Saturday, February 07, 2009

Supporting Milk

Milk (2008)
Directed By: Gus Van Sant
Writer: Dustin Lance Black
Starring: Sean Penn (Harvey Milk), Emile Hirsch (Cleve Jones), Josh Brolin (Dan White), Diego Luna (Jack Lira), James Franco (Scott Smith), Alison Pill (Anne Kronenberg)

This is the Oscar month. However, unlike the other years, the hype this year seems very lukewarm. In India, 'Slumdog Millionaire' managed to grab quite a few headlines, and then it fizzled out. Everybody had an opinion about the film, and most of them saw it as pirated copies. By the time it reached Indian theatres, everybody who cared had already seen the film. Sad.
But most Indians, nonetheless, want Slumdog to win the big award. The film is about India after all and it’s the closest we can get to getting an Oscar!
However, I was just thinking, what if, I know, I know, it’s almost impossible, Milk gets away with the Best Film Oscar, something which even Brokeback Mountain could not do. Actually, it’s about time too, in a 'changed' America, with Obama and all.
Milk has several things to its support. To begin with, it’s a biopic, and the Academy loves biopics. But there’s a hitch, it’s a 'gay film' and unapologically so. The entire premise of the film is gay rights movement, as Harvey Milk famously said, if a bullet should pierce my soul, let it break open all the closets in the world. It’s about time, we honoured the memory of Milk and the entire history of gay rights movement, especially at a time when California has banned same-sex marriage all over again, a similar situation for which Harvey Milk had fought.
And we are not asking for awards on sympathy votes. The film deserves it, and Penn deserves an award too. For an actor as established as him, it’s quite a task to change himself completely to look a gay man, with that camp look and act, yet without going into making the character a caricature.
What you see on the screen is someone who looks like Sean Penn but not quite. He’s Harvey Milk, with all his good and bad quality. This is an area where the film scores above all. The film does not try to glorify its subject, but painstakingly creates a historic document which is as close to the real as movies can make. What you see in the screen is San Francisco of the 1970s. The use of the newsreels of Anita Bryant only adds to the authenticity.
'Milk' is the movie of the year, from mainstream Hollywood at least...

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