Gus Van Sant's Milk Has Just Become So Much More Relevant
It wasn't a victory for everyone yesterday. I really hate mixing politics and journalism, but I can't help it today, because I feel like I need to promote Gus Van Sant's Milk even more based on the results of the election in California. For those who aren't from that state, there was a proposition on the ballot addressing gay marriage rights. If it passed, it would amend the state Constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, negating a decision by the California Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage. So why is this important? It mirrors another big proposition that Harvey Milk fought against 30 years ago that eventually lead to his assassination and was documented in the film. And with results showing that it did pass, it makes that film so much more important and relevant to the real world today.
It helps that I saw Milk a few weeks ago and embargoes be damned, that movie was phenomenal. As more time has passed and the results of this election have arrived, I've come to appreciate the film so much more. It's not only an exquisite recreation of the story of an inspirational man, but its political resonance and relevance are as powerful as the story itself. I wish Focus Features had this movie out in theaters now, because it's a film all Americans needs to see, especially after what happened with Proposition 8 here in California. Sure, it's not going to convince that many people to change their minds nor will it drastically change the way this country thinks, but when a film is able to capture so vividly the beliefs in which Harvey was fighting so strongly for, it deserves to be recognized and admired.
I'm very interested in seeing what Focus Features will do to promote this in the next few weeks leading up to its opening on November 26th and whether or not it gains additional controversial buzz. I've got a feeling that the results of the election are going to either really hurt or really help the film, and if anything, I want them to help it. Unfortunately it's too late to use the film as a means of convincing voters, which I think Focus Features wanted to actually stay away from. I imagine that to them to them, it's just a film, a dramatic retelling of an emotional story in our nation's history - or at least that's the stance they took to stay out of the crossfire. In the end, I think that idea is entirely irrelevant, because as I said, Milk has just become one of the most important films to hit theaters now that we know the results of this election.
There are two other references regarding Milk that are worth mentioning: Oscar buzz coming from Anne Thompson at Variety and Devin's editorial on the politics over at CHUD. First of all, what makes Milk such a strong contender for Oscars (and potentially a box office hit) is its relevance to today, especially in comparison to Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon and Oliver Stone's W., two other very political films. Her best quote, though, came after she mentioned how Milk is the perfect contender for Best Picture: "It reminds us of how far we've come, in a short time, and how far we still have to go." And that takes us right into Devin's article, which also addresses the fact that "we've come almost no distance from where we were when Harvey Milk was alive." That couldn't be more accurate considering the outcome on Proposition 8.
I really hope Milk ends up getting the attention it, and Sean Penn specifically, deserves and goes on to be seen by many Americans. Whether or not you voted for or against Proposition 8 (or not at all if you weren't in California), I hope you'll come to recognize Milk for what it is: an incredible film made up of amazing performances, a powerful and moving story, and a message of hope. For those reasons, Gus Van Sant's Milk is a film that I hope Americans come to embrace. Just as Barack Obama has become the first black president in our nation's history, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to major public office. Seeing his amazing story told in Milk and seeing him beat a similar proposition just gives me hope that one day our nation will be able to do the same, even though it didn't happen yesterday.