I saw the movie Milk
last night, on DVD from Netflix.

I usually watch movies with as much acclaim as that one had, so
I’ll be able to talk about them with people. In this case, I was
interested in the subject — I did do left-wing politics (mostly
Cambridge rent control) in the
period covered by the movie, so I was interested to see how
Hollywood would deal with it. Also, I always found it surprising
that the Gay Rights movement took off when it did, because as
someone peripherally involved in the local opera world, I had very
shortly before that been at parties attended largely by gay men,
and I wouldn’t have taken the positive side on any bets on their
ability to work with either women or black civil rights people.

The writing and acting are pretty good, so the award
nominations are justified. Josh
, who plays the assassin Dan
White, is particularly good as a man whose rage grows gradually as
he’s increasingly out of his depth in a situation he can’t
control. (I assume it was a deliberate decision not to ever show
him eating a Twinky.) He was intermittently brilliant in W,
and is consistently so here.

Clearly, nobody would expect any in-depth coverage of the
content of late seventies left-wing politics. I assume that the
word “Marxism” did in fact come up in gay rights circles, but I
wouldn’t expect it in a Hollywood script. What did disappoint me
was that there was no coverage, either verbal or visual, of the
actual work that goes into building a movement. There was one
argument about the content of a flyer, but when the activists are
standing around the store-front campaign office, there’s nobody
stuffing envelopes or making phone calls, or even holding lists of
addresses or phone numbers in their hands. So we’re going to have
to wait for the good European cinematographers to show us what an
political movement actually looks like. Like most such films, the
writers and actors do know how to depict the drunken sensation
of crowd-swaying rhetoric.

As far as how the gay rights movement hooked up with women and
blacks, that does get a little bit of coverage. The scene where
the female campaign manager comes in and takes over the
ultimately successful campaign for Supervisor is really
well-done. But there’s no depiction of any of what led to
Harvey Milk’s Gay Rights bill being co-sponsored by a black
woman, although they do include the scene where it passes and
Milk and the woman embrace.

So I would say to watch this movie if you’re interested in the
subject matter, but don’t expect it to enlarge your
understanding of the politics of the time.

Blog schedule

I’ll be at my Mother’s house in darkest Fall River, Massachusetts, for the next three or four days. I’m
expecting to have a good enough internet connection to continue
with this blog, but if I miss days, it’s because something didn’t work

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