The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) (Not Rated)

"The Times of Harvey Milk" is a documentary of staggering effect and relevance. Consider it like a time bottle that you jump inside and transport yourself back to the 1970s, when homophobia was much more prevalent than it is today. What you hear from those interviews for the movie are the same thoughts that register today...except these people were still the minority back then. I'm not saying that everything is peachy keen for the LGBT community, because I consider the opposite to be true; but consider the fact that the man the documentary is about was assassinated. The results of his murder (I hope) would receive different judicial actions should he have lived twenty years later.
My pointless thoughts aside, "The Times of Harvey Milk" is one of the best documentaries ever made, and not just for the relevance of it. The story is compelling, educational, and it is near impossible to watch with a dry eye.
Rob Epstein won an Oscar for the film and it's no wonder why.
The movie begins with the archival footage of Diane Feinstein telling reporters that Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk had been killed and that the suspect was Dan White. This means nothing to someone who is unfamiliar with Harvey Milk's story.
But the movie that assumes we either don't know, or we are already invested in the story...and it quickly spells everything out for us. "The Times of Harvey Milk" isn't a long movie, but it packs as much as it possibly can into its hour-and-a-half running time.
As most would expect, the documentary emphasizes quickly that Harvey Milk was just a man, yet he aspired to be so much more. One of the first voices that we hear of the movie is Harvey's himself, reading his will that was to be played on the possibility that he was assassinated.
If you don't already empathize with Harvey, you will by the end of the movie. We come to view him as the interviewees do, as a man, as a lover, as a role model, as a friend, and as someone who fought for what he believe...a feat which is more than most people could say.
In this way "The Times of Harvey Milk" is also inspirational because it gives us some reason to go out and change the world. Don't be afraid to change the world.
It sounds cliche, yet if we look back on cinema, these kinds of movies are the ones that originated the "feel good—do good" vibe that is so prevalent in today's film and literature.
It's easy to complain about unfairness, but Harvey did more than complain, he attempted to force the government's hand. Harvey was elected to city council and was one of the first openly gay officials After three unsuccessful elections, Mayor Moscone decided that city council should be elected by district instead of city-wide. This new method gets Harvey elected to one of the most diverse city council for the time. Now he starts fighting for the little men, the small people, the minorities, not including his own.
The movie itself I can't find fault with. Mark Isham's score can be a little too sentimental at times, but that is being so picky as to almost seem like a sourpuss. "The Times of Harvey Milk" is faultless as no documentary I've seen before is. Every second of it is engaging.
It's hard to find someone to consider a great role model without being too redundant: Gandhi, Jesus, the Buddha, etc. Yet (though I don't consider him of the same impact of those previously mentioned) Harvey Milk deserves some mention here. He is not perfect, nor is he portrayed to be in "The Times of Harvey Milk", rather as an ordinary superhero who fought and fought and died for his cause.
Is that not worthy of Greek legend?

Score: ★★★★

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