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Oscar Vault Monday – Milk, 2008 (dir. Gus Van Sant)


I don’t even know where to begin with this movie. I have so many feelings about it. And there is so much to say. There’s the actual history on which it is based. There’s the amazing ensemble cast, including Sean Penn’s Oscar-winning turn. There’s Dustin Lance Black’s amazing script, which also won an Oscar. But then there’s this anger I get when I watch it because I think about the fall of 2008. This film was released on November 26th, a few weeks after the 2008 election, which in California included the passage of Prop 8. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the film had been released earlier. Would it have had an impact? I just wish the studio had thought to try. When it did get released it played at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco for quite a while. That is where I first saw it (I’d just moved earlier in 2008 from Berkeley to San Francisco) and I’ve got to say it just made the whole election all the more bittersweet. Upon several revisits to this film I think this is the superior film from 2008 and it should have gone home with the big prize. But I can see why it didn’t. It’s a film about a very polarizing issue and Slumdog Millionaire was (marketed as) a feel-good film. In the long run I think Milk will be the film people will return to time and again. Milk was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning two: Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Score, Best Original Screenplay (won), Best Supporting Actor Josh Brolin,  Best Actor Sean Penn (won), Best Director and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Reader and winner Slumdog Millionaire.

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