Milk

Alternate Title: Politics as Usual
2008 Nominee

Sean Penn plays gay activist Harvey Milk, a man whose voice spoke for countless others. After meeting Scott (James Franco, seen here as a non-douche and a non-stoner, so don’t let that deter you), Harvey and his new beau pick up and head to San Francisco.

San Francisco in the 70s was just getting its reputation for hosting proud members of the gay community. While it was their haven, it was certainly not safe. Legal and moral objections were raised against them at every turn and as a result, Harvey took to the political scene. He became the first openly gay man to hold political office in the country.

A workaholic with a message that affected many, Harvey was plagued by death threats and ghosts of lost lovers; in fact, several of his partners committed suicide – something Harvey believed was partially his fault, due to his fear of coming out of the closet.

While I agree with the message Harvey and his followers preached and believe that politicians out to destroy civil rights are really just demonizing democracy, I still don’t like politics. The outcome of Harvey Milk’s time as a supervisor was heartbreaking and ultimately, I don’t love stories that have unhappy endings.

However, he’s a person I didn’t know a thing about until I watched this film and that’s a genuine shame. Political activists – especially those fighting on behalf of human rights – really ought to be recognized more readily. With the fucking laugh-riot our country is slowly becoming, it’s easy to see why now, people like Harvey Milk deserve a megaphone and a place behind the podium.

It’s nice to say we’re born with unalienable rights, but we are not born with them.
We fight for them. And the fight is definitely not over yet.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Milk was nominated for Best Picture in 2008, but did the Academy get it right?

Dallas Buyers Club

Alternate Title: Drugs are Bad, AIDS is Worse (MmKay?)
2013 Nominee

This is the movie that birthed the phrases, “Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey” and, “Academy Award winner Jared Leto.” If that’s not surreal enough for you, add in the fact that McConaughey looks emaciated the whole time and Leto is dressed like a lady and they both play people who are HIV-positive.

McConaughey (excuse me, Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey) plays Ron Woodroof, a real person who was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s. Woodroof is a Dallas rodeo cowboy, so when his friends accuse him of being gay due to the diagnosis, this only adds to the total fucking torment that is being HIV-positive. Woodroof is not in fact gay, but has had unprotected sex with women that were IV-drug users. It’s a subtle, but worthwhile reminder to ignorant folks that HIV does not discriminate; if you don’t use a condom or poke yourself with needles, you are at risk. Please be careful out there.
Unlike some people diagnosed with a terminal illness, Woodroof does his homework. With an estimate of 30 days left to live, he attempts to get ahold of AZT, a drug known to help with the virus. Remember that guy Martin Shkreli? One of the reasons he’s a villain is he spiked the price of AZT. I would have liked to hear Ron Woodroof cuss him out, but my guess is he would at least call him a mother fucker. I’m sticking with douchebag for now.

Woodroof ends up going to see a doctor in Mexico when his illegally obtained supply of AZT runs low. The doctor prescribes Woodroof Peptide T and vitamins, explaining that AZT is poison. In fact, studies did show that early AZT was highly toxic and many patients undergoing drug trials were experiencing worsened symptoms while taking it. How do I know? Because Ron figured this out and broadcast the news to the community as well as to his own doctor (Jennifer Garner).

Woodroof befriends Rayon (Leto) while selling Peptide T and the supplements to other HIV-positive people. Ron and Rayon start the Dallas Buyers Club for people who want to use their pharmaceuticals instead of the infamous AZT. Of course, this leads to problems with medical professionals, the IRS, and the FDA, all of whom Woodroof fights with Texas swagger and refusals to stop his business.

This movie does a great job illustrating an incident where the government didn’t appear to have its citizens’ best interest at heart without serving up too much courtroom drama. It’s also pretty hard not to like Ron Woodroof by the end of it, no matter how you feel about Matthew McConaughey (…Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey).

Now it’s Your Turn…
Dallas Buyers Club was nominated for Best Picture in 2013, but did the Academy get it right?

Lady Bird

Alternate Title: I was a High School Weirdo
2017 Nominee

Fuck high school.

I think the only people who really liked it were the people torturing me and people like the title character, Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan). Her real name is Christine, but you know how you made up a weird name for yourself and had everyone call you that because you were mad at your mom? A lot of people won’t admit it, but girls are mad at their moms for a pretty substantial portion of their teenage years.

Lady Bird is mad at her mom (Laurie Metcalf), but also she dates this boy who turns out to be gay. You totally don’t see it coming because he’s really good as the lead in the school musical.

Our beloved title character is simultaneously trying to go to college on the opposite coast from whichever coast Sacramento, California is on because she love/hates it and thinks New York is cool even though she’s never been there. This is why high schoolers shouldn’t be allowed to decide which institution they get to send all their parents’ money to for an education that really consists of learning how to have sex without getting pregnant and how to drink lots of alcohol without barfing.

It all boils down to a lady (bird) and her mom. I have to say, I teared up more than once. The movie is passionate and disjointed – kind of like a high school girl. There are a lot of lovely moments that make the movie feel a little like you’re flipping through a photo album, but also fighting with your mom, which makes sense because who the fuck else ever has the idea to look through a photo album?

It’s a movie that might even make you want to visit Sacramento…and  then immediately fly to New York.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Lady Bird was nominated for Best Picture in 2017, but did the Academy get it right?