For the last few years, the BAFTA and Oscars have disappointed me in who the judging panel chose for best film (or picture). This year, only BAFTA did. That being said, the infamous mistake at the Oscars will go down in history for more reasons than one. The most important one (but not always the main one) being how this incredible and quite life changing film was cruelly ripped away from the opportunity to truly and deeply relish in the moment that was rightfully theirs. It was and is incredible that an independent film dealing with some of the most important and invisible issues within society, within the lives of the young and vulnerable should win the Oscar over a blockbuster classic. When Emma Stone was interviewed after the calamity, she stated how “Moonlight is one of the best films of the decade” she couldn’t be more right.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved La La Land. It acted as pure escapism with an amazing sound track and cinematography that took my breath away. However, it’s not always about the cinematography, sometimes that just isn’t enough. I can think of no better example of this than last year’s smash hit, The Reverent directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and staring the household favourite- Leonardo DiCaprio. The film its self is stunning with the Alaskan landscape panning far and wide. It was of course extremely impressive how DiCaprio filmed in the harsh Kaminski’s Country and I am in no position to comment on how hard that would make ones acting ability. However, there was something missing for me in the story line of the film- I found myself getting restless somewhere towards the middle, struggling to be completely invested in the story line. There is of course the strong and highly likely possibility that I am simply just failing to appreciate art for what it is after all, who am I to judge a film and go against some of the world’s best renowned film critics. It seems to becoming a recurring theme with me for it happened when watching Palme d’Or winner, The Tree of Life, written and directed by Terrence Malick, starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain. Unlike The Reverent, I could understand the dark and deep messages conveyed in The Tree of Life as the film focus on the way anger and control can manifest itself in so many ways and how one may take this out on the people surrounding them. Furthermore, religion is used to add that extra layer to the film- but some may be inclined to argue that this theme is over done in its self. As a side note, from the experience I’ve had with film the best picture to represent an abuse of power both with family and the people around you that is enhanced by religion is There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and staring 2008 Oscar winner for best Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis. I apologise for the fact most this paragraph has been somewhat of a digression from its original point- La La Land. Though I was appreciative of the fact the story line moved away from the typical Hollywood love story- there was something missing from it for me. That extra layer of depth and that rawness. Perhaps I’m failing to appreciate the escapism in its full glory.
Moonlight had that rawness. It is the combined story of the directors up-bringing; something so personal to them that it caused supporting actress Naomie Harris to question her ability to bring the role to life. She needn’t off worried. Her portrayal of a mother battling between caring for her child to best of her ability whilst dealing with an ever-growing drug problem is chilling. One of my all-time favourite films is The Breakfast Club, directed by John Hughes; I love it due to the simplicity of it. It is not a film over-done by incredible cinematography or fancy filming angles; the storyline of the film and the acting carries it so much it makes other factors irrelevant. I used to think that this is all a film needed for me to marvel in its excellence (others may disagree), this opinion was backed up by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It is worth noting the obvious, that these are old films and therefore the opportunity for great effects (or CGI) was almost definitely limited. However, this sort of added to the rustic appeal of them, highlighting their incredible story lines with interesting and profound character arcs and growth. As mentioned before this caused me to become a massive doubter in the power of cinematography, I could see the apple if used in small and clever ways such as in There Will Be Blood– it won another Oscar for this and yet didn’t over power the basic story line due to the complex and grilling amount of substance it had. Despite this, until I saw Moonlight I was still a disbeliever. The cinematography and the different filming techniques are not overbearing to the film, but somehow add to the high intensity of emotions running through it. They are used to guide the audience through the film and help one connect to the characters being portrayed- creating a strange intimacy.
Because of this you have an amazing story line with so much depth and character depth and character devilment- one that truly impacts on the audience. One may argue that the incredible, Palme d’Or and BAFTA Best British Film winning I, Daniel Blake directed by the infamous Ken Loach also supplies the same content. Both films are independent from Hollywood and both tell a powerful storyline that evokes emotions within the very heart of the audience. Neither storyline or character arcs are in anyway more important than the other- in that sense they are completely incomparable- I do stand by the opinion that I, Daniel Blake was most definitely the correct and deserving film for the awards it did win. Despite what I have previously argued, Moonlight connected with me on a deeper level due to the cinematography used throughout it. The pectineus was used in such a clever and intricate way that helped the story make smooth and seamless transitions. They helped the audience connect with the film, drawing one in completely from their surroundings and helped showcase the messages in the films from different angels and perspectives. One may be inclined to argue that the lack of these techniques in I, Daniel Blake help to add the raw and intense emotion shown in the film, allowing the audience to completely focus on the messages the film is conveying- the storyline and the acting are enough. That an audience shouldn’t need great cinematography to be drawn into a film. To that I would attest the filming techniques used should be viewed as another character in the film- they help move the story along and provide more meaning to an already powerful plot. Hence therefore I believe that Moonlight is a true masterpiece and Emma Stone was completely and utterly correct.