Saturday, November 29, 2008


I'll start out saying this: I never cry in movies. I don't know why that is, and on multiple occasions it has made me feel like a callous asshole, but it's just the truth. I don't cry in movies. Every so often one will come by that might make my eyes fog up a little, but until last night, I didn't remember the last time a tear actually rolled down my cheek, let alone multiple tears! I didn't cry during Changeling, I didn't cry during I'm Not There, I didn't cry during Into the Wild.

But I cried in Milk, and not just a little tear, tears streaming down my face. And this was all still possible even with an ornery, bitter old woman "shhhhh"-ing me through the whole film when I wasn't even talking. I call a movie that can distract me from that a success.

The acting was brilliant, to say the least. Sean Penn stole the show. He's so versatile, his roles always bring out different sides of him. His portrayal of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected City Supervisor of San Fransisco, who was assassinated, was heart-wrenching. He transformed into the buoyant, childlike form of Milk, the polar opposite of the brooding Sean Penn we see in public. The moment he came onto the screen I was floored. I didn't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't the flamboyant, bouncy, happy creature that Sean Penn had created. It was astounding, and I don't say the lightly.

It may also have touched me at such a level because I truly cared about the issue that this movie was addressing. Civil Liberties, and the freedom the have them no matter what your race, gender, or sexual preference is. The movie centralized on Milk's journey to office, and his fight against anti-gay bills such as Sen. Biggs's Prop 6, which tried to get all homosexual teachers and their supporters fired in an attempt to "protect" the nations children.

as I've mentioned before, the cast of this movie was superb. Sean Penn couldn't have pulled off his role so well if not for the contrast of his supporting actors. James Franco is the first that comes to mind, playing Milk's long time partner Scott Smith. The tenderness which is evident between the two is touching, yet not gratuitous. They don't make them kiss just to see two men kiss, they have them kiss to show the love, just as they would in any movie about a heterosexual relationship. Another supporting character who serves to add to the comedic aspect is Emile Hirsch. Hirsch plays Cleve Jones, a gay rights activist who was extremely active in Milk's campaigns. Hirsch acts as a playful reminder of what Milk and Co. were fighting for: the freedom and carefree ways of the masses.

Josh Brolin plays Dan White, the assassin of both Milk and Mayor George Moscone, who was one of Milk's largest supporters. Dan White is the epitome of a sheltered homophobic male. He is elected as another City Supervisor of a different district, and is the only person who perpetually votes down, to no avail, all of Milk's prospective motions. After resigning and being refused when he pleads for his job back, Dan White shot Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk in cold blood and was later convicted of minimum charges and only served 5 years in prison for both murders. Josh Brolin brings the vulnerability of a man at odds with the future. He's a horrible creature, but we also feel sorry for him. Brolin portrays the uneducated male impeccably, and I feel like this is why we are able to sympathize with, while not forgive, Dan White. He simply went crazy, and didn't know any better. You still end up hating him in some way, though, after he destroys the man you've come to love while watching the movie.

Gus Van Sant, local Portland director, deserves much praise for his job in this. He integrated old news footage of protests, elections, speeches, parades, and of the infamous Castro District into the modern footage of Sean Penn and others. While the story focus's on Prop 6, footage of the infamous Anita Bryant is spliced in. For anyone who doesn't know, Anita Bryant was an anti-gay pro-"family" singer/actor turned activist, if you could call her that. She latched onto Sen. Briggs and the two of them started an anti-gay crusade across the nation, from Dade County, FL, to LA.

This movie is an excellent portrayal of what we've accomplished as a country, but it also shows the not-so-sweet side, and the film shows us just how possible it is to overcome it.

I give it a 9.5/10.

Go see it!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Today I saw the film Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie.

In March of 1928, mother Christine Collins came home from work to find her son, Walter Collins, missing. 5 months later, the LAPD contacted her and assured her that they had indeed found her son in a small town in Illinois. When she was brought to meet with him, the boy was not her son. She confronted the LAPD, and they dismissed her despite an array of physical differences between the two boys. When she persisted, they had her commited to the local mental hospital. She was only released when the news of a child serial killer broke, and her real son was suspected of being one of the victims. She then went on to persure justice through various trials which eventually had the Chief of Police demoted, and the Captain she'd been dealing with fired. She never found her son.

While the title of the film leaves something to be desired, sounding a bit like an old science fiction movie, the film itself, in my opinion makes up for it. Whether it's because I'm uneducated when it comes to movies, or it was just a great film, I don't know. All I do know is that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, and there were a LOT of minutes. The movie clocked in at 2 hours and 21 minutes, and I didn't check my phone for the time once. That in my opinion is an accomplishment all on it's own. I wasn't sure about this movie to begin with. I'd read a review in the NY Times that didn't paint a very pretty picture, saying Jolie had "overacted" her character of wronged mother Christine Collins, and she should stick to her Wanted-esque movie style (see also Laura Croft). I honestly couldn't disagree more with that description. I felt that Angelina Jolie triumphed in this movie role. She played off the dramatic femme fatal beautifully. She could portray more with just a look than most actresses can with minutes of dialogue. Her pain was evident in every frame and she never broke character. She didn't overact, didn't underact, but found a very appealing equilibrium. I was never bored watching her. It seems like it would be hardest to play the role of a tragedy when the tragedy was based on truth.

John Malkovich also had an apearance playing the sympathetic reverand Gustav Briegleb. His role was one of compassion and rightousness as he tried to unearth the greed and corruption of the Los Angeles Police Department. Malkovich toed the line between sypathizer and activist nicely, and his performance made a nice addition to the film. He was also responsible for some of the more cutting jabs at the current political situation, and made subtle satire of the relationship between church and state.

Another star performance was made by Jason Butler Harner, who portrayed the child serial killer Gordon Northcott. Very rarely do we see a serial killer acted in such a way that they make out toes curl and our stomaches ache with disgust. Often they are written in this way, but the actors who are chosen to perform don't deliver. In this case, Jason Butler Harner delivers with a force. His character is aggitated, immature, terrified, arrogant and oblivious simultaneously. His apathy towards his actions is staggering, and you wonder how anyone could play such a sociopathic character and be sane themselves. His sociopathic tendencies are only shadowed by the cowardice that run in his veins. His death is both distrubing, but also a welcome relief from the disturbing imagery associated with him.

I could quite possibly be biased for this movie for the sole reason that it was the first REALLY good movie I've seen since The Dark Knight. Spring/Summer movie season is generally dissapointing with it's heavy reliance on Comicbook character movies to see it through. I'm all for a good comedy, but give me a nail-biting drama and I'll be much happier. Changeling is in most respects a good movie, and it was refreshing to be able to sit through a movie and come out feeling like I'd spent my money and time wisely. I feel like this film should be nominated for at least one or two oscars. I'm not going to go so far as to assume Angelina Jolie will be nominated for Best Actress (even though I think she deserves it), but at very least Clint Eastwood should be nominated for Best Director, and I personally feel like the film should be nodded at for Best Costume Design.

I give it an 8/10.

The movie's worth the 7 bucks, I say GO!