Mr. Movie

Is 'Milk' cream of last year's crop?

It puzzles me that the Hollywood Foreign Press completely ignored Milk at the Golden Globes.

The film is terrific by any standards, and eight Oscar nominations including best picture, best director, best actor, best supporting actor and best screenplay tell a much different story.

Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to get elected to a public office in California. He was murdered along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone after just 11 months on the city’s Board of Supervisors.

Penn’s Oscar-nominated performance and that of the non-nominated and equally brilliant James Franco will blow your mind. Every time I see Penn, I think he gives his best performance ever and that he can’t get any better. Milk may be the cream of his career crop. This is a supercharged and often funny piece of work deserving of the Oscar nod.

The other exceptional piece of acting comes from co-star Josh Brolin who got supporting actor recognition as Milk’s board of supervisors nemesis and eventual executioner Dan White.

Though including plenty of grit and some heavy drama, even the staunchest Harvey Milk supporters will admit that director Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester) and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black give you a homogenized version of Milk’s life.

But it is a story that should be told and leads to a question that has bothered me since Milk opened in major markets just before Thanksgiving. What if Van Sant’s movie hit theaters in California a couple of months before Californians said yes to the no-to-gay-marriage Proposition 8 on November 4?

Would his often-brilliant argument have made a difference?

Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars

Rated R for language, mature themes, sex. It opens Friday, Jan. 30 at the Carmike 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.