One of the things that I try to do every year is watch all or most of the Oscar nominated films for Best Picture. Moonlight was the film that actually won the coveted award...well at least once they recovered from their mistake of announcing La La Land. There was a lot of hype around this film due to the subject matter of the film; growing up as a black gay man in a subculture where that is highly looked down upon. The film was good, relatively well written and acted, but honestly I don't think it deserved the Oscar which I'm pretty sure it won for pure political reasons as opposed to mainly on merit alone. The film follows a young black man, Chiron, who struggles to survive in a world as a young black gay boy then as a man, and that's pretty much it. The film is divided into essentially three thirty-five minute vignettes starting with the main character as a boy, then a teenager and finally as an adult man. The three individuals who brought this character to life: Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes all did a fine job portraying this character and their performances were admirable. The character though was very dull and boring. Granted there was so much to explore and so much depth, but Chiron seemed to say very little throughout the entire film, and as soon as the character seemed to go somewhere the film would advance to the next chronological incarnation of the same character. It was this three part split which I believe sabotaged the film greatly; the majority of the film should have been spent when he was an adult finally coming to terms with his reality as opposed to suppressing it. His childhood friend, Kevin, whom he had a crush on was played by: Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and Andre Holland. A lot of potential in this character, but it was never really fleshed out well; quite disappointing. Naomie Harris played Chiron's junkie, abusive and neglectful mother; she did great, but her skills really weren't put to good use since her role was so small considering the impact such a character would have on a young boy and man (she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress). It was interesting watching her performance on screen as it reminded me of some of my previous clients' mothers. Mahershala Ali played Juan the drug dealer who was some sort of "father figure" for Chiron when he was a boy, and then he disappeared from the film without any explanation for his absence which was poor writing I thought. He won an Oscar for his supporting role, and it's probably because he had the best performance in the entire film even though it was small and very short. That was pretty much it, although Janelle Monae played Teresa, Juan's wife, who became a sort of surrogate mother for Chiron. She was a breath of fresh air for the film, but once again she vanished after the first two vignettes. That was essentially the entire cast, or rather what mattered the most in regards to the story.
So the film was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won 3: Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Barry Jenkins wrote and directed the film which was based off a story written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, and for the most part they both did a good job. I just believe that what really sunk this film for me was how it was divided up into three distinct timeline with distinct characters which made it seem like three separate short films rather than one singular film. It also wasn't long enough. The ending was anti-climactic and seemed to happen far too quickly. The music by Nicholas Britell was somehow nominated for an Academy Award, and I would have to assume it was for political reasons as that's the only reason I could rationalize how it was even nominated as the music itself was blah, although there was a point where I thought a good motif was coming and then it just sunk. The cinematography by James Laxton was perhaps the best technical element in the film; it just worked so well for the narrative, and visually was quite striking at times; it too was also nominated for an Academy Award. Somehow the film was nominated for the Best Editing Academy Award, but I think that is what weakened the film so once again it had to be for political reasons. Overall I was very disappointed with the film. It had such great potential, but it just came across as three short films put together rather than one seamless piece of exquisite cinema which was just in reach since it was such a compelling story. That goes to show that you can have an awesome story, great characters, good acting, but if it isn't put together well then all of those other factors don't matter. Of all the films to win Best Picture, it shouldn't have been Moonlight. It was good, but it wasn't great and only truly great films should win the most coveted prize for films on the entire planet. I hate ending on depressing notes, but I read in the Wall Street Journal the other day that the Syrian government is reportedly using a crematorium to cover up mass murders that it has been undertaking. Yet, it seems the U.S. Congress and large portion of the U.S. public is more concerned about chasing conspiracy theories and settling political scores than history repeating itself again. Holocaust Remembrance Day was about a month ago, and here we have another tyrannical regime committing genocide and trying to cover it up the same way the Nazis did, and yet no one seems to care. There is something terribly wrong with my country the United States of America, and the world, and I am concerned that as time continues to pass that this kind of behavior will only worsen. People need to step outside their own circumstances and really contemplate what is truly important in life, and what matters.
Moonlight interview with Trevante Rhodes & Andre Holland