The Best Picture Winners: Moonlight (2016)

| March 4, 2018

So here we are – Oscar Day!  The 90th Annual Academy Awards are just a few hours away.  The suspense will finally be at an end and, sadly, so will our journey through the Best Picture winners.  It has been a pleasure to walk through them with you.

But first, let us take a look at the most recent Oscar winner for Best Picture, Moonlight.

When it made the awards circuit in 2016, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, for a variety of reasons, was a movie that seemed to fall into a canyon of odd circumstance.  On one hand, it was the greatest and most fitting response from the Academy to #oscarsowhite.  Here is a movie about a young black man named Chiron growing up in an atmosphere of poverty and indifference and struggling with questions about his own sexual orientation.  Added to that, there wasn’t a single white actor in the entire film.

The other, everyone knows, happened on Oscar night when an envelope snafu led  presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to accidentally announce that the winner was La La Land.  It took that film’s producer to correct the error and announce that, yes, the winner was indeed Moonlight.

The relief is that Moonlight was worth all the trouble – and worth an Oscar for Best Picture.  Now the debate will be left to history as to whether or not Moonlight would have won Best Picture without the scandal.

Whatever the history, I personally think that Moonlight was the best and most challenging film among the nominees and I was proud of the voters for stepping outside of their comfort zones and choosing an important film that was really about something, a film that that spoke to issues of personal and sexual identity without making them seem preachy or overdrawn.

And yet, while it is a great film I have to confess that I struggle a bit with the ending.  While Chiron arrives at a moment of realization and reconciliation, I think the last scene was missing something.  Yes, Chiron confesses his love to Kevin, the only man who ever touched his heart, but the end runs up to an image that I felt pulled the conclusion a bit short.  Were he and Kevin in a relationship?  What is to become of their lives after this moment?  Perhaps I could settle on the idea that the film is leaving me something to ponder, but I felt that there was one more beat missing from that ending to make the film perfect.  I know that sounds like I’m nitpicking, but it was something that I struggled to work out on the drive home from the theater.

Never-the-less, Moonlight was brilliant film.  It was not only proof that the Academy was taking their craft seriously but it was also the perfect film to reverse the embarrassing controversy from the previous year with the all-white nomination roster that led to #OscarSoWhite.  The diverse nominees for this year were not simple apologies.  They were quality films that proved that the Academy had listened and responded in kind.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.