There's gold in them thar gay cowboys

Retailers are cashing in on 'Brokeback Mountain' in the run-up to tonight's glittering Oscars show
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The Independent Culture

They aren't giving away gay cowboy figurines at Burger King quite yet, but Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee's cowboy love story, has unmistakably seeped into pop culture as it stands poised to be fêted at the Oscars tonight.

As Hollywood's glitterati made the rounds of media photo-ops over the past week, Los Angeles filled up with Brokeback Mountain-inspired mugs, T-shirts and other items - many adorned with the film's signature line "I wish I knew how to quit you".

The clothing shop Nieman Marcusis reporting a surge of interest in western styles. Willie Nelson, who sings one of the songs on the movie soundtrack, has just re-released an old number entitled "Cowboys Are Secretly, Frequently (Fond of Each Other)". At a recent fashion show Valentino sent a couple of gay cowboys down the catwalk. Two cowboy shirts that take on a special significance in the film have just been auctioned on eBay for charity.

All of this is likely to come to a halt, of course, if the 5,000 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences subvert expectations and bestow the Best Picture award on a different film. This year, however, the suspense over who will walk away with which statuette appears to be considerably lower than usual.

Brokeback has won just about every other major award so far, from the Golden Globes to the Baftas. Likewise, Philip Seymour Hoffman is the runaway favourite for Best Actor for his performance in Capote. Reese Witherspoon is hot favourite for Best Actress for playing another real-life character, June Carter Cash, in Walk the Line - although there is a chance she will be squeezed out by Felicity Huffman playing a transsexual in Transamerica.

This has been an unusually quiet awards season all round. None of the Best Picture nominees has been a box-office smash, and the competition between them has been remarkably gentlemanly. Still, some glimmers of controversy have made themselves felt. One of the producers of Crash, which is up for Best Picture, is suing a colleague for alleged non-payment of $2m. Meanwhile the other producer, Bob Yari, is suing the Producers Guild and the academy because he has been dropped from the list of producers who can claim the Best Picture Oscar.

Controversy also hangs over Paradise Now, a Palestinian foreign-language competitor about suicide bombing. Its director, Hany Abu Assad, told an Israeli newspaper he thought his Oscar chances would be stymied by the "pro-Israeli bias" of the academy.

THE ODDS

'Crash' has last-minute backing from punters who believe it will win best picture. Bookies slashed odds from 8/1 to 6/4, but Ang Lee's film is favourite at 1/2.

Reese Witherspoon is hot favourite at 1/6 to follow up her Bafta triumph and win best actress for her role in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line.

Favourite for best actor is Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote, at 1/8, followed by Joaquin Phoenix and Heath Ledger, both at 7/1.

'Brokeback Mountain' is odds-on to win Ang Lee the best director Oscar with odds of 1/16. George Clooney is at 10/1 for Good Night, and Good Luck.

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