ilk, nominated for best picture. Sean Penn, nominated for best actor in Milk. Josh Broslin for best supporting actor in Milk. Milk – also nominated for best original screenplay, best costume design, best director, best editing, best original score.
Hollywood, land of the freaks and home of the gays, bestowed on Milk eight Oscar nominations. The movie about the murder of Harvey Milk, the first politician out of the closet, might have gotten more were it not for the fact that it wasn’t really in the running for best actress or best supporting actress. I’m sure it’s well written and well acted, but I don’t know because I haven’t seen it yet. I might still, like I finally saw Fahrenheit 9/11.
But that’s neither here nor there. I’m not arguing that Milk didn’t deserve recognition; I’m arguing about what wasn’t nominated, not what was. I’m writing about something else, which the LA Times handily dismissed with this:
Clint Eastwood fans who had been hoping the veteran would get an Oscar nomination for lead actor for “Gran Torino,” which is shaping up to be the 78-year-old icon’s biggest box office hit, were undoubtedly disappointed.
That’s like saying fans of Sean Penn would have been disappointed if Milk had gotten skunked the way Gran Torino did. Milk’s nominations had little to do with how well Penn acted and everything to do with the passage of Prop 8 and a groundswell of pro-gay rights, anti-straight sentiment in Hollywood. Hollywood is still seething over the passage of 8 and the disestablishment of gay marriage in California, and is still hateful of anyone who supported it, no matter how mildly, as evidenced by the recent kerfuffle over Rick Warren’s invocation at the Obama nomination – and more significantly, the numerous hate crimes and ubiquitous hate speech that’s come from the No on 8 bunch ever since Nov. 5.
Consequently, like I knew they would, the members of the Academy fell all over themselves (saying “You look ravishing!” as they did) to vote for Milk and its story of a murdered gay San Francisco supervisor and his crazed, straight killer. Every vote for Milk carried with it an artistic appreciation of film, I’m sure, but undeniably, it also carried a political anger that needed venting.
The failure of Gran Torino to win a single nomination is no less about Eastwood than Milk’s best film best screenplay, best score, best supporting actor votes, etc., nominations are about Penn. I’m hardly a Clint Eastwood fan, although I appreciate his many good works. I would have been pleased with a nomination of Eastwood for best actor, but that’s not the point; the point is that his film wasn’t nominated for best screenplay.
It wasn’t nominated for that award – or any other awards – because the gay activists and gay sympathizers that are the Academy did not want to honor a character who did, in fact, stand up for the rights of others, but in a ramrod straight, gun-toting, ethnic smear-muttering, flag-waving way. Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski didn’t just stand up for rights – he sacrificially stood up for other people’s rights, people who needed someone to stand up for them. It wasn’t about him at all, unlike Milk, who stood up as much for his own freedoms as for the freedoms of other gays. Every step Milk took forward benefited Milk. Every step Eastwood took forward alienated him from his entire past; everything but his honor, and honor was, at the core, what Kowalski was made of.
The Gran Torino screenplay deals with issues that are central in today’s America: immigration, assimilation, multiculturalism, political correctness, bigotry, gang violence, the transformation of established neighborhoods, the aging of the Baby Boomer’s parents. The Milk screenplay, as near as I can tell from what I’ve read, is about gay rights and bigotry. Eight to two in favor of Gran Torino.
The skunking of Gran Torino was Hollywood’s rejection of one of its own because he dared to ignore political correctness and tell a realistic story of America as it is: diverse, suspicious, dangerous, but ultimately righteous, God-fearing, honorable and self-sacrificing for the betterment of others. Anyone who has lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan will stir with pride as Kowalski puts his life on the line to confront evil head-on, ready to give his all for a principle worth fighting for.
I doubt very much if they’d be so stirred by Milk. That’s a compelling argument for most of us, but members of the Academy won’t be influenced much by it.