Tuesday, February 19, 2008

We Can't Wait #4 Milk

Directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Gerry, Elephant, Psycho, My Own Private Idaho, etcetera)
Starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, Emile Hirsch and many more
Photos on this page from Towleroad which has been doing a smashing job documenting this film
Synopsis a biopic on the life and times of slain gay activist Harvey Milk, the Mayor of Castro Street. If you're young you're forgiven for not knowing much about him but by all means rent the Oscar winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. You won't forget it.
Brought to you by Focus Features (who still haven't won the Best Picture Oscar for all they've done for the cinema. Argh!)
Expected Release Date November 2008

Nathaniel: Hollywood has made roughly 278 biopics in the past 8 years and I'm done. I'm so tired of them. And then... lo and behold, someone (in this case Gus Van Sant) decides to make one about someone ( in this case Harvey Milk) who actually deserves one and whose life matters in ways that aren't already dusty with history --no offense to anyone but do the Elizabeth movies really tell us anything we need to know about our lives now? And what more is there to be learned from tales of famous musicians who are also drug addicts?

So I cautiously await the most high profile gay film since Brokeback Mountain. Are you feeling the same or have you thrown caution to the wind and find yourself expecting a miracle movie?

Gabriel: The studio clearly has Brokeback: The Next Generation as its model, doesn't it? Leaking photos to gay blogs, inviting Perez Hilton to the set...the "community" is definitely being courted. It's too early to know, of course, whether the film will be great -- or whether it will have a watershed critical moment, like Brokeback Mountain had at the Venice Film Festival when its awards momentum really took off.

But for anyone who knows the Harvey Milk story (or who sees the excellent documentary, The Times Of Harvey Milk), you know that there's an epic tale to be told here, replete with cinema-friendly metaphors, heroics, tragedies, and spirit. I'm excited about Milk for its overflowing potential more than anything. It could, realistically, be a classic for the ages. I'm not sure I can say that about the new Harry Potter flick.

<-- Josh Brolin as Dan White, Milk's killer

Glenn: Unlike the others, I am anticipating the arthouse skater boys of Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park more, with Milk place just behind it (literally, one place after it). I have affection of Van Sant's more mainstream fare (I even like Psycho), and Milk seems like it's going to play itself right down the middle. A potentially Oscar-buzzing biopic of an important political and social figure, but playing right into the queer sensibilities that Van Sant is obviously fond of exploring but usually with more intimate filmmaking.

The initial images to leak from the set are comforting, unabashed homosexuality (and between Sean Penn and James Franco no less. yum) is always great to see from a film of this matter and it will be interesting to see how tradition audiences take yet again to the "queering up" of a very old-fashioned genre. A Beautiful Mind this ain't (or at least it doesn't appear to be at this stage), which is about as good a thing as I possibly hope.

Sean Penn and James Franco as lovers


I agree that James Franco making out with a boy is super yummy. Even if it has to be Sean Penn. But can't Taye Diggs have a cameo or something?

Joe: I don't think it's a stretch to say that this film will be getting the most coverage, scrutiny, expectation, and enthusiasm around the blogs I frequent. As it should be -- when gay subject matter goes mainstream, it's a big deal as to how it's received. Just as Ang Lee ended up being the perfect director for Brokeback, I think Van Sant fits perfectly with the more political Milk story. It's the politics of it that makes me think Milk will end up being a tougher sell than Brokeback as far as the general population is concerned (on that level, I suppose Sean Penn doesn't help much either), but I have reason to hope that Van Sant has it in him to dazzle with the artistry and then bring the politics home in a way that can't be denied. So, yeah, my hopes are already super inflated.

Emile Hirsch with 70s fro --->

MaryAnn: Ah, the queer agenda: human rights, freedom, happiness. You commies, you. Why do you hate America? :->

Seriously, any movie that rattles the mainstream like Brokeback Mountain did is catnip to me, and this director and this cast have some major potential to do just that. I'm all over the place with Van Sant -- I hated Elephant but loved Gerry, loved Good Will Hunting but hated Finding Forrester -- but I think he's probably one of the few directors who can find a middle ground between appealing to the mainstream while rocking their world at the same time. We'll see.

Nathaniel: Yes we will. And on opening night no less (if not sooner)

the countdown
#1 Synecdoche, New York / #2 Burn After Reading /
#3 Australia / #4 Milk / #5 Blindness / # 6 Doubt / #7 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button / #8 Revolutionary Road / #9 The Dark Knight / #10 Sex & The City: The Movie / #11 The Lovely Bones / #12 Wall-E / #13 Stop-Loss / #14 The Women / #15 Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince / Introduction / Orphans


Anonymous said...

My boyfriend is an extra on the film, and he reports a very friendly vibe among the crew and actors, lots of community support (this is San Francisco after all), Sean Penn telling jokes to anyone who will listen, Gus Van Sant directing very quietly. Personally I'm really wondering how GVS will handle his biggest budget and crew in a decade, but if the production so far is any indication, it's been smooth sailing.

Sam said...

Number 1 movie I'm looking forward to and yes, I have gigantic expectations that may be unrealistic. Can't help it. But hey, I had the same feelings about Brokeback and that film exceeded my expectations.

RJ said...

Hmmm . . . yeah, I am probably anticipating Paranoid Park more as well.

I dunno. Sean Penn and me aren't great friends. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how movies that feature homosexuality between men are classified as "gay movies".. but not when they feature homosexuality between women. Just look at those very recent examples : Monster, The Hours, Mulholland Drive..I understand that those three movies are not about homosexuality per se as opposed to Brokeback Mountain and Milk, which probably means that saphic love can featured in relatively mainstream films without making it an issue or being the main focus of the film. On the other hand, movies that featured gay male characters tend to make homosexuality the main focus, that is also why they alienate the audience, because american cinema is still not mature enough to make films where men are gay without it being an issue : they have to be dying or HIV, they are victims, they are repressed... Yet that characterisitc does not seem to apply to women.


rural --i'm sorry to hear of your falling out with Sean. He doesn't speak to me much either but then again, Nick keeps him on a really short lease.


and by lease I meant LEASH

Anonymous said...

oh great because we are gay let's put aside all our hating for biopics for people who do not deserve it ray charles,idi amin,queen elizabeth the second etc we are talking to you!!!!!

ooohhhh it's about a gay i must be interested i must i must i must be totally 1 sided in my view.

i find this very poor of you nathaniel a bit like sean penn snubbing the oscars until he was 100 per cent guaranteed one.

you either like biopics or don't oooh when will they make al ibercae film or better still a harvey fierstein one the world needs it.

in the uk i personally had only heard of mr milk in jan when a national gay mag did a piece about him but come on hardly changed the world and why is he so importnat for a biopic and others are not EXPLAIN!!!!!

I think this is bum licking of the highest order simply because it is gays in new york you lot have to love it what a pile of shit.

i am not bothered about the film just the attitudes by sycophants and queens who dive on anything INTELLECTUALLY GAY!!!!!!!


if you don't think Harvey Milk deserves tributes you just don't know anything about him.

I URGE YOU to see the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. This is a very important story in American history.

and this isn't a New York story.
it's a California story.

different place.

IMPORTANT MAN in history. it's not yet another rock star who became a drug addict. PLEASE.

and i didn't say i loved the movie. i said i was looking forward to it. difference.

if it's bad i'll say so.

biopics i liked recently:

i don't always hate biopics. I just think its' the most overrewarded genre of filmmaking when by and large the movies made within it are mediocre.

plus they lead to all those mimicry oscars which make me crazy.

Anonymous said...

If the criteria for a worthy movie is does it tell us anything about our lives now, I'd say 85% of the movies that come out shouldn't be made. That sounds like a generic complaint that you dug out of your toolbox to take a shot at a genre you don't like.

Anonymous said...

@Glenn & Rural Juror: I actually thought Paranoid Park was a bit of a step back from the "death trilogy" (aka. Gerry, Elephant & Last Days). It seemed to recycle van Sant's themes and style so much it could have been a rip-off. A good rip-off, absolutely, with choice music and great naturalistic performances from non-actors, but just a little - dare I say it - stale. It might have been the curse of high expectations, but it was a bit of disappointment to me.

Milk looks like new territory, and since I always like van Sant more when he's being experimental, trying something new, I'm definitely anticipating this.

Plus, guys smooching? Count me in.

Glenn Dunks said...

And, if I'm remembering correctly, didn't Nathaniel give Forrest Whitaker and James McAvoy gold/silver medals in the Film Bitch Awards. I personally despised that movie, not because it was a biopic, but because it was disgusting. Different strokes and such...

I'm sure there will be some bias going on, but Harvey Milk's life was so important and he deserves a big film about his life more than yet another musician who had a troubled childhood who then went on to have a celebrated career only to become addicted to drugs. But, yeah, if it is bad yet gets laurels thrown at it because of people chanting "omgseanpennisharveymilk!!!" then we'll be annoyed.

Glenn Dunks said...

Oh, and Bertrand - people do consider movies about female homosexual relationships as "gay movies". Lost & Delerious, Bound, the three you mentioned...

Anonymous said...

(I even like Psycho)

You lost me there.


basically what i'm reading here is i'm damned if i do damned if i don't when it comes to biopic?


i guess i've been too honest about my feelings for an overworked genre. Nobody trusts that i still have discernment but I do. Sometimes I think biopics performances are great sometimes poor sometimes inbetween. To me that's more discerning than the mass "omgsoandsoISsoandso" that goes on every single year.

but tomato tomahto.

but anonymous... i DO agree that movies don't need to be about NOW to be great. I'm pro genre movies. Pro all sorts of things that most people think aren't "important"

but when itcomes to BIOPICS... a self important genre if there ever was one... if you're going there pick a worthwhile topic. one that hasn't been done before.

I don't see any hypocrisy in that stance.

Slayton said...

The big question here is: Who will get a Best Supporting Actor nomination from this - Hirsch, Franco or Brolin? It's an incredibly weak year in that category.

I left Milk out of my acting race rundowns only because I wasn't completely sure whether it would be '08 or '09.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know much about Harvey Milk, but I am looking forward to it ( but I don'thave anything against biopics and I certainly wouldn't say that Harvey Milk is more important than Ray Charles or Johnny Cash). Seriously how many BLIND musicians have there been biopics about???

How the hell is The Last King of Scotland a Biopic? It is not, I don't care who labeled it one.


Y Kant Goran Rite said...

The last time Gus Van Sant made a movie I half-liked was 1991 (though I confess, I'm yet to see Gerry and Paranoid Park). The last time Gus Van Sant made a commercial movie I half-liked was never. Irrespective of whether he's discovering the value of the human spirit to a soaring orchestra accompaniment or embarking upon blank-faced existential soul-searching, there are few big-name filmmakers I find more hollow and derivative.

I'm very much pro Hollywood giving big budgets to gay subject matter. But at this point in time, I think it's more urgent for me to boycott Hollywood giving big budgets to a hack auteur for an Oscar-friendly commodification of a true story. They're not getting my $10+ for this.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, The Last King of Scotland isn't a biopic, although Whitaker's performance definitely falls into the "OMGheISIdiAmin!" paradigm. McAvoy's character is fictional, so he doesn't count.

Still, two knockout performances.

Anonymous said...

Harvey Milk was gay, mostly gays come to this site which is why Harvey Milk was soo darn important and deserves a biopic over many others. You'll also find the entirely overrated Brokeback Mountain lauded to the umptenth degree on this site. Sorry, but there are better movies about the same topic.

All of this Mimicry talk is total bullshit , you have NO problem with it if Amy Adams does her SNOW white mimicry, but Forest Whitaker and Cate Blanchett playing people that MOST people have NEVER even seen footage of is awful. Do you really know what Idi Amin or Elizabeth was like ? There isn't any ACTUAL footage of Elizabeth and there isn't that much footage of Idi Ami, but their performances were soo mimicry. RIGHT and yet Harvey Milk is entirely waay more important than a Blind Black musician who battled racism,and drugs( AND OVERCAME THEM) to become a staple in the music industry. Both were important to many people and for you to sit here and act like Harvey Milk is the only person on the earth worthy of a biopic is straight up BULLSHIT.

If I went to an urban website and the bloggers said something like James Brown or some Black leader was more worthy for a biopic than anyone else, I would be disgusted.

Anonymous said...

Look Gays will be excited about a decent movie that features Gays.

Blacks will be excited about a decent movie that features Blacks.

Old people will be excited about a decent movie that features old people.

Latinos will be excited about a decent movie that features Latinos etc.

Why, because there aren't many.

I'm Black & Gay wake me up when there is a decent film that features Black Gays, I promise I'll be excited.

P.S. Brokeback Mountain was a snoozefest and Dreamgirls was a hot mess.


what are people putting in anonymous drinks these days?

since when did i hate CATE or FOREST's mimickry? do you ever read anything i write? Both Cate and Forest won SILVER MEDALS at my awards (for The Aviator and Last King of Scotland)
Cate is nominated again this year at the site awards for I'M NOT THERE.

if i hated them why would i be giving them awards?


Amy Adams wasn't nominated but yes, I did like her work in Enchanted a lot. Very fun.

i seriously don't get what you're angry about.

or maybe since you're foaming at the mouth about harvey milk's unimportance you just ate too many twinkies? don't be hating on Harvey Milk. He's an important figure in American history.

and not all the readers of this site are gay. but even if they were... why do you feel the need to dimiss them just because you're angry with me about something i didn't even say?

no knock against ray charles (also an important figure in history) but I think you'll find it very hard to dispute that there are a lot of biopics about famous musicians who were also drug addicts. so it'll be nice that if we have to keep having biopics every year we can at least move away from musicians for a spell.

[RE: LAST KING OF SCOTLAND.... I heard this last year and i never quite understood where people were coming from: there's a ton of footage of Idi Amin. not sure how you missed that. one of the points of the movie The Last King of Scotland is how well Idi could handle cameras and reporters. and during his reign he made the news. Americans knew who he was.

re: elizabeth. if i characterized cate's performance there as mimicry i was being stupid. she can't study how queen elizabeth moved and talked. but hopefully i was talking about hepburn or dylan when i said the words "cate" and "mimicry" in connection]


anonymous 2 yes, you're right. people do like to see themselves represented onscreen.

which is part of the point about why this movie is a good idea. it's not a story that gets told very often and we need diversity in our stories.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, anonymous 11:33 - talk about straw man. You're arguing points Nathaniel never even tried to make - acting like he's taken a more radical position than he has.

In fact, it's quite reasonable. He likes some, dislikes some, loves some, hates some - as with any other genre. But he thinks those particular performances are overrewarded.

And no one thinks Blanchett's performance in The Golden Age is bad because it's mimicry (another point you're getting fired up about that no one's making) - they think it's bad because it's "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," to quote the bard. Agree or disagree, why get all worked up about it?

And, finally, is it really that controversial to suggest that Harvey Milk was more important than Ray Charles? I mean, one man made Time Magazine's list of The 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, the other did not. Don't get me wrong, though, I love Ray Charles. ;)

Anonymous said...

Steve the importance of someone is based on Opinion, my grandmother is very important to me more important than Ray Charles or Harvey Milk. So no I don't think Harvey Milk was more important than Ray Charles ( even after reading more about him on wikipedia). No I don't think Ray Charles was more important than Harvey Milk either.

I do agree with anonymous 2.


Glenn Dunks said...

Goran, that is a very bizarre thing to say. A very singular auteur in the world of filmmaking being given a large budget to make a mainstream-appealing film about an important figure in gay and political history and you're AGAINST it? Because, what? It may or may not (in a year's time!!) be up for Oscars? I don't care if you don't like Van Sant - he's definitely an acquired taste - but it seems like such an odd thing to get angry over - so angry that you will "boycott" it (as if the Hollywood studios are going to notice). Not to sound rude or anything, it's just a very odd thing to read, I must say.

And, yes, Anon 12:05 hit the nail on the head. It's not exactly scientific, just common sense.

BDB said...

I can say that after seeing Into The Wild, I am excited to see Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch working together again. The life of Harvey Milk is such a fascinating story, one that I feel today's generation (which includes myself) has missed out on.

So much attention has been paid to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1970s that it is a nice change of pace to hear about the history of gay rights, which is just as much a part of our American history and framework as is anything else. Milk's life eerily mirrors our current political situation, with people being quieted and stifled simply for speaking out against the current system.

It is also goes to show that a person of a different color, creed, or sexual orientation can hold political office just as well as any former leader. We are deep in a national debate between Obama and Clinton, but when it really comes down to it, the color or the gender or religion has nothing to do with how they will hold office. Sure, their individual experiences will aid in their decision-making, most likely making them more compassionate leaders, but it has nothing to do with their abilities. What we do know, is that their election will bring a positive change to this country, one that will hopefully be read about more in the history books than Milk is now. As Milk said himself, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door." Hopefully, whoever wins this current election, will help open one more door.

It's a shame that Milk's assassin received the short sentence that he did, proving that then and even now, gays still have a lot of work to do to be considered equal citizens. There is still a lot of bigotry that exists, but as a straight man of color, I am just existed to see this movie so that it may open the gates of discussion and hopefully bring a more tolerant viewpoint to today's society. It is important to realize that this seemingly political story is deeply embedded in all of our personal histories, and it is time we finally get to see our past, so that we may grow and learn for our future.


BDB wow. thanks for posting that. you've put it quite eloquently.

the fight between Obama and Clinton has been on my mind a lot and i really don't like the notion that supporting either one in favor of the other indicates either sexism or racism. we have so much work to do as a society... and remembering people like Milk is a good place to start.

but that said, the strangest thing of all in our current democratic political primary climate might be the absurdity of how prevalent and accepted sexism still is. It's astonishing to me the things the media will say about CLINTON. They wouldn't dare ever say similar things about OBAMA... and that's strange since women make up 50% of the population.

so we seem to be making strides in fighting racism but sexism just won't budge. t's still apparently OK to deem 50% of the population lesser than (sigh)

Anonymous said...

No Kamikaze camel, people don't categorize the three movies bertrand mentionned as gay, maybe in America but not in Europe, they dont' describe it as lesbo-oriented.

Anonymous said...

Zee, that's fine that you don't agree - I was just making the point that it's not controversial to say that Milk is more important than Ray.

Anonymous said...

Saw Paranoid Park last week - exceeded my expectations, it's actually a very good, if slight work. I love Van Sant's depression trilogy (Elephant, Gerry, Last Days) - but I'd say Paranoid Park could be seen as a minor masterpiece in its own right.

This post has given me that Brokeback-level anticipation feeling for the first time since, well, Brokeback. Thanks guys!

Anonymous said...

Did Harvey Milk really have long hair and a beard?