(In theaters, December 2005) It’s unbelievably hard to shake off sarcastic giggles when considering the concept of this film. Thanks to South Park, “pudding-eating gay cowboys” had already entered the lexicon as code for “dull independent films”: Seeing such a film with a real budget and actual Hollywood stars is enough to make anyone smile, as in “aren’t they being a bit too obvious about their pretended edginess?”. Then there’s the amusing thought that gays cowboys are two words which, placed in close proximity, can enrage the Religious Right in another bout of fake culture war. But all of the potential giggles and sarcastic snickers quickly die down once the film gets underway: despite my qualms about director Ang “I killed The Hulk” Lee’s brand of slow-moving period drama, Brokeback Mountain does eventually attain a narrative velocity that makes it hard to dismiss. Sure, the romance emerges almost out of nowhere and the tragic nature of the film is a touch too predictable, but most of the film is spent wondering what will happen next. If nothing else, Brokeback Mountain is far more interesting than, say, Aeon Flux or any cheap teensploitation film in terms of drama. This may sound like faint praise because there are indeed limits to my appreciation of the film: I’m not generally a fan of romantic tragedies, westerns, gay-issue or Ang Lee films. But even despite these serious handicaps (plus the giggle factor inherent in the premise), Brokeback Mountain held my attention and wasn’t as dull as I had thought. Not bad.