Review: Moonlight (2016)

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I actually watched Moonlight one day before it won this year’s Best Picture Oscar in the most twisting way in the history of the Academy Awards, but I only got to review it now. The way it turned out, this win was completely unexpected, but probably not undeserving at all. Moonlight is a sensational tale that explores human nature like few films do. It is not as an easy watch as the “Best Picture” frontrunner La La Land or in fact any of the other contenders for the prestigious award. Nevertheless, it makes for a breathtaking picture if the viewers allow themselves to take the enthralling trip it offers.

The story is split in three parts. The main character for all of them is Chiron, first as a young boy, then a teenager and finally a grown man. There’s no conventional timeline, the plot just jumps from one part to another skipping several years. Moonlight doesn’t try to tell a story, but rather showcase life with all its struggles and pains through the eyes of a black boy in a rough Miami neighbourhood. Chiron is a symbol for everyone growing up in a world they don’t understand but being unable to escape. He is different yes, but aren’t we all? Is it so difficult to find someone who really cares about you? Is it so bad to behave differently, to feel differently, to address sexuality differently? The film is as powerful as a film can get. Of course it is not for everyone, it doesn’t offer the kind of light entertainment a lot of people look for when going to the cinema, but it has the ability to affect deeply in an emotional level if one is patient.

The script was written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins (who also directed it) and it was inspired by their memories and experiences as young black people growing up in Miami. Surprisingly, it is Jenkin’s only second feature film, the first being Medicine for Melancholy. His work in Moonlight is impressive. It is bold, aesthetic and clearly directed with careful attention to detail. The score and Mahershala Ali’s supporting role performance are the icing on the cake. It’s not that I predicted its surprising “Best Picture” win in the Oscars, but I really felt it was the only film that could rival La La Land. Overall, Moonlight is by all means a magnificent picture and I believe that the recognition it gained will give hope to many an ambitious filmmaker out there who’s not looking for Hollywood’s cliché formula.

9/10

The greatest moments from the 89th Academy Awards

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The 89th Academy Awards ceremony was definitely a fascinating one. There were surprises, mistakes, lots of fun and of course lots of stars. Here’s a list with the most memorable moments from last night’s ceremony.

Suicide Squad won an Oscar

As one member of the studio pointed out last night, we can now refer to Suicide Squad  as “the Oscar-winning movie”, joking that it had more awards than The Shawshank Redemption. Yes, the superhero (or I should say supervillain) film has gone against the odds to win the Academy Award for “Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling”, becoming one of the lowest rated films to do so. I’m an ignorant when it comes to hairstyling, so I’m not going to judge the decision although we have to give it to the Academy for recognizing a good aspect in an otherwise bad film.

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Jimmy Kimmel’s bullying at Matt Damon

Matt Damon had predicted that his presence in a ceremony hosted by Jimmy Kimmel was “going to probably be ugly”. He was right. Jimmy Kimmel did everything to hit on Damon reigniting their infamous feud. Kimmel called him fat, selfish, a jerk, joked about his acting, he even took over as conductor to play him off while he was trying to announce the “Best Original Screenplay” nominees.

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Casey Affleck’s win

Casey Affleck did not only beat Denzel Washington to win the Oscar for “Best Actor in a Leading Role”, he also beat his brother and childhood friend Matt Damon, the latter’s first nomination dating back in 1998. Affleck was among the favourites, especially after winning both the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for his performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. However, even if his performance was widely acclaimed, many felt that he should have never been nominated after the controversial sexual harassment lawsuits against him in 2010. The incidents resurfaced a few months ago when Manchester by the sea  started gaining the public’s attention, but  apparently they weren’t enough to persuade the Academy

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Viola Davis’ acceptance speech

Davis was the frontrunner for the “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” category, so her win was not a surprise at all. A powerful and emotional speech was also expected by most and the acclaimed actress didn’t disappoint. Her acceptance speech left everyone speechless with many in the audience crying and Jimmy Kimmel joking that her speech had earned her an Emmy.

Exhume those stories — the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist, and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.” – part of the speech.

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The records that were broken

It was a night filled with records. Damien Chazelle became the youngest person to win the “Best Director” award at 32 years. OJ: Made in America won the statuette for best documentary becoming the longest film ever to win an Oscar with a running time of 7 hours and 47 minutes. Redemption came at last for Kevin O’Connell who won an Oscar after being nominated for 20 different films in the past with not a single win. This was the biggest losing streak in the Oscars’ history. Finally, even though it sounds surprising, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim ever to win an Oscar for an acting category.

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Asghar Farhadi’s message

Iran won its second “Best Foreign Language Film” Oscar last night for The Salesman, but sadly, the director of the film, Asghar Farhadi, didn’t attend the ceremony. The reason was Donald Trump’s ban that denies entry to the US to citizens of 7 countries including Iran. Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari accepted the award on his behalf and read a message written by him for the occasion. Farhadi’s expressed his frustration over the controversial ban calling it disrespectful and inhumane.

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La La Land won best picture, oh wait…

The night was almost over. There was only one award remaining: “Best Motion Picture of the Year”. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were summonned to announce the winner with La La Land  being the favourite. Warren Beatty opened the envelope, paused and after a puzzling look, he passed it over to Dunaway who announced La La Land as the winner. The winners (Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt and Fred Berger) began their speech and the ceremony was reaching its end. But no, it couldn’t end like this. The night had a plot twist worthy of a Hitchcockian thriller. Horowitz announced that the real winner was Moonlight. Among disbelief from pretty much everyone, the content of the winner’s envelope was revealed. It was plain: “Best Picture – Moonlight”. I was trying to figure out if a mistake did happen or if it was another of Kimmel’s jokes, when Beatty said that he was given the wrong envelope and specifically the one for “Best Actress in a Leading Role”. Now Emma Stone had won the award for that category. That explained Beatty’s puzzling look. However, the envelope was passed to Faye Dunaway who just said “La La Land”. This might well be the biggest mistake in the history of the awards and it is definitely one of the main reasons we will remember this year’s ceremony.

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You can see the results in detail on http://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/2017

Congratulations to all the winners!