Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beautiful Dreamer: Milk

“Milk,” Gus Van Sant’s labor of love biopic about civil rights leader Harvey Milk (the first openly gay man elected to higher office in the United States and later gunned down, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, three decades ago this month), is mainstream filmmaking at its finest and a perfect wedding of subject matter to director. For Milk, like Van Sant, was a former “radical” who learned to work within—even to embrace—the system, stealthily turning it to his advantage. What Milk is to extremist activists like Larry Kramer, Van Sant is to fellow filmmaker Todd Haynes—no longer a director of experimental art in the moving picture medium, but a maverick of the mini majors.

To read the rest of my glowing review visit The House Next Door.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

MILK and Irony

Irony held center stage at the press conference for “Milk,” Gus Van Sant’s passionate biopic about the first openly gay man elected to higher office in the United States, that took place at The Regency Hotel in Manhattan a little more than two weeks after the passing of California’s (heavily financed by the Mormon Church) Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. It was Supervisor Harvey Milk himself who had been instrumental in the defeat of California’s Proposition 6 (a battle featured prominently in the film), which had been openly opposed by everyone from Governor Jerry Brown to Carter and Reagan. The victory over the measure that would have effectively banned homosexual teachers and their allies from the public school system occurred in the same (non-election) year Milk was assassinated along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, exactly three decades ago this month. Since those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, it’s no surprise Harvey Milk is not a household name, not even to the many young actors starring in Milk, who became aware of him only upon receiving the script.

And this is something Van Sant, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (who grew up gay and Mormon in California, and was the sole Mormon writer/producer on the Mormon-themed “Big Love” – yes, as I said, irony ruled the day!) and the panel of actors, including Sean Penn (Harvey Milk), James Franco (Milk’s lover Scott), Josh Brolin (assassin Dan White), Alison Pill (campaign manager Anne Kronenberg) and Emile Hirsch (Milk protégé/activist Cleve Jones) have set out to rectify.

To read the rest of my report visit Spout.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why Daniel Craig Must Get Naked In The Next Bond Movie

When I heard “Quantum of Solace” director Marc Forster say in the promo trailer that he tried to make the Bond film he always wanted to see, I thought “Uh-oh.” But my “Uh-oh” turned to “Oh, shit,” once I got to the screening and saw Paul Haggis listed in the credits as one of the writers, my distaste for “Finding Neverland” Forster trumped only by my loathing of faux-deep Haggis. And yet none of this mattered in the least because I was going to see “Quantum of Solace” for one reason and one reason only: to watch Daniel Craig get naked. (Heck, I’d have happily sat through “Crash” a dozen times if Haggis had tossed in a naked Daniel Craig every once in awhile!)

To read the rest of my op-ed visit Spout.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Proposition 8 and "Lotte's Death"

Even as the champagne was still flowing across the nation in celebration of Barack Obama’s historic victory, protests were raging in California after Proposition 8, defining marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, passed with nary a hitch. By chance this was also the week I finally got around to watching Fatih Akin’s stunning follow-up to his rightly lauded “Head-On,” “The Edge of Heaven,” recently released on DVD. It’s hard to believe Akin, the biggest talent to come out of German cinema since Fassbinder, is only 35 years old. Indeed, the depth of the script, the subtlety of the Turkish score, the nuanced camerawork and self-assured editing are that of a master director. As is the poignancy with which Akin invests the breathtaking lesbian love story, which both connects the first and last parts of his international trilogy, and is the beating heart of the film. If those same-sex marriage advocates are ever in need of a cautionary tale that could serve as a Prop 8 teaching tool, “Lotte’s Death” (as part two is titled) is it.

To read the rest of my column visit Spout.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Morality For Sale

The same week that historic progress was made in the form of the nation’s first elected African-American president, our nation took a giant step backwards with regard to liberty and justice for all. Even as former NYC attorney general and governor Eliot Spitzer was cleared of all charges in the prostitution ring scandal that he himself set in motion with his financial indiscretion, 40 other state attorneys general strong-armed Craigslist into “taming” its “erotic services” listings.

Which would be hysterical if it weren’t so sad. Since “erotic services” is a euphemism for prostitution, this is akin to the A.G.’s telling the online classifieds site to rid their jobs listings of actual jobs. And the fact that Craigslist isn’t removing the “erotic services” listings itself means that the company merely plans on paying lip service to the morals police. Of course, that’s just fine by the attorney generals since it’s all for show anyway. Prostitution, a bedrock of the underground economy, is an industry no government can afford to eliminate any more than it can afford to send all the illegal immigrant laborers back over the border. If the A.G.’s truly were intent on curbing prostitution they could do so easily by prosecuting johns like their former colleague Spitzer.

For one of the considerations cited by the government attorney who chose to let Spitzer walk away scot-free is that it isn’t policy to charge clients in prostitution cases. No, it’s the Emperor’s Club’s managers and bookers still being hung out to dry who will be doing Spitzer’s time for him. I for one can only hope that Obama’s message of change extends to ingrained legal hypocrisy as well.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Presidential Appeal: Bill Clinton By John Travolta

My mom has the hots for President Clinton as badly as I swoon for Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of us turning into goofy schoolgirls at the mere mention of our respective crushes. While the Governator’s arrogant, aggressive virility drives me wild, personally I’ve never fantasized about Arkansas charmer Slick Willy.

And yet I’d be thrilled to bed John Travolta, who embodied Bill Clinton via the character of Jack Stanton in Mike Nichols’ 1998 “Primary Colors,” a thinly veiled account of the would-be president’s rise to stardom during the 1992 primaries, with a swift-moving screenplay by Elaine May based on political reporter Joe Klein’s originally “Anonymous” novel. Travolta as Stanton perfectly captured the sexy essence of Clinton then topped it with his well-honed movie star touch.

To read the rest of my column visit Spout.