Milk (2008)

Director: Gus Van Sant

Synopsis: This is a biography of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay
elected official in the state of California. The story follows Milk as he
opens his photography business in a seedy section of San Francisco, named
the Castro District for the old Castro Theater at its center. “The
Castro” gradually becomes the city’s gay ghetto, and, with the help of
Milk’s organizing talents, its gay population becomes a cohesive political
force. Milk gains clout by the sheer force of his passion and persuasion.
He is elected to the position of County Supervisor, only to be assinated
later, along with Mayor Moscone (Victor Garber,) by former Supervisor Dan
White (Josh Brolin) who used the now-infamous “Twinkie defense” for his

Review: Though this is not a new film, I think it warrents space here if
for nothing else but Sean Penn’s superb Oscar-winning performance. Even
if the subject matter isn’t your cup of tea, this is an outstanding film
worthy of attention. Penn’s performance is both fearless and seamless,
never showing a hint of ambivolence on the part of the straight actor
playing a very gay man. As distinct as Penn’s face is, as I watched the
film I so completely believed his performance that I forgot he was an
actor. Director Van Sant, also nominated for an Oscar, beautifully wove
archival footage into the film, lending both authenticity and atmosphere. The gay lifestyle is presented with integrity and without judgement as
Milk picks up a birthday companion for himself (James Franco) who becomes
his interim lover, then best friend.

The eight Academy Award nominations should serve as an indication of the
strength of this film. It’s powerful and moving and not to be missed.


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