Thursday, 9 December 2010

All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.

"This is Harvey Milk speaking from the camera store on the evening of Friday, November 18. This is to be played only in the event of my death by assassination. I fully realize that a person who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes a target or the potential target for somebody who is insecure, terrified, afraid, or very disturbed themselves. Knowing that I could be assassinated at any moment, any time, I feel it's important that some people know my thoughts. And so the following are my thoughts, my wishes, and my desires, whatever, and I'd like to pass them on and have them played for the appropriate people.
I have never considered myself a candidate. I have always considered myself part of a movement, part of a candidacy. I considered the movement the candidate. I think that there's a distinction between those who use the movement and those who are part of the movement. I think I was always part of the movement. I wish I had time to explain everything I did. Almost everything was done with an eye on the gay movement.
The other aspect of this tape is the business of what should happen if there is an assassination. I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad, but I hope they will take that frustration and that madness and instead of demonstrating or anything of that type, I would hope they would take the
power and I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay doctor come out, every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let that world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody would imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights.
I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow, because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that's what this is all about. It's not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power — it's about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, hope. You gotta give them hope."

-From a tape recording to be played in the event of his assassination, quoted in Randy Shilts, The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982)

Some films and some people are just there to inspire us. After watching Gus Van Sant's Milk yesterday, I was full of emotions and respect. I mean I love the idea of revolutions, when people fight against all the wrongs that the society and the government force upon us, but to be led in such a revolution by someone like Harvey Milk would have been life-changing. I already feel that my life has been forever altered in this wonderful way just by watching the film.

      Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected in a public office in USA, in the Castro District of San Francisco. He was famously called the 'Mayor of Castro Street'. He became one of the city supervisors. He campaigned fiercely against a surge of anti-gay movements that bigots like Anita Bryant and John Briggs. He got many many followers and won a national movement against Briggs Initiative, which was a proposed law to fire homosexual tecahers. However, soon after he was killed alongside Mayor George Moscone by Dan White, another city supervisor who had resigned recently but wanted his job back. 25000-40000 people marched the streets of San Francisco with candles to honour him.

      The film shows the amazing life of Milk, but with so much more. It starts and ends with the tape that Milk made to be played at the event of his assassination. It showed his humble beginnings and his meteoric rise. His love affairs and his brilliant friends. The marches and the feel of USA in the 70s. Gus Van Sant used a lot the material that was already there from the many documentaries on Milk, most importantly The Times of Harvey Milk directed by Rob Epstein, to show people like Anita Bryant and the gay marches, and ofcourse the announcement of Milk and Moscone's death. Along with that we got a look into Milk's personal life- his lovers Scott Smith and Jack Niro, his friends like Cleve Jones, Danny Nicoletta and Anne Kronenberg.

      Dustin Lance Black came and breathed life into the almost-dead film that had been in production for fifteen years. He showed Milk as a lovely and powerful leader. The dialogues are funny and impactful. The somewhat non-linear chain of events keep the viewer anxious and happy at the same time. Van Sant, who generally makes films about people who are "different", namely To Die For, Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho and Psycho, maid Milk so perfectly that the earlier ones now almost fade in comparison. But that is just my opinion. The precision in everything, from the place to the clothes to the dialogue is incredible. Once again he showed the vulnerable side of men without, no pun intended, gaying them up. I mean, just how Milk said, they were all men, who only loved with their hearts and not according to prevailing mores of the society. All the 'good' characters are bright and colourful, and the 'bad' ones bleak and sad. Amongst the critics who were rolling over it, the film got a positive reaction from many Christian magazines as well, and I think to make a film about such an important person and movement, and not to offend anyone, is just fantastic. To love one another, that's what humanity is, and Harvey Milk and this film showed that to all of us.

      Now actor-wise, what can be said about Sean Penn's acting abilities that hasn't been said before. He's a truly gifted actor who portrayed Milk so well that he stole the Oscar from teh favourite Mickey Rourke. He was passionate and adorable and just so stunning as Milk. He became Milk in this film, and no one had any doubt about it. I loved him so much in this role, and the way he spoke and carried himslef. Everything he said was honest and genuine. This was a Sean Penn film through and through. But that doesn't mean that the other actors and characters were not good. They were very important to show us Milk's character and beliefs. James Franco is always fantastic, and though he must have trampled over many women's hearts by playing a gay man- Scott Smith, he is one of the best young actors out these. So is the disgustingly talented Emile Hirsch. He was so cute and funny as Cleve Jones, with the hair and the glasses (must have), and the attitude (absolutely must have). Josh Brolin was very good too, playing the psychopathic bigoted arsehole Dan White. I couldn't recognise Diego Luna who was the lovestruck Enrique in The Terminal. That's a good thing as he was so sweet and mental and tragic as Milk's lover Jack. And Scott Pilgrim's Allison Pill was also there as Anne Kronenberg, the lesbian among the gays, but fabulous nonetheless.

      I have to mention the ending. It is absolutely one of the best endings I've ever seen and I'm a big believer is in the whole "All's well that end's well" ideology. From the moment that Milk is assasinated and he looks out of his window to see the opera house that he had spoken to Scott about, to the absolutely heart-wrenchingly beautiful candlelight vigil, and the fact that Milk somehow had predicted his ending..."I'll never make it to 50" (Milk died when he was 48), to the assassination, to the uprising. It was just heartfelt and exhuberant and just so right.

I'm just going to go ahead and say it. Watch it if you have any heart in you, and you'll love it!

My name is Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you!

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