I'm on a wi-fi enabled train between Amsterdam and Paris as I write this, the sun is coming up somewhere over Belgium as this Thalys train speeds towards France...
After a few days immersed in IDFA, I'm catching up with a range of news online and find myself drawn to coverage of yesterday's Rich Raddon resignation, reviews of "Milk," and reading comments on both. (Over at Variety, good friend Mike Jones does a great job of reporting the Raddon story.)
Rich's situation is sad but his decision is hardly surprising. I've aready written personally about the issue, stirred a lot of comments and some criticism. Rich has been a friend to me and indieWIRE for many years and his donation to Prop 8 doesn't diminish his long standing support, respect and friendship, even though I oppose the actions of his church and the both hurtful and offensive campaign he supported financially. I hope that some day he will elaborate on these issues, and his views, in a public forum.
Which brings me to "Milk," opening today in theaters back home. I've thought a lot about this movie since first watching and writing about it at the San Francisco premiere.
The more i read and write about "Milk," the more important it becomes for me. When a movie is so inextricably personal and timely, it is obviously hard to adequately judge it, so I am not sure how to apply some sort of objective criticism.
Even while watching the film back in October at The Castro, I started getting text messages asking me about it. Some of the words i wrote down immediately after watching "Milk" for the first time were: activist, historical, overt, hopeful, direct, angry. Hardly perfect, sometimes too sentimental, but so moving and inspiring. That Castro screening, one week before Election Day, was clearly a unique experience that I won't soon forget. Powerful, awesome, emotional.
I watched the film again about a week after the election, inspired by Obama's victory and increasingly sad, frustrated and angry about Prop 8. A few days later I read Dustin Lance Black's script, then I went back and watched Rob Epstein's Oscar-winning doc, "The Times of Harvey Milk." I've had a hard time putting into words how much the movie, its themes and its 'message' resonates with me. I get choked up just watching the archival footage of guys in Florida being rooted out of bars that opens Gus Van Sant's movie.
in my opinion, critic Chris Wisniewski put it better than anyone I've read so far, in his Reverse Shot review on indieWIRE yesterday:
"There is a tendency in film criticism to assume a position of faux objectivity -- to pretend that we have set aside the details of our personal lives and our idiosyncrasies in the service of a fair, unbiased assessment. And though critics should try to write for as many audiences as possible, we should always remember that we still speak as an audience of one. In the case of a movie like "Milk," which so directly addresses us socially and politically, abstracting from our own highly individual reactions misses the point.
As a politically engaged gay man, I am the beneficiary of Harvey Milk's activism, and I have a clear personal stake in the commercial and critical reception of mainstream queer films like "Milk." So with no small bias, and a corresponding sense of urgency and advocacy, I implore you to see "Milk" -- not because it's a perfect film or even a great one, but because it is inspiring and deeply moving, beautiful and sad, searingly personal and boldly political."
The movie opens today, I hope you'll check it out and share your thoughts. And you can watch "The Times of Harvey Milk" right now, for free on Amazon VOD.