In 1977 Harvey Milk (Penn) was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. While this would not normally be an earth-shattering phenomenon in this case Milk became the first out-of-the-closet gay person to win a major public office in the United States -- and was assassinated in 1978 along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. Based in part on the Academy Award-winning documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk the film focuses on the last decade of his life as he moves from New York at age 40 to San Francisco with lover Scott Smith (James Franco). Using his experience as an entrepreneur as a catalyst he suddenly becomes more politically involved making a couple of runs for office and finally getting elected. With a new lover (Diego Luna) and agenda Milk takes on some major issues -- including lobbying against California’s controversial Prop 6 an initiative to fire gay schoolteachers. But his activities anger another supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin) and soon their destinies will collide. It’s not an overstatement to say that Sean Penn’s performance here is a revelation. As Harvey Milk he not only perfectly embodies the late politician but exudes a certain kind of warmness and humor we rarely see from the star. His immersion into the persona of Milk is truly remarkable and winning. A large supporting cast includes: standout performances from Franco as Milk’s true love and friend Scott who eventually can’t compete with Harvey’s increasing ambition; Diego Luna hilarious and annoying as Milk’s lover later; and Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones a young activist and Milk protégé. Brolin as the unlikeable White perfectly captures the frustration and simmering jealousy the man he feels steals his job. It’s a risky role and there is little room for audience empathy but Brolin makes this loser understandable if not acceptable. As the lone woman among the principal players Alison Pill is bright and appealing as Milk’s campaign manager Anne Kronenberg. Gus Van Sant’s odd directorial career encompasses a series of ups and downs with the highlights being Drugstore Cowboy and his Oscar-nominated work on Good Will Hunting. The absolute nadir of Van Sant’s resume is undoubtedly his ill-advised shot-by-shot remake of Hitchcock’s untouchable Psycho. It’s nice to report he’s back in form now with the warm funny and moving Milk a film that doesn’t quite escape the clichés of the biopic genre but still finds its own beats thanks in large part to the piercing performances. Getting such mature and joyful work from Penn a brilliant but distant actor is impressive indeed. He also imbues the movie with a documentary feel appropriate since much of the source material comes from the Oscar-winning docu. Milk paints us a triumphant and inspiring life one that won’t soon be forgotten especially with its parallels to current California circumstances. The state’s recent anti-gay marriage initiative Prop 8 could not have come at a more significant time in making Harvey Milk’s crusade seem more relevant than ever.
Williams tagged for Globes' DeMille Award
Robin Williams has been picked by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to receive the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award when the group hands out the Golden Globes in January, Reuters reports. The DeMille honor is given each year by the organization to an actor who has made an "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field." Williams has received five Golden Globe Awards in the past, three as best actor for movies Mrs. Doubtfire, The Fisher King and Good Morning, Vietnam. He won a TV award for Mork & Mindy and a special honor for his voice work in animated film Aladdin. This year's Globes ceremony will be broadcast live on NBC on Jan. 16.
OutKast, Usher win MTV Europe Awards
Hip-hop duo OutKast and R&B hottie Usher shared top honors on Thursday, claiming the most prizes at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Rome, which was broadcast to millions of viewers worldwide, Reuters reports. OutKast stars Andre 3000 and Big Boi walked away with best group, best song and best video awards, while Usher grabbed best male artist and best album. Britney Spears won best female artist, The Black Eyed Peas won best pop and Linkin Park won best rock, while Alicia Keys took home best R&B and D12 secured best hip-hop. Music fans across Europe chose the winners chose the winners by voting online and with mobile phones, Reuters reports.
Jackson sued by furniture store
The guy just can't catch a break. Michael Jackson is being sued once again--this time by an antiques and furniture store, Mayfair Gallery, who claim Jackson owes $178,875 in merchandise he allegedly purchased in May, The Associated Press reports. Jackson bought 20 items, including a malachite urn, a Louis XVI-style bust clock, silver bread holder and an "Austrian gold-painted dancing girl," the complaint said. This is comes on the heels of another lawsuit recently filed against the singer. J. Marc Schaffel, a former producer and business associate, sued the singer Tuesday, claiming Jackson owes him more than $3 million in loans and producing fees.
Howard Stern' Sirius giveaway attracts thousands
Shock jock Howard Stern attracted thousands of fans and curious onlookers to Manhattan's Union Square Thursday afternoon to promote his soon-to-be employer, Sirius Satellite Radio. Reuters reports Stern handed out 500 free satellite radios and one-year subscriptions along with hundreds of certificates for a free radio with the $142 purchase of a Sirius subscription. Stern, whose is set to move to Sirius when his current contract with Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting runs out in 2006, told the crowd the Federal Communications Commission's broadcast indecency regulations were a major factor in driving him out of over-the-air radio. "Sirius Satellite Radio will rule ... It will be the dominant service," Stern said. "All without government interference. It's the beginning."
Prosecutors say Crow's stalker had dangerous obsession
Prosecutors in Sheryl Crow's stalker case told jurors in Manhattan Supreme Court Thursday a former Navy deep-sea diver had developed a dangerous obsession for the singer, Reuters reports. Ambrose Kappos, 38, is accused of breaking into New York's Hammerstein Ballroom where Crow was rehearsing for a benefit show last October, then slipping into her dressing room before he was tossed out. He then followed Crow to her limousine in an attempt to engage her in conversation. Assistant district attorney Tara Daly said Kappos, who is accused of stalking Crow for more than a year, was discharged from the Navy after taking an emergency medical leave. Crow, 42, is expected to testify in the trial next week.
Rebecca Gayheart weds Eric Dane
Actress Rebecca Gayheart, first noticed as the fresh-faced beauty appearing in the Noxzema's series of TV commercials in the early 1990s, married actor Eric William Dane Oct. 29 in Las Vegas, AP reports. Gayheart, 32, starred as the wife of Luke Perry's character Dylan McKay on Aaron Spelling's hit drama Beverly Hills, 90210, which ran on Fox from 1990 through 2000. She was most recently seen on the FX plastic surgery series Nip/Tuck and Showtime's Dead Like Me. Her film credits include the 1997 thriller Scream 2. Dane, meanwhile, appeared in shows including The Wonder Years and was a regular on the ABC series Gideon's Crossing.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.