Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) was a gay activist in San Francisco who ran numerous times for official position and once in, fought for the rights of the gay community until his life was cut tragically short.
As with all biopics, I’m aware that some license is taken with the telling of the story. But this is an important film which came at a time when same sex marriage was starting to be legalised across the Western world. None-the-less, there are still ongoing battles for the rights of our fellow humans, and while we may feel that things are mostly pretty good, it’s important to recognise and honour those who fought to gain these rights in the past. And to hope that these rights are not stripped away.
Milk won Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Sean Penn) and Best Writing Original Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black) and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Josh Brolin), Best Achievement in Directing (Gus Van Sant), Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Costume Design and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score.
Ben (Robert De Niro) is a film producer whose latest film, staring Sean Penn (playing himself) tests poorly – especially the killing of a dog at the end. He needs to fix it, which takes all kinds of maneuvering. On top of this, he is dealing with the end of his marriage with Kelly (Robin Wright), his teenage daughter Zoe (Kristen Stewart). Plus, the star of his next film, Bruce Willis (also playing himself) has grown an ugly beard and will not listen to pleas to sort himself out before shooting. Even his manager, Dick Bell (John Turturro) cannot sort it out (in-between his serious stomach issues).
It’s a film that is full of stars and Hollywood inside stuff, and I reckon that it is entirely possible that people within the industry would relate to it a lot, even if they may not like it. Me? I found it a bit interesting, and somewhat entertaining, but it didn’t totally grab me.
If you are a fan of the eighties, and in particular of cinema of the eighties, you must love this. It’s worth seeing for the cast alone: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Pheobe Cates, Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz and Sean Penn as constantly stoned surfer boy Jeff Spicioli.
The film is an ensemble piece covering a wide range of teenage issues, but most notably sex and drugs. It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s dated, but in that glorious eighties way of being dated. And it is heaps and heaps of fun.
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) works in the photography department at Life magazine. He has a crush on fellow worker Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) but is too shy to talk to her, and drifts off into his own dream world every so often. However when he is informed that the magazine is going to close, led by the nasty pasty Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott), the renowned photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) sends a role of slides containing the photography he considers to be the best he has ever taken. Only, that slide is missing, and Walter steps out of the security of his safe life to search for the slide… and himself.
I expected to hate this film. I expected that it would be a bit corny and tedious, and predictable. Well, it was kind of all of those things, but it was also beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable. The only real problem I had was Adam Scott’s beard – it was just horrible.
A free-spirited guy, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) decides to leave his expected future and travel around America with no money, just finding his way, meeting people and having experiences. His ultimate goal? To live in the wilds of Alaska. And he does, although it ends up taking his life.
I watched this a few years ago and remember being quite annoyed at it. Cynical me thought ‘blah blah blah, idealism and blah blah’. Being played recently on SBS gave me a chance to revisit, and I hated it a lot less. I still didn’t love it; cynical me was still mocking his wide-eyed wonder at every little thing in nature. But I hated it a lot less. I’ve enjoyed the writings of John Krakauer in the past (I’d highly recommend both Into Thin Air and Beyond the Banners of Heaven), and think perhaps if I read the book on which the film was based, I might like the movie more. But perhaps not. The only thing that really surprised me was that the adventures that this based-on-a-true-story film was created around happened in 1992, not 1965.
Into the Wild was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a supporting Role (Hal Holbrook) and Best Achievement in Film Editing.
Book – Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
As I mentioned previously, I had expectations from the book. I hoped it would give me some insight that would make me enjoy the film more. It didn’t, but having read the book, I realize that is a pretty silly expectation.
The book is definitely worth a read. It seems the film portrayal of Chris McCandless is pretty accurate, and I still think I wouldn’t have liked him. But the interviews Krakauer did makes it very clear that he McCandless made a real impact on people in his life.
What I liked most in the book, however, was the comparisons between McCandless and a variety of other young men who take themselves off to complete extreme challenges, often for no really strong reason. This included Krakauer himself, who as a young man climbed a rock formation in Alaska on his own, making several decisions and mistakes that could have easily have led to his death. I think McCandless and Krakauer and the other people mentioned in the book are foolish and foolhardy to attempt such things in often quite a reckless fashion, but I feel that I must give them some kind of respect also. They are very different to me in personality and that’s just fine.
It’s post World War 2 in Los Angeles. Gangsters are rising across the country. LA is being taken over by Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). The police are corrupt, and their hands are tied by legal restraints while Cohen takes over every racket possible. The chief of police Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) decides he needs to go to great lengths to beat Cohen, and commissions Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to pull together a squad of police who will work beneath the radar to destroy Cohen’s business interests, therefore ensuring not only his demise, but reducing chances of another gangster coming in to take Cohen’s place. The Gangster Squad they set about cleaning up the city.
There is some clichéd predictability (most notably the fact that Sgt Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) starts as a corrupt playboy who only joins the squad after an innocent shoeshine is killed in front of him and he wants to right this wrong), but generally, it’s a good concept. I have to admit, though, it just didn’t grab me. There was not a lot of emotional connection to the characters, so I didn’t care who lived or died. The tension wasn’t all that great either, and when there was tension, it was resolved quickly and easily. It’s a fun film and worth a watch, but I felt that it really could have been much more.
Sam (Sean Penn) is a mentally retarded man living in New York who has fathered a small girl (Lucy). The mother has disappeared and he is left to raise the baby. Seems implausible, but the scripting is so strong that it is totally believable. It is also believable that when Lucy is seven, she is taken into custody and Sam must fight for her. And somehow, the overworking lawyer-who-ignores-her-own-son character of Rita (Michelle Pfeiffer) ends up taking his case.
This is another film that totally challenged my prior expectations. To be fair, I had this film recommended to me by someone who also recommended The Butterfly Effect, which I truly believe to be one of the worst films ever made. I am Sam is an excellent film that was nominated and won a whole heap of awards, and rightly so.