As part of Oscar Quest '09 I went to see the movie Milk last Thursday night. Apparently Mobile has an indie movie theatre (who knew? I like this city better every day) and it's showing for the next week or two. Kacie, Shannon, Sarah Beth and I met a few second years and hit up the 6pm showing. It was only 6 bucks if you went to the 6pm showing, and we figured that it wouldn't be very crowded on a weeknight, right? Wrong. It was packed. We were about five minutes late and we couldn't even sit together it was so crowded. Also, they don't show previews, so we missed the first few minutes, but it wasn't a big deal.
I honestly had no idea whether I would like this movie or not. I was a little bit skeptical. If you don't know what it's about, it's an independent film (documentary? I'm not sure) chronicling the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to become a city supervisor of San Francisco. I didn't know the story, but from the historical photos and facts they showed at the end of the film, it looks like they pretty much stuck to the history. I'd like to read a little bit about it, though.
Set in the 1970s, the cultural differences in this film were what shocked me the most. The struggle for gay rights is definitely ongoing today, but there are completely different battles being fought today than there were thirty and forty years ago. Regardless of where you stand on the gay marriage issue, the viewpoints of some characters (the Christians, go figure) in this movie are shocking. Homosexuality is a complex issue that evokes a lot of emotional responses from both sides, and that fact is hyperevident here. The crux of the film lies in Milk's fight against 1978's Proposition 6, a proposed California amendment that would have allowed the state's education department to fire any teacher for whom they had evidence of homosexuality. The religious right's depiction of gays as predators whose sole purpose for teaching was to convert children to their lifestyle seems absurd, but it reflected the views of a large part of America at that time, and the fundamentalist Christians were at the heart of the movement supporting this amendment. The Christians were the ones trying to prevent gays not just from getting married, but from shopping in stores, having jobs, and buying houses. It's eye-opening, if nothing else.
The film, I thought, was very well done. Sean Penn looks a lot like the real Harvey Milk, which is kind of random but cool. It's hard for me to compare this movie to, say, Slumdog Millionaire or The Reader because it's so different. I will say that I don't think it is the best picture of the year, but the subject matter will definitely give it a lot of pull with the Hollywood crowd. We'll see what happens. I didn't agree with a lot of things in the film, and parts of it made me uncomfortable, but thought provocation is an indicator of a well-made piece of art and I think almost everyone could benefit from seeing this movie.