Thursday, March 12, 2009

Milk does a body good (but only if the body includes a penis)

I swear, when the guy behind the counter realized I was renting the film Milk, he gave me a smug look, like "Hold your horses, sweetheart. I'll get your precious movie. Don't get your panties in a bunch". But then I remembered that the guy was just being your average garden variety early-20's douchebag video clerk, and that look he gave was just his standard air of mockery & superiority coming out to stink up the joint. I wanted to stare him down and tell him, "You think you're hot shit now, but I was once like you. Look at me now, sad and pathetic and brimming with failure. I'm your future, and it's only 3-5 years away. So enjoy these fun moments, because they will be lost in time, like tears in rain" and maybe he would slightly appreciate the Blade Runner reference thrown in there, but then he probably hasn't even seen Blade Runner, so fuck yo mama.

I'll be honest, when I first heard about this movie, I figured Penn was just going to go for the gold and turn that shit up to 11, like he did with Mystic River ("IS THAT MY DAUGHTER IN THEREEEEE???!!!") or The Assassination of Richard Nixon ("IT'S ABOUT MONEY, DICK!!! IT'S ABOUT MONEY, DICK!!!!"). The low-point had to have been his performance in the remake of All the King's Men, which might as well have been called Serious Film with Serious Acting: The Movie. Holy shit, that was quite a spectacle. It's actually a very entertaining movie to watch in a so-bad-it's-good sort of way, because it allows you to enjoy the sight of a film and the people involved in it slowly disappear up into their own asses. Speaking of which, I'll get to writing about the movie Milk pretty soon, so bear with me.

I had just about enough of this overacting motherfucker, this self-serious prick who reacted to Trey Parker and Matt Stone's portrayal of him in Team America: World Police by sending them a letter telling them that they should visit Iraq and see if that'll change their mocking ways, the douchebag not fucking getting it that they are satirists who make fun of everything. This is the same "ACTOR!!!" who couldn't just let Chris Rock's jokes at the Oscars about wanting to know who the fuck Jude Law is slide. No, he had to go up when it was his time to present and inform Mr. Rock that Law is in fact a very well-respected actor. This barrel of laughs is also the same fun dude who can't fucking take it whenever someone mentions his Spicoli character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, never mind that if it wasn't for that role -- in an awesome movie, mind you -- he wouldn't have had a fucking career enabling him to act like the fucking Serious Douche that he is. GET THE FUCK OVER YOURSELF!

Well, I don't know if he'll ever get over himself, but he at least showed signs of chilling out a bit during the Oscars. He seemed to take it well when Robert DeNiro brought up Spicoli, but then again, DeNiro happens to be a close friend of Penn's, and he also appears to share the same lack of humor as he does, so I guess that makes it cool. But when Penn got up to make his acceptance speech, he surprised the fuck out of me (and I'm sure most of Hollywood) by not taking the time to curse us Evil Americans for not being nice to some country of Derka Derks or for not saving the trees or some shit or how Acting Makes The Sun Come Up and the World Spin Around. No, he had a humorous opening line and also made a couple of self-effacing comments, as well as giving Mickey Rourke some major props too. That last bit was especially cool because I was really bummed that Rourke didn't win for his great performance in The Wrestler, and that kinda made up for it. To be honest, what also made up for it was that I had bet against him, pretty certain Penn was going to take it -- because c'mon, an actor nominated for playing a gay martyr? That's money in the bank, baby! And it was!

I figured I should finally get around to watching Milk, to see if Penn deserved his win. And you know what? He definitely deserved it. I loved Rourke's performance in The Wrestler, LOVED it, but shit man, even I said in my "review" of The Wrestler that we're basically watching The Mickey Rourke Story, and if you're playing the title role in The Mickey Rourke Story, then I guess that means you're playing Mickey Rourke, right? And if you happen BE Mickey Rourke and you're playing the role of Mickey Rourke, then I guess that means you're kinda playing yourself.

A couple months back, I talked about how much I really liked Benicio Del Toro's performance in Che because he wasn't so much "acting" as he was just being that dude. Penn does the same here. In the same freaky way that I got lost in the Che character so much that I forgot about Del Toro, I honestly forgot about Sean Penn being in this movie. I wasn't watching Sean Penn 'batin all over himself for an Oscar, no way, the motherfucker BECAME Harvey Milk in this movie. It's great acting, and he even keeps it pretty dialed down. He cries a few times, but none of that howling for an Oscar type of theatrics, this is some serious kinda shit here.

So Milk's the true story about this gay dude, Harvey Milk, who lived most of his life in the closet but one day decides to take off with his lover to San Francisco. Why San Francisco? I have no idea. Maybe they're big fans of the Golden Gate bridge? Once there, they set up shop in the Castro District and slowly but surely, Milk starts getting fed up with the bullshit (prejudiced treatment from local businesses and beatdowns by the fucking pigs) and starts getting involved in local civic matters. He goes on to help make the gay community an important voice worth being heard, at first by displaying their value as consumers; the businesses that don't treat them respectfully get boycotted to closure, and eventually even the Teamsters recognized what an important ally the homosexuals are when they helped protest against Coors by not serving it in gay bars. Apparently, there are a lot of gay bars in San Francisco, because there's a large homosexual community in that city, which I would've never guessed.

After becoming the "Mayor of Castro Street", Milk decides to take it a step further and enter politics, running for Supervisor. The rest of the film focuses on his various campaigns and his eventual win, among other things. I'm not ruining shit here, man. This is one of those flicks that works whether or not you already know the outcome of this story, like Apollo 13 or Good Night and Good Luck. So I don't want to hear any shit about how I gave away the movie and spoiled it and said that Milk eventually wins and becomes Supervisor, making him the first openly gay man to become elected to office, and that later on in his career, another Supervisor named Dan White breaks into City Hall with a revolver and shoots both Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone dead. I don't want to hear about it.

Gus Van Sant directed this movie, and I consider him kinda like Steven Soderbergh in that he also seems to jump back and forth between Hollywood mainstream and the arthouse crowd. The dude started out with flicks like Drugstore Cowboy and then went on to do Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester, but then spend the next few years making films like Elephant and Gerry. The motherfucker even had time to do a useless remake of Psycho. He also seems to have a sense-of-humor about himself, showing up in Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back playing himself on the set of Good Will Hunting 2, directing the movie while counting up a big bag of money. His last few films he's been working with the same cinematographer, and goddamn, it's an awesome partnership; the flicks have a cool 70's style look to them in the lighting and texture of the visuals. It's kinda soft and not too sharp, but it's beautiful photography all the same. With Milk, the cinematography works so well that I was lost in how awesome a shot looks for a couple a seconds before realizing HOLY SHIT THAT'S TWO GUYS FUCKING AND SMACKING EACH OTHER ON THE ASS!!! AIIIEEE!!! I'M GAY NOW!!!

Yeah, let's get that out of the way. Because this is a movie about a gay man in the gay community, there is the occasional moment of Man Love. If that kinda shit worries you, I'll just say that it's more of a quantity-over-quality deal here. It's like every ten minutes two dudes will make out, but there was only one actual scene of Bowm-Chicka-Wow-Wow, and even then, Brokeback Mountain was far harsher in that respect. If you could handle Brokeback, you could definitely handle Milk, big boy. If you think this shit is too gay and don't wanna watch it, that's cool. You can take off and go back to watching guys getting up on other guys asses' during football or a bunch of naked dudes sticking things up each others' asses in either of the Jackass movies. It's okay to laugh though, I'm making that decision. I'm okay with dudes making out in movies, but don't tell me I can't laugh at that shit. I'm sorry. I'm sure there are some gay people out there who think two straights macking on each other is pretty funny too, and I'm cool with that. I'm all about equality.

Sean Penn's Oscar win was richly deserved, and the rest of the performances are all ace too, especially Josh Brolin as Dan White. Goddamn, was this motherfucker troubled. But Van Sant and the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, these two are pretty sensitive about how White's character was portrayed. In lesser filmmakers' hands, this dude would've been fuckin' demonized, and considering what the real-life man did, you couldn't completely blame them if they did. But Van Sant and Black take the high road and along with Brolin's performance, White comes off as a unfortunately paranoid and hurt man. I don't know if this is based on something Milk actually said, or if the movie made this up for dramatic purposes, but there's a part where Milk believes that part of why White is probably so messed up -- and why Milk stayed friendly with him -- was that he believed that White might be in the closet. For his performance Brolin was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but since he didn't overdose on prescription medication in real life, he didn't win. There's always next time, Bro...lin.

There's one performance that I still haven't made up about, and that's Diego Luna as Jack, one of Milk's last lovers. Basically Luna is playing the male version of the crazy Penelope Cruz characters in Blow and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It got to a point that I was waiting for him to say actual lines from one of those flicks. I like Diego Luna but in this flick, I couldn't fucking stand him and every time he appeared on-screen I groaned. Shit, here we go again. I'm taking the positive approach and saying that he was supposed to be annoying, and if that was the case, boy did he do an ace job on accomplishing that. I hope the filmmakers weren't trying to get me to feel sorry for him, because I never did. Sorry. I certainly felt really fucking bad for Harvey Milk in his final scene with Jack though, that did fucking crush me, but that was because at this point in the movie, Milk became my bro and I don't like to see my bros in pain like that, you know? I just couldn't give two shits about the insufferable basket case he was in love with. It's like maybe some of you out there have had a friend of yours who has broken up with someone that you and everyone else you know couldn't fucking stand, and while you're happy that this soul-sucking cunt or prick is out of the picture, you still feel horrible for your friend's loss, because he or she obviously saw a different person than everyone else and maybe, just maybe, he or she truly loved the unpleasant creature. Wow, that sounded fuckin' cold. But I'm sure you know what I mean.

James Franco is in this movie too, but fuck that guy.

Milk was a good movie, and I'm glad I got around to watching it. Sean Penn definitely deserved his Oscar and maybe, just maybe, he won't be such a humorless asshole from now on. I know that's asking for too much, but shit man, I'm really trying to look for reasons not to hate a motherfucker, you know? I'm already looking to beat the fuck out of the video store clerk along with some other bitch I'll talk about some other time. See?