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Did You Know There’s a Movie About Harvey Milk Out Today?

What are we supposed to say about Milk, better known as The Most Important Gay Movie of All Time?

We saw it and liked it. It’s not a great film, though Sean Penn’s performance as San Francisco City supervisor and gay-rights advocate Harvey Milk is phenomenal Oscar bait– but that’s also the film’s problem. The screenplay, by Dustin Lance Black, seems written for the Academy. The script channels Knute Rockne: All-American, even down to the heartwarming, inspirational catchphrases. Gus Van Sant directs Penn, Josh Brolin as Milk’s killer Dan White and James Franco and Diego Luna as Milk’s lovers expertly, but with an eye towards making the radical and subversive seem warm and family-friendly.

The problem with the film is that it is so caught up in selling you its message that it never gives your brain an opportunity to think independently about the film. Like the marketing campaign it’s Milk all the time, nonstop, until it’s coming out your nose

The Harvey Milk in this film emerges fully-formed, like Athena from Zeus’ head. He’s out loud and proud from the very first moment of the film, when he picks up a hippie James Franco in the New York subway. Harvey tells his fellow gays and lesbians to “come out, come out wherever you are”, but we never get the opportunity to see Milk’s own leap. We never see the man before he was out, so we never get to understand him after. This isn’t to say that Penn’s portrayal isn’t complex, funny and endearing. It’s just we never really get a sense of his inner life; even his poor choice in lover’s is established only to remind us that Harvey is human, and when they fade from the film without mention, we never really notice.

The film is hagiography, but considering that there’s so few gay heroes in the film cannon (and almost none who are openly gay and happy about it), it seems unfair to criticize Van Sant for making a film that lionizes America’s first prominent openly gay politician. That it’s coming out in the midst of a resurrgence of gay pride and activism is particuarly fortuitous. The film is chock-a-block with hope and warm fuzzies for the gay community, but you walk away from it admiring its craftsmanship more than its content. You want to go and give the cast and crew a warm handshake and say “Job well done!” But had the film really hit its mark, you’d be running out of the theater ready to work for change.

Which brings up the question, “Who is this film for?” While it’s gratifying to see the lives of people who fought for you up on the screen, there’s nothing in the film that isn’t Gay Orthodoxy 101. For a younger generation who never heard of Harvey Milk and for straight people, the film is the most expensive after-school special ever made. The question remains, will straight people go see it? Even laden down with Oscars and carefully rolled out through a “sensitive” marketing campaign by distributor Focus Features (Did you know that Harvey is assassinated? Really!) my sense is that heterosexuals aren’t going to run out to see a film about a gay political figure from the 70s.

For those straight people who go see this movie, what effect will it have on them? Milk is the perfect example of what David Mamet calls, “The Problem Play”. It presents a social “problem” (in this case homophobia) and shows who the good guys are and who the bad guys are and at the end of the film, comfortable middle-class suburban yuppies who’ve gone to see it to seem cultured can look at each other over latte’s and say to themselves, “My what enlightened people we are for being open-minded enough to see this film about a gay guy!”

They can go home satisfied without ever having really had their values challenged. The exotic milieu of counterculture San Francisco and the outrageous hairstyles of the past all serve to place the gay rights struggle as some exotic thing, from another place and another time. Which is a shame since Harvey Milk’s message was just the opposite– that the gay rights struggle is your struggle, that you already know us, that we are part of your lives.

While Milk is an admirable tribute to the man, it will take some as-of-yet-unmade film to really deliver his message.

UPDATE: It turns out we’re not the only gay in the village who isn’t jumping up and down for Milk. Check out Defamer’s Kyle Buchanan and Stu Van Airsdale’s discussion of the film. It seems they had a lot of the same problems with the film as I did. I wish I had seen this first, since I could have linked to it and had you all complain about Defamer being cynical and heartless instead of yours truly. That said, I started off the review by saying I liked the film. I said Sean Penn deserves an Oscar! Just because I don’t love the movie doesn’t make me Dan White!

By:           Japhy Grant
On:           Nov 26, 2008
Tagged: , , ,

  • 72 Comments
    • Matt
      Matt

      I heard the gays talking about this. This is what I heard, “I want to see, MILK.” “Is that a porno.” “No it’s about some gay who got shot.” Got to love the twink A list gays.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 11:20 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Todd
      Todd

      I find your post wildly cynical. And for such a young man.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 11:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • G-A-Y
      G-A-Y

      Wow. I respectfully yet strongly disagree with almost every point.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 11:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Charles Merrill
      Charles Merrill

      I hope you are wrong. Even the trailer seemed to help mobilize gay protests by reminding us that there is injustice and one man fought against it. We all need to find the Harvey Milk within each of us and not rely on finding a gay leader to do the dirty work.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 12:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ben
      Ben

      @G-A-Y:

      I’m also gonna have to say I strongly disagree with almost every point you’re making. I don’t see where you can be so cynical about something meant to be so positive. Reading this review was very depressing and frustrating.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 12:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Smallfry
      Smallfry

      Saw it last night at the Castro, I disagree with your assessment- it totally rocked!

      Nov 26, 2008 at 12:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • george
      george

      I liked the review (and I like the new Queerty too, by the way). You seem to be saying that if the movie were a better work of art (e.g. by giving us a more complex portrayal of Milk) it would also have a more potent political message? I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll bear these points in mind when I do. This site is 100 times better than it used to be.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 12:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jason
      Jason

      Interesting — because every single review I have read today has been OVERWHELMINGLY positive.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 12:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jack E. Jett
      Jack E. Jett

      Grant strives to be the Ann Coulter/Michael Savage of gayness.

      I saw the flick and thought it was incredible. I lived through Prop 6. Maybe it is a generational thing, but Grant doesn’t have the talent to take on a film like MILK. He should spend some time in the trenches before he continues to spew his venom at activist.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 1:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      I will wait to see the movie, but to be frank I am already discounting your review. My instinct about these sorts of complaints are that they are for the professional “gays.” I love this site. But the fact you concentrate on gay can block you from seeing things through other people’s eyes.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 1:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      PS

      There is also the smell of “I’m the hipster cool gay” about your update. I spend much of my time in NYC avoidng hipster queens for a reason.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 1:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • gayvirgo
      gayvirgo

      I saw it 2 weeks ago and, though I was THRILLED with Penn’s work, I was mild about the film. I loved the style and the interweaving of footage of the time (I lived in CA at the time), but I was left with a feeling that this guy didn’t have a single negative quality. They really canonized him to a certain degree and I would have been fine if they had allowed him a few faults.

      Also, the opera motif was ill-used. But I DID love all that footage of Anita Bryant!!! It was great to refuel THAT fire!!! Let’s hope she gets a little singed by it.

      But it is an important film of an even more important story. Younger gays who have NO idea who this man was and what he accomplished NEED to know so that they can understand the shoulders upon which they stand.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 2:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leland Frances
      Leland Frances

      First, I sincerely hope the film is a huge success but hagiography is NOT in our best interest, and Queerty, or any of us, can admire Milk, mirror his goals, and still resist the “And on the seventh day Harvey rested” credo suggested by the film.

      Even Queerty makes an error when writing that Milk was “the first prominent openly gay politician”—a myth whose perpetuation is the filmmakers greatest sin. Their variation: “the first openly gay man to be voted into major public office in America.” Sorry, NOT.

      Until he was assassinated, his “prominence” was confined to California, and before his assassination he got no more national gay and mainstream media attention than the openly gay politicians ELECTED BEFORE him: MA legislator Elaine Noble, elected three years BEFORE Harvey, and Allan Spear, Minnesota legislator out when reelected a YEAR BEFORE Harvey.

      I doubt Harvey would have wanted their achievements trampled over and neither should we. Nor would he want others such as Harry Hay and his cohorts and Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin and Frank Kameny and Phyllis Lyon and Randy Wicker and Troy Perry and Leonard Matlovich and Dave Kopay and Jose Sarria, et al., erased even by implication that gay liberation began with Harvey.

      Nor did he singlehandedly “vanquish” the Briggs Initiative as producer James Shamus has bleated in interviews. Martin, Perry, Matlovich, and Kopay were the NATIONAL figures who barnstormed the country raising money to fight it.

      And the potential lessons apparently absent due to any meaningful attention to what HE was before he caught the gay liberation bug are unfortunate.

      Remember the silly slurs during the primaries about Hillary having been a “Goldwater Girl”? Well, she was only 17 and Harvey was an adult when HE campaigned for Goldwater. Harvey the populist once worked on Wall Street, and Harvey the gay Hippie had been so eager to “fight Communism” that he joined the Navy right out of college, and, it’s said, still wore his Navy brass belt buckle till the day he died.

      Queerty’s point is well-taken. Whatever nongay filmgoers see the film might learn more if they witnessed his evolution beyond just being in the closet and then out, proud, and loud.

      And whatever else great about it, I am outraged that there’s apparently no dramatization of the White Night Riots. I’m not saying burning police cars and breaking out windows of City Hall should be a part of the post Prop H8TE strategy but our enemies could benefit from knowing that we are not always just VICTIMS.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 2:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • gayvirgo
      gayvirgo

      Leland, your points are well spoken and heeded.
      Of course there is no chance that this film would be made and that it would be perfect, satisfying all of us and what we hope it can accomplish in our struggle.

      Does it serve the Milk legacy? I think so. Does it tell the whole story? How could it? Does it do harm to our struggle for acceptance, recognition, and rights as human beings? I don’t think so. And often times that is a success in itself. I think it is, overall, a successful and artistic telling of part of a story that could not possibly be contained in a main-stream movie of 120 minutes or so in length.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 2:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @Leland Frances: It’s a movie. One of the reasons biopics are hard is precisely because of this fact. It’s like a book where ou can cover huge amounts of territory unless you do something like what was done with Che by Sodenberg, and, in which case, way too long. I view these criticisms as critiques of the medium itself rather than film in particular.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 2:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jack E. Jett
      Jack E. Jett

      Leland

      Couldn’t agree with you more. You know your gay history.
      There is a character in the film that never speaks but is dressed like/looks like Harry Hay.
      I wondered if it was suppose to be him and his lines were edited out.
      I don’t think this film takes away from the good work of others. My hope is that it will inspire other films about Kopay, Martin and Matlovich.

      Gay Numbers is right too about Grant’s review.
      His review is based in some sort of hipper than hip arrogance.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 2:51 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jim
      Jim

      Thanks for a thoughtful and enlightening review/opinion/take on the film, Japhy. Haven’t seen it yet and haven’t decided whether to make the effort to see it in a theatre or wait for the dvd. The story of Harvey fascinates me, I was a freshman in college at that time (tho here in Ohio it didn’t even register on my awareness), but any time a performance is pre-hyped as OSCAR CALIBER I’m somewhat put off as I find these hyped performances usually seem, to me, a bit too over-the-top to be credible. I’m hoping Penn’s isn’t.

      Now then, what the hell’s up with all the George Bush Queens around here? Man, ya write a review (or anything else, for that matter) here and you’re bashed by those screaming “you’re either with us or AGAINST us!” What’s the the intolerance for grey? Why can’t people take your review as exactly what it is, an opinion piece based upon your impressions of a film?

      Keep up the great work, Japhy!

      Nov 26, 2008 at 2:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jim
      Jim

      @Jack E. Jett: I’ve read Japhy’s piece through twice and I can’t for the life of me figure out what the harpings of arrogance are based on. And “hipper than hip?” What’s that about?

      Nov 26, 2008 at 2:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @Jim: read the update. if you want a better reference point think of it like reading a new yorker review. if you still can not see it perhaps you prefer this style of writing, and can not see its as off putting.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 3:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leland Frances
      Leland Frances

      Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. And, again, I SO hope it is a huge success, flaws and all, because film and television are the shortest, if certainly not the only, route to our achievement of first class citizenship.

      The passage of Prop H8TE was not just because the American Taliban outsmarted us but because so many of the moveable middle, INCLUDING too many of our own family and friends do not take our oppression SERIOUSLY.

      If I may digress, examples of it could have been effectively dramatized in NO commercials, and a perfect REAL LIFE example could have been used that would have addressed both our problems AND helped build a bridge with the homophobic or indifferent members of the African American community.

      One of my heroes is Bayard Rustin. He was the gay black civil rights genius who, among other achievements, both taught Martin Luther King, Jr., the finer points of nonviolence that helped make the Montgomery Bus Boycott a success [are ya listening gays?] AND organized the 1963 Great March on Washington now famous as the scene of King’s “I Have A Dream Speech.” And, for the record, declared over 20 years ago that, in HIS words, “gays are the new ‘niggers’.”

      After Rustin was hospitalized with a heart attack , his partner of 10 years, Walter Naegle, was not allowed to see him until after hours of wrangling with the hospital, almost missing being with him when Rustin passed. The additional “bridge” point: Naegle is white.

      But, wait, it gets worse. In 2006, a high school in Rustin’s Pennsylvania hometown was named for him. Naegle was asked to suggest a list of invitees to the dedication ceremony…and, then, NOT INVITED HIMSELF! And the school’s biography of Rustin still does not mention their namesake was gay.

      Back to the main point: every successful LGBT media project will help lead to more. And we need MANY more.

      This Thanksgiving let us give thanks for those who went before, upon whose shoulders and sacrifices we all stand.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 3:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Todd
      Todd

      @Jim:
      If someone doesn’t want a response to their opinion, they should not be writing in a public forum with comments. And I didn’t get any sense of “with us or againt us” in the commentary. As I said earlier, I found the post cynical. I wish there had been more articulation of what Japhy actually wanted from the movie that he didn’t get. For me, someone who also lived through this period, I am heartened that a film of a major figure in our movement can even warrant a major motion picture. And as to who this film is geared toward, for me, I hope it is geared toward the generation of gays and lesbians that missed out on the fabulous seventies and the devastating eighties and early nineties. We have a history and this film brings a part of it to a broader audience. Maybe it will stir some sense of pride and curiousness in the younger generation. I hope so.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 3:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @Leland Frances: Well in Hollywood unfortunately a) that may not be true of minority groups and b) more does not mean better (as per the high number of really crappy gay films out there that cover a short range of well defined topics)

      Nov 26, 2008 at 3:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jim
      Jim

      @The Gay Numbers: Thanks, Numbers. Read the update again and I’m just not seeing it. I guess we all filter through or unique frames of reference, but I’m not getting a hipper-than-thou feel. Yikes, New Yorker reviews? No thanks! Haven’t read’em in years, because those I found WAY pretentious. I like that Japhy’s alluding to the fact that the film is a commercial venture, has to appeal to a wide audience, and has inherent flaws (which he definitely illustrates) because of that. I’d rather read a balanced piece like this than a jump-on-the-gay-express review. I just don’t find it off-putting, but certainly respect your experience of it (you’re one of my favorite posters here, always enjoy your comments). All the best!

      Nov 26, 2008 at 3:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jim
      Jim

      @Leland Frances: That was beautiful. Leland I love you when you’re not focusing on whose out and who gave. Please write a gay studies text–seriously, you’re a walking encyclopedia of homohistory, it’s amazing. Happy T-Day to you.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 3:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Todd
      Todd

      I find the update very poor. It’s like you want to have it both ways. You like the film, you really like it…….but the guys at Gawker don’t like the same things as me and, and, and….. AND WHAT? I’m finding that people want this film to be the gay Shoah. It’s a two hour movie, for mainstream America, fer Gawd sake.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 3:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @Todd: Agreed. It’s because these movies so rarely happen of this quality, and so people expectations- especially the professional gays and sage hipsters- are unrealistic. I’ve seen this before with the black community. No movie could ever be good enough because there was too much emotions riding on it to be more than a movie.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 4:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ben
      Ben

      In regards to the update, we’d have to be fools to pretend like you’re the only person who’d take issue with a movie. That’s not what anyone was saying. I’m just more upset with watching a popular homo-blog spend 90% of this review aimlessly critiquing the film for the strangest of reasons, ultimately leaving readers with a very negative feeling about something which otherwise can have a greatly positive influence.

      Like some others have said, it’s a biopic. It does what it can to portray his life and the times. Also, it was made by a certain group of filmmakers. It’s not like it was made for us, by us. Or for you, particularly. I’m very disturbed by your comments on what “straight people would think” of it. As if this was made to represent all homosexuals? And as if all straight people are the same. And as if I even give a shit what “they” think of the movie? By turning this into such a disgusting “Us vs. the world” thing, that section of the review makes my stomach turn.

      It’s a movie. It’s a great movie and it’s going to be a popular. As such, it’s going to have a lot of influence on a younger generation. Gay or straight. Influence which I believe is very powerful and positive.

      If you really liked the movie, you’ve done great job at making people not want to see it.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 4:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leland Frances
      Leland Frances

      Another digression, to a degree, but relevant to discussion of the film, from the perspective of one who lived it. Dianne Feinstein is still far from perfect, but, as Harvey did himself, she has evolved into a person better than she originally was. The link below is to an interview with her about those days published this morning, and also contains a video portion of it, along with a vintage TV salute to Moscone and one of Harvey’s earliest TV interviews.

      Having been close to Dan White [she owns his personal diary], she still believes she might have dissuaded him from going to his darkest side from which he decided to assassinate Milk and Moscone. Inheriting Moscone’s office, she still could not bring herself to sit in his chair for seven years, and chooses not to see the film. It’s fascinating to read and listen to, though I feel she underestimates how much White’s homophobia influenced his premeditation. But, of course, he didn’t kill Moscone because he was heterophobic either.

      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/26/MNM514C75R.DTL&tsp=1

      Nov 26, 2008 at 4:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ben
      Ben

      Also, to me, that other review you linked to in your defensive hardly seems to have the seem critiques. If they are the same, then maybe your review would’ve benefited from less hypothetical, unproductive issues that seem to reflect your personal concerns, and more about the technical, performance based issues that they state.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 4:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Todd
      Todd

      @Leland Frances:
      Thanks for that link.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 5:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jack E. Jett
      Jack E. Jett

      The reviews are incredible. More importantly I saw and enjoyed it. People will make a decision to go see it or not. Grant is not really a film reviewer but more of a pop culture antagonist.
      He is just this side of clever with it. The theory goes that if he projects a different view than the masses, he becomes the tallest poppy in the field. It works for a while when one is young and attractive.

      This is the man that is upset with gays picketing the Mormons, with another journalist for asking a penis related question.

      I expect him to blame AIDS on Michelle Obama within the month.

      Hopefully Queerty will bring in someone fun to counteract our own little Squeky Fromme.

      Japhy Grant, if you are reading this, please know that I would still fuck you in a New York minute.
      I would provide a small amount of lube and a fresh bottle of poppers. I would also be willing to take my belt to your shiney white butt and you would be saying “sir one more sir” till the MILK cows come home.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 6:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Steve
      Steve

      I thought it was a great movie. I was moved to tears. Milk became an activist almost by accident. I think the movie shows how an ordinary, but very charming and charismatic person can make a big difference. It was a piece of history that many queers (and straights) are not aware of.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 7:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @Jack E. Jett: You funny.

      Nov 26, 2008 at 7:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anthony in Nashville
      Anthony in Nashville

      I was looking forward to seeing this movie, but it does not seem to be playing in Nashville. I ordered The Times of Harvey Milk from netflix instead. It’s from the 80s but I like documentaries more than dramatizations anyway.

      That said, I think Milk will be good for younger people and straights who have no idea who Harvey Milk was.

      Nov 27, 2008 at 8:14 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Eminent Victorian
      Eminent Victorian

      We saw the movie in Seattle last night, and some of the criticisms, I think, are valid–it is a curiously inert film. But, Penn’s performance is particularly wonderful, and there’s nothing bad about the movie (the factual error about him being the first gay man elected to office notwithstanding)–the piece feels more like a series of vignettes punctuated by a lot of speechifying than a fully-fledged narrative. It can’t be all things to everybody, and its highs are very high. We overheard a couple leaving the theater noting they’d never heard of Harvey Milk.

      Nov 27, 2008 at 1:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Darin W
      Darin W

      FUCK QUEERTY and it’s juvenile thought process.

      Nov 28, 2008 at 10:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Darin W
      Darin W

      I forgot to mention that Japhy Grant is a douchebag.

      Nov 28, 2008 at 10:26 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Darin W
      Darin W

      Japhy Grant has been at my house. What does Japhy Grant do? He talks about himself relentlessly and loves to think that he is influential to a large audience. Nothing else really.

      Nov 28, 2008 at 10:28 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • SuzyQ
      SuzyQ

      I saw the film last night in Dallas at the Angelika, our two theater art house “chain”.

      A couple of weeks ago I reread Randy Shilts book about Milk. The film is pretty much based on the book.

      I thought Sean Penn was right on the money. I was doing some serious documentary photography that had openly sexual material in it based on my transgender lover and her TG sex worker friends. I took the film to long haired hippie Harvey for processing because I was concerned others would censor my film.

      I later photographed Harvey the politician during the No on 6 campaign.

      The movie was like watching the man I encountered in real life. So too were the people surrounding him during the pre-AIDS era of gay liberation.

      I was glad the film showed the making common cause with labor.

      More in my comments on http://womanrebel.blogspot.com

      If you want more in depth read Shilts book.

      Nov 28, 2008 at 10:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ed
      Ed

      My!- it seems the glbt community are awfully sensitive these days. Sensitivity is fine, but blindness and ignorance isn’t. Japhy is astutely applying a critical lens towards the film’s intentionality, its political implications and content as well as the context surrounding the movie’s release. Kudos, because that’s exactly the type of dialogue one should want and expect.

      So, stop your cry baby “hipper than hip”, “juvenile thought process”, blah blah blah blah blah complaints. Being critical is exactly the perspective we ought to have. I will still see the film and I question the nature of someone who reads a review that doesn’t fit their prescribed notions and then lets that affect their feelings in such an immature fashion.

      The more strident and ridiculous the comments become, the greater the likelihood for possible “truths” to emerge from Japhy’s critiques. Perhaps that’s what people are afraid of- that he might be correct.

      It’s important to maintain an independent critical perspective especially in these days when the glbt community are seen as a marketing tool more than anything.

      So, just grow up a little and listen- you just might learn something that will help you down the road.

      Nov 28, 2008 at 10:51 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Trenton
      Trenton

      People, people…no need to fight. Can’t we just agree that we’re all a little douchey.

      The movie wasn’t perfect.
      Japhy’s criticism wasn’t perfect.
      People’s criticism of Japhy ranged in to personal attacks (faaaaar from perfect).

      We are all united in our mutual douchebaggery. Let us not be divided by it.

      Nov 28, 2008 at 12:14 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ggreen
      ggreen

      Gee I guess everthing can’t look like a video from TRL or YOU Tube.

      Nov 28, 2008 at 1:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • M Shane
      M Shane

      If the film is just about superficial history, straight up, not even representing Milk as the kind of gay person he would have been, not too much will have been made of all the effort.
      you are entirely correct in saying that the movie is missing the obvious chance in saying that this was not just an historical scene, but a drama in gay consciousness which moved individuals, and still could, toward a renewed self awareness-which it was at the time.
      The real time was historically earthshaking for gay people, and the central charachter could hae been someone besides Milk hiomself.
      The real story is the event not the person.

      Nov 28, 2008 at 1:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @M Shane: You do not understand filmmaking. It’s not the job of filmmaking to cover the conciousnes of an entire movement or whatever you just wrote. It’s to take the hero on a journey, and, thereby like all story take the audience on one as well. The real story is the person.

      Nov 28, 2008 at 2:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Eminent Victorian
      Eminent Victorian

      @The Gay Numbers:
      That’s a rather hilarious critique, don’t you think? How lucky for us that someone who does understand filmmaking (and, evidently, the only ways filmmaking will allow one to tell a story) is here to enlighten us! You know, “or whatever you just wrote.”

      Nov 28, 2008 at 11:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @Eminent Victorian: Interesting. Did you post under a second screen name for a reason? Strange behavior.

      If you think films are not about their central character, but instead are about “raising the gay conciousness” then you do not understand narrative filmmaking. Those can be themes and secondary effects, but not the thrust of the movie itself.

      A movie about Harvey Milk that was not about Harvey Milk would not be a narrative film unless someone else is the lead character, in which case, that movie would be about the other person following Harvey Milk’s life. Even if you experiment narratively to put a different actor in the role- like say the Bob Dylan film from last year- you still have a central character that you are following.

      It’s not a matter of debate. It’s the Hollywood narrative structure. The only exception is a non linear approach in which you may follow multiple characters, but even that’s following each character through their storyline. Even there are approximating rather than focusing on the themes of “conciousness” rather than actually it being the point of the film. If it does become the point fo the film, it’s not narrative filmmaking.

      Maybe you should try experimental films since they tend to not have a coherent stories, and you can focus on “gay concisiousness” again- whatever that means.

      Nov 29, 2008 at 2:16 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Eminent Victorian
      Eminent Victorian

      @The Gay Numbers:
      I’m only one person with one screen name, but if it makes you feel better to think otherwise go ahead.

      Nov 29, 2008 at 8:04 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dave
      dave

      It’s one thing to be snarky, clever and make fun of big media (like gawker) it’s a very different thing to be a negative, bitchy queen (like the new queerty)….

      Nov 30, 2008 at 8:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • chowder
      chowder

      Wow….first time to this site, and judging by the movie critique and some of the catty comments, I don’t think I will be back…..who needs all this attitude? Really….I can hear this kind of snarky, dim-witted banter from the other tables down at the Starbucks…. buh-bye……
      Oh, and go see “MILK”…..worth your $10….and better that anything else out in recent memory.

      Nov 30, 2008 at 9:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ask ena
      ask ena

      You guys are all on crack, and way more cynical than your Queert editor. Sheesh. Keep in mind we are not all activists from the 70s, though we may still respect and admire those who paved the way for us.

      You act as if he is reviewing the life of Harvey Milk himself. It’s a movie folks. A MOVIE. I’m glad Gus van Sant made it, I’m glad it’s got big stars and oscar worthy performances in it, and I’m glad it’s got a generation of kiddies talking about it on just about any terms.

      LIGHTEN UP!

      Nov 30, 2008 at 2:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @ask ena: I don’t understand your post in the context. Queerty is one claiming that its not simply suppose to be a movie. I am and others are saying that it is suppose to be just that- a movie- not a dissertation on “gay conciousness” (whatever that is).

      Nov 30, 2008 at 2:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      The numbers:

      Almost 2 milion. To give you an understanding of numerical context:

      “This ranks as the highest opening weekend for any film released in the range of 30-40 theaters (a record previously held by Focus’ “Atonement”). ”

      So says Indiewire.com

      This bodes well and suggests a box office potential greater than Brokeback Mountain.

      So says me.

      The movie is set for wider release.

      Nov 30, 2008 at 11:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • froggyola
      froggyola

      I have to say I think the Queerty people are doing more to harm gays than the Mormons. Fuck this site. I’m not coming back. Join the Impact is where I will get my information.

      Dec 1, 2008 at 2:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • michael
      michael

      I just atteneded a screening of the Milk documentary made in the 80′s here in Vancouver. It was for a fund raiser for a gay non-profit. It was so terrific to see the tears coming from the younger gay people in our group. We seldom see anything that opens our hearts toward ourselves as gay people. While maybe this film won’t be seen by a lot of middle America it will be seen by our youth and may esteem them and inspire them.
      Be it imperfect, and I have yet to see this one to make that assesment, I believe that its terrific that a major film, with major talent has been made about what happened in our history and we should be grateful and the timing could not be better.

      Dec 1, 2008 at 3:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • chadnnocal
      chadnnocal

      I was fortunate enough to see MILK in the Castro Theatre yesterday. It was an incredibly moving experience to watch this film with people that lived through the actual events and then to walk out of the theatre onto the street where Harvey Milk’s life was lived and ended.

      For me, this review is completely off the mark and frankly sounds like a bitter out of work actor. So I take his comments with a grain of salt, as I would any biased source.

      The reactions of the audience, perhaps, heightened my enjoyment as there were hundreds of gay men in theatre. Every time Anita Bryant’s mug covered the screen, a symphony of hisses filled the room. At the most appropriate moment, sobs could be heard. As the film ended with a fade away from the actor to the real person a roaring round of applause for Harvey Milk concluded the screening.

      This movie will stand the test of times and will take its place next to Norma Rae and The Color Purple as an important Human Rights story, which had not been told. MILK captured the pain and injustice that our GLBT brothers and sisters before us endured. Sean Penn was Harvey Milk, a quirky, charming and caring man. James Franco was phenomenal.

      The relevance of Prop 6 then, and our current fight against Prop 8 now, illustrated how little changed in 30 years has.

      For those of you that have yet to see the film, it will not let you down.

      Dec 1, 2008 at 3:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leland Frances
      Leland Frances

      If you live in the Bay Area, and come to see “Milk” at the Castro Theatre, or come to SF in the next year, you can view the suit, belt, shirt, and shoes Milk was wearing the day he was shot as part of a yearlong exhibit of the GLBT Historical Society that opened yesterday a few yards down at the corner of Castro & 18th. The exhibit is open every day but major holidays from 11-7.

      It was last exhibited four years ago, and is now part of a larger exhibit on the history of gay activism in San Francisco. Yes, at least one bullet hole is visible, and the faded blood stains that saturated his shirt.

      I felt a bit sacrilegious photographing it, but real, three-dimensional objects are important to see as, no matter how great, a film is ultimately visually one-dimensional. With its stripes and somewhat wrinkled appearance, the suit unintentionally echoes concentration camp uniforms. And his battered wingtips reflect not just someone who still resisted having to return, for purposes of political credibility, to the white collar drag he once wore on Wall Street, but also the paltry salaries SF supervisors made in those days. Milk was known to buy suits in secondhand stores, and, even in 1978, $9600 a year wasn’t enough to support a family of three, and, thus, Supervisor Dan White resigned—setting into motion the Greek tragedy that created a legend.

      The pen Milk used to sign SF’s gay job rights law is also on display, and other highlights include the sewing machine on which Gilbert Baker created the first rainbow flag, and a mannequin wearing one of Sylvester’s fabulous outfits. And, independent of the exhibit, around the corner from its entrance is the recently installed plaque in memory of gay civil rights activist Leonard Matlovich who once lived in the same building.

      http://glaadblog.org/tag/leonard-matlovich/

      Dec 1, 2008 at 4:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leland Frances
      Leland Frances

      Correction: the exhibit opened the same day as “Milk.”

      Dec 1, 2008 at 4:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bruno
      Bruno

      I totally agree with you. I left the cinema feeling guilty because I didn’t love the movie. I have been a Gus van Sant’s fan for very long time and I had really high expectations about this movie. I think it’s a missed opportunity. I hope the reason behind this kind of treatment of the story is that they wanted to make a mainstream movie. They did but a really boring one.
      A movie that starts with the protagonist recording his memory is surely a bad movie, right?

      Dec 2, 2008 at 6:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Roland Basque
      Roland Basque

      Glad Milk got whacked.What a pudfuck and a piece of work Milk was.Even his “it’s all about me” mug would magnetically attract a fist.Milk was a wackrag whose only agenda was himself.So it’s a good thing this pusball got wasted.Shows how hard up queers are for heroes when they deify this scrotominimy.Surprised it didn’t happen much sooner.

      Dec 2, 2008 at 10:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @Bruno: The recording actually was a foreshadowing moment. It was meant to point out that Milk knew he was going to die. That he always sort of felt he would not live beyond 50. I have a friend like that. He keeps telling us that he will die young. He lives his life intensely too, but not in the way Milk did. I guess that’s why this was particularly significant and made sense to me. It was a continuing theme int he movie – that Milk thought he was going to die young.

      Dec 2, 2008 at 11:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @Bruno: @<a by the way – I thinkt he movie resonates more with people if they understand this about a guy who gave up his life to a cause. so much so that his personal life was kind of fucked up. now a days if we had a boyfriend like he had int he movie- many would have dropped the political stuff, but Milk was intense. it was like politics was more important than anyone else in his life. than anything else. he was a political animal. that’s the way i read it. it was about how much it consumed him.

      Dec 2, 2008 at 11:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bruno
      Bruno

      @The Gay Numbers: I see what you mean but i still find it a bit unimaginative to use the recording as the expedient to narrate the story. Here I’m talking about the movie and not MIlk himself for whom I have great respect.

      Dec 2, 2008 at 11:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers [Different person #1 using similar name]

      @Bruno: I agree it was conventional, but I am not of the view that everything in a film needs to be without cliche to work.

      In fact, cliches can help audiences understand elements that are crucial on the way to understanding a deeper theme. For the record, I liked the movie, but what made it really work were the performances and the second half of the movie. The first half was really about context of Milk’s obsession.

      The first half of the script was a bit messy, but that’s the problem with doing a biopic. How do you cover such a complicated person so that audiences can understand fairly quickly aspects of his life that they need to know to get the character?

      I don’t have an answer to that. The things they could have done would have been a trade off- for instance do you make some creative thematic reference to his realization that he will die young or do you make it easy to understand so that you can deal with deeper themes about the character?

      Dec 3, 2008 at 12:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers [Different person #1 using similar name]

      @Bruno: One more by the way- clearly for Van Sant- the big character arc was about I think Milk’s obsession with politics and determination coming out of maybe his sense that the clock was ticking. The whole “I am 40 years old and I have done nothing” was reinforcing this same theme he kept working throughout the movie. But, whatever, we all have our tastes. To some it may not have been to their liking, b ut to me, I liked the theme. Especially as it relates to efforts regarding gay issues today. To apathy.

      Dec 3, 2008 at 12:36 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bruno
      Bruno

      I’m a gay man who grow up in a homophobic country like Italy. I do really hope this film will touch and inform a lot of people. I hope that its accessible cinematographic language will be of use to engage a lot of people (especially straight people) with the gay struggle (past and contemporary).
      But I think a movie like Brokeback Mountain has serve more to the queer cause than Milk. It succeeded in normalizing a gay love story, which is what Milk also was trying to do as well.

      Dec 3, 2008 at 8:57 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bruno
      Bruno

      @The Gay Numbers: I’m a gay man who grow up in a homophobic country like Italy. I do really hope this film will touch and inform a lot of people. I hope that its accessible cinematographic language will be of use to engage a lot of people (especially straight people) with the gay struggle (past and contemporary).
      But I think a movie like Brokeback Mountain has serve more to the queer cause than Milk. It succeeded in normalizing a gay love story, which is what Milk also was trying to do as well.

      Dec 3, 2008 at 8:58 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Gay Numbers
      The Gay Numbers

      @Bruno: The movie is not about love. The movie is about one man’s single minded focus on politics. He was in love twice in the movie, and both times, that love took a back seat to his political ambition and his desire to change gay rights in America. I can see why you would think its about love. It’s a subtle tightrope — which is what made Penn’s performance crucial.

      Dec 3, 2008 at 12:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Roland Basque
      Roland Basque

      What a consumate egotist.Glad Milk got whacked.What a pudfuck and a piece of work Milk was.Even his “it’s all about me” mug would magnetically attract a fist.Milk was a wackrag whose only agenda was himself.So it’s a good thing this pusball got wasted.Shows how hard up queers are for heroes when they deify this scrotominimy.Surprised it didn’t happen much sooner.

      Dec 3, 2008 at 11:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Charles J. Mueller
      Charles J. Mueller

      Apparently this has something to do with something?

      Dec 5, 2008 at 12:03 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • laurentusa
      laurentusa

      You nailed it! I couldn’t agree with you more, the film was a one sided preaching. Even though I agree with that side it does not lead to reflection and debate.

      Dec 13, 2008 at 4:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chiot Moite
      Chiot Moite

      The end of the film with Harvey looking out his office window, gun to the back of his head, at Tosco posters was so stupidly hamfisted. I wouldn’t be surprised if that shot alone cost them their Golden Globe nominations and ultimately Oscars.

      Then what is with the following scene of the city hall memorial and two people there. What the Milks employees honestly didn’t know what the 30,000 people 8 blocks over in the Castro knew? Give me a break.

      Dec 23, 2008 at 8:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jaroslaw
      Jaroslaw

      Well, I was going to wait until this movie became available for rent but a friend said it was so good he wouldn’t mind seeing it again. So yesterday, I did.

      I think it is almost unforgiveable for a filmmaker the caliber of Gus Van Sant to say Harvey was the first openly Gay politician elected. I can’t imagine why he would allow that in his movie when surely many people even in his film crew/writers etc. must have know.

      Other than that, I did really enjoy it; especially the historical cameos interwoven; although I didn’t care for the main character to be reading memoirs into his tape recorder. To see a man sacrifice so much for a cause is something that we all need to be reminded of, Gay & Straight. And I hate to say it, but I can’t see why everyone thought Sean Penn’s acting was so phenomenal. It was very good for sure, but it was pretty straightforward; no really high emotional notes, not even when his lover hung himself at home. My opinion.

      Jan 19, 2009 at 8:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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