In my Race, Gender, Class, and Sexuality in American Film class (Isn't that name a mouthful!), we are wrapping up the semester and completing the dreaded end of semester group projects. My group was assigned Homosexual Representation on film after the AIDS crisis of the 1980's. As part of the project, we had to select a film to analyze and present in relation to the course content. After some deliberation, we selected Gus Van Sant's Milk, based on the true story of the first openly gay elected official in America. I recently re-watched Milk, and this Xtra-Notes section is dedicated to the film.
- Sean Penn won the Oscar for his portrayal of Harvey Milk. Though his performance was truly captivating, I can't help but feel like Mickey Rourke was the better actor that year with his comeback performance in The Wrestler. That shouldn't take anything away from Mr. Penn, but if there is one complaint about the film, it's his performance. Sean doesn't blow me away, but rather the supporting cast--his ensemble, really illuminates the subject. They give Gays a face and a voice, something I didn't really feel from Sean Penn. I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I thought I'd at least share.
- Josh Brolin on the other hand nails his performance as the squeaky-clean-politician. He plays the ultimate villain (seething through his clenched lips and focused brow) to Harvey Milk. In being a worthy adversary he gives a face to the "Christian Coalition" and "Moral Majority" hate that existed in the 1970's and to some degree still exists today. Brolin manages to make squeaky clean utterly ugly--but in a good way of course.
- The cinematography here is absolutely perfect. The film actually feels like the 1970's with its sepia tinged tones and hazed shots. It's a shame this didn't get awarded by the Academy. This might actually be the greatest asset of Milk.
- Alison Pill plays Anne Kronenberg, a lesbian who manages Milk’s campaign. I’m not sure that this is a compliment (in fact I’m pretty sure it’s not), but doesn’t she kinda look like a young Rosie O’Donnell?
Okay... Maybe not... But while watching Milk I couldn't help but feel like I was watching Rosie O'Donnell. My apologies to Alison Pill if that offends her in anyway.
- My teacher (Jans Wager) said, "Movies, I believe, can change the world. They can change our perceptions about things we don't understand and could probably never understand unless we see them." I have to agree with that. Milk is one of those films that can change you (I had preconceived notions, mostly negative about Gay rights). After viewing this (I've seen it a couple times) I'll say those ideas about Gay rights have predominantly changed. I'm sure some of y'all would disagree with my words (Hell I even find myself disagreeing with them), but after watching Harvey Milk give everything, including his life to that cause, well let's just say it's hard not to, at the very least, BEGIN to understand. Would I be willing to give my life for a cause that others absolutely hated--even despised? Probably not, but Harvey Milk did, which is a testament to his fight--one that wasn't won and is still being fought today.