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November 10, 2008


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I'm not terribly curious about "Milk", as it looks like standard fare, but I'm curious to see how it does. Especially since "gay cinema" has seemingly staggered to that place where it's just commercial enough that movies like "Tru Loved" and "Breakfast with Scot" are hitting screens. Does it say something that Regent feels it has enough of an audience to put out a movie like "Tru", which got some of the worst reviews I've ever seen?


Yeah, it's a real shame that Milk wasn't released before Nov.4, because all of the Blacks, Latinos and Mormons who voted for Prop 8 also happen to be huge Gus Van Sant fans, right? I mean, that's his core audience.

Glenn Kenny

My favorite form of argumentation: Ignore everything the other person actually said.


Glenn, you mock but it's served the Republican Party quite well.

Well, it did, at any rate.


Why is someone calling a movie an "agenda" movie "hateful"?

There are plenty of agenda movies out there and surely some of them are gay-themed. So what? It doesn't make someone hateful for pointing that out. An American Carol had a right-wing agenda, and The Visitor had a left-wing agenda. Both of them sucked b/c they let their agenda's blind them

This is even stranger since you know this Poland person. Shouldn't your friendship with him secure you in who he is and if he is hateful of not towards gays? (A conclusion that could never be reached from a review).

I find this kind of hand-wringing & hair-splitting to be tedious, and in the long run, I think it stiffles thoughtful discussions about movie culture.

Glenn Kenny

I didn't say Poland was hateful. What I said was that the phrase "gay agenda" is hateful social conservative code—which it is. Listen to Tony Perkins, James Dobson, et.al. Gay rights activists don't use the phrase "gay agenda" because they don't see themselves as having an agenda—e.g., "indoctrinating" kids, as Perkins and Dobson would claim—they see themselves as fighting for rights. That's not hair-splitting. And that's why I expressed incredulity at seeing the phrase used by a outative liberal such as Poland.

I'm very touched by your concern for my friendship with the fellow, though.


Sure, "gay agenda" is code for "indoctrination of our children" when it's used by a Dobson, but not when it's in the hands of people who clearly aren't homophobes.

For instance, I think Brokeback Mountain let it's gay agenda get in the way of it's art. Lee, Schamus, etc. seemed too overly-concerned with making a gay-friendly mainstream film (an honorable task) instead of making a quality film that was gay-themed. Hollywood hasn't figured out how to do this yet. I don't know why, exactly, but Europe has it down... "Garcon Stupide", "Time To Leave", "The Witnesses"... those are just a few examples of wonderful gay-themed films that feel honest and true.

Further, I don't think "having an agenda" is necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it's true that the phrase carries a negative association with it (I too often use it negatively...), but I think agenda filmmaking typical hurts itself b/c it forgets to be a film first.


Of the things this country needs to fix, giving gay people the oppotunity to finally get divorced like their parents should be pretty low on the list. And that's all that's going to happen: more acrimony, more broken homes, more fucked up kids. Marriage is overrated and so are children. I have no doubt that gay people can be just as horribe at parenting as most straight people are. Although it would be kind of interesting to peek in on a Thanksgiving dinner circa 2108, with four or five generations of same sex couples begetting more and more same sex couple, so that the holidays resemble nothing so much as a International Male diorama come to life, no pun intended.

Glenn Kenny

Okay, then. Right about now I'd really welcome a comment, say, agreeing with me about how great Leonard Frey was...or something...


Leonard Frey was good in that episode of "Murder, She Wrote".


Frey was gay.

Bill C

"Penn's Milk" has to be the single most off-putting phrase you've ever turned, Glenn.

Going to peel the shrinkwrap off BOYS (see, two can play that game) posthaste, if nothing else so I can say something about Leonard Frey.

Mike Grost

Hitchcock revisited the subject of ROPE in a TV episode he directed called ARTHUR. It's about another perfect murder, committed by another gay-acting character (played by queer-in-real-life Laurence Harvey). Only ARTHUR is a comedy... This is an interesting film.

There are so many good gay films. And so many of them have attracted little attention. PARTING GLANCES (Bill Sherwood) and ALL OVER THE GUY (Julie Davis) should be much better known.

MICHAEL is a masterpiece. And Dreyer revisited the subject in THEY CAUGHT THE FERRY.


Maybe I'll make a double-feature of "The Boys In the Band" and "And The Band Played On", which depicts, for me, the single most outrageous failure of the American government in the last thirty years. Millions of people wouldn't be dead if it weren't for stupid political squabbles.

Mike Grost

PS Two years after TEA AND SYMPATHY (Vincente Minnelli), another gay lib film was made for American TV. This is the episode of THE RIFLEMAN titled DUEL OF HONOR (1958). It is directed by Joseph H. Lewis, and is one of Lewis' best works. No one seems to know about it. Or about the politically remarkable Lewis episode THE DESERTER (1960). People would fall off their chairs if they saw these films, they are so politically daring!


I usually don't like Sean Penn at all, but based on the Milk trailer I'm thinking this is going to be his most appealing-to-me performance ever. Maybe it's as simple as what you said--he never gets to play happy characters.

Interesting that it was Friedkin who directed Boys in the Band, given what would ensue 10 years later with the CRUISING debacle...


"Tell your family, [Milk] says to his minions, for the simple reason that the people who are going to vote to take away gay rights are often people who don't actually know any gays—or don't think they do. Once a straight person knows there's one gay person in his life he cares about, then why would he want to hurt that person? Makes sense to me."

Unfortunately, I think Milk was mistaken in this belief, on two levels.

First of all, when (just for example) radio host Laura Ingraham, who once published the names of attendees at a Brown Univ. gay rights meeting in a deliberate outing, wrote a mea culpa in the Washington Post, she did so because her brother is gay, and his lover was ill with AIDS. Well, guess what. Some of us figured out this "compassion" stuff without having to be hit in the head by a family member or personal catastrophe. I am heartily sick and tired of right wingers who only wake up to the need for a broader mind when it affects them personally.

Number two -- even a personal connection frequently does not get the point across. Milk would no doubt love the fact that gays and lesbians are now a hip part of the culture. And many are the hard-right Republicans who can't bear to be left out of the party. Did you not hear Sarah Palin at the VP debate, with a big lipstick smile, declaring that she knew many gay people even as she said she did not support gay marriage? (Biden doesn't either, but at least his party doesn't regularly demagogue the issue or use code like "gay agenda.")

Time and again (in fact on Dirty Harry's site at the moment) you can see right-wing people saying that just because you have gay people in your life whom you love doesn't mean you should support gay marriage or gay adoption or teaching children that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with homosexuality. Well yes, goddamn it, that is precisely what it means. It is a crying shame that Milk isn't alive to tell them so.

Anyway. Good to get that off my chest. Yes, I will go see the movie. And I can't wait to get re-acquainted with The Boys in the Band. Filmbrain and I were discussing that one just the other day.


P.S. Thank you, Glenn, for defending Murder, She Wrote. Your courage enables me to declare my own undying love for Jessica Fletcher.

Glenn Kenny

@Campaspe: Well, you see, you kind of prove my point. If one person can stand up for Jessica Fletcher, that will give another person the courage to do the same, and then another, and another...

Dan Coyle

The comments on DH's site are pretty terrifying. DH himself bleats that he's a "great friend to the gay man" but if Prop 8 didn't pass, "The leftists wouldn't stop there!"


Glenn, it is true, we need to stand up and be counted because there is nothing shameful about our feelings. And Dan, perhaps DH has a point because I would gladly impose respect for Murder, She Wrote if only I could appoint the judges to do it by fiat.

And I wouldn't stop there, oh no. Next up: Matlock.

Dan Callahan

"Milk" is well below average, unfortunately, even by the standards of the biopic genre. Like "Brokeback," it's too timid to please anyone, let alone change hearts and minds; let's let that misguided way of looking at movies die with Stanley Kramer.

To bring things full circle, I just caught the opener of a "Murder, She Wrote" episode (Sally Kellerman, Penny Fuller, etc). Anyway, just as I was wondering how I watched this show as a kid, Gary Beach from the stage version of "The Producers" came swanning on and dithered for quite a while, Franklin Pangborn-style. Cut to Angela Lansbury, lowering her gaze, amused but embarrassed.

So, yes, even though it pains me to say it: Jessica Fletcher, Homophobe.

Dan Coyle

And since J. Michael Straczynski wrote for both MSW and the script for Changeling...


Haven't seen it yet so this is just a hunch, but I think Gus Van Sant may have tried a dialectical approach. Realizing flinging his totally gay sensibility at a totally gay subject may not yield the best results, maybe you can feel him straining to take a more moderate hand to the wheel and just make a movie for everybody?

Also, I think "agenda" and "liberal" are both words which cause great upset to their recipients when used by anyone else - but basically OK for them. Kind of like the way most gays I know approach "fag", actually.

Mike Grost

I'm proud to be a liberal.
But I'm uncomfortable when right-wingers accuse me of having an "agenda".

What's more, I'd rather watch Poirot than Murder, She Wrote.

craig keller.

I guess I'm wondering what MILK has to convey on the level of, y'know, -form-, and mise-en-scène; and when the conversation unreels wherein Smith chides Milk ("I'll punch somebody in the head for some cake"), what's the rhythm of the back-and-forth there; and also what's the use of music like, in the film.


Or will written things about the picture confine themselves on The Online and in print to pissing and moaning about the contours of the dramaturgy, and/or lauding the biopic'ish'ness uplift?

The image Glenn posted could have come straight out of PARANOID PARK (subjects pictured aside).


Just to get back for a moment to Glenn's homage to the lovely Leonard Frey. I just watched Boys in the Band again after a 20 year hiatus. It used to play on a double bill with, of all things, The Music Lovers at our local repertory cinema. Anyway, TCM showed it at about 1:00 am and I recorded it. What a joy! Especially Leonard Frey's nuanced and YES reptilian (in a good way) performance. Frey was splendid also in a short-lived sitcom called Best of the West. He was all Snidely Whiplash meets Franklin Pangborn.


I have vivid childhood memories of seeing Frey as a moustache-twirling villain in a 1970s sitcom called "Best of the West." He was considerably more charming and funny than the straight lead in the show, sort of a 70s analogue for Alan Rickman's performances in "Die Hard" and "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," wherein the character actor villain steals the show from the action hero.

I haven't IMDB'd this yet to be sure, but I think this is accurate.

Keep up the great work, Glenn.


Make that 1981. And make it a mustache-twirling villain.


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