I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…


Friday, April 28, 2017

Moonlight, 2016

Rated R

 Following last year’s winner, “Spotlight”, we have “Moonlight”. This came as quite a shock to me… as well as EVERYONE that night in the Dolby theatre and watching at home. In case you missed it, the already 6-time winner, “La La Land” was pretty much a shoo-in for the top award. That’s all anyone was talking about. “La La Land” was special; it was different; it was a fun musical with an interesting love story. Critics and fans all over called it. Nobody was really talking about “Moonlight”. Then Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway take the mic to announce the Best Picture winner. Warren, for a brief second, looks a little confused, but keeps smiling and shows the card to Faye, who happily says, “La La Land”!!! The appropriate people take the stage and start making speeches, except Warren comes back out with Jimmy Kimmel, the host, to explain that this was NOT a joke, but that the wrong card was handed out (it was a duplicate from when Emma Stone won Best Actress for “LLL”), and “Moonlight” was indeed the real winner. Cue gasps from the audience and the awkward switching of important people on stage.

“Moonlight” is a coming-of-age drama told in three acts. Chiron, who goes by the nickname Little, is a young black boy living in the projects of Miami (in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s?). We see he is a shy, quiet boy who lives with his crack-addicted Mama, and occasionally gets picked on by his peers. He finds a friend in an adult black man named Juan who kind of takes him under his wing, providing him with home-cooked meals and opportunities for safe and open conversations. We get the first glimpse of Chiron’s struggle with identity: he asks Juan what faggot means and if he is one. At one point, the little nine-year-old comes home to an empty house and pours himself a bath using hot water from the stove; I just wanted to pull him out and hug him tight. Unfortunately, Juan is a drug dealer who ironically is providing Chiron’s mom with her fixes. When Chiron discovers this, you can tell it will affect their relationship. We don’t know how it does though, because act two starts and we learn that Juan has passed away years ago.

In act two, Chiron is a teenager who still seems shy and naïve. He has one friend, Kevin, who he has one (non-explicit) sexual/sensual encounter with while sharing an intimate conversation on the beach late at night. It’s clear Chiron is inexperienced and perhaps confused, like many adolescents. Kevin ends up betraying him though when, egged on by the school bully, he beats up Chiron. This clearly was a turning point in Chiron’s life that hardened his heart and closed him off from having any other future intimate relationships of any kind.  


In act three, we find Chiron a decade older, and hardened into manhood. Apparently, upon release from juvie, he started “trapping” (which I had to look up- it means setting up drug deals on corners) and made quite a name for himself. I held out hope that he had listened to Juan’s advice years before, “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.” I mean, I guess he did; I had just hoped it would be for the positive. The film ends shortly after Kevin reaches out to him by phone one random day and Chiron decides to drive back to Miami from Atlanta to visit him. The encounter is a little awkward as both men avoid talking too much about the past and their unstable futures. We don’t know what the future holds for Chiron… will he ever turn his life around and open his heart?

 
 
Overall, I thought the movie was alright. I thought the acting was great. I can appreciate the story itself and the gravitas it has in today’s society. But I did think the film moved on a little too slow.
 
I LOVE the movie poster. It’s very simplistic in its image and coloring, but intriguing in its effect; the three actors’ faces are sliced into one face- the three different, but related, colors also symbolizing the three parts of Chiron’s life journey in the film: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The color palette was fitting; in the first third of the film, Juan explains to “Little” why his nickname was “Blue” (an old Cuban lady said that when little black boys run under the moonlight, they soak up all the light and look blue).  I couldn’t help but think of the phrase, “black and blue” throughout the film. Chiron’s body took a beating, but more importantly, his heart did too.
 
This film was up against “Arrival”, “Fences”, “Hacksaw Ridge”, “Hell or High Water”, “Hidden Figures”, “Lion”, “Manchester by the Sea”, and the one everyone thought would snag the award, “La La Land”. Of these nominees, I have seen “Arrival” and “La La Land”, but I’m very interested in seeing a few of the others. I thought “Arrival” was VERY interesting- a subject I haven’t seen done much in movies (and I’m not talking about alien invasion). “La La Land” was cute. The ending kind of threw me and I’m not a fan of Emma Stone, so that may be why I’m not singing its praises (as a BIG fan of musicals). “Moonlight” also won awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was the lowest-grossing film among its nominees. From a historical standpoint regarding the Awards, this is the first film to win Best Picture that not only had a homosexual main character but also had a completely non-white cast.
 
FAVORITE SCENE:
 
Juan, albeit not perfect, was the father-figure that young Chiron was missing in his life. “Little” was desperate for the positive attention and their relationship was special, even if short-lived. It was reassuring to know that Chiron experienced a parental love like that in small doses. Who knows where he’d be if Juan (and his sweet girlfriend) never stepped into his life? One scene that made me smile was when Juan took Chiron to the beach to teach him to swim. The dialogue is barely audible over the music, but that’s intentional; it’s not the point. You can see the trust Chiron has in Juan as he learns to relax in the water and float. The symbolism here was not lost on me either… Juan’s hands, lightly supporting this emotionally fragile boy’s body, saying in so few words, “I’ve got you”.  
 
LESSONS LEARNED:

 
A child’s upbringing shapes who s/he becomes as an adult. The past leaves physical, emotional, and mental scars that affect the person’s life forever. This may seem obvious and almost cliché; but it is painfully apparent how precious the time is when a child is young. As adults, we have the responsibility to mold and shape our youth, equipping them with self-confidence, awareness, compassion, hope, and a drive to do good.

 
Children want (and need) to be heard. As parents/teachers/friends, we need to lend an ear as they learn to work through difficulties. We need to be available for them.