Sunday, May 1, 2011

Phil's recommendations for the National Film Registry: Pick # 1: THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK (1984)-May 1, 2011

Hello, and welcome to a first in a series of film recommendations that I'm planning to submit to the National Film Registry. After viewing the amazing documentary THESE AMAZING SHADOWS a couple of weekends ago, I went to the Registry's website and noticed there were films that the Library of Congress should look into adding. As a result of this discovery, I decided to pick my own film recommendations that fulfills the criteria of the registry of being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," while at the same time choosing films that might have been overlooked due to oversight, or of ignorance of the film's impact on culture and society.

For my first recommendation, I chose one of my favorite documentaries that still, to this day, continues to influence, educate, and enlighten those who view it. A documentary about an extraordinary individual who made history for the gay rights movement, only to be assassinated eleven months after being the first openly gay man to be elected into public office. The documentary I'm talking about is 1984's THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK.

Original Movie Poster 1984
Directed by Robert Epstein, produced by Richard Schmiechen,  and narrated by Harvey Fierstein, the film chronicles the life and death of Harvey Milk. Born in New York and transplanted to San Francisco in the late 60's, he ran for public office three times before becoming elected onto the Board of Supervisors in 1977. While on the board, he fought for several issues, such as rent control, senior citizens, but the issue he fought for the most were Gay rights. In 1978, he fought against Proposition 6, which would ban all gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. Shortly after defeating Prop 6, both Milk and Mayor George Miscone were assassinated by Dan White, a fellow Board member who had recently resigned, but was seeking reinstatement. The ramifications of White's actions are still being felt today.

The interviews in the film from Milk's friends and former employees are very effective. The film was made less than six years after his death, and all who participated were still stunned, shocked, and saddened that their friend was no longer around. White, who only served five and a half years in prison, committed suicide less than two years after being released.

Cover for Criterion's DVD Release 2011
The impact this film has had on society and culture is unmeasurable. It's lasting legacy has influenced the Gay Rights Movement, Gay Activism, on civil rights in general, and on Hollywood. The film won the Oscar for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards in 1984. In the fall of 2008, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and director Gus Van Sant brought Harvey's story back to the big screen with MILK, starring Sean Penn, whose performance as Harvey would garner him the Best Actor award at the Oscars in 2009. The documentary was also just re-released on DVD and Blu-Ray by the Criterion Collection this year.

THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK is a film that will forever be remembered as a testimony of how one individual helped make history, and changed the world for the better. Harvey Milk, thanks in large part to the film, will continue inspire people for generations to come. His life, his story, and his contributions will live on forever. This is why the film should be part of the National Film Registry.

To purchase a copy of THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK on DVD or Blu-Ray, visit the Criterion Collection's website at

To learn more about the National Film Registry, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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