Though this movie will not be released until December, I was fortunate enough to attend a special director’s screening of it several weeks ago.  It had enough of an impact on me that I wanted it to be my first review on this blog.  Milk is the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to political office, who joined the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 and was assassinated the following year, along with the city’s mayor.  A 1984 documentary about Harvey Milk won an Academy Award, and I look forward to both the public and critical response to this movie.

I admit that I knew very little about this story before I attended the screening, but anything “based on a true story” tends to give me an instant connection to characters that I don’t experience with pure fiction.  Just knowing that this was a big part of real people’s lives, not to mention the obvious social issues still present today, caused emotions within me to stir.  Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk and does not disappoint.  Emile Hirsch, James Franco, and Josh Brolin have strong supporting roles.  And there is a scene, using a reflection in the very whistles meant to help protect the gay men in San Francisco, that still gives me a chill.  How wonderful it was to follow the rise in power and acceptance of Harvey Milk, and how devastating it was to see it end.  I give all those involved in this film credit for being able to build suspense in a movie, when the end is already known.

I saw this movie with my mom, sister (Lara), and girlfriend (Jersey).  My mom was the only one of us who had lived through this time, but she doesn’t remember any of it.  Even though she voted in the California state elections and Harvey Milk himself was in Orange County for debates, she can’t recall anything except for Anita Bryant’s religious crusade.  Jersey and I were simultaneously grateful that people before us have fought so that we can hold each other’s hands in public, and sad that we still have a long way to go in this battle.  Lara just joked that she is going to buy us the “Angry Dyke” t-shirts seen at one of the rallies.  😉

Interestingly, while I had heard of the “Twinkie defense” and diminished capacity in many of my legal studies classes, I had no idea where it had come from.  Now, I do.

Since this isn’t something that everyone has had the chance to see yet, I will just ask some general questions…

Has anyone here seen the 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk?  If not, is anyone familiar with this story at all?

This movie shows more than one kiss between men (which I don’t really consider a spoiler since it doesn’t affect the plot in and of itself).  Does this make you uncomfortable at all?  Obviously, we see many heterosexual kisses, and even some lesbian kisses, in movies and on television…gay kisses seem to be very quick pecks or some sort of joke.  Is it weird to see a gay kiss that is more legitimate than that?

When movies are based on real-life events, do you find that they have more of an emotional impact on you than other movies do?  What if you already know the end?  Can it still hold your interest?


8 Responses to “Milk”

  1. saintseester Says:

    I am not familiar with this story, but I would have been a young teen during that time frame and oblivious to the news. I do remember Anita Bryant’s ravings and wondering what had gotten her all stirred up.

    I have seen several movies based on real-life or historical events and, yes, even if I know the ending, they can be gripping.

  2. eatsbugs Says:

    Being a gay man (god, what a horrendous intro), such a movie would be very good for me to see. I have moments where I want to just watch gay-themed movie, though I normally have no connection with a gay scene of any kind.

    Now, I don’t know the documentary, or the story itself very well, though I do know that much has been done in Milk’s name, including a high school that at one time existed only for gay teens, hopefully to create a safe environment where they can learn to be themselves comfortably and still learn.

    And knowing how the story ends does not normally bother me, because its the execution of the story that makes it all worth while. I often know the end of the story, but if they director has done a good job with the tale, it can still have the same emotional impact from beginning to end.

  3. mrschili Says:

    I probably know a bit more about Harvey Milk than your average bear, but I still don’t know a whole LOT. I’ve not seen the documentary of which you speak, but I WILL see this film.

    You’re asking the wrong person about gay kissing scenes. I LOVE them, just because they are so uncommon. I want to see more homosexual characters in our tv shows and movies; I want to see more queer couples out and about; I want more gay folks to take front-and-center in public life as out cops, politicians, teachers, and judges. The more we see something, the less unusual (and scary) it becomes.

    Of course, I recognize the dangers that the people who are (still) pioneering this public life face are very real and VERY dangerous. I also know, though, that it makes me happy to see a gay couple out shopping together, and if I knew it wouldn’t be an entirely disrespectful breech of their privacy, I’d go up to them and tell them how happy I am to see them holding hands.

    How’s about a little smooch?

  4. eatsbugs Says:

    Chili, I wish more people had your audacity and cheerfulness about this subject. It’s a big deal for me, being in Texas, and even bigger since I’m a teacher, but I try to be forthright, and I refuse to lie about it.

  5. Kizz Says:

    My favorite way to learn history is through dramatic retellings so knowing the end of these types of stories doesn’t bother me. Woe betide you if you spoil the ending of a completely fictional story for me, though.

    Years ago someone was telling me that it was common for straight chicks to buy a lot of gay male porn. I didn’t get it. I’d seen guy on guy kissing and I’d seen straight porn and it was all good as far as I was concerned but I didn’t understand why it would be a turn on to watch sex where your kind was not only not wanted but actively refused. Then I started watching the American version of Queer as Folk and I totally got it. People having a good time in love, with sex, whatever floats their boats? So delicious in so many ways.

  6. Tom Says:

    I think it’s wonderful to see Harvey Milk being “resurrected”.
    He did so very much in so little time.
    Him and Mayor Mascone gave their lives to the nutcase White.
    In the movie “As the band played on” the same time zone is passed through and they have a few wonderful scenes of the White March.

  7. Tom Says:

    opps.. that was supposed to be “And the band played on” (I really need to finish at least 2 cups of coffee before I try thinking).

  8. Tom Says:

    I also agree with eatsbugs, Mrs. Chilli has a wonderful outlook. And one other thing eatsbugs. As a gay man who lived in Texas for over 30 years, I say; get the hell out of there! All the best to you and yours.

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