MOONLIGHT

“Possibility number one: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: you’re all racists,” Ellen DeGeneres artfully quipped when hosting in 2014. Well, not surprisingly, the story has repeated itself after a year where the absolute lack of diversity in the cinematic artform drew harsh criticism towards the Academy. Perfect timing for Moonlight (2016), a sluggish, pitiful and wildly overrated production that beat Fences in the Best Screenplay category and La La Land for Best Picture

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Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali (Juan) holds Alex Hibbert (“Little” Chiron)

Despite lacking the extraordinary gifts of playwright August Wilson (who adapted Fences from his own Broadway play) and the mind-blowing creativity of the amazingly-crafted and well-rounded feature by Damien Chazelle, this Barry Jenkins film hit the jackpot by depicting the childhood, teenage years and adulthood of a black, gay, poor man. And since, in Jimmy Kimmel’s words, “the only thing that we value more than diversity is congratulating ourselves on how much we value diversity,” the Academy felt the social need to reward it with the top prizes, or else the hashtags and the shame would have stoned its members for another whole year. This decision is frankly annoying to open-minded moviegoers like myself. And I don’t speak from a place of white privilege. So, even though my opinion is subjective, that of a non-pundit and I very well may have not understood the piece, I believe diversity should never replace actual talent for the sake of a social lesson.

Based upon Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, this 2016 film stars Trevante Rhodes, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali. As disappointing as most of its features are, there’s one perfomance that stands out in my view and that’s Harris’, who played a more than convincing crack addict. Mahershala Ali apparently caught the eyes of critics, moving away from an Emmy nomination fot should-have-been 2016 ‘s Best Drama Series House of Cards to an Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor.

His performance (the first one by a Muslim to be awarded in an acting category), much like Anne Hathaway’s in Les Misérables, is not Oscar-level (15 minutes-long and miles away from trascendent), but holds up enough to represent something “out of the box” that the other nominees’ fail to – in this case the tolerance and sympathy of a black, somewhat troubled father figure. But then again, the statuette could have gone in its day to, for example, Viola Davis (12 minutes opposite Queen Meryl playing an African-American woman whose son is reportedly abused by a priest and her income doesn’t enable her to change him to another school.) The rest of the cast does the job but not impressively, in my opinion lacking the depth that the direction and script attempt to convey. The cinematography, however, is fantastic. Representative of the difficult feelings and the dark ambiance, while the music is intentionally pretty much a no-show.

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Ashton Sanders as “Black” Chiron

The unlikelihood of an LGBT movie with an all-black cast and a $1.5M budget winning Best Picture is such that makes it all the more commendable. And without a doubt, a victory for society, especially in a time like this. But previous LGBT films like Philadelphia (1994), Carol (2015), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), Beginners (2010) or Victor/Victoria (1982) won neither Best Picture nor Best Screenplay. Nor did productions featuring black actors like The Help (2011), Flight (2012), Glory (1989) or The Color Purple (1985) even though they starred performers with the potential of Viola Davis, Whoopi Goldberg or Denzel Washington. Same for this year’s Golden Globes, where nine-freaking-time Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus lost out to a critically deemed dull, underwhelming Tracy Ellis Ross simply because the latter was the most “diverse” candidate in the category, when Louis-Dreyfus won the SAG and Emmy Award (for a reord-breaking sixth time in a row.)

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Trevante Rhodes as “Adult” Chiron

In short, I’m of the opinion that Moonlight (2016) is possibly the most overrated film I’ve ever seen. I realize I go for the standard of awards and movies when, especially independent ones like this, are meant to touch audiences. But the 6,000 members of the Academy are the closest to a supposedly unbiased group of diverse voters. So let’s award diversity, but talented diversity like Hidden Figures or Fences. Otherwise the praise becomes cynism and surely unfair to groundbreaking performers who deserve it as much if not more.

Running time: 1h 51 minutes.

Country: United States.

Release date: October 21, 2016

Box office: $55.8M

Grade: D

All images are taken from Google.

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