The Best Picture of 2016: Moonlight
It’s almost April and I just got around to seeing the Best Picture winner of 2016. Goes to show you what I thought of this year in film. Not that this was a bad year, it’s just that nothing really grabbed me like the past few years. There were only three films I actually wanted to see in theaters that I could remember: La La Land, American Honey, and Moonlight. I didn’t even see American Honey, and to be honest, it felt like no one even talked about it. I thought it could potentially be the movie that finally captures the zeitgeist of my generation, but since no one gave it much hype I didn’t bother.
I wanted to see Moonlight when it first came to theaters because so many people were calling it a masterpiece and it was the first Oscar contender of the year, but honestly it’s not easy to convince my straight, white, all male friends to go see a movie about a gay black guy. I’m never too shy to go see a movie by myself, but since film sort of snuck its way out of my life for this past year, I didn’t even get to see what I now consider to be the best movie of 2016. was very good, and the average cinema goer would probably prefer it over Moonlight, but I don’t consider myself the average cinema goer.
Now, Moonlight, is no Mulholland Drive or Antonioni film — a.k.a films for the hardcore cinephiles to decipher, but it’s definitely for people who take cinema seriously. It’s a straight up drama with almost no comedy and little pure action — my type of film. It’s broken into three chapters of the main character’s life, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, respectively, each part title by the name the protagonist is called. First he’s called Little, given by his mentor, Juan, played by Mahershala Ali (who won best Supporting Actor), then he’s called Chiron, which is he real name, then Black, which is the name Kevin calls him. Kevin is the other gay man in the film, the only man Chiron ever touches sexually.
It’s an intense film, filled with great scenes and characters. One of the most interesting characters is Chiron’s mother, played by Naomi Harris, who is a drug addict and is emotionally abusive toward her son. This plays a huge role in Chiron’s life as he matures. He’s bullied at school, and has no safe place at home either. His mother calls him a faggot on more than one occasion, and that’s why he spends a lot of his time away from both, at Juan and his wife, Teresa’s house. Perhaps his mother is self loathing too because there is no sign of a father anywhere, and the only way she handles it is by using drugs and escaping from her own miserable life. This cyclical pattern is common in all walks of life, but maybe more common in the low socioeconomic cultures as presented here. The film doesn’t offer a solution or a moral like some people might expect; it just shows how life is for someone like Chiron or Little or Black, in Miami, in the slums.
The film works not because it’s simply about a gay man in a culture where being gay is completely unnacceptable. It works becasue it is about an outcast. It shows us what being different is like, how it’s tough, and in this extreme case, how it can affect every decision you make.
I wanted to keep this post short, for I am working on other things right now, mainly a few videos I have been thinking about lately. I just wanted to talk about this wonderful film, even for a little bit.
Moonlight’s third act is a bit slow and lacks focus, but that’s okay since the story is told how it wanted to be told.