Monday, January 26, 2009

Let's go to the movies

My college roommate and blogger extraordinaire Kris has opened up her annual Oscar contest- enter here to win your very own Batman and the Joker sock monkeys!

I've only seen two of the nominees for Best Picture- I already posted my thoughts on Slumdog Millionaire (loved it! although the backlash already seems to be looming, a la last year's Juno. Suck it, haters- if Titanic wasn't too cheesy for an Oscar, neither is the Slumdog.) and I saw Milk over the weekend. Directed by Gus Van Sant, Milk tells the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the United States. In 1972, Harvey was a mild-mannered, closeted banker who, at age 40, decides that it's time to make a change. He and his new boyfriend move to the Castro district in San Fransisco and he becomes a prominent player in local politics as well as a vocal advocate for the growing national gay rights movement. For those of you who don't know the rest of the story, I won't spoil it. It's a great movie- Sean Penn is phenomenal in the lead role and according to co-star Josh Brolin, he's "quite an actor, Sean Penn. And not an asshole like Russell Crowe." (love that quote!) It's an impressive turn for Penn, who's played surly and gruff characters in most of his recent movies- he really does seem believably and joyfully gay. James Franco plays Harvey Milk's longtime lover Scott, and he doesn't seem gay as much as plain sexy. The rest of the cast is great except for Diego Luna as a subsequent horribly annoying boyfriend- the Boston Globe said that he "appears to have wandered over from some drunken college production of Pedro Almodovar's 'Bad Education'." So true. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the treatment of Harvey Milk's adversary, the conservative San Fransisco native Dan White. Instead of painting him as pure villain, Van Sant and Brolin make him human- White is obviously captivated by Milk and seems both jealous of his success and desirous of his friendship, even though White was the only city supervisor to vote against a gay rights bill championed by Milk.

The only drawback to the film is that it wasn't released before last year's election on Propisition 8, which rescinded the rights of gay people to marry in the state of California. In an eerie parallel, a major plotline of Milk is a vote on Proposition 6, a ballot proposal that would have banned gays and anyone who supported gays from working in the public school system. Proposition 6 failed. I don't know that an earlier release date of the film Milk would have helped defeat Proposition 8 per se, but a movie that depicts gay activists as Americans struggling for the right to live their lives just like everyone else certainly couldn't have hurt. I don't need to go off on a complete tanget, but I am very proud of Massachusetts for being the first state to legalize gay marriage. As for the states attempting to ban it, adding legislation that limits the rights of a specific group of citizens is about as unamerican as I can imagine. The separation of church and state is a fundamental tenet of our government- if you'd like an example of a society that allows religion to shape its laws, look no further than modern Iran. Additionally, they aren't trying to make gay marriage mandatory- if you aren't gay, it won't affect you. For heaven's sake America, time to leave the bigotry behind and focus on our shitty economy and international troubles, rather than argue about whether or not dudes can marry other dudes. In summary, Milk was a very good movie. And the fact that Harvey Milk didn't even do anything remarkable until age 40 is pretty inspiring. All those teenage gymnasts and tennis stars make be feel woefully behind schedule in terms of my potential for greatness.

Oh, I head that Benjamin Button was long and boring and don't actually know of anyone who's seen The Reader or Frost/Nixon. Any reports?


KcM said...

Frost/Nixon is well-made and decently engaging but still basically a rental. Benjamin Button is pretty to look at but feels hollow and too Gumpish by half. Haven't seen The Reader, but everything I've read suggests it's just the obligatory high-minded/Holocaust film of the bunch.

Of the Oscar choices, I'm rooting for Milk. Really didn't cotton to Slumdog, and I think Titanic was a lot more plausible (the ship did sink and all), but that's probably a conversation best shared over drinks sometime.

I'm putting together my 2008 list this week (still need to write 3 more reviews and watch 2 rentals: Man on Wire and Vicky Christina Barcelona), but right now -- subject to change -- it's looking like four of my top five aren't nominated for Best Pic: The Dark Knight, Let the Right One In, The Wrestler, and WALL-E. (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days might sneak in there, even though it depressed the hell out of me, but I think that was in last year's Oscar cycle.)

eileen said...

Thanks for the feedback- I do still want to see Let The Right One In (vampires are so hot right now!) and The Wrestler.

I would be happy if Milk won Best Pic. Or Slumdog, but I fully admit that I have a soft spot for flash and campiness. And a visceral distate for long, slow movies, so I think I'd best skip Mr. Button.

Kevin said...

I liked your tangent and fully agree with it. Seriously, there are a lot more serious things to worry about in the world then what two adults get up to in their personal lives.