Milk

  • Directors: Gus Van Sant
  • Producers: Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen, Michael London
  • Writers: Dustin Lance Black
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco, Alison Pill, Victor Garber

Milk opens with archival footage of police raiding gay bars and arresting patrons during the 1950s and 1960s, followed by Dianne Feinstein’s November 27, 1978, announcement to the press that Milk and Moscone have been assassinated. Milk is seen recording his will throughout the film, nine days (November 18, 1978) before the assassinations. The film then flashes back to New York City in 1970, the eve of Milk’s 40th birthday and his first meeting with his much younger lover, Scott Smith.

Unsatisfied with his life and in need of a change, Milk and Smith decide to move to San Francisco in the hope of finding larger acceptance of their relationship. They open Castro Camera in the heart of Eureka Valley, a working class neighborhood in the process of evolving into a predominantly gay neighborhood known as The Castro. Frustrated by the opposition they encounter in the once Irish-Catholic neighborhood, Milk utilizes his background as a businessman to become a gay activist, eventually becoming a mentor for Cleve Jones. Early on, Smith serves as Milk’s campaign manager, but his frustration grows with Milk’s devotion to politics, and he leaves him. Milk later meets Jack Lira, a sweet-natured but unbalanced young man. As with Smith, Lira cannot tolerate Milk’s devotion to political activism, and eventually hangs himself.

The last scene is an aerial shot of the candlelight vigil held by thousands for Milk and Moscone throughout the streets of the city. Pictures of the actual people depicted in the film, and brief summaries of their lives follow. This includes a note that Dan White’s lawyers used the infamous Twinkie defense to get White’s conviction reduced to voluntary manslaughter.

Good Will Hunting

  • Directors: Gus Van Sant
  • Producers: Lawrence Bender, Scott Mosier, Kevin Smith, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
  • Writers: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver

Though Will Hunting (Matt Damon) has a genius-level intellect, eidetic memory and a profound gift for mathematics, he works as a janitor at MIT and lives alone in a sparsely-furnished house in a rundown South Boston neighborhood. An abused foster child, he subconsciously blames himself for his unhappy upbringing and turns this self-loathing into a form of self-sabotage in both his professional and emotional lives.

In the first week of class, Will solves a difficult graduate-level problem taken from algebraic graph theory that Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård), a Fields Medalist and combinatorialist, leaves on a chalkboard as a challenge posed to his students, hoping someone might find the solution by the end of the semester. When it is solved quickly and anonymously, Lambeau posts a much more difficult problem—one that took him and his colleagues two years to prove. When Lambeau chances upon a mere janitor writing on the board, Lambeau chases him away. However, when Lambeau returns to the board, he is astounded to find the correct answer there. He then sets out to track Will down.

Meanwhile, Will beats a bully named Carmine Scarpaglia half to death, as he harassed Will 15 years ago in kindergarten, and he now faces imprisonment after attacking a police officer who was responding to the attack. Realizing Will has enormous potential, Lambeau goes to Will’s trial and intervenes on his behalf, offering him a choice: either go to jail, or be released under Lambeau’s personal supervision to study mathematics and see a therapist. Will chooses the latter, even though he does not believe he needs therapy.

When his buddies present him with a rebuilt Chevrolet Nova for his 21st birthday, he decides to go after Skylar, setting aside his lucrative corporate and government job offers. Will leaves a brief note for Sean, using one of Sean’s own quips, “I had to go see about a girl.” Chuckie discovers that Will has finally gone. Will is then shown starting for California for a new beginning with Skylar.