Barry Jenkins‘ Moonlight (A24, 10.21) was the favorite Telluride flick in an Indiewire critics poll posted yesterday. Eight out of 17 critics called it their #1. The second favorite film was Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land. The Moonlight acclaim is a good thing all around — good for Barry, A24, the p.c. brigade — except for the fact that it’s a little too emphatic. Down the road it may have the same effect that Peter Sellars calling it a “masterpiece” had on my reaction last weekend.
“Moonlight didn’t destroy me or rock my soul, but I was impressed and moved,” I wrote last Saturday. “I admired it as far as it went. I just had to adjust myself to what it is as opposed to the earth-shaker that some have been describing.”
A friend asked yesterday “what Moonlight‘s prospects might be with the Academy (or lack thereof)…hearing many different perspectives on this.”
“Moonlight is a 100% respectable, commendable, finely tuned accomplishment,” I replied, “but its overwhelming popularity in the Indiewire poll indicates another p.c. circle-jerk, akin to the ecstatic reception that Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation received last January at Sundance. Get behind the cool new black helmer, the former Telluride volunteer, the guy who’s delivered an intimate, Boyhood-like exploration of black gayness…garlands for the conqueror.
“Moonlight has been so over-praised that your Academy types are probably going to be a bit muted when they see it. Fearful of being derided as out-of-it or fuddy-duddy, they’ll pay the usual lip service but don’t kid yourself about what kind of Oscar traction Moonlight will actually receive. Perhaps a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Jenkins, maybe a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Mahershala Ali. Otherwise Moonlight, due respect, will mostly be a Spirit Awards-level thing.”