La La Land and Moonlight are both great work of ‘art’. They are the kind of movies that take years before they are made. When you finally see them on screen, they hold a certain power over you. Both La La Land and Moonlight produce and evoke a different kind of emotions in a viewer. While La La Land lifts you off your feet and fills your heart with an enormous amount of happiness, Moonlight whispers in your ears, hold your hands and tries to have a conversation. If La La Land is an adventurous tour into a dream land, Moonlight is a journey within, exploring raw human emotions devoid of any mask. While La La Land talks about ambition and dreams, Moonlight is more interested in finding our roots, going back to home.
La La Land and Moonlight are very different films and one can’t be pitted against each other. It will also be unwise to say that Moonlight is a better film than La La Land. Even a cursory glance at La La Land will explain why Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone film became such a huge sensation. It’s shiny, glittering and is everything a movie should be — a ticket to a different world. Yet, it failed to win Best Picture award at Oscars. That doesn’t say or hint that it is any lesser than Moonlight. Let’s see what explains Moonlight’s surprise win:
Not a movie about Hollywood again?
Academy has awarded Argo, The Artist and Birdman in last few years and all of these movies are about movies or art. Academy loves movies and films about movies. However, did Academy really need to shower yet another movie about movies with Best Picture award? Surely, Academy was looking for a different sort of option here. Moonlight provided that strong alternative. It would not be wrong to say that the best things about La La Land — all that glitz and glamour — went against it. Some found it self-obsessive and self-centered. What they fail to see is that La La Land is also about a profound grief which is hidden under songs and dance sequences.
Is it about maintaining Oscar diversity?
Academy has come under scanner for its negligence or elusiveness of nominating people of colour at awards. It seems as if Academy wanted to make sure that it didn’t disappoint this time with its choices. The Oscars witnessed a record seven nominations for non-white artists this year. Moonlight reflects Academy’s effort to bring more diversity into awards.
Is it a political statement?
Oscars are known for making political comments. It’s just that Moonlight is able to speak more clearly to the people in difficult times in Donald Trump’s America. The story of a poor, black, gay boy growing up in a poor neighbourhood of Miami in its very vivid details is everything that goes against the political regime of the country. One doesn’t require a great analysis to understand Donald Trump’s stand on race, immigration and gay communities. The last few weeks have taken a toll on many innocent, hard-working individuals divided by colour, race and nationality. Hollywood has sent a very clear message to ruling class by choosing Moonlight as Best Picture.
A universal story that we all are seeking?
However, above reasons might come across as feeble and lame when one considers Moonlight’s universal appeal. What Moonlight achieves is throwing a new light on the urgent need of having a human connection. Moonlight is not just a story about marginalised people in a country. Moonlight’s coming-of-age story also give us a deeper insight into human vulnerability and desire for finding out a basic simple identity- that of a human being. Its protagonist might be a gay, black and poor boy but he is looking to find a human connection as all of us are.
It’s a universal story about finding a human connection that transcends race, colour and nationality. As the world looks more divided than ever, a need to have solid, deep human connection with others seems to be a very urgent need. Moonlight does that remarkably well.
La La Land may be a better movie, but Moonlight is a better story suited for our times.