MOONLIGHT is a prime example of the power of cinema. The film follows a young man through three stages of his life, childhood, as a teenager, and as an adult. While the story isn’t entirely relatable to all its viewers, the power of the storyline is undeniable.
Filmmaker Barry Jenkins populates this film with a plethora of unique and charged performances, yielding supporting actor nominations for Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, who are both amazing in their small performances that help shape the bigger picture of the film.
At times, life can be difficult, it can challenge us beyond our depths, as well as have trajectory completely different than we, and others, envisioned. That’s exactly what MOONLIGHT is about. Even as removed as the main character’s story can be from each of our individual lives, the constant self-discovery and reinvention of himself, loneliness and isolation is something that we all can relate to.
Some may say that the abundance of Oscar nominations and accolades this film is receiving is Oscar’s answer to the outrage over the lack of diversity this year and sure that argument can be made, but once you experience the film you will quickly realize that is certainly not the case.
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SPOTLIGHT is a film that can win as many awards as possible, gain the attention and high praises of anyone who sees it, and the film would still be an understatement. What this film achieves, is something that most films never come close to; accountability. This film holds everyone accountable; from the Catholic Church, the lawyers making easy money on out of court settlements, society that has turned a blind eye, and above all – the journalists themselves.
Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy brings a subtlety masterful hand to this film. There are not any sweeping camera movements in the direction, there’s nothing that explodes from the screenplay. As wonderful as the performances are, there isn’t a scene stealer, there isn’t one juicy role for an actor to come in and show off. It is meticulously crafted by McCarthy and his GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS worthy ensemble. In a word, this film is perfection.
Michael Keaton headlines the cast as the tough Robby Robinson, whose floating Boston accent heads the Boston Globe’s investigative unit Spotlight. Keaton gives a tremendous low key performance, doubling down on his cache he had received from his brilliant turn in BIRDMAN. Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams follow behind Keaton as his two forwards, obsessively losing themselves in their quest to find the truth.
The subject matter is very hard to watch, and very hard to re-live for those affected by sex abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church, those affected by lawyers quietly arranging hush money in the shadows of the Church all the while making sure there isn’t a paper trail of court documents, and lastly, those affected by the oversite of reporters who either missed tips, or did not take them seriously. This film is not about atonement, this film is about it’s accountability to the survivors.
Other than Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, Tim Burton’s Ed Wood is my “favorite” film from this phenomenally adventurous and eccentric filmmaker, but I think it clearly stands as his “best” piece of work to date. Working with the invaluable screenwriting duo of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Man on the Moon, The People Vs. Larry Flynt, the upcoming original FX series American Crime), Burton was able to craft a black and white ode to a Hollywood of yesteryear, and because the ingenious screenplay bucked the traditional notes of the conventional biopic, the film takes on a more layered feel and structure, examining not only Wood the director but Wood the man and Wood the mystery, as well as stopping to consider all of the colorful people who surrounded his bizarre life. Shot by the great cinematographer Stefan Czapsky (Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands), it’s one of the rare modern movies to get the studio approved monochrome treatment (after switching homes from Columbia Pictures to Disney/Touchstone), but let’s be honest, there was NO other way to present this material; this is one instance where the content dictated the style, and not the other way around. Johnny Depp was marvelous in the picture, easily giving one of his greatest performances as a man caught in eternal confusion, both personally and professionally, never truly understanding his place in society or how to grasp all of the straws around him. Some of these themes would be later explored by Burton and Alexander and Karaszewski in last year’s underappreciated (at least by theatrical audiences) art world exploration Big Eyes, which featured a splendid lead performance from Amy Adams. The dynamic supporting cast includes Oscar winner Martin Landau, giving an unforgettable performance as screen legend (and notorious drug addict) Bela Lugosi, and also featured terrific turns from a pensively hilarious Bill Murray, the always awesome Patricia Arquette, an exasperated Sarah Jessica Parker, Mike Starr, Vincent D’Onofio, Max Casella, Lisa Marie, and G.D. Spradlin. The film opens with a charming and creative opening credit sequence evoking all of Wood’s disasterpieces, with Danny Elfman’s imaginative and playful musical score setting the tone early on. The film would receive overwhelming critical praise and also garner two Oscars, one for Landau for Best Supporting Actor, and the other for make-up artist Rick Baker. Alexander and Karaszewski would receive a WGA nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Despite not attaining box-office success in theaters, Ed Wood has lived on as one of Burton’s most respected and mature films, a piece of work that feels extremely personal and incredibly generous in spirit.