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Movie Review: Milk

Alternate Title: Lactose Tolerant

Story: The timing on this inspiring film by director Gus Van Sant could not have been more perfect. After the recent shameful passage of Prop 8 on CA's ballot, denying homosexuals the right to marry, we get to experience the life and times of Harvey Milk, the first professed homosexual to be elected to public office.

The film was written by Dustin Lance Black (Big Love) with input from many of the people who knew and worked with Milk at the time. The film is seen through flashbacks as Harvey Milk speaks into a tape recorder, chronicling the events that lead up to his ultimate assassination along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone on November 10, 1978.

Van Sant develops a three dimensional character of Milk. He depicts his slow evolution once he comes out of the closet. He shows his flaws, tenderness and passion for a cause that changed history. The film is funny, uplifting, heartfelt and filled with rich detail and warmth. I defy you not to shed a tear at the end of the film. Be sure to stay for the credits. You will be able to see what happened to all of the major players.

Let's give a rousing cheer to all of the community organizers out there. They can and do change the world. You betcha!

Also please note that a documentary film by Rob Epstein, based on the book The Times of Harvey Milk, won the 1984 Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW0lQrWn5VI

Watch Anita Bryant get a pie thrown in her face: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dS91gT3XT_A

Acting: Sean Penn is Harvey Milk. He is transformed on the screen and should probably be clearing space on his mantel for all of the rewards he surely will get for this amazing performance. Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones, gives another slid performance. James Franco as Scott Smith, gives a mighty fine performance. Josh Brolin as Dan White, is having one heck of a run. He gives a great performance in this challenging role. Diego Luna as Jack Lira, was one of the saddest characters on the screen. Alison Pill as Anne Kronenberg, gave a fine performance as the only female in the cast. Victor Garber as Mayor George Moscone, was terrific. as were the rest of the cast including, Denis O’Hare (John Briggs), Joseph Cross (Dick Pabich), Stephen Spinella (Rick Stokes), Lucas Grabeel (Danny Nicoletta), Brandon Boyce (Jim Rivaldo), Zvi Howard Rosenman (David Goodstein) and Kelvin Yu (Michael Wong).

Trivia: Director Gus Van Sant is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design. Sean Penn's father was of mostly Russian and Lithuanian descent, but paternal grandfather, whose original surname was Piñon, was of Sephardic Jewish heritage. His mother was of Irish and Italian heritage. His paternal grandparents ran a Jewish deli for some time in NY. His father, Leo Penn, had been blacklisted in the 50s Hollywood. James Franco likes to paint in his spare time.

Predilection: I lived in CA during this time and remember the joy at the passage of Prop 6.

Critters: An adorable dog.

Food: Lots of take-out, pasta, chicken and a Mexican dish. There were several scenes that involved birthdays and pies (in your face).

Sex Spectrum: There is definitely sex but it is tender and mostly in the shadows or very close-up.

Blatant Product Placement: Coors beer

Soundtrack: An eclectic mix of songs from the era and music by Danny Elfman. This is the second film I have seen this month that includes the opera, Tosca in the film. The other one was Quantum of Solace.

Opening Titles: A black and white photo montage of what life was life for homosexuals before they got their act together and became a political force.

Visual Art: Director of photography, Harris Savides does a fine job of recreating the era.

Theater Audience: Pretty crowded for a 10:30 AM show on opening Wednesday.

Squirm Scale: Anita Bryant made my skin crawl.

Drift Factor: I did not drift at all

Tissue Usage: One

Oscar Worthy: Yes

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen. For some of Gus Van Sant's other films you can rent: Paranoid Park, Elephant, Gerry , Finding Forrester, Psycho, Good Will Hunting To Die For, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy

Length: A smidgeon over two hours.