Thursday, March 12, 2009

Milk DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Sean Penn’s Oscar-Winning Performance as Gay Pioneer Arrives on DVD

Harvey Milk (1930-1978) was a trailblazing pioneer in 1977 when he became the first openly-gay person to be elected to political office in the State of California. The outspoken activist had represented San Francisco’s Castro District as a City Supervisor for less than a year when he and Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber) were murdered by Dan White (Josh Brolin), a disgruntled rival and former Supervisor. The assassination turned Milk into a martyr, and to this day he serves as a symbol of courage and hope for homosexuals and lesbians gays everywhere.
Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant, is as much an historical account of the rise and sudden fall of a beloved cult hero as it is an intimate character study of a vulnerable, complicated soul. The film stars Sean Penn (for Mystic River) who won an Academy Award for his curiously brash yet endearing performance in the title role.
The picture couldn’t be more timely, given the controversy surrounding the recent passing of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in California. The opening features a black & white collage of archival footage of arrests and intimidation of homosexuals and of police raids of gay bars during less enlightened times, followed by a brief clip of an ashen fellow Supervisor Diane Feinstein announcing the murders of Milk and Moscone.
Harvey then proceeds to narrate his own story in a series of flashbacks, having ostensibly been inspired by a premonition to dictate his memoirs into a tape recorder shortly before he was killed, beginning with, “This is only to be played in the event of my death by assassination.“ And his voiceover haunts the picture posthumously, exhorting the masses to continue the movement, and not merely on behalf of gays, but for all the disenfranchised. Expect to shed a few tears during the closing credits montage when real-life photos and updates of the principals portrayed in the movie are juxtaposed against the actors playing them.
That rare bio-pic of sufficient depth and emotional complexity to humanize an icon while simultaneously conveying the significance of his lasting contributions to the culture.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and violence.
Running time: 128 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, a documentary about Harvey Milk and interviews with people whose lives he touched.

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