So a Muslim guy, three black leads, a European woman and a gay guy walk into a bar….
I for one would pay good money to witness the White House screening of Moonlight.
“At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.”
It is just the Academy Awards. Tomorrow we will be back to bitching about Star Wars, Logan sequels and summer trailers. But for today a LGBT story about African-Americans, those struggling to keep afloat, those whose voting chances are scuppered and demeaned and those just wanting to be loved actually won Best Picture. Moonlight is now part of a very sparsely represented queer history in the Best Film club and can now rank proudly alongside Midnight Cowboy and er – yep, very few Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards are about gay characters and queer stories. Lawrence of Arabia may have come close, but not really. The LGBT equivalent of when Sidney Poitier won Best Actor for Lilies of the Field (1963), Moonlight‘s win is one of the most relevant Oscar developments for queer cinema, queer stories, queer box office and black queer representation.
“You can be gay, but you don’t have to let nobody call you a faggot.”
Films like Moonlight rarely win Best Picture as director Barry Jenkins has astutely crafted a work that is pure cinema, not Hollywood. Moonlight is about the slithers of a story, how a story can be told with a beautiful scarcity that does not need to be its only gimmick, how a life of looking down carries a lonely cost, how simple production design decisions quietly suggest kindnesses about characters before their acts do and how a world with so much judgment need not always load stories with drama and conflict that is not sometimes there in reality. It is not the Oscars job to influence politics. It honours the very escape methods we all have from the real vagaries of the real world. I am not the biggest fan of La La Land (a mediocre Muppet movie shot like a Prius ad), but it always felt wrong that a movie like that would be the leading movie statement in a year where cinema and the arts needed to say more – or rather be more. Hollywood, liberalism, artistry and difference has been attacked by Trump and his clapping seals gagging to know what to fear and hate next as they brand all those that stand firm as communists straight out of a Fifties Hollywood witch hunt. It is right that Moonlight told the White House and its toxic coven of bilious hate exactly what America is and will be.
“I should have cried too much sometimes I feel like I’m just gonna turn into drops.”
Not only did the best film on this year’s list get the attention it deserved, but a film about everyone and everything the political administration of America wants to be curtailed and forgotten has ultimately done anything but. In a year of great divisions and a concerning earmarking of anything different and attacks by the White House on the arts and independent creativity, Moonlight may well prove to be a key poster boy to those that will resist. For a film about gay kids and adults in the same state that witnessed the Pulse nightclub massacre last June going on to scoop the Best Picture Oscar holds an importance, validity and message. However, at its heart is not some queer agenda or pink politics. Moonlight is about people. Moonlight is about love growing in-between the cracks and crack dens. Moonlight is about how the best cinema can tell beautiful stories about people and not itself. That is why the White House will hate it. And that is why Moonlight is a modern classic that proves for queer stories and real stories that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“Stop putting yo’ head down in my house! You know my rule. It’s all love and all pride in this house! Do you feel me?”