Exactly as posted on 11.25.21 under the title “Moonlight Clarity“:
Sometimes in the science of Oscarology it takes a few years to understand the political reasons (for all Oscar triumphs are political) behind this or that winner snagging a trophy.
Take the Moonlight win, for example. Thanks to Spike Lee’s refreshing frankness, we can now safely assume that the deciding factor behind Barry Jenkins’ film beating La La Land was about Academy members being able to tell themselves that #OscarsSoWhite had been squarely faced and responsibly negated.
But in the days following the 2.26.17 Oscar telecast, many were saying “of course!…of course Moonlight was obviously better than La La Land!…on top of which it was wrong for a white guy to love jazz.”
I didn’t feel that way, but the mob was on a roll.
“Putting Moonlight To Bed,” posted on 3.4.17: “This is several days old and yesterday’s news, but a 2.28 Hollywood Reporter piece by Stephen Galloway that derided the echo chamber of Oscar punditry and the failure of the know-it-alls to foresee Moonlight‘s Best Picture win (“Why the Pundits Were Wrong With the La La Land Prediction“) was wrong in two respects.
“One, whoda thunk it? Even now I find it perplexing that Moonlight won. A finely rendered, movingly captured story of small-scale hurt and healing, it’s just not drillbitty or spellbinding enough. I wasn’t the least bit jarred, much less lifted out of my seat, when I first saw it at Telluride. Moonlight is simply a tale of emotional isolation, bruising and outreach and a world-shattering handjob on the beach…Jesus, calm down.
“As I was shuffling out of the Chuck Jones I kept saying to myself “That‘s a masterpiece?” (Peter Sellars, sitting in front of me, had insisted it was before the screening started.) If there was ever a Best Picture contender that screamed ‘affection and accolades but no Oscar cigar,’ it was Moonlight. And the Oscar pundits knew that. Everyone did.
“So I don’t know what happened — I really don’t get it.**
“I’ve already made my point about Moonlight in the Ozarks. It’s just a head-scratcher. And two, Galloway’s contention that only pipsqueaks with zero followings were predicting or calling for a Moonlight win is wrong.
“As I noted just after the Oscars, esteemed Toronto Star critic Pete Howell and Rotten Tomatoes‘ Matt Atchity were predicting a Moonlight win on the Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby charts. As I also noted, Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone hopped aboard the Moonlight train at the very last millisecond, although she stuck to La La Land for her Gurus of Gold ballot. These are facts, and Galloway’s dismissing Howell and Atchity was an unfair oversight.”
Posted on 10.28.16: A couple of weeks ago I heard about some older Joe Popcorn types at the Hamptons Film Festival who walked out of a La La Land screening. (Huh?) And then a couple of days ago I heard from a casual filmgoer who saw Damien Chazelle‘s film at the Savannah Film Festival, and she too wasn’t all that impressed. (She didn’t care for Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone‘s weak singing voices.) Likewise since Telluride I’ve been hearing about folks who didn’t “like” Manchester By The Sea, mainly because it’s too glum or doesn’t deliver the traditional sunshine-pierces-through-the-clouds moment in the third act.
We’re not talking about moviegoers of extraordinary delicacy or sensitivity here, much less those with any kind of seasoned, sophisticated understanding of cinema language or film history, and there are probably more of them out there than I’d like to admit. Yes, I realize that a Best Picture contender only requires a sizable, passionate cabal to put it over. I’m just saying that there are naysayers out there, and that these rubes are probably still waiting for “the one” (i.e., a Steve Pond term that alludes to a film that will satisfy them completely and then some, that will provide some kind of emotional deliverance that will make their lives seem more whole and meaningful).