(I know I’m late to the party, as per usual, but I’ve had my first day off in over a week so I’m trying to catch up on posts.)
This isn’t really a review, but as a huge supporter of both films I thought it was necessary to do a post about what happened at the Oscars and the aftermath of that.
For those of you who did not watch and somehow missed the absolute CHAOS on all social media platforms, Moonlight was nearly snubbed from a much deserved Best Picture win when the film gods staged a deus ex machina and swiped the win from the cast and crew of La La Land. Y’all, this was a historic moment for all of cinema and cinephiles like myself to be blessed to witness. And don’t get me wrong, I adored La La Land. I personally aspire to beat out Damien Chazelle as youngest winner of Best Director, solely for the purpose of beating out such an avant-garde director. Both of his hit films are in my top ten, for God’s sake. That said, I also adored Moonlight just as much as the former. “But Amy, how can you love both films when one was so bland and masturbatory to Hollywood and the Golden Age, and the other is an original piece filled with raw emotion and unorthodox beauty?”
Well, dear reader, I have some astounding news: You can appreciate two completely different entities for what they are without actually pitting them against one another. I am a huge supporter of televising the Golden Globes as well as the Oscars, but these damn award shows are not out there to pit one film against the others! The whole reason films are recognized are for their means of storytelling, not because A was better than B. Along with that, I don’t mean both deserved the Oscar in the most conventional of terms. While La La Land was chock full of cinematic beauty and dreamy plots of finding both love and fame, the writing was lacking, I’ll admit that. (side note: you also can love something while still recognizing it’s flaws. That’s how I am able to cope with Jared Leto’s bad decisions but still remain madly in love with him, and think One Day is one of the most beautiful love stories ever told but agree with it’s atrocious Rotten Tomatoes rating). And while Moonlight wasn’t any more deserving, being able to recognize the importance of an LGBT-centric movie in today’s era of cinema is really a lot of what pushed the win, I imagine (hey, that does NOT mean it wasn’t good otherwise. Like. Holy shit was James Laxton’s camera work on point).
While I want to perpetually tout La La Land‘s horn, understand that the writing wasn’t as great as Whiplash. I think many a time we writer’s struggle with trying to relate to someone who isn’t like us, and since Chazelle isn’t an aspiring actress from Boulder City, his writing for Mia’s part was somewhat stagnant and surface level. We don’t really get in depth into Mia’s true passion for acting, something we certainly get with Sebastian’s passion for jazz. His entire life revolves around jazz and getting to his success, but we barely see the struggle. Maybe we can take this as the inequality in moving up the ladder for women versus men, however I think that would be stretching it a bit, and would write it off as a little bit of laziness and desire to jump to the deep plot substance, which essentially was the love story and how it tied in with the main character’s dreams. We only see Mia’s struggle, and that’s where most of the conflict lies, which I think is a little unfair to make her choose between fully supporting Sebastian or fully supporting her career. And after your seventh time watching the film on the big screen and a bit of retrospective thinking, the movie is almost too uplifting for us fools who want to dream of an exciting life in entertainment. Although, it’s biggest hook and arguably it’s only upper hand on Moonlight is the ability to relate to it; everyone has a dream and with that dream, we have all seen and endured some sort of struggle to get to where we want to be.
Which brings me to Moonlight. Both films are insanely important to film, one in that it proves we can bring back our favorite schticks from the past and revolutionize it to relate to today’s audience, the other in that it finally brings forth some of the most important and quite marginalized individuals in our society and makes them incredibly real to the audience. While men like Chiron are not not real, many in the audience probably agree that they cannot relate. And therein lies my single and unsolvable issue with the film; if you have not endured Chiron’s pain, you probably won’t ever fully grasp the concepts behind the film. As a straight white woman, it’s not my job to relate, it’s just my job to recognize that it’s raw and real and very very hard for gay men and women to just be in a world where we are still attempting to accept “nontraditional” sexuality. And that I can accept. And that’s where we as an audience must begin; that maybe we don’t get it but we must be empathetic to a character, and honestly what easier way to do that than in a pitch black room full of strangers?
Like I’ve clearly stressed here, both films need to be recognized as some of the greatest in cinematic history. Film is no competition, and neither are award shows, no matter how much we might have wanted literally ANYONE in the Best Lead Actor category to beat an Oscar statuette over Casey Affleck’s head. I will leave you with this: next time you see a movie you really enjoyed, don’t immediately decide why you liked or disliked it. Instead, think of it’s message and the importance of it in society and how you can relate to it. I promise, if you look at movies from a more critical perspective toward the art, you might see and understand much more than you originally realized you could.
I’m not rating these two movies, but if I did, they would be in the “All Time Greatest” category.