Films often reflect societal views; confronting current issues and using the artistic power of the lens to capture history. Watching someone perform on film brings out various elements of the human condition and can hold incredible sway over the viewer. Thus, to celebrate such artistic feats, the Oscars emerged as one of the most highly viewed awards shows of the year.
In the last few years, the Oscars have been criticized for favouring films with ‘white’ actors, even producing a popular hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. This year, the nominations strayed from the ‘white’s-only’ club to include several strong contenders with leading roles for people of colour. Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, is a film that follows a young gay man through his childhood, teen years, and adulthood, and touches on various issues that affect the African American community in the United States today. This film is a front-runner to win Best Picture, with seven other nominations as well. Another nominated film with leading roles for people of colour is Fences, directed by Denzel Washington, is a film that explores the intergenerational trauma of racism and a father’s inability to help his son succeed because of his own failed success. The third film that touches on African American themes is Hidden Figures, directed by Theodore Melfi, and is based on the true story of a group of African American women that worked for NASA and helped the first space mission launch in the 1960s.
La La Land, a musical directed by Damien Chazelle, is nominated for 14 awards and many expect this film to win best picture. The musical focuses on Hollywood and the struggles that come with stardom. The musical score in this film happens to be phenomenal. Lion, by Garth Davis, arguably has one of the most unique storylines and is based on the true story of a boy adopted from India who used google earth to find his family after he was lost as a child. The tear-jerker of the year is Manchester by the Sea, directed by Kenneth Lonergan, that explores how losing one’s children can destroy you as a person.
Many critics believe that La La Land will win Best Picture because a) it is a fantastic film, b) has won several other awards already and c) was well-received by the academy. A rising sentiment is being whispered among film buffs though that Moonlight will take the crown. Since President Donald Trump has come into power, there has been a growing protest movement in Hollywood that opposes his racist, xenophobic and otherwise extremist right-wing ideologies. A new unified movement in the film community is rising up against the racist and islamophobic reign of terror that has overtaken the United States. Due to the societal convictions of the progressive left, Moonlight should win — also because it is a wonderfully touching film that deserves the recognition.
Though La La Land captures the heart of film and music and has beautiful cinematographic references, Moonlight represents the United States as it currently stands today. Jenkins’ manages to take the struggles of being black in America today and turns it into an art piece. This film offers an opportunity for a person of any ethnicity, age, or religion to step into the role of being a young, gay, African American boy, and it is when the leading character Chiron pauses in silence, that you can feel years of black history and oppression being played out one scene at a time.
No matter what, this year’s Oscar win for best picture will undoubtedly be representative of what Hollywood cares really about — whether that be ignoring reality and embracing the sublime in La La Land or facing the visceral reality of how society has failed people of colour in America in Moonlight. Tune in Sunday, Feb. 26th at 8:30 E.S.T. to find out.