The Oscars are this Sunday and it’s no secret that La La Land is the clear front-runner right now to take home the big prize (Best Picture). Dominating entertainment and social media buzz since its release, La La Land has a chance to win as many as 14 Oscars, which would break the record for a single movie. (Titanic, Ben-Hur, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King each won 11 Oscars). Besides La La Land, eight other movies are nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. And while I consider them all dark horses at this point, Moonlight stands the best chance at pulling an upset. La La Land was the best movie I saw in 2016; but in my opinion Moonlight was the most important movie released in 2016. After viewing it for a second time over the holiday weekend I can see why Oscar voters could lean towards this heartbreaking, three-part story.
I first saw Moonlight on Tuesday, November 8 2016, which was also Election Day. I wanted to get away from all the political hoopla that dominated television and social media and I figured an escape to the movies would help keep my mind off the state of our country for at least a couple of hours. But while I was watching Moonlight, I wasn’t entirely focused and felt the urge to check my phone every few minutes to see how the elections were progressing. While I never checked my phone during the showing of the movie, my state of mind kept me from fully appreciating Moonlight as a whole. As I left the theater and began to check the election results, I considered Moonlight to be “just fine,” but did not fully understand all the critical acclaim the movie received. But over this past weekend, I wanted to give Moonlight my full attention on a second viewing and checked it out on Digital HD.
Taking place over three acts and focusing on an adolescent African American, Moonlight tackles subject matters that are not so nimble. Moonlight grapples with crucial moments people encounter throughout their lives and doesn’t hold back. One scene in particular at the end of Act One has gotten me in both of my viewings. The scene is heartbreaking, perhaps because it deals with something many of us went through when we were growing up – trying to find our identity. Moonlight’s view that love, friendship, and family form one’s identity is not only near-flawlessly told, but also speaks volumes about the part of the American culture we all inhabit. The humanity in the characters we encounter in Moonlight as the story progresses weigh on us as we see the choices they make affect their future selves. Moonlight might leave some viewers distraught and I can see why. Whether we witness a violent outburst or a moment of silence on screen, Moonlight’s message and its struggles that go along with it feel real and relevant. The events portrayed in Moonlight don’t feel forced; they paint a picture of life shown beautifully in a dark light, which make them all the more fragile and complex, also sensitive and intimate.
I’m glad I revisited Moonlight because I now see it for the remarkable movie it truly is. I could go on and on about Moonlight, whether it’s the outstanding acting, technical aspects, or story itself. But you most likely have already heard enough critical acclaim for the movie. Sure, I still think La La Land is going to win Best Picture at the Oscars this Sunday. But if one movie were to pull the upset, it would be Moonlight. Moonlight is an important movie that must be viewed perhaps more than once in order to be able to understand its profound message. While it certainly isn’t for everyone, it is a movie that I encourage everyone to see in order to understand how our love blossoms through growth and self-acceptance. And considering the immense divide separating America, we could all use a bit more loving, I think.
Moonlight is now available on Digital HD and will be available on Blu-ray on Tuesday, February 28.