If you're among the millions who surf the Internet each week looking for movie trailers, recent findings may have left you pondering some very odd questions. Are Frodo and Sam more than friends? Is blockbuster popcorn-pusher Brett Ratner a trailblazing pioneer on par with Ang Lee? Were Marty McFly and Doc Brown testing the space-time continuum, or steaming up the DeLorean windows with a wholly different type of experimentation?
"We were looking mostly for those awkward moments that you see in a relationship that are sort of forbidden," laughed Patrick De Nicola, part of the Chocolate Cake City comedy troupe behind the Internet phenomenon "Brokeback to the Future." "We love the scene with [Marty] in the car, saying to his mom: 'Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you had to act a certain way, but when you got there you didn't know if you could go through with it?' "
If you still can't piece together the implications on your own, perhaps the trailer's dramatic "Brokeback Mountain" score will clue you in — or there's always the tagline: "It was an experiment in time. But the one variable they forgot was love." The clip has taken off in a way that mirrors the real "Brokeback Mountain" ascending to Oscar frontrunner, but if you think the Twin Pines Mall parking lot is the only place where classic Hollywood characters are coming out of the closet, you need to get your browser to a search engine, pronto.
"Everybody can say something that can be taken out of context," reported Tian Tang, the 29-year-old movie buff who authored spoofs for "Rush Hour" and "Heat." "It turns into something that is very sensitive to a lot of heterosexual, masculine males in America, and it only takes about two hours to make one."
"I definitely think Americans, especially the heterosexual, ultra-masculine males, should loosen up," said Tang, a Chinese immigrant who gleefully admits to taking advantage of Americans' shock over the concept of gay action heroes. " 'Heat,' the movie, is very interesting. ... Al Pacino has shot Robert De Niro but he still holds his hand as he watches him die, as a show of respect and honor among those two men. Such clips can be interpreted as innuendos."
In the same trailer, tough guy De Niro insists, "I don't know how to do anything else," and a somber Pacino looks him in the eyes and replies: "Neither do I."
"In my spoof," Tang elaborated, "it can be interpreted as they can't quit their lifestyle."
Like any phenomenon, these "Brokeback" trailers have spawned dozens of imitations, some ("Goodfellas") better than others ("Eight Below"). "What people like the most, and it's not just the trailer that we made but trailers in general, are the ones that use a lot of dialogue from the actual movie," said De Nicola, who attends Emerson College with his Chocolate Cake City co-conspirators. He adds that Gustavo Santaolalla's morose song "The Wings" is also essential. "Music can really set the tone for the joke, but if you are able to work that dialogue into your joke too, people really appreciate that."
It also helps to have a visual that recalls a key "Brokeback" scene — whether it's McFly angrily brandishing a letter, "Point Break" star Patrick Swayze approaching Keanu Reeves from behind or even a few Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sitting around the campfire grinning at each other. But why, one has to wonder, hasn't a similar cottage industry been built around the other Oscar contenders?
"It's the movie that is in everyone's mind at the moment; even if you haven't seen 'Brokeback Mountain,' you know what it's about," De Nicola reasoned. "There is 'Capote,' there is 'Munich' and there is 'Good Night, and Good Luck' that are nominated as well, but a lot of people can't just say, 'Oh I know what those are about,' without having actually seen them. 'Brokeback' is the big thing because when it came out it was already at the center of our culture. It getting nominated only helped make our trailer more relevant to the times" (see " 'Brokeback Mountain' Leads Oscar Race With Eight Nominations").
The part-time filmmakers are thankful that movie studios have so far left their satirical pieces alone, and that Heath, Jake and their other targets seem willing to take the joke. Still, Tang laughed, "I would like to meet [De Niro] in person, even if just to apologize to him for dragging his name through the mud."
"If I could send them a message," De Nicola adds, addressing Gyllenhaal and Ledger, "I guess it would be thanks for the inspiration and, um, don't hate us."
It would be hard for even cranky actors to despise a well-intentioned return visit to their films. But if the trend has you eyeballing your own DVD collection and scanning your memory banks for double entendres between Neo and Morpheus or Spider-Man and Doc Ock, the filmmakers have one final opinion aimed at those who would attempt to take their crowns.
"The 'Brokeback' bandwagon is pretty full," shrugged the man who implied that De Niro and Pacino shared more than a cup of coffee together. "Right now, I think, it's gotten pretty saturated."
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