Current Date:17 August, 2022

Movie 4 D Week : Milk (2008)

Language : English

Director : Gus Van Sant

Watch ‘Milk’ just for Sean Penn who plays Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official so very convincingly. Harvey Milk is a gay rights crusader and in his words “We are not fighting for our rights, we are fighting for our lives” is a statement which in itself says how much has been denied. Milk was a crusader for not just gay rights but also became a symbol of freedom and tolerance. It is their fight against accusations of being Pedophiles and being unfit to be part of society. This is a very well made biopic and there has been an attempt to do a really good character study of Harvey Milk. All credit to the director and Sean Penn for it. The movie is told in flashback from Harvey Milk’s diary J. The movie doesn’t attempt to glorify Milk and doesn’t hide the fact that he had hardly any great personal life when his lover of many years commits suicide. Milk says, almost prophetically, he doesn’t think he will last until 50. Harvey Milk and Mayor, George Mascone were assassinated by San Francisco Supervisor, Dan White. And the climax with the candle-light vigil from castro Street to City Hall is some tribute. The film has some brilliant acting by Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch (‘Into the wild’), Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco, Allison Pill and the rest of the cast.

Couldn’t help quoting from an open debate

Dan White : Society can’t exist without the family.

Harvey Milk : We are not against that.

Dan White : Can two men reproduce?

Harvey Milk : No. But god knows we keep trying.

Explicit in parts but necessary to drive home the point. A must watch this one. And this is not a gay film or even an LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) film but much wider in its scope.

This movie might never make it to India but it would be very timely if it did. It’s a shame that homosexuality is still a topic of discussion, rather than an accepted fact, not just in India but the world over.

Rob Epstein’s ‘The times of Harvey Milk’ has been credited alongside the film. I am told it is still the best film made on Harvey Milk. Hope to access that one too.

Other films by Gus van Sant that is on my must watch list include ‘Elephant’ and ‘Paris Je Taime’ (short version on theme ‘Paris’ directed by various directors). I am given to believe ‘Gerry’ is one of his best. Anyone has a copy?

My pick for the best actor Oscar is Sean Penn for ‘Milk’ and of course they are obliged to give one to Heath Ledger for ‘The Dark Knight’, best supporting actor (There should be just one best actor category. “What or who is a supporting actor?” a wrong concept methinx). ‘Changeling’, set during the days of Calvin Coolidge, is watch-able for Clint Eastwood’s handling, and in-spite of Angelina Jolie’s bad acting. A glum face throughout the movie just doesn’t substitute for good acting. I haven’t seen ‘Benjamin Button’ and can’t comment on it. ‘Blindness’ is disappointing if you have already read the book and a good watch otherwise. Some things from the book just stayed on for me “Blind people don’t visit an Ophthalmologist”. ‘Burn after reading’ is just about okay after the Coen Brothers earlier films. Just watched their ‘Man who wasn’t there’ and loved it. Also hope to watch ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’ and ‘The Reader’ this week. And take my word on this.

If it was Miss World and then the Booker’s visiting us with amazingly suspicious regularity can the Oscars be far behind? It’s all about numbers, about economics. It’s time we picked up a few. And we seem to have learnt how to go around lobbying as well.

Useless trivia : Politics and gay activism was not Harvey Bernard Milk’s interest until the age of 40. He believed there was no need to be open about his homosexuality before he actively took up to the cause. Milk famously said “If a bullet should enter my brain, let the bullet destroy every closet door”.



  1. Jabeen

    I don’t agree. It isn’t only about marketing. Any film which runs in an LA theatre for a week is eligible to be considered for the Oscars. So why don’t the Karan Johars and Yashrajs, with their mega marketing and international releases, lobby directly for Oscar attention instead of waiting for the FFI to send them as Indian entries?

    The reason Indian novelists win more awards is that they are better at their craft than the majority of Indian film makers are at theirs.

    Anyway, Taare Zameen Par has been thrown out on its ear, so I guess India isn’t winning any Oscars this year – unless Rahman, Gulzar and Resul come through.

  2. admin Post author

    “The reason Indian novelists win more awards is that they are better at their craft than the majority of Indian film makers are at theirs.”

    I agree with jabeen here

    also thats the same reason that Indian Advertising is winning major awards worldwide but not indian cinema. the craft here in our Cinema needs nurturing, perhaps we need more varied producers, because i do believe there are talented people here but they will probably never get the chance to make THEIR movie…

    I saw ‘Benjamin Button’. Thought it was awesome! But which Indian producer would put money in a film like this? or maybe we dont THINK scripts and craft like this.

    What do you think Jabeen? you have seen more of the industry than us…

  3. vinoo

    I agree it isn’t only about marketing / lobbying but then it sure is important. Like the best of Indian movies don’t make it to the national awards, the best of world movies don’t make it to the oscars.

  4. Jabeen

    It would be sad to say we don’t think scripts and craft like foreign film makers. I’d say that our system is such that we are not encouraged to think original.

    Like, I’ve often told this story about my first time ever dealing with a special effects team on a feature film. We were editing in Bangalore, and these hotshot people from one of the top sfx companies fly down from Bombay, three of them in business class. The director, DoP and I are to meet them in the editing room to discuss the concept. What do they bring to show us? DVDs of Terminator and The Mummy.

    I’ve seen the same thing happen later on in various contexts. Producers want scripts to be like xyz Hollywood film, movie poster designers will bring you references Hollywood posters to copy, even promo cutters will show you foreign trailers downloaded from the net.

    My friend Mrinal who was the second unit DoP on Slumdog was telling me how he went to London for the grading and realized that they actually have older machines there than we do in Bombay studios, but they just have a completely different approach to how they work them. Here, I feel nobody encourages anyone to think for themselves and be original. If you do that, they think you’re oversmart and they feel threatened by you.

    But new kinds of films are becoming successful now, so maybe things will begin changing…

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