Milk, Take Two

I saw Milk for the second time tonight and it is much better the second time around.

I’ll be the first person to admit that when a movie is receiving Oscar buzz, I almost always have to see it twice. After the first viewing, I’m iffy about the film – I like it and can see why others think it’s great but I’m just not as likely to jump on the Slumdog Millionaire party express. A second viewing really enables me to put aside everything I’ve heard and just watch. This is exactly what I had to do with Milk.

I enjoyed Milk the first time around but seeing it again tonight allowed me to read the true depth of this film.

While I noted the use of archival footage to tell Milk’s story, it did not stand out to me as an exceptional element of the film. Now I see that the archival footage is a crucial part of the story because it tells the history of both San Francisco and the gay rights in a way that just Harvey Milk’s story could not.

James Franco’s performance as Milk’s supportive but unhappy partner stands out more than Josh Brolin’s destructive villian.
I finally understand why Milkhas received so much buzz. Visually, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is stunning but it does not have same passion and insight as Milk. With the Oscar nominations being announced in just THREE days, I certainly hope this fantastic movie fares better with the Academy voters than it did with the HFPA.
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Review: Milk (2008)

 

My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.”
Every year there is at least one biopic that seems to be on every person’s radar. Not that that’s a bad thing. This year’s biopic is Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant.

Milk tells the story of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk. In the 1970s, Milk reinvented himself from a closeted New York City insurance salesman to become the country’s first openly gay politician and the face of the country’s gay rights movement. His life, his political career, and his untimely death have left an unequaled legacy on both gay rights and in American politics.

Harvey Milk is played by Academy Award winner Sean Penn, who once again shows the depth of his talent through this performance. Penn is compelling and never seems as though he is playing a stereotype, which is the greatest risk for an actor playing Milk.

Milk boasts an equally impressive supporting cast. James Franco, Emilie Hirsch, Alison Pill, Joseph Cross, and Diego Luna play Milk’s closest allies. Franco is a silent force as Scott Smith, Milk’s long-suffering partner. But Franco’s quiet yet resonate performance is outshined by Josh Brolin. Brolin’s portrayal of Milk’s fellow city supervisor and eventual assassin, Dan White, is mesmerizing and haunting. Surprisingly, White is a sympathetic villain; his descent into evil is treated fairly by the filmmakers, allowing audiences to draw their own opinions about White.

There is an eerie sensation about Milk. It is the story of a politician who becomes the voice for individual rights while spreading a message of hope and it is a story focused on a gay rights proposition in California. Two stories similar to this played out in the recent election, giving Milk an even more resounding message. In many ways, you are watching a film that is about today as much as it is about the 1970s.

Harvey Milk was a brilliant man and activist. He was funny and flamboyant; tragic and flawed; inspiring and passionate. This film is tells the story of rich and fascinating life by using any method of filmmaking possible to peel off the layers.

By the end of this film, you know Harvey Milk and that is Milk‘s greatest achievement.

Best of 2008: New York Film Critics Circle Awards

The New York Film Critics Circle announced their picks for the best films of 2008 today. Milk was named Best Film and Happy-Go-Lucky, which I haven’t much about, won two awards. The awards season is starting to develop some patterns with Slumdog Millionaire, Frozen River, WallE, Man on Wire, Rachel Getting Married, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona all receiving awards from various critics groups.

Here is the complete list of winners:

Best Film: Milk

Best Director: Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky

Best Actor: Sean Penn, Milk

Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky

Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, Milk

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Screenplay: Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married

Best Animated Film: Wall-E

Best Foreign Film: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Best First Film: Courtney Hunt, Frozen River

Best Cinematographer: Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Documentary: Man on Wire

2008 Broadcast Film Critics Awards Nominees

More nominations! Whee!

It’s the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s turn and this time around Milk and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button lead the pack with 8 nomination each. Things are also looking up for The Dark Knight, Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Melissa Leo (Frozen River) and Slumdog Millionaire. But Revolutionary Road, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, was shut out again (it received no nominations from the NBR) and, as Dave Karger at EW points out, its Oscar chances are probably dead.

Here are all the nominees:

Best Picture
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Doubt
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire
Wall-E
The Wrestler

Best Actor
Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Best Actress
Kate Beckinsale, Nothing But the Truth
Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
James Franco, Milk

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Vera Farmiga, Nothing But the Truth
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Best Acting Ensemble
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Doubt
Milk
Rachel Getting Married

Best Director
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Best Writer (Original or Adapted Screenplay)
Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

Best Animated Feature
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Wall-E
Waltz With Bashir

Best Young Actor/Actress
Dakota Fanning, The Secret Life of Bees
David Kross, The Reader
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
Brandon Walters, Australia

Best Action Movie
The Dark Knight
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Iron Man
Quantum of Solace
Wanted

Best Comedy Movie
Burn After Reading
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Role Models
Tropic Thunder
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Picture Made for Television
John Adams
Recount
Coco Chanel

Best Foreign Language Film
A Christmas Tale
Gomorrah
I’ve Loved You So Long
Let the Right One In
Mongol
Waltz With Bashir

Best Documentary Film
I.O.U.S.A.
Man On Wire
Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
Standard Operating Procedure
Young At Heart

Best Song
“Another Way to Die” (Jack White and Alicia Keys), Quantum of Solace
“Down to Earth” (Peter Gabriel), Wall-E
“I Thought I Lost You” (Miley Cyrus and John Travolta), Bolt
“Jaiho” (A.R. Rahman), Slumdog Millionaire
“The Wrestler” (Bruce Springsteen), The Wrestler

Best Composer
Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Clint Eastwood, Changeling
Danny Elfman, Milk
Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard, The Dark Knight
A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire