When my friend at Focus Features told me I'd love Milk a few months before it came out, I was pretty skeptical. I figured he was just drinking the company, um... milk.
Sure I'm a diehard liberal and all (pro gay rights, a former political organizer, etc.) but I cringed at the idea of what I thought would be another heavy-handed, preaching-to-the-choir, eat-your-vegetables, Oscar-bait message movie. We'd all have to sit through it and applaud because we love and support our gay friends -- not because it's actually a good movie.
Plus, it was Sean Penn of all people. Love the guy, but he's kind of a blowhard, isn't he? And the last movie that he played a politician in didn't exactly turn out so great, did it?
Well, I was wrong. Very wrong. Sean Penn nails it (even Milk's Queens accent, which I can personally attest to as a Sunnyside resident). But beyond that, the movie is nearly flawless. It puts most biopics to shame. And it really socked me in the gut while (sorry Harvey Weinstein!) The Reader left me emotionally cold.
I'm not sure what the 80-some-odd members of the Hollywood Foreign Press are sniffing, but they definitely snubbed Milk.
Penn was recognized, but no Best Picture nomination? No Best Director for Gus Van Sant? Tom Cruise gets a Best Supporting Actor nom for his lame white boy rap routine in a fat suit in Tropic Thunder and Josh Brolin gets nothing? Not even a Best Screenplay nomination for Dustin Lance Black who spent years valiantly trying to get his version of Harvey Milk's life on screen?
My first thought was maybe the Hollywood Foreign Press has an anti-gay slant, but I looked it up and they gave the Golden Globe for Best Picture to Brokeback Mountain in 2006 while Oscar voters -- to everyone's shock and many people's dismay -- pulled the lever for Crash.
I'm not sure the real reason Milk got Globe-shafted, but here's hoping Oscar voters will redeem themselves this year. As Milk would say, "I'm here to recruit you!"
[BTW, I'm taking an educated guess that a movie with Sean Penn featuring graphic gay sex scenes is near the very bottom of his list, but if there's one movie I wish I could force my Republican uncle in Missouri to watch -- Clockwork Orange style - this year its Milk. Not because agree with the message, but since (to my surprise) it's probably the most moving film of the year and he's too decent of a human being (despite the fact that he voted for Palin) not to be moved.]