Why 'Moonlight' Should Win Best Picture
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Why 'Moonlight' Should Win Best Picture

Hopefully this year we can put the #OscarsSoWhite trend behind us

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Why 'Moonlight' Should Win Best Picture
David Bornfriend/A24

Although La La Land is the film that left critics and audiences buzzing this award show season – and rightfully so – I believe that Moonlight most deserves to win best picture.

The movie is a stunning portrait of Chiron, a poor, black boy growing up in the projects of Miami, struggling with questions of his sexuality, race, class and ultimately his place in the world. The narrative is split into three parts: his time as a young boy learning from his mentor Juan (Mahershala Ali), his time as a sexually confused teenager subjected to constant bullying by his classmates and his time as a young adult who both defied and conformed to his circumstances.

The cinematography is simple and understated, oftentimes shot in shaky long takes that make the audience feel as if they are right next to – or even in the shoes of – Chiron. The colors are appropriately deep and moody, most noticeably highlighting dark hues of blue and purple. The soundtrack is subtle and demanding at once, flawlessly capturing the dichotomies of Chiron’s maturation – innocence versus experience, silence versus expression, responsibility versus recklessness. Each actor’s performance is simple and breathtaking, inviting the audience to immerse themselves in Chiron’s reality.

This is the key difference that I found between La La Land and Moonlight. Each stunning and deserving in their own right, I felt that I was hyper-aware of La La Land as a film, whereas with Moonlight, I found myself wholly submerged within it.

In fact, the most beautiful scene of the film literally submerges the audience in the ocean as Juan first teaches Chiron how to swim. The camera bobs up and down with the waves, half underwater, as Juan supports Chiron while he floats on his back in a baptism-like sequence. Afterwards, while they sit together on the beach, Juan tells Chiron: “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you're going to be. Can't let nobody make that decision for you.”

This moment, I think, perfectly encapsulates the message that writer-director Barry Jenkins was trying to convey with Moonlight. The audience first watches Chiron learn about his reality as a boy, asking questions about drug pedaling and what the word “faggot” means. We then see him testing the limits of this newly acquired knowledge in his adolescent years, experimenting sexually, facing off against his bullies and coming to terms with his mother’s drug addiction. Finally, we see how all of these experiences shape him into the young man that he becomes in the film’s wonderfully quiet conclusion.

With Moonlight, Jenkins isn’t just trying to narrate a sullen coming-of-age story with a rarely scripted gay, black protagonist. In fact, despite the film’s moroseness, I walked out of the theater content and remarkably calm. With Moonlight, Jenkins tries and succeeds in universalizing the story of Chiron, a character of minority. He creates a space for audiences to empathize with a person that may be born and bred into entirely different circumstances than their own.

In short, Jenkins reminds us with Jaun’s words that despite our circumstances, we alone are responsible for who we become, that coming-of-age is a shared part of the human experience, that we’re not so different after all – a message we must work to understand now more than ever.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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