Struggle and Strife

Milk is a movie I made of point of seeing twice. I watched it once to gain knowledge as to the subject matter and the specific events that transpired during this tumultuous era. It was, more or less, a history lesson for myself the first time around (since I had never even heard of Harvey Milk and, as a gay male, I found that to be quite shameful.) The second time, I saw it for its merits and the cinematic values it imbues and tries to carry across the silver divide from the screen to the audience mind. What I found in both viewings was a movie that is relentless in its optimism and its universal application of this hopeful perspective. Sure, the movie deals directly with gay rights and activism; but it's a model for any segment of society that is oppressed or ignorantly labeled. Really, a broad-enough theme of equality and progress that can be applied to any ideal for change or to any group of outcasts and prejudged minorities. The film serves as both documentary of great events during the Stonewall-era and as cinematic entertainment for the layman who simply wants to see a good story on screen. Gus Van Sant delivers both in this movie. He serves as faithful storyteller representing a community that has, generally speaking, grown to take their freedoms of expression for granted and who would see the events in this movie as pre-history from a neighboring galaxy. At the center of that galaxy of stars and planets would be Sean Penn, whose portrayal of Milk is more than just a looks match-up; but goes into the depths of a character in life who was so fearless and brave (truly brave--not "brave" as the word is thrown around in the gay community nowadays.) Milk's relentlessness and drive to oust bigotry and hate in San Francisco and beyond is portrayed beautifully by Penn and his ability to completely immerse himself in the culture and seem like a real gay man--not a straight man playing one. The supporting cast, including James Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch are brilliant examples of great casting (again, not only because of their physical resemblance to their real-life shells, but) because of their evident dedication to portray these people as the true heroes and pioneers that they were. These were men who were a part of something grand and great--whether they knew it or not. But when you watch this movie, you know it for sure. A touching display of tribute and homage to Milk in the film's final sequence is breathtaking and provides perspective as to how much of an impact Milk made and how many lives--gay, straight and otherwise--it is that he affected. Lives that his actions continue to affect to this day.
— December 8, 2008 10:04 a.m.

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