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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Milk DVD Review

MILK - An Alliance Films Release


On DVD: March 10th, 2009

Rated Canada 14A for coarse language, violence, and sexual content.

Running time: 129 minutes

Gus Van Sant (dir.)

Sean Penn as Harvey Milk

Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones

Josh Brolin as Dan White

Diego Luna as Jack Lira

James Franco as Scott Smith

Alison Pill as Anne Kronenberg

Special Features: Deleted Scenes (Approx. 10:00 min.); Remembering Harvey (13:20 min.); Hollywood Comes To San Francisco (14:29 min.); Marching For Equality (7:55 min.).

©2008 Focus Features LLC and Axon Film Finance I, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.


Milk Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

One of the best films of 2008, Milk, arrives on DVD today. Nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture. Winner of two for Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay and for Sean Penn’s excellent performance as Harvey Milk. This would have been my second choice for Best Picture, after the winner Slumdog Millionaire. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to major public office. The acting by the all-star cast which includes Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, James Franco and Josh Brolin, among others, is amazing. They all disappear behind their roles, and are actually made up to look like their real-life counter parts. Sean Penn will and should be remembered for this role, it is perhaps his finest to date, but Josh Brolin is equally brilliant as Dan White. When you’re watching the film, you forget that this guy also played George W. Bush in W., Oliver Stones’ recent biopic. The last part of the film, as it becomes apparent what will happen, is emotional and suspenseful. The last scene of the film, some real footage and some reenactments, of hundreds of people marching with candles is beautiful, uplifting and inspiring. What makes this scene so powerful is that it actually happened. This film is about hope, and that is one of the most important messages that could ever be put in a film.

Harvey Milk not only stood up for gay rights, but for the rights of anyone who was not accepted for a difference they could not change. Whether you are young or old, gay or straight, male or female, Milk is an inspiring and uplifting film.

The DVD includes about 46 minutes of bonus material, including three short deleted scenes, (one of which I am glad wasn’t in the movie), a tribute to Harvey Milk, and two making-of featurettes, Hollywood Comes to San Francisco and Marching for Equality. All of these are fascinating to watch, because we get to see some of the real people and how much the actors looked like them.


Milk Review By Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

Milk is an important movie to watch. It is very well made, and both Sean Penn, (who plays Harvey Milk), and Dustin Lance Black, deserved their Best Actor, and Best Screenwriter wins respectively, at the OSCAR’s.

This movie tells the true-life story of Harvey Milk, an activist for gay rights, and civil rights in general. He was the first openly gay man to be elected to major public office, and by his perseverance, he paved the way for others. Very well written, everything is put together in such a way that it is easy enough to follow along, yet despite knowing what happens, there is still suspense at the end. This is very hard to achieve. The movie opens with Harvey Milk recording a tape that he wants played if he ever gets assassinated - a last message of sorts, in case it’s ever needed. It is spliced with actual news footage of the announcement that both he and the Mayor have been assassinated. When he is recording the tape, he is 48 years old. We then flash back to his 40th birthday, where ultimately, his journey towards activism began.

What makes this movie so powerful, is the reality of it all. You could not write a story like this that would be so affecting to so many people. In many cases, the same locations were used, and made accurate to the 1970’s. As we learn through the bonus features on the disc, for example, the building where Harvey Milk’s Castro camera shop was, was made to look like it did then by building replica walls about 3” in to hide how it looks now. Also on the disc are interviews with many of the real people that this movie portrays, such as Anne Kronenberg, and Cleve Jones. Another thing is, from the extras, you realize how haunting in a sense it would have been to act in, and film the final scenes of the film. Everyone involved knew that what they were playing out on screen was in the same locations that it actually happened. You especially realize this in the short interview with Josh Brolin, who plays Dan White in the film. You can see this reality come through in the acting, and it makes it very emotional indeed.

This being said, the final scene of the film is both extremely moving and filled with hope. Interspliced with original footage is a reenactment of the candlelight march held from the Castro to City Hall in honour of Harvey Milk. With this, you realize the scope of the community that had come together. In fact, some of the people who marched in the actual event, came for the reenactment as well.

This movie is a must-see. It is powerful, and deserving of every single award that it has gotten. Danny Elfman won for Film Composer of the Year at the IFMCA Awards, and his quiet underscoring here, matches the mood perfectly and no doubt helped him earn that title. If you haven’t seen this movie, make sure to put it on your list. The message here is that it just takes one person to speak out against prejudice of any kind, to change the world. Be this sexual orientation, disabilities, race, etc. This would be an important film to be seen by all of those 14 years old and up.


Milk Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Before this movie came out, I had never heard the inspiring story of Harvey Milk. this movie made me aware of this charismatic leader, chronicling the life of Harvey Milk, from the time when he meets Scott (played by James Franco), to the untimely end of his life. Harvey inspires many people during his political campaign, including Cleve Jones (played by Emile Hirsch), and Anne Kronenberg (played by Alison Pill). Despite many death threats, Harvey Milk continued to inspire the gay community, holding marches, public speeches, and protesting Proposition 6, a bill designed to fire all gay teacher, under the delusion that they might hurt the kids. All the attention Harvey Milk receives as a local city supervisor makes fellow supervisor Dan White (played by Josh Brolin), become increasingly uncomfortable. Despite this, Harvey Milk contines his fight against Proposition 6, effectively defeating it. This movie is very emotional. One scene that really struck me was when a suicidal young man in a wheelchair calls Harvey Milk, not sure of himself. Harvey tells the young man that God loves him, and that he is fine just the way he is.

I was also really moved by the way that Harvey Milk inspired young people to stand up for people who are different. Harvey Milk did not just stand up for gay rights, he and his team were an inspiration for women, people of different races, the elderly, and people with disabilities, or anything else that makes them “different”.

While it is tragic that Harvey Milk was murdered along with the mayor, the legacy of Harvey Milk lives on forever. This film is a perfect testament to that legacy. The acting was so amazing, that you forget that these actors are not the real people. Another thing that I likes is that some of the real people from Milk’s campaign, including Anne Kronenberg, and Cleve Jones, were extras in the film. Also, real footage of Milk’s memorial march was used, as well as recreated by the citizens of San Francisco.

The bonus features on this DVD are amazing. The deleted scenes add nothing to the movie, but the testimony to Harvey Milk is very moving. The making of feature is also moving, as you realize how accurate this movie is. This is one film that you will definitely want to own.


Milk Review By Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Milk is an inspiring, touching film based on the true life story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk. I watched this movie without knowing much about Harvey Milk’s story. The script, the acting, the music and the overall authenticity of this movie had me captivated from beginning to end. I understand now why Dustin Lance Black won an Oscar for Best Screenwriter and Sean Penn won best Actor for his flawless portrayal of Harvey Milk. It was Sean Penn’s performance that brought the movie to life for me and kept it from being just another docudrama.

The story itself is powerful. Watching an ordinary man take on the task of civil rights activism and learning to play the political game is inspiring. Whether you are gay or not, this story gives hope to those who believe change comes from one person at a time standing up for what they believe in. This is also a story of self-acceptance and the need to accept others as they are. Truly inspiring. This story has relevance for the disabled, minorities, etc., any group of individuals that face discrimination and lack of understanding or acceptance at one time or another. It reminds me that those of us who have the ability or strength to act as advocates for those who have difficulty advocating for themselves need to do so in whatever way we can.

If you missed seeing Milk in theatres, or want to see it again, the DVD is worth owning. The bonus features which include commentary from some of the individuals such as Cleve Jones, who worked with Harvey Milk in real life, are really interesting. I usually don’t bother with the bonus features but these ones are worth watching.

This is a must see film for older teens and adults of all ages who want to witness a piece of the history of civil gay rights activism.


Milk Review By Tony

**** (out of 4)

Sean Penn earned the Best Actor Oscar as Harvey Milk, the 1970’s San Francisco gay rights activist, who along with the mayor was assassinated by a rival city supervisor in 1978. Harvey Milk quit his corporate job in New York and moved to San Francisco’s Castro district in 1970 to open a camera shop. He raised the profile of the gay community with the Castro at its centre, and after several unsuccessful attempts got elected to the Board of Supervisors (city council) on a platform of equal rights and fair treatment for all marginalized people. When Proposition 6 was placed on the state ballot to have teachers and other professionals fired on the grounds of sexual orientation, Harvey Milk did more than anyone else to see that it was defeated. What had been a shameful hidden lifestyle detested by straight people became a source of pride, now protected to some extent by law and tolerated rather than hated by the general public.

Watching Milk reminded me of the civil rights struggles of African Americans and other racial minorities. Long after discrimination on the basis of race became unacceptable, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is still justified by many due to misguided religious beliefs. Harvey Milk defeated Proposition 6 by reminding everyone that they must know at least one gay person that they would not want to see persecuted. Like San Francisco, other large cities such as New York, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver had thriving gay communities by the 1970’s. With characteristic tolerance, Canadians never had an Anita Bryant or Proposition 6 to openly condemn homosexuals. Of course tolerance is a passive-aggressive term which implies permission without acceptance. As most minorities will attest, many Canadians are still racist, sexist, and homophobic, but we are too polite to admit it.

As a kid in Texas, the writer Dustin Lance Black was inspired by Milk to come out, along with thousands of others around the country. Many of Milk’s contemporaries contributed to the film. In a couple of cases, such as the union leader and speechwriter, they played themselves. Director Gus van Sant was meticulous about getting it right. The actual locations were used as much as possible, including the same offices where the murders occurred. A fine minimalist score is provided by Danny Elfman.

The DVD includes close to an hour of archival footage and interviews with the director, crew, and some of the real people and actors who played them in the film.


Consensus: Milk is a powerfully moving film. Based on the life of Harvey Milk, this is a finely crafted movie. From the acting to the screenwriting, to the direction, this movie is a must-see. **** (Out of 4)

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