Sunday, February 12, 2017
Best Movies of 2016, #5: Moonlight
The Problem: On the one hand, this is a pretty much perfect movie: It’s beautifully written, acted, directed, shot and scored. But, in keeping with the theme of the year, it still left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. As is so often the case with wildly-acclaimed movies, I couldn’t help but hold it up against the praise it’s gotten (even though I saw it shortly after it came out). If you go to Rotten Tomatoes, you see praise like “avoiding clichés, shattering stereotypes”, but does it do that? All of the characters are drug addicts, drug dealers, or fry cooks.
My biggest problem with this movie is that it gives straight white people exactly what they want to see of gay black sexuality: It’s sexless and brutally punished. Basically, the movie felt to me like a fantasy of black gay life at its worst. Now it’s ridiculous that I should say that: Both writers are gay, black, had crack-addicted mothers, and came from this particular housing project, so they should know how bad it is far better than I, but, on the other hand, they themselves didn’t end up like Chiron. I’ve said before that genre is how it feels, but drama is how it is, but this movie felt more like how it feels than how it is.
Utlimately, this movie was more about inhumanity than humanity. The characters couldn’t breathe. I’m at the point in my life where I’m craving humanity when I go to the movies. Yes, I feel like a jerk for criticizing this movie, but I gotta call ‘em like I sees ‘em.
Storyteller’s Rulebook: Use the Power of Silence. The world will talk at your hero, but one of the strongest reactions your hero can have is silence. We see how Chiron’s silence isolates him, but also how it elicits both frustration and sympathy from those who try to reach him. Every time he refuses to respond, he asserts his power over the speaker more profoundly than he could by speaking, and becomes a more compelling character. It feels very counterintuitive to write dialogue in which there’s no dialogue, but it can be just as compelling as a two-sided conversation.