Best Picture, Milk (Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen)
Best Director, Gus Van Sant
Best Actor, Sean Penn
Best Supporting Actor, Josh Brolin
Best Original Screenplay, Dustin Lance Black
Best Costume Design, Danny Glicker
Best Editing, Elliot Graham
Best Original Score, Danny Elfman
I had a funny conversation with the manager of the Regal a few weeks ago – Milk was on the schedule, then suddenly it wasn’t, and our group ended up seeing it in Fairfax. According to this manager, there had been a mistake on the website and it was never scheduled to be shown at the Regal. (Since then I’ve learned that there had been a limited release – not just here, but nationwide – in anticipation of the Oscar nominations; now the major release should happen and folks should be able to see it locally.) The funny thing the manager said, by way of explanation, was that Fairfax “is more likely to show independent films.” I’m not sure in what sense she thought Milk was an independent film (which I read as “not mainstream”), with names like Gus Van Sant and Sean Penn; could it actually be that she thought that a film about a gay man is automatically “independent”? I didn’t explore this any further, and it could be that she just didn’t know anything about it. Anyway, look for Milk to now show up at local theaters. I’d definitely see it again.
Here is what nominee Dustin Lance Black had to say:
I won’t lie, I was up at 4:30 AM Pacific Time this morning. I couldn’t sleep. I took a shower, I started washing dishes, I did a load of laundry… I was completely losing my mind waiting for that local ABC telecast.
My heart jumped when Josh Brolin got nominated, but the tears started flowing when Gus got his. I couldn’t have asked for a better director for this project, a fiercer protector of this little spec script that meant so much to me. And that script would have been nothing without the dedicated talent of nominee Sean Penn, who truly inhabited Harvey’s soul, and Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Alison Pill, Joseph Cross, and on and on. This film was a real team effort.
By the time the nominations got to Best Picture, I was a wreck. Tears… lots of tears. I couldn’t breathe. My big hope had been that the Academy would recognize our film enough that Harvey’s story could get a wider release, but I could never have predicted 8 nominations including Best Picture. I’m still pinching myself.
When I first heard Harvey’s story at 13, I was a closeted kid living in a conservative Mormon, military home. It was a rough time for me. Hearing Harvey’s story not only gave me the hope he talked so often about, it very likely saved my life. What happened this morning means this film WILL win a wider audience, and maybe, just maybe Harvey’s message will reach some of those kids out there today who have been told they are “less than,” that they are sick, that God does not love them, and perhaps, from the grave, 30 years later, Harvey might give those kids the hope and love he gave me so long ago. It might sound overblown to some, but I firmly believe these nominations are life-saving. I can’t thank the Academy enough.
Thirty years later, there are still closeted kids like Black in homes like the one he grew up in. One of the most poignant moments in the film is when Harvey gets a phone call from a kid who realized that his life was worth living, and managed to get away from the family who was going to commit him to an anti-gay reeducation camp.
A lot of things have changed in thirty years; a good example is the reaction of our community to the Sam Adams sex scandal. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that gay kids are still being abused by groups like Exodus, who exploit the ignorance of their parents. That it’s ignorance and not malice is demonstrated by another astonishingly timely film airing tonight on Lifetime, Prayers for Bobby. I can understand why those who want to keep the parents ignorant and the kids shamed and hopeless would want to prevent them from seeing Milk. Thankfully, they will be much less successful now.