In theaters.

OK, so I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but my personal perfect storm of familial, financial, and meteorological stressors (don’t ask) seems to have abated somewhat, so I decided to check out one of the many Academy Award–nominated movies I haven’t seen.

When I was young and foolish and in possession of far too much free time, I made a point of seeing at least four of the five nominees in each major Oscar category, but that’s not going to happen this year. Most of them simply don’t appeal to me. But Milk looked reasonably promising, and I’d become interested in its iconic subject after Sean and I visited San Francisco a year and half ago, so Milk it was.

Biopics are notoriously middlebrow, of course, but screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, director Gus Van Sant, and star Sean Penn manage to avoid many of the clichés and pitfalls of the genre. Most notably, they avoid turning Harvey Milk into a plaster saint. The portrait they create is beautifully messy and textured and vibrant. He’s not perfect, but you can feel why people loved him, why he meant so much to so many.