Catasauqua Press

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

‘Moonlight’

Friday, March 10, 2017 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“Moonlight” is an extraordinary slice-of-life film, representing in the best sense what cinema is all about: to take us to places where we may not typically go in our life or imagination.

The film’s unusual cinematography elevates the material to a dream-like state, which contrasts with remarkably realistic performances and a spare soundtrack that makes the film even more captivating.

“Moonlight” is based on a semi-autobiographical play, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, with the screenplay written by the film’s director Barry Jenkins.

“Moonlight,” deservedly was nominated for eight Oscars: Picture, Director (Jenkins), Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali, who received the Screen Actors Guild male supporting role award), Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris), Adapted Screenplay (Jenkins, McCraney), cinematography (James Laxton), editing (Nat Sanders, Joi McMillon) and music (Nicholas Britell).

“Moonlight” received three Oscars: Picture (in one of the biggest televised snafus in the history of the Academy Awards), supporting actor and adapted screenplay.

While the Academy determined the “Moonlight” screenplay to be adapted, Jenkins received the Writers Guild of America original screenplay award.

“Moonlight,” which tells the story of Chiron, an African-American male growing up in a Miami housing project, is title-carded into three acts. A different actor plays the protagonist at each age. First, there’s Little, with Alex Hibbert playing the boy; Chiron, with Ashton Sanders playing the teen, and Black, with Trevante Rhodes playing the young adult. Chiron is raised by a drug-addicted mother (a devastatingly good Naomie Harris) and mentored by Juan (a riveting Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend, Teresa (an excellent Janelle Monáe).

While each actor playing Chiron is commendable, the transition from youth to teen appears seamless, while that from teen to young adult is less so. As often happens when one or more actor plays the same character at different ages, the performances are not merited with deserving nominations and awards.

The cinematography is sensitive to African-American skin tones and successfully depicts facial and body features beautifully and impressively, which is not always the case. The camera use by Director of Photography James Laxton is wandering, with unusual angles, and ever-mobile, giving a fluid and at times balletic quality to the actors’ performances.

Director Jenkins (“Medicine for Melancholy,” 2008) is careful to let the scenes breath and is unafraid to let the camera linger in moments when there’s no dialogue.

“Moonlight” deals sensitively with sexual preference, peer pressure, conflict and mentoring in ways that are cliche-free. It also assesses the problems of poverty and social issues with great humanity. “Moonlight” is a memorable film that reflects some light onto areas of life we might not all be familiar with.

“Moonlight,”MPAA rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian) for some sexuality, drug use, brief violence and language throughout); Genre: Drama; Run time: 1 hr., 51 min.; Distributed by A24.

Credit Readers Anonymous:“Moonlight” was filmed in Miami and Liberty City, Fla., the latter where the film’s director Barry Jenkins and the playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney grew up.

Box Office,March 3: Hugh Jackman clawed his way to the top as “Logan” opened at No. 1 with $85 million, dropping “Get Out” from its one week at No. 1 to No. 2 with $26 million, $75.9 million, two weeks; keeping the “The Shack” opening at No. 3, with $16.1 million; 4. “The Lego Batman Movie,” $11.6 million, $148.6 million, four weeks; 5. “Before I Fall,” $4.9 million, opening; 6. “John Wick: Chapter 2,” $4.7 million, $82.8 million, four weeks; 7. “Hidden Figures” (three Oscar nominations), $3.8 million; $158.7 million, 11 weeks; 8. “The Great Wall,” $3.5 million; $41.2 million, three weeks; 9. “Fifty Shades Darker,” $3.4 million, $109.9 million, four weeks; 10. “La La Land” (six Oscars: actress, Emma Stone; directing, Damien Chazelle; score, Justin Hurwitz; song, “City of Stars”; cinematography, production design), $2.9 million, $145.6 million, 13 weeks; 12. “Moonlight” (Three Oscars: Picture; supporting actor, Mahershala Ali; adapted screenplay), $2.5 million, $25.3 million, 20 weeks.

Unreel,March 10:

“Kong: Skull Island,”PG-13: Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs Brie Larson, Tian Jing, Tom Hiddleston and Corey Hawkins in the fantasy-adventure film that revisits the King Kong myth.

“Personal Shopper,”R: Olivier Assayas directs Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz and Anders Danielsen Lie in the mystery-thriller about a ghost story set in the Paris fashion underworld.

Oscar contest update:Robert J. Ferenchko of Northampton was chosen winner of the annual Lehigh Valley Press Focus section “Readers Pick The Oscar Winners” contest, based on his correctly picking six of the seven category Oscar recipients (he chose “La La Land,” not “Moonlight,” as did most contest entrants), and based on the earliest date when his email entry was received, which was Feb. 2. The Focus Oscar contest was first announced. Feb. 1.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes