Monday, December 15, 2008


I saw Milk at the Castro on Saturday night. If you live in San Francisco and have yet to do this, you should probably get on it.

For anyone who's not following movies, doesn't live in a major city that's playing it, or has managed to stay under a rock when it comes to cinema, Milk is the true story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay public official in San Francisco. He was killed in 1978 by another supervisor, in an act that stunned the city and will forever tarnish San Francisco's history. (I would have given you a spoiler alert, but that's sort of like when people reminded you that the ship sunk in that big boat movie a few years back. You should know how this story ends.) 

The film couldn't have come out at a more poignant time. One of the biggest moments in the movie is when Prop. 6, an initiative to keep gay and lesbian teachers (and anyone that supports them) from working in the public schools, failed. It was around this point that I started uncontrollably sobbing. I'm not a crier. It's not really my thing. But seeing all these people getting to dance in the street for gay rights only made me think, "That should have been me." And once that thought hits you, you can't let go of it. And if you're me, it'll mean you continue crying until the lights come up in the theater.

The movie is stunning. Truly. I know what Sean Penn looks like and might be able to do a quick illustration of him off the top of my head. But he becomes this character. He is funny, he's a little awkward, and he makes you fall in love with him. His supporting cast is absolutely fantastic. They capture the spirit of the 1970s in San Francisco: over the top, but with a mission, because they're more than a little scared. This is not the flamboyant, out-and-proud Castro district of 2008. This is people coming together because they need each other's help.

If you live in San Francisco, please do not go see the movie at any other theater. Please have the experience of seeing it across the street from where this movie actually happened. There is no greater landmark for the neighborhood than the giant neon "CASTRO" sign outside of the theater, and we are exposed to grainy 1970s footage of it over and over in the film. You are sitting in the building you are seeing on the screen. People laughed and cheered, everyone got the little jokes and the ironic parallels to our current time, people cried together. Gus Van Sant manages to take one of the most tragic events of San Francisco's history and turn it into a beautiful celebration of life and a reminder of where we came from. 

If Prop. 8 would have lost, we could have all left, gone out and had a drink, and congratulated ourselves for continuing his legacy. But it passed. I wish the movie had come out before the election - not that I necessarily think THAT would have turned the tables, but still. I think everyone got complacent. I kept my voter registration in Ohio (to my defense, by the time I had to register in California, I didn't know if I was permanently relocating here or not), mostly because I thought they needed my Obama vote more. This state is full of transplants like me. I think we all just assumed that Prop. 8 would fail because, come on, it's California. Of COURSE we're not going to pass this crazy proposition.

If you have the opportunity, go see Milk. I've already admitted how much I cried, which means you don't have to feel badly if you do. Promise.

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