The 89th Academy Awards will be severely tainted in February by recent political events which will unfairly push attention away from some very deserving films. The awards show has long ago since turned itself into a soapbox for political speak instead of focusing on the very reason for its creation; cinema art. If the show would spend half the time devoting itself to cinema history and the very films it has nominated, as opposed to the nudge nudge wink wink of sociopolitical commentary, maybe more people would tune in.
The American independent film scene in 2016 rose to great prominence and promise judging from the releases. The standouts include Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester By The Sea”, Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land”, Kirsten Johnson’s “Cameraperson”, Matt Ross’ “Captain Fantastic”, The Daniel’s “Swiss Army Man”, Robert Egger’s “The Witch”, David MacKenzie’s “Hell Or High Water” and the one film that has stood out from this well regarded crowd; the astounding Barry Jenkin’s film “Moonlight”.
There are very good reasons why “Moonlight” is the best American film of 2016 and richly deserves the Best Picture Oscar in February. In fact, there are ten good reasons why you need to see this, if you have not already done so.
1.) This is a story about all of us, regardless of your color, sexual orientation, gender, religious affiliations, political beliefs, etc.. We all yearn for love and we all want to belong.
2.) The striking cinematography by James Laxton captures images and moments that stay with you long after you have left the theater.
3.) You will never see more naturalistic and honest performances this year than what is witnessed in this story told by three different actors at three different stages in a young man’s life.
4.) The script, by Barry Jenkins, reveals African American masculinity in ways audiences have never seen depicted before. Insight, such as displayed here, is rare.
5.) The subject matter is treated with a stunning honesty and forthrightness that is refreshing to experience in an adult-themed film. No other film this year touches upon the loneliness and yearning we all experience in our lives.
6.) Nicolas Brittel’s music score never overreaches in scenes, but compliments the emotions on screen. The choice of current songs (many are spot on) adds realism and a soundtrack to this young man’s life on the Miami streets.
7.) The achingly beautiful last scene between two lost, but found people is worth the price of admission alone.
8.) Mentors are needed in any young person’s life and this film beautifully illustrates it from the unlikeliest of people. Sometimes mentors drop into your life and you glean all you can before they disappear.
9.) Audiences scream for more original films with all the sequel blockbusters we are saddled with. “Moonlight” is a film for the ages and there seems to be nothing we can compare it to. A true original.
10.) “Moonlight” teaches us the common language of love and acceptance. Its language is both poetic and street-wise. One walks away from the film a better person for the experience. It is an experience worth repeating and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the mark of a truly great film.
(pictured: writer/director Barry Jenkins [right] and writer Tarrell Alvin McCraney)
“Moonlight” (2016) written and directed by Barry Jenkins from an original play by Tarrell Alvin McCraney. Cinematography by James Laxton