Milk (Gus Van Sant) 2008

I heard one complaint that Milk is not a conventional biopic and that we don’t really learn that much about Harvey Milk.  That is true, but a conventional biopic would not be as good and lose significance after one viewing.  As much as I liked Ray the first viewing, my opinion of it has dropped since that time.  It was a compelling performance by Jamie Foxx, but there is not much drawing me back to it.  There is a documentary on Harvey Milk if you are really interested.  Milk is about the man, but more importantly it is about the movement.  It isn’t about winning or losing political elections.  It is about the movement.

We follow Milk from 1970 when he first moves to San Francisco to 1978 when he and the city mayor are murdered by another county supervisor (and before you all scream spoilers, the movie tells you Milk is assassinated in the first two minutes).  Harvey practically creates a gay community out of nothing in Castro, and is drawn into political life through the open hostility against homosexuals.  I think the power of this movie is amplified by the near perfect timing of its release.  Just coming off of the passing of Proposition 8, and a nationwide banning of gay marriage I can just picture Harvey in a better place still shaking his head.

This is probably Penn’s best performance as he seemingly transforms into the title role.  Sadly ever since I Am Sam there has been a terrible backlash against Penn and everyone will probably assume it is his attempt for an Oscar.  Penn should have learned that you don’t go the full retard.  Gus Van Sant does a good job behind the camera mixing historical footage and sharp editing and letting Penn do what he does best.  Milk is not preachy and I think it it can reach just about anyone.  Van Sant does not need to make a didactic movie or speeches, he simply shows the characters as real people and we see the persecution they go through.  They are not child molesters, they are not criminals, they are not social deviants, they are people.  Even after 30 years, the battle continues and the movement goes on.    Many will dismiss this movie for one reason or another.  But this is a worthwhile and necessary movie.

PS. its odd that I have a Twinkie in my avatar and White basically got acquitted on the Twinkie Defense.  By the way that was a real high point in the justice system and the gay movement. *sarcasm*

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