While you're watching 2 of this season's big Oscar contenders, listen closely and read between the lines at the significance of the songs that play over their closing credits.
Two of America's most mainstream country legends have provided instant-classic songs for two of the most thought-provoking and boundry-breaking films in history. I'm referring to Dolly Parton - who's song "Travelin' Thru" closed "Transamerica" - and Willie Nelson - with the haunting "He was a Friend of Mine" for "Brokeback Mountain." I quite by accident (and crazily) met Willie Nelson at a dinner party last month and quizzed him about his ode to cowboy love. He told me that at the time he recorded the song, he'd only been shown the final scenes of "Brokeback" in order to get the context of how his song would play. The motivation worked. His song continues the mood of the film perfectly, coming right after the its tearful ending, as Ennis says "Jack, I swear." Willie sings: "Every time I think of him, I just can't keep from cryin'. Cuz he was a friend of mine.... He never done no wrong. A thousand miles from home, and he never harmed no one. And he was a friend of mine."
Willie said he liked the movie very much and that the talk on his tour bus had been whether the story of two cowboys in love would play down in Austin, Texas. Judging from red state box office receipts, it looks like folks all over are buying it. (And the great Emmylou Harris is getting nominated all over the place for her great "Brokeback" song, "A Love that Will Never Grow Old.")