Moonlight Triumphs



One of the great mys­ter­ies of the show biz world is how it is that the most gift­ed, tal­ent­ed and ambi­tious stars in Hol­ly­wood con­trive to pro­duce the most tedious tele­vi­sion pro­gramme of the entire year. The Oscars are so drea­ri­ly pre­dictable and every ges­ture has plain­ly been chore­o­graphed with­in an inch of its life.

Iron­i­cal­ly, quite how redun­dant the Oscars are as a tv show was fur­ther high­light­ed by this year’s extra­or­di­nary GUBU – that’s Grotesque Unbe­liev­able Bizarre and Unprece­dent­ed for the unini­ti­at­ed. Because the vast major­i­ty of peo­ple who sub­se­quent­ly watched that, there’s no oth­er word for it, unbe­liev­able cock-up will have seen it as a clip on Youtube, there­by avoid­ing hav­ing to sit through the hours and hours of tedi­um that it was pre­ced­ed and fol­lowed by. On the off chance that you missed it, here it is.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which lost to ?

Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Drag­on, which lost to Glad­i­a­tor.

Unusu­al­ly, they actu­al­ly got is right this year. Moon­light real­ly is the best film of the year. But under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, few mem­bers of the Acad­e­my would have both­ered tak­ing their dvd copy out of its box – they gave the Best Pic­ture award to Bird­man over Boy­hood (reviewed ear­li­er here) in 2014, to The King’s Speech over Toy Sto­ry 3 and The Social Net­work in 2010, and to Glad­i­a­tor over Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Drag­on and Traf­fic in 2000.

Based on the unpub­lished play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moon­light is divid­ed into three acts as we fol­low the grow­ing pains of a young black kid as a child, a teenag­er and as a young man. The dam­aged only child of a drug-addled moth­er who pays for her habit the only way she can, he is ren­dered all the more shy and awk­ward by virtue of being secret­ly gay. All of which screams hope­less­ly dull but drea­ri­ly worthy.

12 Years A Slave, another surprise winner in 2012, and also supported by Brad Pitt.

12 Years A Slave, anoth­er sur­prise win­ner in 2013, and, like Moon­light, also sup­port­ed by Brad Pitt.

Hap­pi­ly, indeed impres­sive­ly, the film soars above and beyond its the­atri­cal ori­gins and rather than being sub­ject­ed to the sort of preachy lec­ture that the mate­r­i­al sug­gests, what we get instead is a vision that some­how man­ages to be both impres­sion­is­tic and cool­ly detached at the same time. Direc­tor Bar­ry Jenk­ins, whose sec­ond film this is, worked on the script with McCraney, and both do a remark­able job of free­ing the mate­r­i­al from its source and inject­ing gen­uine cin­e­mat­ic life into it. But they man­age to do so with­out ever los­ing sight of quite how hor­ren­dous­ly dif­fi­cult grow­ing up is for a gay black kid in the sub­urbs, when the only hope any of them ever have of escape is of tai­lor­ing to, and feed­ing off, peo­ple like his mother.

Boyhood, which lost to Birdman.

Boy­hood, which lost to Bird­man.

Mag­nif­i­cent yes, but not quite the mas­ter­piece some would have you believe. In parts one and two, every time he tries to just get on with his life the out­side world comes crash­ing down on him and it’s heart wrench­ing to wit­ness. But by the time we get to the third and final part, the world leaves him momen­tar­i­ly in peace, and he is final­ly giv­en space to breathe. So you leave the cin­e­ma on a much lighter note than you might have expect­ed, but you are left feel­ing ever so slight­ly short changed.

The brilliant if dark Toy Story 3.

That’s how you make sequels.

But that is a minor quib­ble. This is a major film and Jenk­ins is a seri­ous tal­ent. Let’s just hope he man­ages to walk away from the obscene amounts of mon­ey that as we speak will be appear­ing on tables in front of him across the whole of Hol­ly­wood. Just say no.

You can see the trail­er for Moon­light here.

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