Gus Van Sant has always been a film maker I have admired for his undaunted reaction to his work and his single mindedness in his exploration of cinema. So Gus bringing Milk to the screen seemed to me a match made in heaven, and the product the new film MILK may just be the most important American film made this year.
Even knowing the events that led to Harvey's assassination deterred nothing from the emotional impact of watching the film uniformly the acting is brilliant, not just good or great. Penn imbibes Milk with a charisma that is painfully hopeful in the face of such trying times. James Franco gives his best work to date as his long time lover, Deigo Luna is trashy and terrific and Emile Hersch damn well better receive an oscar nomination for his portrayal of fellow activist and rebel rouser Cleve Jones as he steals EVERY scene he is in. Josh Brolin has the unenviable task of bringing back to life former city supervisor and disturbed murderer Dan White and he does o in heartbreaking fashion. Josh Brolin has this year alone played two men that have done some of the most damage to my life and to the lives gay people in America (Dan White and George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's W.)
When footage of Anita Bryant appeared on the screen at the 10:15 showing of Milk the audience hissed. The audience was largely older , many older gay couples who vividly remember the days when it was illegal to be openly gay, to even sell alcohol to gay people, when it was considered a mental illness, when we had no rights, when we were illegal.
Coming nearly 30 years to the day of Milk (and Mayor Moscone's ) murder after their victory over the Biggs initiative feels eerily prescient as Proposition 8 is a return to the days of bigoted hate politics, it's as if Harvey's spirit has come back to say one more time his famous speech opener "I'm Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you!"
At a recent ant prop 8 Rally here in my adopted hometown of Portland Oregon I heard this phrase tweaked slightly , and I'm sure Harvey would have loved it as our openly gay mayor Sam Adams took the stage megaphone in hand shouting "I'm Sam Adams and I'm here to recruit you!" This vaguely salacious call to arms is need in an age of over sexed apathy, get off your asses people. We are not fighting for a lifestyle we are for our lives, our loves and our liberty. I encourage everyone to see MILK whether or not they are familiar withe the story, take some you know, invite your straight friends, this isn't about just gay people it's about what is right and what is wrong with the world we have created here. As President Barack Obama ran on a platform of Hope, we need to be reminded that all men are created equal, but all men (and women) are not yet treated equally. We will not stop until this is so.
See Milk - be inspired, be moved, be yourself!