“Milk” does a filmgoer good

Provided Photo

Wes Lawson
Daily Egyptian
‘Milk’
Rated R
Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, James Franco
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Run time: 128 minutes
4.5 out of 5 stars

Harvey Milk started the 1970’s in a crappy New York apartment and ended them in a coffin. In between, he was the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States, and an enormously influential figure in the gay rights movement.
Gus Van Sant’s biopic, “Milk,” covers Milk’s life from the beginning of the 70’s through the night after his assassination, and presents a portrait of a man whose life was going nowhere, and he decided to not only change his own life, but the lives of those around him.
As the film opens, Harvey Milk (Penn) has just met Scott Smith (Franco), and they move to escape the stagnation of New York and open a camera store in a small neighborhood in San Francisco. Upon arriving, Milk and Smith are immediately chastised and ridiculed by the local business, which inspires Milk to become a political activist, rallying the gay members of the community to boycott homophobic businesses and create a sort of gay gentrification in the neighborhood, now dubbed the Castro. This political fire in Milk’s belly inspires him to run for office, and after two failed bids for city supervisor, he wins a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Here, he meets Dan White (Brolin), a conservative who views Milk both as an ally and a threat. The two men begin to grate on each other’s nerves as Proposition 6, which would ban gay teachers from California schools, gains momentum, and the characters slowly move toward destiny.
The film is framed by Milk recording his last will into a tape recorder, which actually occurred nine days before he was assassinated,  but the film’s crucial scene comes toward the end. When White has confronted Milk on why gay rights are so important to him, Milk simply responds, “These are not just issues. These are our lives we are fighting for.” Milk spent the last few years of his life fighting for what he believed in, and Penn portrays him as a good and honest man who saw unrest in the world and wished to change it. This is one of the most effective biopics in many years mainly because of Penn’s performance, but also because Dustin Lance Black’s script and Gus Van Sant’s direction do not turn Milk into a saint or an otherworldly figure, but merely a man, faults and all.
Gus Van Sant, mixing archival footage and new footage seamlessly throughout, manages to not only tell Harvey’s story, but a story that has much prevalence in today’s society. The proposition within the film has horrifying echoes of the recently passed Proposition 8, and many of the slanderous remarks and overall bigotry of the characters can still be seen in today’s society. Sure, we have come a long way, but there is also a long way to go, and Milk helped pave the way for the debate to live on.
The film manages to pay ample attention to its supporting characters, although one wishes that they could have had more screen time. Still, fully fleshed out performances are given by all the actors, especially Franco as Milk’s first boyfriend and Emile Hirsch, almost unrecognizable in glasses and a wig,  as one of Milk’s protégés. The film’s other key performance, Brolin as White, is also superb, and watching Brolin stumble around drunk during one scene is worth seeing the film for all by itself.
Ultimately, in a sea of other Oscar candidates, “Milk” stands out for being perhaps the most politically relevant film of the season, made better with superb filmmaking and great performances. It may not change the world, but it certainly can remind us how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.

Wes Lawson can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 275 or w4027@siu.edu.

Roundtree, Cornelius leave SIU

Additional quotes from the developing story that freshman guard Torres Roundtree and junior forward Christian Cornelius have left the SIU men’s basketball team.

Torres Roundtree:

  • On the future of SIU basketball:  “The freshmen are good. Justin Bocot, Anthony Booker and Kevin Dillard are all good and they have a bright future because the talent is there.
  • On whether or not he will continue his basketball career:  “I still have aspirations of playing basketball, so I’m just going to see whoever wants me and try to go there.”
  • On whether or not he will finish the academic year at SIU: “I don’t know yet, I just want to do what’s right for me.”

Christian Cornelius:

  • On leaving the team because of injuries: “I always had thoughts (of leaving) in the back of my mind from the beginning of the season, and I feel really bad because the coaches allowed me to return to the team and I really appreciate them for that.”
  • On his injuries: “My doctor told me after my injury that I wouldn’t be able to play again, so it really was supposed to be a career-ending injury.  But in the back of my mind I told myself I wouldn’t give up on myself.”
  • On his future after basketball: “I want to go somewhere and get my masters, that’s the main thing right now.”
  • On whether or not he left because of the system. “My reasons for leaving have nothing to do with the program.  I have a lot of love and respect for Coach Lowery.”

Losing both Roundtree and Cornelius will be tough on SIU for the remainder of the season as their departures have shortened the team’s depth, which was considered to be one of the team’s strengths coming into the season.  The 6-foot-3 Roundtree was a finalist for Mr. Show-Me Basketball in his senior year at McCluer North High School in St. Louis and provided athleticism and the ability to attack the basket.

Cornelius, the 6-foot-7 junior from Oak Park, was limited by injuries throughout his career as a Saluki, but led the team in field goal percentage this year, shooting 54 percent.

Lowery: Dillard will start

SIU men’s basketball coach Chris Lowery said freshman guard Kevin Dillard will be moved into the starting rotation during Tuesday’s Lowery Live radio show at Buffalo Wild Wings in Carbondale.

Illinois’ reigning Mr. Basketball is coming off a 21-point performance in the Salukis’ 79-63 loss against Bradley.  Dillard is averaging 10.8 points per game and is shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from the 3-point line.

Dillard will join fellow freshman Ryan Hare and Bryan Mullins in the Saluki backcourt as Wesley Clemmons will return to the bench and resume his spot as a role player.

Hopefully, the move will spark the Salukis, who will enter their New Year’s Eve matchup against Missouri Valley Conference rival Northern Iowa with a 5-7 record.

NBA!

By: Edyta Blaszczyk

Dunk

Today I had the fantastic opportunity of covering the basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Let’s just say that for my first NBA game, a double overtime with the Clippers coming out on top with a 117-109 win was the best introduction I could have had.

How did I get such a privilege you ask? Well fellow DE reporters Luis Medina, Jeff Engelhardt and I were sent out on the road to cover the Wooden Tradition where Purdue will challenge Davidson and SIU will take on St. Mary’s in good ‘ole Indianapolis in the Conseco Fieldhouse. The offer to cover the Pacers – Clippers game was given to anyone who would be covering the Wooden Tradition. Luis then worked his magic with the media relations crew and got us our wonderful media passes. Bless the soul of whoever came up with that idea, because of him or her, Luis, Jeff and I rocked out at our first NBA game as reporters…or visual reporters in my case.

I would like to share with all the world how my experience went.

First off, we were treated exceptionally well in the Media Services room. We were fed well with the buffet that included salads, mostaccioli, pizza, and breadsticks. Not to forget the desert island. Yum. On the tables were also bowls of delicious popcorn. The one thing that felt awkward was that there was a fellow whose job is to walk around and pick up after everyone and refill drinks. I just simply wanted to throw out my own plate and refill my own drink.

With 10 minutes left until gametime, we set off to our assigned locations and started to work. I was a bit overwhelmed by all the tall players (I’m 5’3″) I have to admit. After getting accustomed to it all, I got in my groove and shot away.

I had some pretty interesting moments happen to me when my shutter wasn’t going off. One would be getting tips and laughs from a photographer that sat next to me. Another was getting hit on by one of the mascots every time he came on the court. He “kissed” my hand, stole my camera bag, danced sexy for me, and insisted on me calling him. After the game, this fellow photographer told me he saw me turn bright red from the catwalk. Another photographer, Frank McGrath, who was sitting next to me decided to take photos, as seen below. I’m excited and curious to know what the guy looks like under his helmet. Guess I’ll never know.

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One thing that Luis and Jeff have started teasing me for is my new found crush on the Pacers forward Josh McRoberts.

josh mcroberts

I guess I have a thing for tall white guys with scruffy beards, like Kyle Orton. But that’s neither here nor there.

The Pacers ended up losing in a tight game, but it was an experience that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Thanks Media Services people for the Pacers.

Chris Lowery sparks the following randomness

By Luis C. Medina

SIU men’s basketball head coach Chris Lowery didn’t have much of a comment when asked to speak about his 100th win as Saluki head coach.  He said his players were more excited for him than he was for himself.  Then he gave the ultimate coach response, focusing on the task currently at hand.

And that’s where you have got to applaud Lowery.  He doesn’t care about the past.  He once told me that down the road he’ll look at his record and reflect on it, but if you look at it now it’s quite impressive.

You could argue he did it with another coach’s talent as he preceded the work that Bruce Weber and Matt Painter did for the program.  But Lowery, a former Saluki star himself, kept with the winning formula and took the talent to within a 3-point shot of an Elite 8 appearance.  Not bad for a directional state university.

And while his youthful team of upstarts is reaping the benefits with trips to Madison Square Garden to square off against the likes of Duke and UCLA and its upcoming trip to Indianapolis’ Conseco Field House where Pacers great Reggie Miller once starred, the team is where it is today because of how Lowery continued to build on the team’s past.

When SIU was hanging on to its slim hopes of an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb and his play-by-play colleague (whose name I don’t remember at this sitting) debated whether or not SIU was deserving of a bid.  That’s when Gottlieb’s words struck me and stunned me.

“Why do you think they deserve a bid?  Just because they’re Southern Illinois?”

That kind of statement is generally reserved for the big boys.  Power conference schools squeaking by with .500 records despite NBA talents, not the gritty kind of schools like SIU.  That’s when I knew Saluki basketball was big.

And now it’s up to Lowery to continue to build on what he started.  This team of youngsters might not make the NCAA Tournament.  They might even bow out in the second round of the NIT again.  But if Lowery is at the helm of this program and continues to carry the torch of Saluki hoops, his 200th win might be just around the corner.