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Moonlight vs La La Land…or, how much bubblegum do you chew?

January 4, 2017

When the American Black Community protested the fact that not a single Black actor/director/producer – not a single Black person at all had been nominated for an Oscar last year, I didn’t pay much attention.

Hollywood doesn’t take up a lot of space in my brain these days. I only ever see 3-4 new movies a year. Hollywood, for the most part, has become such a corporate turd pile, and there are so many really good filmmakers in the world now available to watch, that I mostly stopped paying any attention to Hollywood at all.

Plus, there are many more things, I thought, that the Black Community could be concerning itself with than a White Man’s Popularity Contest – a contest driven almost exclusively from within the walls of its own industry.

The fact that 80% of the Oscar voters are White Men over 60 should tell you all you need to know about exactly how much space and privilege Blacks are going to accommodated in Hollywood.

When #noblackartists launched last year, Oscar spokespeople said it had been a mere coincidence that no Black persons had been nominated – it’s not the Oscar Committee’s fault that Blacks had no decent roles in the past year. The Committee, afterall, can only vote on what is produced.

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Over the Christmas holidays, while visiting in-law’s in Toronto, we saw both Moonlight and LaLaLand. They are the two big movies causing all the holiday Oscar buzz this year. And there is already extensive debate going on in the industry about which one will win Best Movie. (Manchester by the Sea is also in serious contention, but we haven’t seen it, and seems to be trailing in third at the moment.)

Moonlight and LaLaLand are very different movies. Very different.

Moonlight came out a couple of months ago and immediately created a hot social media buzz about being not only the best movie of the year, but quite possibly one of the best movies of the last decade.

The general consensus among anyone who paid attention to our culture and social trends, or smart enough to understand the value and beauty of a good movie, was: Moonlight -Best Movie. Best Male Acting. (To highlight only one of the 4 male leads in this movie would be an insult to the other three.)

And it is! It lives up to the hype. It combines great storytelling with tragedy and hope, sin and redemption, the impotence of the Gods, and brilliant acting. What does it mean to be a young Black Man, in the Black Community, in the Miami Projects, miles from the Sea? A truly great telling of an Epic Tragedy.

And then, Moonlight takes you even further down the Totem, to this particular Black male adolescent, living in the projects, who discovers that he is gay. A three-part play – child, teenager, man. The story is told beautifully, powerfully, honestly.

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Then, a couple of weeks ago, LaLaLand was released, and the industry talk started to shift away from Moonlight, and onto LaLaLand as being the best movie of the year.

But how, we thought? It’s a musical?

The Toronto Film Critics Assoc. (whoever they are) then came out declaring LaLaLand the best movie of the year. They gave second prize to Moonlight.One Toronto film critic said that the movie changed her life. Another critic said there were not enough superlatives to describe the movie.

But it’s a musical we said to ourselves (again). It’s about a White girl who wants to make it “big” in Hollywood, and about a White boy who wants to own his own jazz club in Hollywood, where Black folk happily gather to listen to a white man play classic Black jazz – piano – center stage and under a spot light (of course).

How good could the dancing and singing be – by two actors who neither sing, nor dance?

We were confused.

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So we went.

Unless you think pure pink bubblegum movies that praise white people chasing “the Great American Hollywood dream” – where everyone is beautiful, live in fantastic apartments (while supposedly completely broke), and that mediocre singing and dancing is acceptable (doubly odd as the movie is supposed to be an homage to classic musicals), with bad writing, and that all of this doubles (somehow) as tremendous acting, and if you throw in a Casablanca ending ( this somehow is supposed to add gravitas to the dream) – that this deserves an Oscar nod, then you will be as confused as we were at watching this trifle of a movie and imagining it being compared to Moonlight.

But remember, this is the same America that voted in Donald Trump.

Make America great again!

White nostalgia for simpler purer times – where Black people know their place (always in the background – singing and laughing and happy as clams).

I was not optimistic going into see LaLaLand – and I left even angrier then when I went in. In fact I was angry for days, still angry actually.

America will do anything to maintain its white status quo.

Will it go as far as giving LaLaLand the Oscar over the much more deserved Moonlight?

We will see…

 

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