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  • On the contrary, I found Emile Hirsch quite refreshing in his role as the young, spirited gay activist Cleve Jones
  • All things considered, I think that an open mind is essential to fully appreciate this film and its message

    • by she

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      “Milk” is based on the last eight years of the life of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), the first-ever openly gay man to be elected into public office in the U.S., right from his move from New York City to San Francisco in 1970 at the age of 40 up to his assassination in 1978, after serving barely a year as San Francisco District 5 Supervisor. His short-lived political career was made more incredible by the fact that he was able to accomplish it in the midst of the turbulent 70’s when society was not yet as tolerant of the gay lifestyle as it is now.

      We see in the movie that his political journey was not exactly a bed of roses - he’s tried to run for public office three times previously and lost. Of course, as is the case in social minorities, his success was brought about not only by his own efforts but also by the support of his community, including erstwhile lover Scott Smith (James Franco), young activist Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch) and campaign manager Anne Kronenberg (Alison Pill) among others. And just when he was at his political prime, his untimely death along with that of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber) in the hands of envious fellow Supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin) unwittingly served as the catalyst for the further empowerment of the gay community, successfully blocking the incredibly absurd “Proposition 6” (an initiative launched by conservative state legislator John Briggs, played by Denis O’Hare, that sought to ban gay

      people and their supporters/sympathizers from working in California’s public schools, for which Brigg’s contentions were ridiculous and downright laughable).

      As expected, Sean Penn was terrific in the title role, with all the subtle nuances and just the right voice projection, making sure he does not paint a caricature of the man he is portraying. This is one actor who absorbs himself fully into the character he plays (his impressive body of work proves that: “Dead Man Walking”, “I am Sam” and “Mystic River”) that he almost makes you forget that he is just acting. On second thought, maybe that’s just what he does; he is not acting, but being - being the person he is playing. I especially like the scene where, despite being forewarned that he will get the first bullet if he takes the microphone, he delivered a rousing speech in a gay rally against John Briggs who was about to come to town. He was very convincing in this particular scene, and he almost makes you want to stand up and throw your fist in the air and chant along with the crowd. A second Oscar for Mr. Penn is definitely well deserved.

      The supporting cast was adequate; it is, after all, a bioflick, where the focus is really just centered on the lead. Not so much character development for the other parts; even the Dan White character was a little half-baked. I don’t quite get why Josh Brolin was given an Oscar nod for this; while he was able to deliver, there wasn’t much ...

      • else to flesh out in his character - all we know is that he was envious of Milk’s success. I mean, how hard is it to portray anger and jealousy? I bet any actor could do that. I just think his character, as depicted by the screenwriter, was a little one-dimensional to warrant a nomination for him. On the contrary, I found Emile Hirsch quite refreshing in his role as the young, spirited gay activist Cleve Jones. I almost did not recognize him under the thick curly hair and huge 70’s eyeglasses, and his first scene, where he meets Milk out on Castro Street, is really charming.

        I liked the way Director Gus Van Sant filmed the movie. The grainy quality kind of fit the milieu effectively; you kind of appreciate the 70’s setting more. Besides, it seamlessly blends with the stock news footage he liberally used (from the opening scene to the hauntingly touching closing scene) so that we get a visually cohesive movie. He also took care not to abuse the theme and show unnecessary nudity and sex scenes (the way many Pinoy gay movies take advantage of the local indie film movement to get actors naked as often as possible). Sure there were a couple of tender scenes that may be a little uncomfortable to some (after all, how often do we see two guys kiss on the big screen?), but these were included in the film to show us the human side of Milk - he falls in love too, just like everyone

        else. I don’t know about the real Harvey Milk, but I actually think that the film version of the guy is a little too tame, a little sanitized, if you may. I mean, this was the 70’s, people were much more carefree when it came to sex as this was before the advent of HIV and AIDS - surely, Milk must have gotten a little more action than that! Well, I suppose Mr. Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black decided to play up the “modern hero” slant and decided that portraying promiscuity in the film would probably not help the cause.

        All things considered, I think that an open mind is essential to fully appreciate this film and its message. To this day, there are still a lot of people who are biased and bigoted against the gay community, and I highly doubt that this is a movie people like them would go out and see. The fact that it is a gay-themed film would probably be enough to turn them off. But it is exactly this that is the root of all this hatred and bigotry - the refusal of self-righteous ultra-conservatives to try to understand why things are the way they are. It is ignorance and the fear of the unknown that makes them prejudiced, just as it is portrayed in the movie. One only needs to try to look at things objectively to see that at its core, “Milk” is about one brave man’s extraordinary fight for human rights and equality; his homosexuality is just incidental.

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