The Best Films of the Decade: #13. Moonlight (2016)

| December 29, 2019
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In just 2 Days the decade will come to a close and so for movie lovers like me it is an opportunity to look over the decade of movies that are left behind. Over the next few weeks I am going to countdown the best films of the past 10 years from #40 to #1. My choices are personal choices swayed by nothing but the love I have for this medium. These are all great movies. These films all achieved something great. All reached for something special. They are the best of the decade . . .

Image result for Moonlight 2016

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 sexuality . . . and there wasn’t a single white savior anywhere in sight.

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 certainly worth being called Best Picture.  Now the debate will be left to history as to whether or not Moonlight would have won Best Picture without the scandal.

Moonlight is one of the best and most challenging films of the entire decade, a reasonably uncomfortable look at an individual struggling with identity while living under circumstances that are brutal to his very psychology.

Covering 20 years in the life of a young black man who as a child named Little then as a sullen, put-upon teenager named Chiron and then as an adult, a burly drug dealer named Black. The film is not about gang violence, or about a kid who slips through the cracks or statistics or Black Lives Matter. It’s a microcosmic look into the life of one individual growing up in the harsh wilderness of circumstance and a life that seems unyielding and cruel. Yet, the things that happen in life shape the man he will become for better and for worse.

What emerges from the film is the story a specific individual with a very specific life, not a set of standard fluffy events that make the film comfortable and safe for mass consumption. This is a real film, a challenging film that deals with this young man and his world.

About the Author:

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