), 1985 (Out of Africa over The Color Purple) and 1998 (Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan).

Now I'm not one of those who loathed the eventual 2005 winner Crash. In fact, I quite enjoyed it, and I was slightly surprised by how well-orchestrated it was.

But for that film to beat out Ang Lee's best work to date, it seemed almost criminal.

Brokeback helped to showcase the talents of Jake Gyllenhaal (who was previously sanctioned to oddball geeky roles), Anne Hathaway (who was looking to shake off her wholesome Disney image) and Michelle Williams (a Dawson's Creek alumnus).

And all three delivered, with Gyllenhaal and Williams earning deserved Oscar nominations for their turns. Hathaway would have to wait three years for some love, but she made her moment count.

Heath Ledger is in a category all his own, frankly. While everyone really played their parts well, he really transformed inside the character of Ennis, creating one of the most interesting personas I've ever seen on screen.

Truthfully, I was worried about how I would receive the movie when it first came out. On the one hand, this was the film that kept racking up accolade after accolade without any signs of slowing down (save for the Screen Actors Guild and, of course, the Oscars). So, needless to say, it had a lot to live up to.

There was also that giant elephant in the room (i.e. gay sex and gay love), something I have absolutely no problem with, though I don't particularly want to see it.

But there's much more to the film than just being the "gay cowboy movie." These people feel real, and you feel for them. The gorgeous cinematography and the easy-going music score lend themselves to the overall sense of isolation in this place.

And the script moves with a coherent energy that keeps you engaged the whole way through.

It is a masterful film, and it's one of the few from the decade that is likely to be remembered for a long time in the years to come. And rightfully so.

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