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Oscar Nominations Include Eight Nods for Milk

By L. K. Regan

The Oscar nominations for 2009 have been announced, and Milk—the much-acclaimed bio-pic of murdered San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk—has garnered a remarkable eight nominations.

Milk was tapped for awards in a variety of categories, including some of the most prestigious. In the Best Film category, it will face Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, and The Reader. Sean Penn was nominated for Best Actor and Josh Brolin, who plays Harvey Milk's fellow supervisor and murderer Dan White, was tapped for Best Supporting Actor. Responding to news of his nomination, Brolin said: "I couldn't have imagined anything like this a couple years ago. You just do your work and are happy you're able to make some money. This is very, very special, especially because of the movie. It wasn't that I read this character and said, 'I have to do this character.' It was more about the movie."

The movie's director, Gus Van Sant, was also recognized with a nomination for Best Director. Van Sant received the same nomination for Good Will Hunting, though the movie actually won for Best Actor (Robin Williams) and for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's adaptation of the screenplay. Speaking about his most recent nomination, Van Sant—who also directed Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho—said: "I didn’t know at first what awards we'd won, and when I finally found out, I thought it was pretty great. To have as many as eight is pretty good."

Milk's other nominations include an Original Screenplay nod for Dustin Lance Black. Black, who is gay, was raised as a Mormon in Texas and is a writer for the HBO series Big Love, which concerns the life of a polygamist Mormon family. Further Oscar nominations were given in costume, film editing, and original music.

Milk tells the story of Harvey Milk, who in the 1970s was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first openly gay man elected in California. Milk held office for nearly a year, during which he created a San Francisco gay rights ordinance, and fought a state initiative to ban gays from working in public schools. Milk, along with Mayor George Mascone, was murdered by gunshot in November 1978 in City Hall by Dan White, another city supervisor. White would go on to mount the famous "Twinkie Defense", claiming that excessive consumption of junk food caused him to lose reason. This defense contributed to the jury's decision to bring a conviction for voluntary manslaughter rather than murder. White served several years in prison; after his release, he committed suicide. The film Milk follows Harvey Milk from his move to San Francisco at the age of 40 to his murder.

If you haven't already seen Milk, but want to have the best chance of winning the pool at your Oscar party, check out this trailer, and consider buying a ticket to see the movie in full: