Saturday, June 17, 2017

2016: Moonlight

This is the coming-of-age story of Chiron, a gay, African-American male, raised by a single, drug-addicted mother, told in three parts: one when he's about 10, one when he's about 17, and the third when he's in his mid-20s. Each section of the movie contains a few key events that shape Chiron's path of self-discovery.

There are some things I really like about this movie, and others not so much. Honestly, one of my favorite things about it was the lighting. Early in the movie, one of the characters tells a story about an old woman commenting, "In moonlight, black boys look blue," and I don't know if it was mostly power of suggestion, but a lot of the lighting looked blue to me, which added a nice artistic touch. I was also, for the most part, very impressed by the performances, particularly those of Alex Hibbert and Ashton Sanders, who played Chiron in the first two parts. As a child, he doesn't speak very much, and those two actors do a tremendous job of conveying his pain and fear with just their eyes. The third section, on the other hand, seemed like a completely different movie. I didn't think Chiron's transformation was quite believable, and the last third seemed to drag a lot more than the first two. The pacing of the movie as a whole is on the slow side, but the end was almost excruciating, and then nothing really happened. So it was a bit disappointing. Overall, I didn't dislike this movie, but I didn't love it either.

Personally, I think this movie won Best Picture more for what it represents than for how good of a movie it is. Overwhelmingly - in fact, almost exclusively - mainstream Hollywood tells stories about straight, white people. People of color and LGBT+ people are hardly ever represented in Best Picture winners, let alone LGBT+ people of color. This particular year, the two front-runners for this award were Moonlight and La La Land. I still haven't seen La La Land, although I'm going to have to eventually if I want to keep up my Best Actress blog, but from what I've heard, I'm 99% sure it's about straight white people. The past few years before this, all the Oscar-nominated actors were white, prompting significant Twitter backlash with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Not to mention that 2016 was the year of the Pulse massacre, the continued escalation of tensions between people of color and the police, an election that emboldened bigots, and a lot of other similarly terrible things. Since Hollywood is, at least ostensibly, extremely liberal, I think a lot of people voted for Moonlight without having seen it, just to make a statement. And like the movie itself, I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it seems like the Best Picture Winner should be the actual best movie of the year, not the movie that makes the best statement of the year. On the other hand, if this project has taught me anything, it's that the Best Picture Oscar Winner is almost never the actual best movie of the year, and there are definitely much worse things than shining a spotlight on a movie about people who don't often have the chance to see themselves represented on the silver screen. So while this is not my favorite movie of all time, or even my favorite movie of 2016, I'm glad that it won. And I'm really hoping this year's winner will be a female-centered story. Seriously, it's been way too long.

Currently I'm making my way through Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar winners, which means I will re-watch this movie again after reading the play, but that will probably take a while since I'm currently in the early 1940s, and it takes much longer to read and then watch than just to watch. But you can check out that blog here if you're interested.

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