December is considered part of the holiday season, but not just for Christmas or New Year's Day.
It's also the season for finding the best movies and acting from 2008. It's never too early to predict the winners of the 2009 Academy Awards, and some possible winners are being chosen.
One of them will be Milk, a great bio-pic honoring the life of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. As I was seeing this, I remembered where I was 30 years ago when Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated. I was a sophomore at Santa Clara University seeing Dianne Feinstein tell the stunned press what had just happened. Let's just say the toughest part of seeing that movie is seeing that tragic day all over again.
Otherwise, it's an excellent movie that shows how a guy from New York went west for a new start, and wound up making history as a pioneer for gay rights. The movie is framed around Milk recounting his life on cassette, making an audio last will in case he is assassinated. Sean Penn does a great job portraying Milk as a guy who wanted to be respected at a time when homosexuality was considered a disease and worse. What surprised me is how he had very tender romantic scenes with James Franco, who plays his lover, Scott Smith. It may be tow men kissing, but it still love. I also liked Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones, who becomes one of Milk's top advisers. Josh Brolin is also good as Dan White, a fellow supervisor who will cross paths with Milk many times.
Much of the movie also looks at how gay rights were being threatened nationwide. It culminates with the 1978 election where voters considered Proposition 6, which would have banned gay people from being teachers. With the recent controversy over anti-gay marriage ordinances, especially Proposition 8, this is bound to strike a chord with movie goers.
Milk is in limited release, but should be added to hundreds of screens next week. I'm also looking forward to Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, The Wrestler and Doubt. Since I have four movie passes, it's only right I use them to see them. At least for now, the Best Actor race could be between a wrestler, a street teen, two historic figures and a suspected priest. That will be one interesting choice to make. Once the Golden Globe and SAG Awards are done, the choice may be easier...or it won't be. We'll soon find out.