The Name of the Film is Milk, and We Want to Recruit You

While we’ve been planning to see Milk ever since we read Jason Jude Chan’s review, we didn’t get a chance to check it out until this past weekend. Most of you who have been reading Flavorwire since our birth back in late October will remember how fanatical we were about Danny Boyle and Slumdog Millionaire. We still think that’s an excellent film (and we’re still rooting for Boyle for Best Director because he was the nicest guy ever), but Milk — the first movie to make us bawl in a theater in a really long time — has secured our vote for Best Picture.

Five reasons why we’re convinced Gus Van Sant is having another Good Will Hunting moment after the jump.

1. It’s the Obama of the Best Pic noms. When Sean Penn delivers Harvey Milk’s famous line about hope (“I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you… And you… And you… Gotta give em hope.”), it’s impossible not to break out into goosebumps and think of our new president. While it’s been said that Focus Features was worried that releasing the film so close to the election would lead to negative drama and partisanship, it seems to us that their timing couldn’t have been better. In part because of…

2. The eerie parallels between the anti-gay sentiment surrounding Proposition 6 in the film and Prop 8 today. Many of the same arguments we heard against gay marriage this past November were echoed by the anti-gay activists who Milk was up against nearly 30 years ago. It’s a heartbreaking glimpse at how little progress has been made in certain areas of the gay rights movement, but Van Sant uses archival footage to tell the worst parts, keeping him honest and letting the bigots hang themselves. Which leads us neatly to…

3. Anita Bryant: the scariest on-screen villain we’ve ever seen (even worse than Will Hunting’s abusive dad who abandoned him). And Gus Van Sant didn’t even have to worry about casting her — old clips of Bryant babbling about evil forces and saving the children is all the audience needs to see. Which leads us into the fact that…

4.Van Sant is an interesting history teacher. Rather than feeling scripted, Milk — which is based on extensive research and interviews by screenwriter Dustin Lance Black — is incredibly factual but manages to avoid getting bogged down in details, or tying up messy facts into pretty bows. While the latter is part of what makes it better than most period biopics, but not necessarily a sexy sell for popcorn loving audiences, like, say, Slumdog Millionaire.

5. Our parents went to see Slumdog Millionaire, which to date has brought in $67 million. The last movie they saw in the theaters (not including stuff they were dragged to see by my sister and me) was Fatal Attraction. While SM is coasting along on insane word of mouth buzz, Milk needs the Best Picture win to get more people interested in seeing it. Because people need to see it. Especially in California. A better turnout at the box office (right now it’s at $23 million) will prove to Hollywood executives that serious “message” movies with what they perceive as a niche audience can still bring in respectable numbers.