Sean Penn Wins Best Actor for Milk: My Name is Sean Penn, and I’m Here to Recruit You

Penn Wins Best Actor for Milk: My Name is Sean Penn and I’m Here to Recruit You

You Commie, Homo-Loving Sons of Guns

Sean Penn won the Academy Award for Best Actor Sunday night for his moving portrayal of slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk in Milk. He earned a standing ovation from the starry crowd as his wife, Robin Wright Penn, tearfully looked on. “You commie, homo-loving sons of guns,” Penn began in accepting his award for Milk. “I did not expect this and I want it to be very clear that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me often.” Penn had already won the Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice awards, as well as numerous honors from film critics groups across the country. The 48-year-old actor had deeply immersed himself in order to act the role of Harvey Milk, culminating in a stellar performance that brought out a warmth and sweetness rarely seen throughout Penn’s acting career, often marked by intense, complex characters.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to major public office in the United States when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. The following year, he was shot to death, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, by board colleague Dan White. But during his life, he inspired gays and lesbians to stand up and come out, helping to turn San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood into the gay mecca and safe haven that it would become. He roused cheering crowds with impassioned speeches that often began with the words, “My name is Harvey Milk, and I am here to recruit you.”

In wrapping up his own acceptance speech at The Academy Awards ceremony, Penn mentioned the protesters who had lined the streets of Hollywood near the Oscar festivities, holding anti-gay signs: “For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.” Backstage, when asked what he would tell those protesters if he could speak to them, Penn responded: “I’d tell them to turn in their hate card and find their better self.”

Sean Penn Wins Best Actor Academy Award for “Milk”

Dustin Lance Black Wins Academy Award for Best Screenplay for “Milk”

The Story of Harvey Milk Gave Me Hope to Live My Life

In addition to Sean Penn’s Oscar, Dustin Lance Black won The Academy Award for Best Screenplay for Milk. Black, who was wearing The White Knot for marriage equality, gave an eloquent acceptance speech about how Harvey Milk had personally inspired him:

When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas, to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life; it gave me the hope that one day I could live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married.

Most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value. And that no matter what everyone tells you, God does love you, and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.” Dustin Black’s sometimes tearful acceptance speech was greeted by the Academy audience members with loud applause.

Dustin Lance Black Wins Oscar for Best Screenplay for “Milk”

Harvey Milk Takes Oath of Office after Winning 1977 San Francisco Election

Harvey Milk: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Academy Award Documentary: The Times Of Harvey Milk

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The New Boy: One Day When I Was Lost

The New Boy: One Day When I Was Lost

New Boy has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Live Action Short Film category. The film has already won numerous awards, including Best Irish Short at the Foyle Film Festival 2007, Best Short Film at the prestigious Irish Film and Television Academy Awards 2008, Best Narrative Short at the Tribeca Film Festival 2008 (USA), Best Short Film at the 2008 Rhode Island Film Festival (USA), the Melbourne International Film Festival 2008 (Outstanding Short Film Promoting Human Values) and a Special Mention at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival.

New Boy takes us inside the mind of a young boy named Joseph during his first day in a new classroom. But Joseph’s not just any new boy, he’s an immigrant African child in an Irish classroom, seated right in front of the local bully. He’s also a boy who recently had lost his father (who was also his teacher) to war. Joseph witnessed first-hand the brutality of soldiers against his father in Africa, saw his father’s crumpled body and learned something about dealing with a potential enemy.

Joseph has to negotiate between a violent past and a future that looks as though it’s headed the same way. Straddling two worlds, the new boy must struggle to fit in without giving in. And living with the ever-present memory of his father, Joseph must find a way to stand up for himself while acting responsibly, just as his father would have wanted. The day that Joseph initially felt he was lost eventually came to be a day that he ultimately found a renewed sense of self, as well as the fulfillment of deep yearnings for reconciliation with his lost father.

While this deeply touching short film illuminates the more particular feelings of being the “new kid” at school, it also stands as a broader metaphor for our struggles with feelings of being an outsider in more general settings (at work, in a group, in a different city or country), as well as for the painful feelings of alienation suffered by persons and groups experiencing rejection by society. The film is an excursion into complicated contemporary multicultural realities. However, rather than attempting to teach or preach about simplistic lessons in social tolerance, New Boy shows how very tricky such lessons can be, either to teach or to learn.

New Boy: One Day When I Was Lost

A wonderful slideshow of images from the ten contending Academy Award short films can be viewed here.

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