I appreciate the response and totally understand your opinion / point of view on Moonlight. I too appreciated the way they portrayed Chiron and thought the 3-act structure was a great way of giving insight into his growth as a person and character. My initial comment was more due to frustration towards the film critics, Oscar prognosticators, and media at large for the way they discussed the film. Your comment alone provided more insight into the contrasting styles of the two films than the majority of the think-pieces and Oscar previews I read this season, which were far too focused on the “Oscar narrative” and where these movies fit in amidst a climate of #Oscarssowhite & the 2016 election, etc.
As for the actual movies, I liked (but didn’t love) Moonlight. I think my favorite aspect of the film was the 3-pronged performance as Chiron. Yet while I appreciated the dialogue and the way the movie didn’t spoon feed information to the viewer, I overall thought the film was TOO understated for my taste. I felt similar about Manchester By The Sea. In the case of both films, I appreciated the acting/tone/dialogue, but I left feeling like not much had actually happened. While I appreciated seeing the 3 segments of Chiron’s life, I didn’t particularly care or understand why his story was special. I understand that it’s an under-told story, but I just didn’t find Chiron (or his path) to be that fascinating or unique. While I thought the first 2 segments fit nicely together, I didn’t really buy into him becoming a tough gangster, and I kept expecting something more notable/traumatic/uplifting to happen to Chiron to make the story feel worthwhile. Additionally, I feel like I’d seen many aspects of the story better portrayed in other recent films — most notably the 3 act structure recently used in Place Beyond the Pines.
I agree with you that La La Land’s power is all in the ending and the idea of balancing dreams & love, but I think the differentiating factor for me was overall enjoyment. I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the majority of Moonlight, but respected the artistry on screen. Meanwhile, La La Land grabbed my attention and entertained me throughout, only to then drop a bombshell of an ending to provide much-needed depth to the story. I left La La Land with much more to discuss / think about than I did when I left Moonlight, which just left me feeling moderately sad/hopeful.