After Moonlight won the Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards last month (following a huge blunder by Warren Beatty), I thought to list down 5 reasons why I think this beautiful movie deserved the prestigious accolade over the other contenders. The reasons might surprise you, and some might not. Read ahead with obvious spoilers in between.
I am a fan of coming-of-age movie and even books, so I can get quite critical when movie dubbed themselves as the following genre. However, Moonlight is a breath of a fresh air in this genre chronicling the three stages in Chiron, the main character’s life.
The fact that director Barry Jenkins divided Chiron’s life into three parts and make it portrayed by three different actors is refreshing and elaborative. The fear and confusion we see in the young Chiron followed by angst and anxiety during high school– these transition was portrayed in great manner, as expected even. The adult Chiron also gives a powerful end to the coming-of-age drama.
Nominated for Oscars, James Laxton‘s cinematography is without a doubt the best cinematography in 2016. The smooth pan camera action that swiftly move from one character to the other; the swirling shot in the beginning and during the fight scene, and, of course, the “baptism” scene that allows the camera to stay halfway in the water. Those not yet count the silent audio scene when Pula (Chiron’s mom) lashed out on him. The detail, skin and background contrast, angle and precision given to making Moonlight is breathtaking and inspiring to say the least. I usually combined technical aspects into one paragraph but for Moonlight, it needs to stand alone because the dedication is nothing short of astounding as it show that indie movie can have great cinematography too.
Dramatic musical score
Another beautiful aspect that is palpable in the movie. It’s almost impossible not to realised the difference in musical score in Moonlight. Nicholas Britell and director Barry Jenkins give Moonlight a different background and raised the bar for movies to think outside the box. The scene where young Chiron got beat up by the bullies was accompanied with classical opera number, which to be honest gave me the chills. The movie teased with the audience’s knowledge on how a movie’s score is usually select. Should a movie set in Miami’s ghetto stick with cliché hip-hop song blasting everywhere or can it be taken up a notch by presenting something different? Throughout watching Moonlight, I was in awe of the score choices on how marvelous and chilling-ly different it is than what I expected.
Yes, we all love Mahershala Ali as kindred drug dealer/mentor Juan, and drug-addict mother of Chiron, Paula, portrayed by Naomie Harris in the movie. Even the beautiful Janelle Monáe as Teresa stood out, I agree. However, the one actor that stood out for me is Ashton Sanders who played teen Chiron. His acting gave me the chills. The scene with Chiron in school being bullied or when he and Kevin shared an intimate moment by the beach; Ashton pulled it off like a pro! And it’s such a shame that the twenty-one-year-old actor didn’t get as much recognition as he deserved. Here you go, Ashton!
When I watched a movie, most of the time I know how it will end. But this is not the case with Moonlight. During the final stage in Chiron life, I got sidetrack and recalled thinking, “where this is going?”. Would it have a happy or a sad ending? Things got a little bit clearer when Black meets adult Kevin (played by the charming André Holland) in the diner he work at now. The two shared an intimate moment which includes lust, desire, fear and melancholy all together. They drives to Kevin’s home and had a heart-to-hear talk before the screen goes back to show child Chiron on the beach, staring into the camera. The open-ended note that concludes Moonlight is magnificent and brilliant because what’s better than the art of not knowing? The answer “will they/will they not” end together is open for your interpretation.
PS: Chiron and Kevin’s chemistry is intense. Period.
Moonlight is a movie that deals with seemingly common topic in a coming-of-age drama, but packaged in a beautiful, haunting body. The level of haute crafts showered in this one tops other movies in the Oscars Best Picture category in 2016.
Total score: 93/100