Friday, March 3, 2017

I Saw This Year's "Best Picture!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

                                   When I started watching the Academy Awards, as a star struck teenager, I held them sacrosanct.  I had to see as many of the nominated films as possible, but, no matter what, I had to see all the nominees for "Best Picture," because I wanted to go through life, having seen every "Best Picture."

                                      That was then, this is now.

                                       As I got older, I saw there were films I thought should have won over what did.  And, somewhere, let's say 1995, when "Braveheart" (which I never will see) took home the "Best Picture" Oscar, my desire to see these films waned.  And now, after what happened this year, anything is up for grabs.

                                        That said, I made a conscious desire to see "La La Land" and "Moonlight" in as rapid succession as possible, in order to judge for myself.

                                        Here is what I discovered.  While "La La Land" had elements more connected to me, it was  not at all moving.  The world "Moonlight" shows could not be more different from mine, yet I was drawn into it more than the first film by the beauty and power of the filmmaking and the actors.

                                          I have driven through these grimy Floridian communities in my lifetime.  But I have never seen a film portray them so honestly, yet poetically, as "Moonlight."  The film is handsomely photographed, giving a kind of beauty to ugly realities.  There were shots that just took my breath away.

                                          As did some of the performances--Mahershala Ali as Juan, to be sure, whose sense of compassion and decency amid the indecencies he himself deals with, anchors the film, and its viewers.  Likewise, I loved Naomie Harris' performance as Paula, the jonesing, drug addicted mother, but there were times I hated her, too.  The three actors playing Chiron--Alex R. Hibbert as "Little," Ashton Sanders as the teenage Chiron, and  Trevante Rhodes, as "Black," the adult Chiron, not to mention Andre Holland, as Kevin--I have never heard of, nor have many of you, but their work in this film will not be forgotten.  I will go as far to say that the final scene between Black and Kevin in the diner, will become as classic as that between Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger in the automobile, in "On The Waterfront."

                                         Bullying, betrayal, sexual ambiguity, hiding in the closet--there isn't one of these issues "Moonlight" is not afraid to tackle, and does so bravely.  One's conclusions are one's own; at the end, I hoped Black/Chiron would eventually come to terms with himself--my belief is he does--rather than hold out, like Closet Case Kevin.

                                          "Moonlight" is a haunting, poetic film.  It should be viewed on its own merits, not for being part of a mistake that will haunt it and "La La Land" for years to come.

                                            Cliches are clichés, darling, but "Moonlight" is illuminating.

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