“Milk” – Joanna Langfield reviews

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Gus Van Sant’s stunning drama may push buttons you didn’t even know you had.

The story of Harvey Milk, the first elected openly gay man elected to office in the United States (yes, he’s the San Francisco town supervisor who was murdered along with Mayor George Moscone by fellow supervisor Dan White) is as vital and interesting today as it was when it took place, back in the 1970’s. Because this is a movie about a political struggle for equal rights; it is sadly ironic just as this movie was about to be released, California voters passed the proposition banning gay marriage in their state. Watching this affecting historical piece, one can’t help but wonder, “what would Harvey have done now?”

Milk, we see here, was just another nice homosexual man, trying to live and work with his partner Scott in the City by the Bay until his photo shop became a kind of neighborhood hangout. Scared for their lives and their safety, the men banded together in an informal fashion, thinking they could never look to the establishment for protection. Harvey, however, was attracted to not just activism, but politics. He took to it easily and, after several attempts, found himself in City Hall, fighting the good fight, not just for his constituents, but for all fellow citizens, sick of walking in uncollected dog poop, too. Milk’s moment in the sun revolved around the infamous California Proposition 6; a ballot issue to prevent gays from teaching or being employed by the public school system. The price he paid for winning that fight, along with all the others, was, of course, much too dear.

It should take nothing away from Sean Penn to say that his focused, on target work as Milk, is another in a long line of superb performances. He is well supported by a number of actors, including James Franco as Harvey’s love, Scott Smith, and an incandescent Emile Hirsch, a spitfire of energy as the young Cleve Jones. Capping off a remarkable year (or two), Josh Brolin nails it as the eventual madman whom, we were told, lost it to having eaten too much sugar.

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Joanna Langfield (Archived Contributor)

Her voice is heard throughout the 50 states and around the world by more than one million listeners on her syndicated radio programs: Joanna Langfield’s People Report and Video and Movie Minute. She’s also seen and heard as a regular contributing commentator on CNN International, CNN, Fox News and CNBC. In print, her articles have been published in such high profile magazines as Video Review and McCall’s. Joanna Langfield is known for taking interviews to another level with probing looks at celebrities’ insights rather than just their latest projects. As a result, she’s secured a niche among the nation’s premier interviewers and movie critics. Joanna began her career on the production staff of a local Boston television station. She then focused her energies towards radio and produced talk shows at WMEX-AM in Boston. After moving to New York, she became executive producer at WMCA-AM for talk show personalities Barry Gray and Sally Jessy Raphael. She began hosting a one-minute movie review spot which, in turn, led to her top-rated weekend call in-show, The Joanna Langfield Show (1980-83). Joanna moved to WABC-AM to host The Joanna Langfield Show on Saturday nights from 9:00pm to midnight. It was the highest rated show in its time slot. From 1987-1989, Joanna hosted Today’s People on the ABC Radio network, which was fed daily to over 300 stations around the country. She also appeared on WABC-TV as a regular on-air contributor. In 1989, Joanna formed her radio production company, Joanna Langfield Entertainment Reports, to syndicate her radio reports. She is considered to be one of the top authoritative commentators on the entertainment industry. Read Lagfield's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "Joanna Langfield" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).