Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Milk Monitor

Hilton Als review of Milk in the NYRB was pretty interesting.

He calls our attention to the fact that the movie is not about one man finding personal freedom, though it could have been, if it had been about the first half of Harvey Milk's life. But is, instead, about one man devoting himself to a community.

Als also registers his discomfort with a few tired cliches, and falls into some himself (calling the film and Van Sant's aesthetic "cinematic" when he really means "visual"). And there's this interesting high school theme running through; Als mentions Van Sant's Elephant and ends up at the Harvey Milk High School.

Als is particularly good when he describes the actors, though not particularly clear.

On Brolin, "a remarkably controlled film actor - he doesn't overact and give the camera more than it can handle; he keeps his facial muscles relatively still . . ." - that's a lot of punctuation!! "His ramrod-straight back growing tighter and tighter." Ouch!!

On Hirsh, "as Milk talks, Hirsch seems to resign himself to his attraction, letting his arms fall to his sides. In most of their scenes, Hirsch makes Penn resist the temptation to play cute by confronting him with a vulnerability that's greater than his own. Indirectly, Hirsch represents Van Sant's intuitive visual approach to filmmaking, while Penn sticks close to his need to please - a desire that mirrors Milk's own desire to charm, always." His whose? But he's right.

On Penn, "[he] mutes his voice in his private scenes with Brolin, like a particularly caring coach."

I was planning to read Sanford Schwartz on Peter Scheldahl too. Also in the NYRB.

Oh, and it seems like missed a lesbianostalgia thing in TNY. Damn.

3 Comments:

Blogger the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

I thought the bit about Emile Hirsch was spot on, but the sourness of the review spoils the fun ("homo-lite surface," things like that).

I seem to remember Als being annoyed with Penn for the praise he was receiving as a straight actor, but I am not finding this online, so maybe I am blaming him for another reviewer's pique.

11:09 PM  
Blogger the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

or maybe he subsequently cleaned up the online version. Can they do that?

11:10 PM  
Blogger zp said...

I think it's odd that Als mixes actors' names with characters' names. But weirdly charming. You'd think that was a sign that things like a straight actor receiving praise for a gay role wouldn't matter . . .

My paper copy says this at the end of the third paragraph, "But as Milk falls to the ground, his hands flailing in slow motion - reminding us of previous scenes showing him conducting along to his opera records and gesticulating while he talked, both stereotypically gay affectations - we're reminded of another pair of fluttering hands in another gay-themed, populist minded movie featuring another heterosexual star: Tom Hanks, as the (my note: opera lovin') HIV-infected laywer in Jonathan Demme's 1993 hit, Philadelphia." It's in the online version too.

I liked that Als started off negative but didn't just do that.

9:49 AM  

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