Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Moonlight 2016

         Seeing this film the other day made me realize why I love movies that tell a good story, and also why I make art, why I must tell my story and why artists all over the place have to tell theirs. This is a strong, lovely moving film set mainly in Florida in the 1980’s when living was hard, fast and drugged and sadly still is.
                  The film travels time to tell the story of a young African American boy Chiron who grows into a young man through the performances of  3 actors who are all wonderful, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes. There are three pieces to this story of Chiron who is battling his inner and outer demons on a rocky road that in the final chapter gives us some hope for his solace and redemption.
          Chiron who realizes early on that he is probably gay is taunted and bullied through most of the film, and is damaged by his interior world of poverty and a drug addicted mother. In a stereotype busting plot device Chiron is saved by a sensitive loving drug dealer and his marvelous young girlfriend who give him a respite, a few good meals a place to rest his weary head and soul and a life affirming lesson on being who he is.
          In the second part when Chiron is now a teenager trying to find a space for himself he connects with a classmate and on a moon lit beach one night share a very strong intimate moment that doesn’t last and leads to a disturbing bit of violence and betrayal that is monumental in its repercussions.
             The final part presents us with a tough grown up Chiron bulked up, butch, distant and doing bad things when a phone call from someone from his past sends him on a journey to his healing. Beautifully written by Barry Jenkins and Tarell McCraney who based it on McCraney’s play and directed by Jenkins who is solidly in place to become the first African American to win a best director Oscar. Any more plot from me would take away from your pleasure of discovering this small gem for yourself, but I will say that anyone not moved by the diner scene near the end of the film with the great Barbara Lewis singing “Hello Stranger” does not deserve my friendship.

But Wait There’s more, or then there’s Maude and what is that big black elephant doing in my living room.

              A few months ago all the talk of awards and fame were going to a movie that was pretty much sight unseen “The Birth Of A Nation”. That was until all that nasty talk came to light about it’s creators Nate Parker and his former roommate and co-writer on the film Jean Celestin and their collage disgrace of being accused and acquitted of sexual assault while students at Pennsylvania State University. The complainant committed suicide in 2012. This baby still born was definitely being tossed out with the bath water. What was going on?
              This was the movie that was going to put the diversity charges against the Oscars to rest and would usher in a new major African American talent. But this as we now know has not happened. The movie has caused big discussions but not in a good way, and boycotts of the film have appeared all over the place.
             By this time I would have certainly seen the film, but I am so conflicted over these terrible accusations that I can’t bring myself to see it. It didn’t help the film or me that the reviews were mixed (that’s putting it mildly) and it is a box office flop. It also didn’t help that Parker offered weak excuses and bad TV and press interviews.  Not good.  Rape and sexual aggression has of course been front and center in this horrible national election cycle and also it seems to me does nothing to help the film’s chances with audiences and awards alike. |
           It also doesn’t help the film that Variety in it’s Oscar predictions places it in the deplorable category of “Also In Play” while “Moonlight” is sitting pretty in the paper’s top 10 choices of getting a best picture nod.  Which brings me back to the Oscars which has a chance to finally show its diversity and make history by giving awards to a African American director and a film that is a mature and impressive look at the challenges facing men of color whose love is for other men.
                This would indeed be a major breakthrough for them, taking away some of the bad taste left over from the homophobic denial of giving the best picture Oscar to Brokeback Mountain a few years ago.  It will also be a nice going away present for the Obama’s and a final slap in the face to the orange monster. So Jada darling start picking out your gown and shoes because girlfriend we are going to the Oscars this year.   


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