Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Thumb Way Up: Milk

Starring: Sean Penn, James Franco
Co-Starring: Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna
Rated R for minor language (I think there was only one f-bomb), mature theme

Even though it has been out a while, I finally got to see Milk. It's the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay elected official in the United States. The story documents his path from New York City insurance worker drone to fiery San Francisco City Supervisor and gay rights pioneer.

Before his death, he taped an accounting of his life only to be played in the event of his assassination. He knew the danger he was in, in fact foresaw his own death, yet continued on to make history.

What I Liked
• I got lost in the character of Harvey Milk with Sean Penn's performance.
• Great performances of the entire cast.
• The costume design (OMG, there's that velour shirt I used to have!), hair and makeup, set design, and exteriors all spoke pure 1970's.
• The educational aspect of the movie. I learned a lot. I know more about the significant of Mr. Milk, the Briggs Amendment (Prop 6), Anita Bryant, and my beloved Orange County circa 1978. I didn't move to the OC until 1985, but many of the friends that I made were there slugging it out in the hostile political trenches during Briggs.
• The actual film footage of the time cut into the movie helped ground the action in the time period.
• It is one of those rare stories that really appeal to who, what I am, what makes me tick, and what I'm all about. If you see this movie, the level to which you understand me will expand exponentially.

What I Didn't Like
• The reminder that people used to be attractive based on who they were and what they brought to the table, rather than what they look like and what they can do for you. Do I sound bitter? I am! Sean Penn as Harvey Milk isn't the best looking character to hit the screen but he is so compelling.
• The reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Much of the dialog and societal maneuverings from then are taking place today.
• The reminder that I, and people like me, are dead center of the culture war.
• The reminder that a Proposition 6 (Brigg's Amendment to fire all gay teachers and their supporters) could be defeated in 1978 yet Proposition 8 passed in 2008.
• The reminder that for every Anita Bryant that we vanquish, there's a coven more waiting to step up and take her place.

How It Made Me Feel
Sad: The tragic taking of a life of importance with such a bright burning light of courage and vision.
Reflective: The movement and support that Harvey Milk generated was pre-AIDS epidemic. Imagine if all those supporters had lived to carry forth his vision.
Nostalgic: Life seems like it was so much simpler and fulfilling then.
Humbled: I have dedicated a large portion of my life to advancing GLBT/AIDS rights, causes, and legislation. There have been times when I worked up to 60 hours a week volunteering. I'm proud of what I've done but I am humbled by Milk's accomplishments.
Inspired: If he could give his time and life, I can give a few more hours and march in a few more demonstrations and parades.
Connected: I'm not sure anyone who isn't gay could ever get this. Watching the movie made me feel connected to all those gay folks, that have come before me and will come after, that struggle every day.

One thing is for sure — I love San Francisco and miss it. I haven't been there in five years and need to make visiting a top priority. Perhaps I can make it in the coming year?

Milk is the type of movie/story that will stay with me for a long time, changing how I view myself, others, and the world. I give Milk my thumb way up!

You can also watch the documentary The Times Of Harvey Milk on Hulu.com.


Anonymous said...

Before seeing the film, I read Randy Shilts' book (The Mayor of Castro Street) and recommend IT highly as well.

I agree, some of the parallels regarding right-wing asininity were downright creepy. SSDD (Same S#!+, Different Day) as they say. Ditto on feeling connected too, and wondering where we'd be if AIDS hadn't come along. Sigh.

Cyrus said...

Couldn't agree more with everything you said.

Lacey said...

Can't wait to see it. Thanks for sharing so much.