May 22, 2017
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
By now everyone is aware of the fiasco that beset this year's Academy Awards. As a befuddled Warren Beatty opened the magic envelope that contained the name of the best picture, he hesitated, looked at what was written quizzically and then handed it over to Faye Dunaway perhaps for her input or interpretation. But Faye did not waiver. In a confidant voice she indicated what was written: La La Land! This was not a surprise. This musical had been on the top of critical lists and on top of the box office all season. But then other people came on stage. There was discussion, confusion, chaos. As the La LaLand people were coming on stage to accept their award it was announced the wrong envelope had been dispatched. Moonlight was actually the winner. Everyone was very civilized about the error. The La La Land people praised the Moonlight people and the Moonlight people praised the La La Land people. Now that most of the contenders for awards are out on DVD, you can make your own judgment about who the winners should have been.
Hollywood loves self-reflection and perhaps this is what made La La Land so popular. Splashes of bubbly song and dance numbers punctuate the predictable boy meets girl convention. Mia, Emma Stone, is an effervescent would-be actress and Sebastian, Ryan Gosling, is a struggling jazz musician. They fall in love, of course. There is a great score that accompanies their bittersweet journey to success. The hauntingly lovely “City of Stars” sung against the backdrop of the Griffith Observatory's planetarium is breathtaking. This film is a sparkling visual and audio treat.
Moonlight is the antithesis of La La Land. If La La Land is a glittering fairy tale, Moonlight is a somber tone poem. The title of the film was taken from the play from which it was adapted, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The protagonist, Chiron, has what society would call three strikes against him. He is black. He is poor. He is gay. Bullied at school and with an addicted mother, he finds respite and the semblance of a family with the local, very successful drug lord. The irony that the man that he admires is selling the poison that is killing his mother is not lost on the young boy. The audience follows Chiron's painful march into adulthood and his final understanding and acceptance of who he is.
If I could have voted for best picture,I would have chosen neither of the aforementioned ones. My choice would have been Hidden Figures. It has everything: a good screenplay, good production values, superb acting and it deals with a powerful and profound subject. It is the true story of three black women who worked for NASA and were instrumental, indeed, integral in putting John Glen into space. The subject matter is grand in scope and the events depicted changed the world as we know it.
But, alas I did not get to vote.
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