Saturday, December 6, 2008

Milk review

I saw Gus van Sant's movie, Milk, a mostly factual dramatization of the last years of the life of Harvey Milk. Van Sant's treatment of the subject follows Randy Shilt's biography The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (St. Martin's Press, 1982). Walking into the theater, I was a bit skeptical, since I am a fan of the 1984 documentary film The Times of Harvey Milk.

I needn't have worried. Milk is an impressive, unsentimental retelling of the story of California's first openly gay elected official. Sean Penn does an amazing job of channeling Milk. The movie is going to win awards. (I'm going to predict Best Picture and Best Actor at the 2009 Academy Awards.)

The only reason not to watch the movie would be if you were a Prop 8 supporter and don't want to leave the theater thoroughly ashamed of yourself. (The movie portrays the fight over the anti-gay 1978 Briggs Initiative, with some historical footage. Anti-gay campaigns, like all attempts a rolling back civil rights, don't pass the test of time.)

Milk is a well-made film with compelling current relevance. Two thumbs up. (That is, both of my thumbs.)


Sabayon said...

Sorry if this is off-topic-ish, but reading about the Briggs initiative really made me think about how comparatively complacent the queer community was in opposing Prop 8. Reading about the massive coming out drive and the people going door to door to talk to their neighbors about how Briggs would hurt them, I can't help but think that gay Californians should have done something similar. It seemed like a lot of No on 8 ads avoided talking about gay couples directly, and failed to show how real families would be affected by the passage of 8. I know I thought it was ridiculous that such a thing would pass, and so did too many others, so not enough was done to oppose it. Heck, a decent number of no on 8 ads just focused on telling people that they should vote no if they wanted to support gay marriage rights (since it was a bit confusing for some), assuming that all but the most far out whackjobs would then vote no, because it is the sane position. The most visible anti-prop 8 protests (including Prop 8 the Musical) seem to have happened after it already passed. This in a way makes me feel hopeful, because I know the passage of prop 8 has shaken a lot of people out of their complacency (and, unfortunately, optimism) and hopefully in future we can have more direct, active campaigns like the one organized by Milk.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

Yeah I really love it, and even cried a little towards the end.

Watching the movie and hearing "Prop 6" over and over, and then watching the scene where prop 6 failed was rather difficult for me. The emotion the characters displayed was to me very bittersweet as I thought about how in 2008 something like that could pass.

Michael A-K said...

I was surprised that you didn't mention that the screenwriter of Milk is a gay mormon. Even though you probably already know, I'm attaching the article.

You discuss van sant but not Black and he's just as important (the little cutie)...see we gay mormons are everywhere! *grin*