Dan White: Society can’t exist without the family.
Harvey Milk: We’re not against that.
Dan White: Can two men reproduce?
Harvey Milk: No, but God knows we keep trying.
Cannes Winner Gus Van Sant’s ‘Milk’ is nominated for eight Oscars including the Best Picture. And rightfully so.
‘Milk’ is a beautiful movie. A biographical account of Harvey Milk (left), a gay rights activist, politician and ‘the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office in the history of the planet’, ‘Milk’, is not just the story of a man but an eventful chronicle of a time when homosexuals came out of the closet, asserted their rights and sought political representation. The movie in itself holds several valid political lessons for dummies, like why the marginalised need to capture power and need one of theirs in positions of power to understand and action on their issues. (say in the Indian context, why a Dalit in the South Block)
Oscar Synopsis: As the emerging Gay Pride movement gathers force in the 1970s, it finds a champion and a public face in San Francisco camera store owner Harvey Milk. Leaving his closeted life in New York behind, Milk moves to California with his lover and soon turns his efforts to politics, campaigning for a spot on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors–a quest that will make him the country’s first openly gay man to be elected to public office.
1. While ‘Milk’ skillfully entwines the personal and the political and the mundane, it does not fall into the maze of philosophical and existential wide-angle shots but is deliberately rooted in events, and actions for day-to-day survival. It is a highly watchable and enjoyable movie which informs, entertains and provokes at the same time.
2. Harvey Milk’s story is a little Kennedysque, because as a person, Milk wouldn’t have been so important hadn’t he been assassinated. But sometimes even death is a political activity. But after watching the movie, I have been reading a bit on Milk, and what becomes evident is the writer’s and the director’s effort in sticking to true historical events. It requires more than research to create a memorable cinematic experience while sticking to the facts of mundane events like local elections and law amendments. ‘Milk’ could deservedly win the Best Screenplay award.
3. Sean Penn,as the NYTimes review puts it, ‘All of this Mr. Penn captures effortlessly through voice and gesture, but what is most arresting is the sense he conveys of Milk’s fundamental kindness, a personal virtue that also functions as a political principle’. If there is one common thread which runs the entire length of the movie, it the amicable, sociable and kind nature of Harvey Milk. Every single instance where Milk interacts with another character we see the inherent kindness and the helping nature of his character. Sean Penn captures it very well and he scores atleast above Frank Langella(FROST\NIXON) for the Best Actor award.
“Milk” is an absolute watch for any serious movie goer, it is a beautiful and enjoyable movie, but not a classic. Few things which stand out against the movie are,
1. The build up to the assassination is not convincing. There is a scene where Supervisor Dan White talks to Milk in an inebriated state and I wondered why that scene was there in the first place(as I didn’t know that Dan White is the killer, as I didn’t know anything about Harvey Milk like I know Gandhi-Godse). So my guess was this would have something to do with the climax where Milk is assassinated. Now thats not how a classic talks, mind you this is not a Max Payne video game to remember clues. The same happens when Milk is followed by some anonymous guy in the street. This scene was to show the private fear of reprisal in Milk. But a scene just for that seemed artificial.
2. Couldn’t find anything new in the way a biographical film is made. The same tools, and I do remember Sean Penn from ‘All the Kings Men’
Verdict: Overall a great movie, could go home with the Best Picture, Screenplay and Actor. Good Watch!
P.S: It seems Deja Vu in California