Sometimes, you see a movie that has been lauded nearly universally and think “Really? This is what everyone is going nuts over?” (I kind of felt that way about “Traffic” all those years ago, and “Birdman” more recently.)
This is a school vacation week for here in the Northeast, so instead of trying to make middle-school kids be quiet in my weekly substitute teaching gig, I got to go see “Moonlight,” which has a 98 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for a bucuketload of Oscars.
And honestly, I wasn’t sure if I’d love it. The story, about a young African-American boy growing up in a poor section of Miami with a crack-addicted mother and a stranger who becomes a father figure, sounded like something I’d read and seen a hundred times before. Why would this be different?
Well… I shouldn’t have worried. “Moonlight” was outstanding. Really, really great. I don’t know if it was better than “Hidden Figures” or “Fences” or “LalaLand” or its other competition for Best Picture at next week’s Oscars, but it was a wonderful piece of film-making.
I have to start with the acting. The performances were sensational. The best was Mahershala Ali, who was only in the film for about 30 minutes but was so powerful as Juan, a drug dealer who serves as sort of a mentor to Chiron, the movie’s protagonist who we get to see at three different stages of his life.
Ali delivers his lines with such force, and meaning, and there’s one scene near the end of his time in the film that’s just devastating.
Naomie Harris, who plays Chiron’s drug-addicted mother, is also phenomenal, as are Trevante Rhodes (playing 25-year-old Chiron) and all the actors playing Chiron’s best friend, Kevin. (The director, Barry Jenkins, had different actors play the same characters as they grew up. Such a simple thing, but different than most movies try to do it, making a 22-year-old try to look 14, or something.)
The plot is a little slow but meaningful, and the direction is gorgeous: Every scene has a purpose. Chiron’s life is difficult throughout, but we truly see what an impact his awful childhood had on him when we see him as a grownup, falling into familiar Liberty City (a dirt-poor section of Miami) patterns and occupations, as he searches desperately for something good.
The last half-hour, as Chiron and Kevin reunite and have a very hard time with their feelings toward each other, is just achingly beautiful.
“Moonlight” hasn’t been a big box-office hit, because it doesn’t have famous actors or a huge studio behind it. But it’s really a terrific film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins some Oscars. It would totally deserve them.
**Next up today, as the White House operates like “a fine-tuned machine” as our delusional President says, we have a pretty funny short video I enjoyed.
Donald Trump and the 7 ways he’s making America Great Again. I thought this was terrific (And a quick aside: So many GOP Congressmen across the country have been cancelling their town halls, so afraid to be held to account by their constituents. These men talk all the time about “being strong” and being “men of the people” and all that crap, and yet they’re too scared to talk to voters? Give. Me. A. Break.)
**And finally today, don’t we all enjoy Alex Trebek rapping clues on “Jeopardy?” Of course we do. Here was Alex rapping a whole category, called “Let’s Rap, Kids!”
I could watch this 50 times. Just mesmerizing and awesome.
Alex Trebek rapping…