“Milk” does a filmgoer good

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Wes Lawson
Daily Egyptian
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.


An exercise in “Common”ality

By: Luke McCormick

provided photo

provided photo


“Universal Mind Control”

Release Date: 12/9

Record Label: Geffen Records

Rating: 2 out of 5

The hip-hop game is all about image. There is the hard posturing emcee, the conscious emcee, the hood poet emcee and a slew of other manifestations rappers have undertaken since the genre’s inception.

Since the beginning of Common’s career, he has been associated with the conscious rapper crowd. Preaching love of all things. While this was fresh at the beginning of his career, the star’s luster has begun to fade over the past couple of records.

The need to change his image must have been on the emcee’s mind when penning his most recent jams, because the things he used to avoid (misogyny, swearing, hood talk) have taken over.

Also, the rapper’s sonic template has changed as well. For the better part of his career he was content to spit positivity over jazz and soul samples, but this time around Pharrel brought a new bag of tricks.

The Neptunes weaker half (along with a few other producers, including Kanye) has provided the emcee with more than a few club bangers, icy synths and big drums included, just waiting to assault a dance floor.

For some rappers this would be a dream come true. Sadly, Common just does not have the swagger to carry a record full of ego inflating dance floor jams.

The title track is one of the most interesting things Pharrel has produced for a good long while. It is a mess of techno synths and skittering drums. It is just a shame it got wasted on Common. This beat would have been amazing with Clipse or someone like Dizzee Rascal riding it, but Common just sounds out of place as his laid back flow tries to catch up to the high energy beat. He sounds about as out of place as Blagojevich speaking at an ethics conference.

When he gets back to his roots, like on the Cee-Lo assisted cut “Make My Day” things begin to come together. The retro soul sound which the emcee has been on for the better part of a decade is in full effect. It is just too bad the rest of the record did not follow suit.

However, another record full of the same from the emcee would have been just as disheartening and uninspiring. At least he gave expanding his sound a shot, albeit a weak one.

Luke McCormick can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 275 or lmccorm2@siu.edu

A look forward: SIU women’s basketball

by: Stile T. Smith

With the forthcoming Christmas vacation, there will be no editions of the Daily Egyptian to report on the next seven SIU women’s basketball games.

With that, I will give a preview of each of the next seven opponents the Salukis will face.

at Chicago State, Dec. 14, 2:00 p.m.

The Lady Cougars are currently 4-4 on the season with a win over Northwestern of the Big Ten. Senior guard Jasmin Dixon is leading the team with 18.8 points per game and 31 assists. Junior guard Alyssa Waldon, meanwhile, has averaged 10.8 points per game and is shooting 39 percent from 3-point range.

at Central Arkansas, Dec. 16, 7:00 p.m.

The Sugar Bears are currently 2-4 on the season including a 19-point loss to Southeast Missouri State. Junior forward Meaghen Kelleybrew is the only player averaging double figure points with 11.3 points per contest. Sophomore forward/center Jamye Adair is just off the double figure plateau, averaging 9.2 points per game.

vs Tennessee Tech, Dec. 21, 2:05 p.m.

The Golden Eagles are currently 2-6 on the season with a loss to SIU rival Drake by 11 points. Senior guard/forward Blair Bowens is leading the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game while shooting 30 percent from 3-point range. Freshman forward Krystal Stirrup, meanwhile, is averaging 9.4 points per game while leading the team shooting 52 percent from the field.

vs Northern Illinois, Dec. 28, 2:05 p.m.

The Huskies are currently 3-5 on the season with an eight point victory over Northern Iowa and a 15 point loss to Bradley. Sophomore center Ebony Ellis leads the team with 11.8 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game. Junior guard Marke Freeman is averaging just under double figure points with 9.9 points per game while shooting 35 percent from 3-point range.

at Evansville, Jan. 2, 7:00 p.m.

The Salukis begin their Missouri Valley Conference schedule against the 4-3 Aces of Evansville. The Aces have four players averaging double digit points, led by YEAR Robyn Jennings with 14.6 points per game including 58 percent from 3-point range. 

at Bradley, Jan. 9, 7:00 p.m.

The Braves are currently 6-1 on the season with a win over the University of Illinois of the Big Ten by 18 points. Senior forward Monica Rogers is averaging a double-double with 13.7 points and 10 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Michelle Lund, meanwhile, is averaging 13 points per game while shooting 48 percent from 3-point range.

at Northern Iowa, Jan. 11, 3:00 p.m.

The Panthers are currently 2-5 on the season with a 15-point victory over Western Illinois. YEAR guard Nicole Clausen leads the team with 12.9 points per game while shooting 49 percent from 3-point range. YEAR guard K.K. Armstrong is averaging just under double figure points with 9.9 points per game.

Career counselor urges graduates to network

Posted by Barton Lorimor

Congratulations to this week’s newest SIUC graduates, and good luck navigating the job market.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday the unemployment rate throughout the nation had spiked to 6.7 percent. That is the latest insult added to the injuries the country has sustained during a recession that began in January.

“Unfortunately, it is pretty grim. So for students that are graduating in a few weeks, it’s pretty tough. There have been a huge amount of layoffs…and companies are having hiring freezes until the new year,” said Courtney Pike, director of operations at Job Bound.

But Pike said younger job seekers still have a chance because they are cheaper to hire than those who have previously had careers. She said recent graduates should prepare to put on a suit every day and start networking with potential employers.

“Companies are being flooded with resumes,” Pike said. “If students are submitting their resumes online, it’s going to get lost in the flood.”

Pike said her organization has recently been working with more students and middle-aged workers included in the 6.7 unemployment rate than any other time in its six years of existence.

Yet not all job fields have been affected by this year’s recession. Powered by the aging baby boomer generation, the health care industry has proven to be recession proof as well as education.

Blog Wars: Brokest you have ever been?

Madeleine Leroux:

The stereotype college student that I am, I have been beyond broke way too many times to count. I guess the brokest I have ever been was probably last year when it got to the point where I did almost anything for anyone if they offered cash reward (anything outside of prostitution that is) and I was surviving on croutons for weeks at a time.

Although, for at least one week before Thanksgiving break this year, I survived solely on Smarties that I found at work.

I’ve done laundry and housecleaning, ran errands, helped with people’s homework, you name it and I’ve probably done it for cash. Or for the promise of food. Mmmmmm.

Never do you realize how important it can be to have money than when you have none to your name.

Alexis Boudreau:

I’m going to have to go ahead and say every Christmas season ever. I mean, I love my family and friends, but spending money on them hurts my wallet sometimes.

Amber Fijolek:

Christmas always takes its toll on me. I like to give expensive gifts. Last holiday season, however, was my first after turning 21, so I had a lot of bar-hopping to catch up on. With gift-buying being my first priority, I was forced to dig into couch cushions for the change needed to compensate for my drinks. Paying for drinks with quarters from my pockets was definitely one of my broke-est moments, but probably not my classiest.