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Sean Penn+Baby Voice= Milk Oscar Buzz?

December 6, 2008

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Just give him the Oscar nom already.  I swear, no actor portrays a babyish innocence like Sean Penn.  As I sat through what was his whimsically passionate portrayal of  Harvey Milk in Milk I could not help but think that I’d seen this vulnerable, “goo-goo gaa-gaa” performance before in I Am Sam.  What a wuss!  I say this not at all in a demeaning sense but rather  in awe at how Penn effortlessly makes you believe that you aren’t watching him act for two hours- he just is.

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Though I knew very little about the life of Harvey Milk (and even littler about George Moscone) I knew I was in store for a two-hour saga that would surely cause the tears to well up- and did they ever.  For the record I enjoyed Milk because of it’s political relevance. To be sure, it’s eerie at how the whole art- imitating-life-imitating-art phenomena rings true 30 years later in the era of Proposition 8.   Thus, I was quite intrigued at director Gus Van Sant’s chronicling of 1978’s Proposition 6- the initiative that sought to ban gays and lesbians from teaching in public school.  And then there was Anita Bryant.  You silly rabbit.

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Not to be outdone the supporting cast too deserve their share of accolades.  James Franco’s acting chops have matured since his Spiderman days and he gives a sweet performance as Milk’s homie-lover-friend- to- the-end, Scott Smith.  Diego Luna also gives a powerful performance as Jack Lira, a lover with insecurities that are bone deep (almost painful to watch, really) and Emile Hirsch is solid as Cleve Jones, Milk’s friend and fellow defender of gay rights.  Josh Brolin rounds out the supporting cast as the troubled Dan White, San Franciso supervisor and assassin.

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So why should you see this movie?  If not for Sean Penn then see it for the cinematography.  I still don’t know  which scenes were authentic news footage  and which were shot to look that way.  I don’t think I even want to know.  For 128 minutes I felt as if I were living in the Castro district rather than seeing the movie just a few short blocks away from it.  See the movie for it’s messages about tolerance, too.  Milk’s tagline reads “Never blend in”.  Who can argue with that?

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3 comments

  1. Have you seen this Demographic Winter video? I saw it over on Kingfisher Column, the decline of the family has huge economic impact. This thing is chilling.

    http://beetlebabee.wordpress.com/2008/12/06/demographic-winter/


  2. Yes, I totally agree. I marveled at the social relevance. It’s essentially the same battle 30 years later. I had no idea. Though, they were victorious with Prop 6, whereas prop 8’s victory went to the Mormons and other anti-gays.

    In other news..
    Sean Penn is the shit. He’s a brilliant actor with an uncanny ability to embody the characters he plays. I am so moved by his work. You hit it on the head – he just is.

    I did see this film at the Castro theatre, and it was so worth it!

    Thanks, Movie Shrink!


  3. I know you wrote this a while ago, but I just stumbled across it while looking for photos of this movie. Such a good review! I loved this movie as much as you it seems. You made a good point about the cinematography!



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