'Saving Private Ryan' & 'Harvey Milk': Steven Spielberg WWII B Movie + Murdered Gay Politician

Tom Hanks Tom Sizemore Matt Damon Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan with Tom Hanks. Tom Sizemore, and Matt Damon.

Steven Spielberg's 1998 Best Picture nominee Saving Private Ryan will be the next feature in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Great To Be Nominated” series. The war drama will be screened on Monday, June 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Following the screening, Oscar-nominated make-up artists Lois Burwell and Daniel C. Striepeke, Oscar-nominated producer Mark Gordon, sound mixer Ronald Judkins and sound effects editor Ethan Van der Ryn will take part in a discussion about the film.

Upon its release, Saving Private Ryan received nearly unanimous praise for its honest and gripping depiction of World War II. Well, those people obviously didn't watch the same movie I watched.

Written by Robert Rodat, Saving Private Ryan follows eight American soldiers (among them, Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, and Jeremy Davies) trying to find and rescue a fellow soldier (Matt Damon) trapped behind enemy lines so as to make the soldier's mom happy. Once their characters' quest begins, the filmmakers strive to push every single cliched button of every single cliched Hollywood war movie ever made.

Cardboard characters talk like William Bendix in Wake Island and John Garfield in Air Force, while the much-admired Normandy invasion sequence feels less horrifying and realistic than most videogames out there. The “clever” twist at the end is as irritating as it is dishonest.

That same year, Terrence Malick made the flawed – but infinitely superior – The Thin Red Line. Unsurprisingly, Malick's adult World War II drama earned much less money and was found considerably less award-worthy than Saving Private Ryan.

Despite Spielberg's insistence that his (expensive) B-movie was an homage to US veterans and therefore should be treated as reverentially as the US flag, Academy members took the unpatriotic route (thanks to Miramax's Oscar-savvy publicity machine) by picking the period (part-)British romance Shakespeare in Love as the best movie of the year.

Saving Private Ryan earned a total of 11 Academy Award nominations, winning Oscars for Cinematography (Janusz Kaminski), Directing (Spielberg), Film Editing (Michael Kahn), Sound (Gary Rydstrom, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Judkins) and Sound Effects Editing (Rydstrom, Richard Hymns).

The film also received nominations for Best Picture (Spielberg, Gordon, Ian Bryce, and Gary Levinsohn, producers), Actor in a Leading Role (Hanks), Art Direction (Tom Sanders; Set Decoration: Lisa Dean Kavanaugh), Make-Up (Burwell, Conor O'Sullivan, Striepeke), Music – Original Dramatic Score (John Williams) and Writing – Screenplay written directly for the screen (Rodat).

Mark Baker's Oscar-nominated animated short Jolly Roger will be screened prior to the feature.

Passes for part five of “Great To Be Nominated” are $30 for the general public and $25 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Including Saving Private Ryan, there are 11 films remaining in the series. A $5 discount is available for those who wish to renew their passes from parts one, two, three or four of the series. Individual tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Passes and tickets may be purchased online at www.oscars.org, by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the screening when the doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Curtain time for all features is 7:30 p.m., and pre-show elements will begin at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

Saving Private Ryan photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library.

The Times of Harvey Milk by Rob Epstein

'The Times of Harvey Milk': Monday Nights with Oscar

With the issue of California's (potential) approval of gay marriage in the news, it's probably an appropriate time to revisit Rob Epstein's 1984 Academy Award-winning documentary feature The Times of Harvey Milk – in a restored print from the Academy Film Archive – which will be screened as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Monday Nights with Oscar” series on Monday, June 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Directors Guild of America Theatre in New York City.

Epstein, a current Academy Governor, will take part in a post-screening onstage discussion.

Narrated by Harvey Fierstein (from a script by Judith Coburn and Carter Wilson), The Times of Harvey Milk follows the rise and murder of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, a.k.a. “The Mayor of Castro Street,” the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected to political office.

In May 1978 California's Proposition 6 – which would ban gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools – garnered enough signatures to be included as a ballot measure in the fall elections. Milk organized the campaign to defeat the measure, and when voting time came Prop. 6 was rejected by a landslide.

Three weeks later, on November 27, 1978, Dan White, a former police officer who had recently resigned from the Board of Supervisors and whom Mayor George Moscone had refused to reappoint to his seat, fatally shot Milk and Moscone. White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter based on diminished capacity and was sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison. (White was paroled in January 1985; he committed suicide in October of that year.)

The fact that judge and jury accepted “the twinkie defense” – i.e., that junk food played a role in White's deadly actions – sparked outrage at the time (and it says a lot about ingrained bigotry – and idiocy – in the U.S. justice system). The verdict was followed by violent rioting in San Francisco.

Tickets for The Times of Harvey Milk in NYC are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets may be reserved by calling 1-888-778-7575. Depending on availability, tickets may be purchased in person on the night of the screening. Doors open at 7 p.m. All seating is unreserved. The DGA Theatre is located at 110 West 57th Street in New York City.

Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library.

'Shut Up & Sing' & 'Rehearsing a Dream' Academy Screening

The documentaries Phoenix Dance (above, top photo), Rehearsing a Dream, and Shut Up & Sing (above, lower photo) will conclude the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Spring 2008 “Contemporary Documentaries” series on Wednesday, June 11, at 7 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. Admission is free.

Karina Epperlein's Phoenix Dance tells the story of dancer Homer Avila, who lost a leg to cancer but returned to the stage to perform with Andrea Flores a dance choreographed by Alonzo King.

Rehearsing a Dream by Karen Goodman and Kirk SimonDirected and produced by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon, Rehearsing a Dream (right) received an Academy Award nomination for Documentary Short Subject in 2006. The film revolves around the yearly meetings of “the country's most gifted 17-year-old performing and visual artists” sponsored by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts' youngARTS program in Miami, where the teenagers are mentored by the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Vanessa Williams, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Directed by Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck (Gregory Peck's daughter) and produced by Kopple, Peck, and David Cassidy, Shut Up & Sing travels with the Dixie Chicks for a three-year period that covers their astounding success and the controversy sparked by their lead singer's – quite tame and level-headed – anti-George W. Bush comments in 2003, when to speak negatively about Bush or the (then) overwhelmingly popular Iraq War was tantamount to committing high treason. The Dixie Chicks were harassed, boycotted, and received death threats for daring to make use of their freedom of speech at a most inconvenient time. Kopple and Peck will be present to answer questions from the audience.

As per the Academy's press release, “the 26th annual Contemporary Documentaries series is a showcase for feature-length and short documentaries drawn from the 2006 Academy Award nominations, including the winners, as well as other important and innovative films considered by the Academy that year.”

The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. Free parking is available through the entrance on Homewood Avenue (one block north of Fountain Avenue). Doors open at 6 p.m. All seating is unreserved. For additional information, visit www.oscars.org or call (310) 247-3600.

Photos: Courtesy Simon & Goodman Picture (Rehearsing a Dream), Courtesy of Cabin Creek Films (Shut Up & Sing)

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3 Comments to 'Saving Private Ryan' & 'Harvey Milk': Steven Spielberg WWII B Movie + Murdered Gay Politician

  1. Darrell Jenkins

    This Movie went hard one of my best war movies ever

  2. Maja Nielsen

    I love this movie i wanna make movies like tom hanks he is so good in movis and i think all i now te is a good man but im so stubid im in love in tom hanks beacuse he is so good hmm im not so good to engelsk and so what

  3. Gabby Evans

    saving prvate ryan is one of the best films i have ever seen. we are studying it at school and i find it amazing.