Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Knight at the Movies: Milk
by Richard Knight, Jr.
2008-11-26

This article shared 3353 times since Wed Nov 26, 2008
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


It's been a long three years since Brokeback Mountain, the last gay-themed movie to win both critical accolades and mainstream appeal. Now, at last, with Milk—starring Sean Penn as the slain gay-rights activist—we have another contender for widespread acceptance from all quarters. It seems that the movie has had more starts, stops, casting announcements and directors than the screen version of Evita. But unlike that luckless, flawed movie, and many other by-the-numbers biopics, Milk arrives without compromises or casting glitches.

The movie is helmed by openly gay director Gus Van Sant, working from an original script by gay screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. Together, they've created a straightforward biopic that is both the compelling story of an ordinary man whose activism turned him into an extraordinary icon and a fascinating moment in our gay history. It's a wonderful, full-bodied movie that earns its tears honestly, driven by Penn's Oscar-worthy performance. ( See the interviews that begin on the cover of this issue. )

At the outset Van Sant gives us a brief overview, via vintage footage and photographs, of the shameful history of gay-related abuses in this country, and then plunges us into the early days of the gay-rights movement in the early 1970s. This is interspersed with Penn as Milk, sitting in a darkened room dictating his will into a tape recorder, already aware that his life is in danger. ( This framing device bookends the film. ) We learn immediately that Milk, the first elected openly gay official in the country, and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone ( Victor Garber ) have been shot and killed.

It seems that we're in for a very dark road—and based on Van Sant's previous efforts, that's a fair supposition—but Milk was a naturally ebullient man, an optimist with a goofy grin, able to turn the bleakest losses into a personal victory, and Penn captures all these things in his endearing performance, lifting the spirit of the movie. After the opening prologue, Black's script takes us back eight years earlier as Harvey turns 40 and is living in New York. The Bronx-accented Harvey bumps into James Franco's Scott Smith and, within moments, the quietly magnetic Harvey has enticed the much younger man into his bed. Five minutes into the movie—with no fuss, muss and no apologies—we have a sensual love scene between Penn and Smith that establishes the intimacy of the two characters and supplies the rest of the movie with its emotional grounding.

The scene shifts to San Francisco in 1971, when the couple relocated there and, for the first half of the movie, focuses on their relationship. If there is a gay sensibility in the film's approach, it is in this first half when the relationship between the two men is presented as the norm rather than the exception.

Then the Anita Bryant anti-gay campaign galvanizes Milk. Working out of his camera shop in the Castro district of the city, he and others ( including Emile Hirsch's Cleve Jones ) begin to organize themselves to fight for gay rights. Harvey quickly emerges as a natural leader but as he begins to run repeatedly for public office the movie, by virtue of the number of races run and lost ( one loses count ) , becomes a tad confusing. The arrival of Alison Pill as Anne Kronenberg, a tough dealmaker with a record of closing deals at city hall ( and the film's lone lesbian ) , signals a change in the previously shaggy Milk's approach—the grassroots style is melded with traditional political campaign tactics and, in 1977, Harvey is victorious.

By that point his relationship with Scott is a casualty and, soon, Milk begins seeing the emotionally needy Jack ( Diego Luna, memorable in a brief role ) . Harvey also meets the uptight, conservative Dan White ( Josh Brolin ) , who has also been elected a supervisor in his district. The two get along at first, though Harvey suspects that White is a closet case, and eventually his passion for gay rights trumps any chance they have of working together. 'This is not just a job or issues. This is our lives,' he tells White as the film moves toward its dreadful climax, White's assassinations of Harvey and the mayor.

The film ends with a re-creation of the candlelit march held in honor of Harvey and Moscone and, momentarily, I wanted it to go on. But by that point I'd also written on my pad, 'How can I possibly be objective about a movie that is so close to my heart?' and I realized that there are movies that touch us so personally that we become awash in them. For me, Milk is one of those films.

I can tell you that Van Sant, working with cinematographer Harris Savides, has again eschewed the early visual flourishes that were hallmarks of Mala Noche and My Own Private Idaho. I can also tell you that I think Milk is an unadorned masterpiece, but then I am a middle-aged gay man who has wanted to see a feature-film version of Harvey's story since I first watched the1985 Oscar-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. So that's my caveat and, having gotten that out of the way, I want you to go in droves to see Milk and then take to the streets to overturn Proposition 8 and every other asinine attempt to discriminate against Our People and I want you, especially, to take to heart Harvey Milk's battle cry:

Never blend in.

Check out my archived reviews and Knight at Home at the Movies column for DVD recommendations at www.windycitytimes.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter Web site.


This article shared 3353 times since Wed Nov 26, 2008
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Wizard World Comic Con returns to Chicago 2021-10-17
- After being canceled last year because of the COVID pandemic, Wizard World Comic Con Chicago returned to Rosemont's Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on Oct. 15-17—and thousands of people attended. People ranging from attendees to vendors ...


Gay News

Jury selection in Smollett trial starts Nov. 29 2021-10-15
- The Jussie Smollett saga continues. Almost three years since out actor Jussie Smollett (TV's Empire; the film Alien: Covenant) was allegedly attacked in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood, Cook County Judge James ...


Gay News

CIFF, featuring LGBTQ+ films, running through Oct. 24 2021-10-15
- North America's longest-running competitive film festival, this year's event expands throughout Chicago with presentations at venues across the city, including at AMC River East 21; the Music Box Theatre; the Gene Siskel Film Center; special drive ...


Gay News

MOVIES Holiday comedy short centers on Muslim family and BIPOC queer relationship 2021-10-13
- The short film The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night follows Noor, a Muslim queer woman, and her experience with bringing her Puerto Rican partner home to meet her family for the first time. When Noor's ...


Gay News

THEATER 'A Rocky Horror Picture Party' at The Den on Oct. 30-31 2021-10-12
- Haven is presenting Science Fiction / Double Feature: A Rocky Horror Picture Party—an immersive Halloween experience that brings to life in vivid technicolor the world of the cult-classic film—directed by ...


Gay News

PBS to air queer documentary 'Things We Dare Not Do' Oct. 25 2021-10-12
- American Documentary | POV announced the national broadcast premiere of Things We Dare Not Do (Cosas que no hacemos), the second feature film from Mexican director and cinematographer Bruno Santamaría, as part of POV's 34th season. ...


Gay News

Madonna's latest concert film, Madame X, now out 2021-10-09
- The concept film to Madonna's acclaimed Madame X Tour has debuted in the United States Latin America, Australia, the Nordics and Canada exclusively on Paramount+, the streaming service from ViacomCBS. Fans outside these markets can watch ...


Gay News

MOVIES Colman Domingo to star in Bayard Rustin biopic 2021-10-09
- LGBTQ+ actor Colman Domingo—who has been in movies such as Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Candyman, and TV shows ranging from Fear the Walking Dead to The Big Gay Sketch Show—has landed the lead role the ...


Gay News

Filmmakers Bennett Singer, Patrick Sammon talk new documentary Cured 2021-10-07
- Producer-directors Bennett Singer and Patrick Sammon have created a new LGBTQ documentary: Cured. The film tells the story of the LGBTQ activists, allies and events surrounding the American Psychiatric Association's ...


Gay News

Sisters in Cinema, DocuClub providing consulting opportunities to filmmakers 2021-10-07
- Sisters in Cinema—a Chicago-based 501(C)3 that aims to center and celebrate Black girls, women and gender non-conforming media makers—and DocuClub, a work-in-progress screening series, have entered into a strategic partnership ...


Gay News

Int'l Film Fest to premiere queer Muslim film directed by Chicagoan Fawzia Mirza 2021-10-05
--From a press release - LOS ANGELES CA - THE SYED FAMILY XMAS EVE GAME NIGHT will have its U.S. premiere at the 57th edition of the Chicago International Film Festival running October 13 - 24, 2021. This comes on the ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Queer/Art,' sports items, Kevin Bacon, Indya Moore 2021-10-03
- Queer|Art—New York City's home for the creative and professional development of LGBTQ+ artists—announced the fall season of Queer|Art|Film, returning in person through Dec. 13, a press release noted. The line-up ...


Gay News

WORLD Movie items, tennis survey, German politics, Thai court 2021-10-03
- Kenya's Film Censorship Board (KFCB) banned I Am Samuel, claiming the documentary—which has a gay protagonist—contravenes Kenyan values, Human Rights Watch noted. In a statement, the KFCB denounced the film ...


Gay News

Pritzker Military Museum, Library to screen TransMilitary doc, Q&A with special guests 2021-09-28
--From a press release - CHICAGO, IL (September 27, 2021) On Thursday, Sept. 30, at 5:30 p.m., the Pritzker Military Museum & Library will host the screening of the 2018 SXSW Audience Award Winner for Best Documentary TransMilitary. The program will ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Transgender Talent, celebrity deaths, film festival, Whitney Houston 2021-09-26
- Transgender Talent—the trans-owned and operated management and production company—is looking to help Hollywood get better at portraying transgender and non-binary characters on screen with the launch of a new consulting ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.