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October 29, 2008

'Milk' premieres in political fray

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Is there any such thing as a Brokebacklash? (Translation: Haters latch on early and, without seeing it, verbally pummel a gay-themed movie for its, well, gayness).

And if there is, what's a studio distributor to do about a film with a story that's potentially incendiary to the religious right, especially when its release coincides with one of the most important elections in recent history? An election, for California at least, that includes a polarizing proposition banning same-sex marriage.

Focus Features chief James Schamus has his answer. Premiere the biopic, "Milk," in San Francisco in the same neighborhood where its subject, Harvey Milk, launched his political career. The after party was at City Hal, where Milk and the city's mayor were killed. The event was held last night, just a week before we all head to the polls. Other major city premieres and buzz-building screenings will follow, Schamus said in a letter to THR.

Not surprisingly, the premiere brought out the faithful, a la the Prop 8 opponents (pictured above). We're waiting for the arch conservative response, a la Fox News and talk radio.

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What we've already heard is plenty of Oscar chatter for the film's activist star, Sean Penn, (pictured here with wife Robin Wright Penn) though it's not clear how high-profile he'll be in support of "Milk's" late November platform release. If and when he stumps, chances are he'll be inseparable from his long-held liberal political views. We'd expect nothing less.

On a related note, the International Documentary Association announced nominees this week for its annual awards. Rob Epstein is set to receive the Pioneer Award for a body of work that includes "The Times of Harvey Milk" (the Oscar winner for best documentary feature in 1985), "The Celluloid Closet" and "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt."

Also on IDA's honor roll: Stefan Forbes, the filmmaker behind "Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story" and Gold Rush Q&A victim, will take the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Filmmaker award.

More on the nominees, including "Man on Wire," "[email protected]," and "Kassim the Dream," here.

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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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