Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Milk" / "Friday the 13th" / Oscar rant

My name is Eric Harris and I'm here to recruit you to the idea that the Academy went political (California recently voted against gay marriage) and gave Sean Penn a slightly undeserved Oscar. More on that later, first the actual movie: Milk.

Milk is the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in San Francisco who was killed by Dan White (also an elected official). Milk is a nice guy and that makes him easy to like. People around him are happy and want him to do good and the audience gets right in step with them. That is the main factor of this film because Sean Penn plays Milk and Sean Penn is not known for being likable, or happy. Sean Penn is known for playing miserable people that do bad things and have bad things done to them. The man's face is a permanent scowl, for god's sake. So it is surprising, entertaining, and impressive to see Penn embodying Harvey Milk as he does. He won the Academy Award for this and I can see why (though I don't agree with it).

But this film has more going for it than performances. It has some ideas about hope and acceptance and who doesn't like that? The acceptance concerns gay rights and that is something that people to this day have a problem with. I didn't really need convincing from this film. If gay people want to get married or work in the same place I work, then they should be able to as far as I'm concerned. I was just hoping that this movie didn't turn out to be a two hour long gay pride parade with flamboyant gay people in risque costumes making out and rubbing each other. If that sounds anti-gay, so be it, but being heterosexual doesn't involve putting on displays of it, so why is sexuality and showmanship always part of gay pride stuff? Can't people be gay and wear suits and still get their point across? Yes, they can and this movie shows that. Though there is a bit of the flamboyance and whatnot, but it's not over the top or even unnecessary. This film walks a fine line and it keeps itself from being comical or too serious, also. It is entertaining and hopeful and that is thanks to Gus Van Sant.

Van Sant not only kept the movie balanced, but he also threw in some style here and there with some split screen work and some interesting angles. Is there some kind of film school message to be found with the scenes between Milk and White (in which they are shown from the shoulders up, but only take up half the screen)? I'm sure there is but I don't want to dissect it. I just noticed that it looked different and frankly, different is almost always better these days. So check out Milk for a great performance from Penn, two impressive performances from Hirsch and Franco, a balancing act from Van Sant, and ignore the annoying Diego Luna (you'll understand when you see it).

Now just a paragraph on the reboot of "Friday the 13th." No need to look deeply into this one. It has Jason, he kills people in semi-interesting ways. He runs now, which I thought was a mistake. The whole menacing thing about Jason is that he always walked but still caught up to everybody. Anyway, Jason kills potheads and oversexed college kids, so this is business as usual. The jokes are cheesy, but high school kids on down might enjoy them. There are a few odd references that I personally enjoyed (if the whole Heineken/Pabst Blue Ribbon thing wasn't a nod to "Blue Velvet" then that is just one of the biggest coincidences in film history). There are some unintentionally funny lines ("Where are you, gun?") and a guy screams just like a little girl at one point. So there is fun to be had here, but I think this is a misstep in the series. "Freddy Vs Jason" was much more enjoyable. I wish they would have stuck with that route. Oh, and Jason uses a bow and arrow in this, which I thought was odd.

Now for my Oscar rant. Sean Penn won Best Actor tonight in the bloated, overlong Academy Awards. I knew that he was neck and neck with Rourke, but I still thought Rourke would win because it's the better performance. I'm going back to my old mainstay argument when it comes to accting awards here. Milk was a real person and Sean Penn did a great impression of the guy. Mickey Rourke did not get to watch footage of Randy the Ram! He had to create something from the page. That is much more impressive to me. Not to mention that his performance is much more entertaining, if that matters anymore. But "The Wrestler" was about wrestling and giving an award for playing a wrestler doesn't give the Academy members the chance to pat themselves on the back as much as giving an award to the protrayer of a slain gay rights activist does. So I'm saying it was all political, especially since it was Penn who won, and that is the only way I can justify it. But here's to Mickey Rourke anyway, there's just going to be an empty spot next to the dozens of other awards you (rightfully) won before tonight.

Next week: I honestly don't know, nothing big comes out, I might just do a few DVD reviews - Frozen River, Changeling, Body of Lies...


  1. "He runs now, which I thought was a mistake."

  2. i am interest to see both the wrestler and milk. i can not have an honest opinion until i seem them but i have a feeling mickey rourke should have won.

  3. I am so glad you are now the Cannelton Critic and keep me up to date on the movies since I never get to see any. I was totally shocked by Sean Penn's award because after your blog on M. Rourke and Mike and George seeing it as well, I thought he would win.
    I can't believe my sister has seen more movies than me but way to go for getting her on board to going to the movies for fun.
    Anxious to hear your opnion of "doubt"--that was one I really wanted to see.

  4. I'd usually agree it is much harder to play a made up character, but honestly : how hard could it have been for Rourke to play a burn out?

  5. Refer back to my Wrestler review, I acknowledge that he is very much like the character, but I believe he added aspects to that performance (voice, facial expressions, emotion in general) that made it something special and definitely made it something more than him just playing himself, but it's impossible to say how different he is since I don't know the man. But if his conduct during awards speeches is any indicator, then he is a bit different than the character in the Wrestler.