Posts Tagged ‘cinema’

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It may not be a “cool” thing to admit, but I’ll let you in on a little secret — it’s okay to just want to feel good once in awhile.

It is, after all, a hopelessly fucked-up world that we live in right now : our nuclear arsenal is in the hands of an unhinged, delusional madman who is clearly cracking under the strain of a job he probably didn’t even want and is in no way even mature enough to handle; a lunatic religious zealot is eagerly waiting in the wings to succeed him when he undoubtedly crashes and burns; our closest international allies seem to be inexorably lurking toward a barely-rebranded fascist nationalism themselves; rising global temperatures and sea levels probably threaten our future even more than the would-be despots do — if you think about too hard, it can all seem pretty hopeless.

Can these problems be solved? Shit, I dunno — the jury’s out on that one. But they certainly can be avoided for a couple of hours here and there, and there’s no shame in doing just that every once in awhile. For those of any age seeking temporary relief and solace, then, may I humbly direct your attention toward director Chris McKay’s borderline-astonishing The Lego Batman Movie.

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I admit to never having seen The Lego Movie “proper,” but if it’s anything like this one, that’s my loss — and one I intend to rectify pretty quickly. I can’t pretend to know what it is about translating the grittiest and grimmest of costumed vigilantes into a CGI-animated toyworld that’s such a stroke of near-genius, but the truth is that it not only works, it does something that no live-action iteration of the character has been able to do on the silver screen for the last couple of decades : it makes him fun again.

Make no mistake — the increasingly Dark Knight as envisioned by Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan and, especially, Zack Snyder is the elephant in the room here, but rather than take inspiration from it, McKay and his army of screenwriters choose, instead, to offer a rebuttal to it. Sure, Batman as voiced (superbly, might I add) by Will Arnett is a brooding and dour figure — albeit one who loves, even needs, the gratification that comes from the limelight — but this film isn’t afraid to say that this is a problem. To that end, butler-cum-father-figure Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) is doing his best to get the closest thing he has to a child to let other people in, to move past the loss of his parents all those decades ago and find a new family.  Too many nights alone with microwaved lobster thermidor aren’t good for anybody, after all.

Batman “purists” probably won’t be too terribly happy with some of the liberties taken here : Robin (Michael Cera) isn’t just Bruce Wayne’s ward but his (accidentally — its a long story) adopted son; Barbara Gordon assumes the role of new Gotham City chief of police, replacing her just- retired father, before she dons the Batgirl costume more or less by default; Daleks and King Kong don’t exist in the DC Universe, etc. Well, grouse away, fan-boys — no one else cares.

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Perhaps the most daring and unexpected twist to the Bat-mythos offered here, though, is the refreshingly honest take offered on the relationship between Batman and The Joker (Zach Galifianakis). Freed form the constraints of continuity and editorial protectionism, The Lego Batman Movie admits what no other Bat-flick can — that these two arch-foes need each other, and that any enmity this deeply felt can only spring from a place at least vaguely approximating (strictly platonic, rest assured, nervous parents) love. You know it. I know it. And it’s high time someone said it.

If you never expected this much pathos-via-broad-brushstrokes in what is still, after all, a kids’ movie, don’t worry — it’s all couched in laugh-out-loud humor, obfuscated under mounds of “Easter Eggs” for the observant fan, and delivered with an entirely un-ironic earnestness that you just can’t help but love. This is a movie that has no qualms about admitting that it wants you to like it, and then dares you to find a reason not to.

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I never did, of course, and neither will you. A world this colorful, this joyful, this smart, this optimistic, and this fun is probably one we’d all like to live in — but then we’d be made of plastic and lock onto sidewalks and streets with our feet. So, ya know, nothing’s perfect.

As the title for this review states plainly, though, this film really is about as close to it as you’re gonna get. The Lego Batman Movie is the best Batman movie ever, by far.

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I’m noticing something of a trend in some of the “found footage” horrors I’ve been watching lately — a rather hum-drum and predictable (if not dull as dry toast) opening two acts, appended by a surprising, perhaps even amazing, third act that almost makes putting up with all the earlier crap worth it. Such was certainly the case with Adam Wingard’s 2016-released Blair Witch, and the pattern largely holds for the next film in the subgenre that I watched (courtesy of Amazon Prime streaming, although I understand it’s also available on standard DVD), 2012’s micro-budget effort from co-directors Ben Martinez and David Benjamin Franco, Alien Valley.

As far as set-ups go, they don’t come much more bog-standard than this : the crew from the supposedly-popular “reality” TV show “Paranormal Mysteries” (hence this film’s alternate — and thoroughly uninspired — title, P.M.) have “gone missing” after heading out to the San Luis Valley of Colorado to “discover the facts” behind a series of cattle mutilations that have plagued the area for years. There’s a bit of truth to this, apparently — the valley did, in fact, see a wave of still-unexplained cattle mutilations back in the 1960s — but the “compilation of leaked footage, documentary analysis, and material provided by the ALC network” that follows is, of course, all bullshit.

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In this flick’s early-to-middle going, it’s also pretty dull bullshit — the pacing of screenwriter Kristopher Simms’ script is such a slow burn that it barely “burns” at all, largely focused as it is on the one-dimensional interactions between crew members Andrea (played by Madison Guthrie), Matt (Jared Van Doorn), Rob (John Campbell), Eric (Nathan Blackburn), and Claire (Meghan McMahon) as they go about the business of location filming and interviewing various principals and self-styled “experts” with something to say about the case, but there are at least a couple of above-average performances to be had from Nate Bakke as head cinematographer Dave and Nikki Cornejo as ostensible government liaison Rose, both of whom seem noticeably more comfortable in front of the camera than their cohorts and have a nice and easy chemistry between them that’s reasonably enjoyable to watch. Other than that, though, the first roughly 60 minutes of this 75-minute production don’t have a whole heck of a lot going for them.

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Tell ya what, though, when Martinez and Franco decide to pull out all the stops for the final 15, they really go all-out. Some very effective practical effects work complements a fiercely tense and constantly surprising sprint to the finish, and when the film finally figures that it needs to live up to its name (well, one of its names) by dropping an “actual” alien into the proceedings, it not only works, it works unbelievably well. You know how things are gonna turn out, of course — that’s telegraphed from the outset — but how they end up turning out that way is definitely something to see.

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Our guys Ben n’ David certainly know how to play up the sense of unease and terror that the “shaky-cam” game can still deliver when done correctly, and if they get their hands on some material that demands real creativity and gusto from start to finish, who knows? They might actually be able to come up with something that forces the studios to take notice. As it is, though, Alien Valley doesn’t really showcase all they’re capable of until the very late going — and by then, a lot of folks will have understandably hit “stop” and gone on to do something else.

I would advise you do anything but, though, if you opt to invest your time in this one. If you’re willing to be patient  — okay, very patient — Alien Valley will most definitely reward your perseverance and leave you walking away from it impressed. If your attention span falls into the short-to-medium range, though, then there’s not much chance you’ll be willing to wait around for the rather immense payoff that’s in store. I won’t hold it against you if you check out early, but I will feel sorry for you — this is a flick that tests your determination, absolutely, but  also one that is equally determined to reward its most loyal and/or stubborn (is there a difference?) viewers very generously indeed.

 

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I’m not really sure how to classify this one, to be honest — writer/director/producer Ryan Cavalline’s 2017 no-budgeter  Mountain Devil (now streaming on Amazon Prime) isn’t exactly a “found footage” flick so much as it is a “mockumentary,” which is to say, yeah, there’s plenty of phony “footage” of the “long-lost home movie” variety, but it’s also “supplemented” by “dramatized re-creations” and the whole package is “hosted” by some charisma-free zone named Duane Bradley — who, near as I can tell, isn’t an actor, but a real guy. Or maybe he’s just a real guy who’s never taken any acting lessons. I dunno.

Nor, frankly, does it really matter. Apparently this standard-issue Bigfoot yarn about a guy named Frank Peterson (played by Eddie Benevich) and his pal, Randy Wallis (Eric Koval), who decided to spend a weekend getting drunk and playing with firearms at a secluded cabin along the Appalachian Trail in BF, Pennsylvania is “true” — at least as far as the average “Squatcher” is concerned. But just because something (may have) happened, that doesn’t make it particularly interesting.

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Under normal circumstances, a more detailed breakdown of the particulars of the film’s plot would be in order here, but ya know what? I’ve honestly told you pretty much all you need to know already. One weekend in 1978 (if I remember correctly), a couple rednecks went to a cabin and got set upon by Bigfoot. Who, in this film, is only about — I dunno, six feet tall. And rented his costume from the local theatrical supply shop, who no doubt keep this one around for promos at the used car lots around town, where, truth be told, it’s probably put to better use — because there’s nothing even remotely good about this 80-minute celluloid abomination. It’s boring, it’s cheesy (without being “fun” cheesy), it’s dreadfully-acted, and it’s utterly devoid of drama, scares, suspense, or even purpose. Every second you spend watching it is a new opportunity to hate yourself for wasting your time on it and little (okay, nothing) more.

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Here’s the friggin’ goofy thing, though — in recent years, “found footage” and Bigfoot have sorta mashed together pretty nicely, haven’t they? Movies like Willow Creek and Bigfoot : The Lost Coast Tapes have done an admirable job of proving that these two genres go hand in furry, clawed hand really well. So I held out some faint hope that Cavalline might be able to continue that trend — but hey, what can I say? I was wrong. Painfully wrong. I might even go so far as to say dead wrong — but that would be a bit tasteless given the final fate that befell Peterson and Wallis.

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In any case, the least I can do is warn you good people off this thing. Before sitting down to write this review, I reached really deep into the most musty and under-utilized parts of my mind in order to come up with some reason — any reason — for perhaps the more morbidly curious among you to give it a go, and came up absolutely empty. I tried, I swear, but the task proved just too daunting for me.

And that probably tells you all you need to know right there — and certainly exhausts me of everything I wish to say about the matter. Mountain Devil made me want to run for the hills and never come back.

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As a general rule, I have precisely zero faith in humanity. Evidence for why this would be the case abounds, of course : the election of Donald Trump. Keeping wild animals caged in zoos for our entertainment. The wholesale destruction of our environment. The enduring popularity of Billy Joel. Yup, friends, there’s just no doubt — people don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.

But then along comes some (usually out- of- left- field and entirely unassuming) reminder that maybe — just maybe — all is not lost, after all. Maybe somebody out there “gets it” and knows what needs to be done in order to, if not save us, at least keep us good and entertained while the whole shithouse goes up in flames. Enter Leicester, UK-based brothers Carl and Marc (no relation to you-know-who) Hamill, masterminds behind the 2015 mini-masterpiece Toxic Apocalypse (or, as it was known upon its initial DTV release in its country of origin, The Wrong Floor). With only five thousand pounds to their names and a cast composed largely of friends and relatives, these two have single- (okay, double-) handedly restored my faith in our still-certainly-doomed-at-some-point species. Yup, it’s true — this flick (now streaming for free on Amazon Prime) is just that much fun.

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Read the following brief synopsis and tell me that it doesn’t sound like all kinds of awesome to you : Danny Green (played by our guy Carl) is searching for his recently-disappeared father, a scientific genius employed by the nefarious EKAF Corporation, a typically sleazy big-business outfit that’s promising the world a “free energy” breakthrough but is, in fact, surreptitiously supplying the criminal underworld with the suddenly-popular street drug known as “Haze,” which has the unfortunate side effect of turning a number of its users into bloodthirsty homicidal maniacs. Rumors of the company’s involvement in the “Haze” racket abound, but thanks to corrupt cops and government officials, nothing has ever been proven — until now. After hitting one brick wall after another trying to get dirt on EKAF, Danny has decided to take the direct approach by getting hired on as a low-level security guard in the hope of catching the bastards red-handed. Along the way he manages to make an ally in the form of the plant’s fetching receptionist, Clarissa (Heather Percival) and the two quickly discover that “mad scientist”-type Dr. Logan (M.J. Simpson) is in league with a couple of local thugs (played by Chris Postlethwaite and Tom Robinson) who provide him with homeless people to experiment on. From there the trail leads to crime boss Marcais (Ron Hamill — yes, there’s another one of ’em), who controls “Haze” distribution in town, policeman-on-the-take Blackwood (David Hardware), and eventually back to EKAF itself, where most of the research staff seem well aware that rather than working on a renewable fuel resource, their efforts are actually being used to refine an even more potent (and deadlier) new version of “Haze.” It’s only a matter of time before Danny’s true intentions are discovered, of course, but what does he really have to worry about — other than a lab full of doped-up crazed killers, the rest of the plant’s security staff, and Marcais’ vicious street muscle — all of whom are closing in on him at once? After all, he’s got the truth on his side! Unfortunately, he doesn’t really have much of a plan, but that’ll work itself out — won’t it?

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Obviously, writer/director Marc and script editor/star Carl have done their genre homework — Toxic Apocalypse plays out like the kind of film that could only be made by a couple of guys who have spent way too many hours watching The StuffStreet Trash, and Troma flicks like The Toxic Avenger. It has its tongue well and firmly in cheek from start to finish, and is blissfully unafraid to sacrifice logic, continuity, and even common sense on the altar of balls-out, ultraviolent hijinks. No one’s safe in this movie, anything can happen at any time, and none of it really matters, anyway, so why not be as absurd as your (admittedly limited) resources will allow you to be? If you’re tired of “micro-budget” productions that take themselves way too goddamn seriously, congratulations — your antidote to pretentious navel-gazing has arrived, and it doesn’t care whose delicate sensibilities it offends.

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Do you have to to make the usual allowances for a zero-budgeter with this one? Sure you do, to an extent, but these guys are so effing smart that they’ve even figured out a way to have fun with their own limitations — for instance, look for actress Claire Ball as a scientist, a hooker, a protester, an old lady, and a laser tag player. By and large the all-practical FX work is solid, the acting ranges from competent to actually pretty damn good, and the direction is surprisingly (and refreshingly) creative. At the risk of sounding like too much of a pathetic fan-boy, I honestly can’t think of anything to bitch about here.

And on that note, I think I’m done taking up any more of your valuable time. There are a million and one better things you could be doing other than reading this review — and watching Toxic Apocalypse immediately should be at the top of the list.

 

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Adam Wingard is one of those directors that comes along every once in awhile and takes the world of horror by storm, but unlike other “flavors of the month” he seems to have some genuine a) skill; and b) staying power, so when it was (masterfully, I might add) revealed at Comic Con last year that his latest, the 2016-filmed The Woods, was actually a sequel to The Blair Witch Project that was “really” called, simply, Blair Witch, folks got understandably excited — including myself.

Anyone who follows this (hopefully) modest little blog of mine knows that I’m not nearly as “down” on the “found footage” sub-genre as some (okay, most) and still find quite a bit to like in many films that fall into the much-maligned category, but even someone who still holds out some hope for flicks of this sort such as myself will readily admit that good shot in the arm wouldn’t do any harm — and certainly if anyone could deliver it, you’d think the mastermind behind You’re Next and The Guest, together with his frequent collaborator, screenwriter Simon Barrett, would be a natural choice to do so. So, yeah, I confess — I was pumped for this one.

Not pumped enough to get off my ass and catch in when it was playing theaters, though, apparently, since Blair Witch came and went last fall before, to be brutally honest, I really even noticed. But hey, that’s why I still keep a DVD queue going at Netflix, right? And last night I finally got to see the flick (in its extras-free, “bare bones” rental iteration) that everyone was talking about — for all of about five minutes.

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The basic premise, then, for those who haven’t checked it out yet : in the now-legendary Black Hills Forest just outside Burkittsville, Maryland, youthful lovers/hikers Lane (played by Wes Robinson) and Talia (portrayed by Valorie Curry) happen across an old -school digital videotape and give the curious item a look when they get home. It’s mostly static and “white noise,” but towards the end there’s some shit we all recognize — a handful of confused young folks scared out of their wits and fighting for survival against an unseen, evil force within the confines of an abandoned house. Like any and all people of their generation, they decide to upload this mysterious footage to the internet, and in fairly short order it’s seen by a guy named James (played by — here we go with the old tropes — James Allen McCune) who believes he may be witnessing the final moments in the life of his long-lost sister, Heather, of original Blair Witch Project fame. Cue our erstwhile protagonist assembling a plucky gang of friends a couple of colorful locals to head into the so-called “Blair Woods” themselves and get some fucking answers — all documented on video, naturally. The problem is, of course, that the same entity that beset Heather and her cohorts hasn’t gone anywhere, and is no more enthusiastic about welcoming visitors to its domain than it was back in 1998. Time to pluck off the interlopers, one by one —

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Wingard definitely gets plenty right here, don’t get me wrong : the film’s sound design is something to see — err, sorry, hear — and his production design is skillfully authentic and accentuates the old tingles to the spine. Weirdly effective ambient music does a reasonable job of keeping you feeling somewhat uneasy, too, but in the final analysis the problem here — and you probably knew this was coming — is that the film’s entire middle section feels like the sort of tedious “hand-held-horror” romp that we’ve seen a thousand and one times before because, well, that’s exactly what it is. The cast isn’t too bad, by and large, with special “props” going out to Callie Hernandez and Corbin Reid for their over-and-above-the-call-of-duty performances as Lisa and Ashley, respectively, but some better-than-competent acting and better-than-competent production values aren’t really enough to elevate the proceedings until —-

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Yeah, wow. Wingard’s third act, set within the walls of the Rustin Parr house, really shifts things into another gear altogether. It’s as frightening, claustrophobic, hair-raising, tense, and relentless as any 30-or-so minutes you’ve seen in a heck of a long time. You can literally feel people’s sanity slipping away just before their existences do the same. But you could easily be forgiven for having mentally “checked out” of the flick well before all this horrific splendor is unleashed. I loved the final 25% (or thereabouts) of Blair Witch to pieces, but its sheer mastery is something of a two-edged sword — it shows us that Wingard is, indeed, more than capable of making “found footage” horror scary again, arguably maybe even scarier than it’s ever been. But it also leaves you feeling more than a bit disappointed that he waited until so late in the film to really give it his all.

 

 

 

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Regular readers around these parts probably figured it was only a matter of time before I got around to casting my supposedly critical eye on writer/director James DeMonaco’s summer 2016 release The Purge : Election Year given that I had generally good things to say about the first two films in this so-called “evolving franchise,” but seeing as how I never got around to catching it while it was playing in theaters, you fine folks are stuck with a “better late than never” appraisal since I just got it on DVD (a “bare-bones” rental DVD, I hasten to add, so I’m afraid I can’t discuss whatever extras the “real” disc might offer) from Netflix the other day and gave it a watch last night. There’s a better than good chance that many of you reading this have probably already seen it, I suppose, but what the heck — I’ve got a few things to say about it regardless of whether or not you’ve already had a chance to form your own opinion.

First off, let’s be perfectly honest — despite the wrinkle of having this story center on the desperate struggle for survival of anti-Purge presidential candidate Senator Charlie Roan (played by Elizabeth Mitchell), this is pretty much the “taking it to the streets” premise of 2014’s The Purge : Anarchy all over again, but frankly the tight, insular, single-location setting of DeMonaco’s first flick was probably a more successful conceit in terms of exploiting a concept like this to its fullest. I also find it highly absurd that the so-called “New Founding Fathers Of America” would allow an opposition candidate like Senator Roan to rise to prominence in the first place since they seem like an outright fascist outfit, but whatever. We’ll just file that under “Requiring Greater Suspension Of Disbelief Than Most” and move on from there.

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Besides, just because they didn’t try to kill her before doesn’t meant they’re not going to give it their level best come Purge Night. Our one-woman resistance force starts out with only her loyal bodyguard, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) for protection, but in fairly short order they’re joined by tough-but-kindly deli owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), his protege who operates a mobile triage unit (or, if you prefer simplicity, an ambulance), Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel), and his principled-but-quiet part-time (I’m assuming, at any rate) employee, Marcos (J.J. Soria). And that’s not all — after a few near-death skirmishes, our ragtag rebels are joined by a decidedly less ragtag, and considerably larger, band of rebels who are determined to do considerably more than help Charlie win the election, they’re out to guarantee her victory by assassinating her NFFA-endorsed opponent.

Cue some pretty heavy moralizing of the “if-we-kill-him-we’re-no-better-than-they-are” variety that grates almost instantly and infects an otherwise enjoyable-if-predictable ultraviolent romp with an unwelcome strain of ineffective and largely redundant earnestness. We already know this whole “Purge thing” is some sick and evil shit, after all, we don’t need to have that viewpoint amplified in stereo.

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Are you getting the distinct impression that I was decidedly less impressed with The Purge : Election Year than previous entries in this series? Well, you’re exactly right — most of the principal cast turn in competent (if unmemorable) performances, and DeMonaco hasn’t lost his flair for for visceral, bloody, dystopian action, but it really does feel like this premise has been stretched as far as it can possibly go, if not a bit further. And that’s probably this flick’s most glaring and irredeemable flaw — it’s not especially bad (or good) when taken on its own merits, but it’s what it’s not that’s actually of much more concern than what it is.

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Ya see, The Purge : Election Year plays out like nothing so much as a natural conclusion to a trilogy. Not a particularly inspired conclusion, mind you (and the whole thing probably seemed considerably more relevant before the real election validated the absurd in ways no fiction could even dream of), but at least a logical one. Except it’s not. DeMonoaco is already at work on a fourth flick, and that relegates this one from the role of “big finale” to that of “mediocre stopgap measure.” I’ll be the first to admit that it’s blatantly unfair to hold the fact that there’s a future installment coming in this series against the present one, but them’s the breaks, I guess : if this had been the end of the road, it would have been essential viewing for hard-core Purge fans, at least, if no one else, but as things stand, shit — it turns out it’s one that even they can skip.

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I missed writer/director Barry Jenkins’ much-hyped Moonlight on its first pass through theaters, but now that it’s back for a return engagement thanks to a wheelbarrow-full of Oscar nominations, I found myself without a valid excuse for missing out a second time. Sure, sometimes the PR machine that kicks into high gear during awards season puts its muscle behind a lackluster effort that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what all the fuss was about, but everything I’d read made it seem like this flick was the real deal — it sounded timely, topical, authentic, and exceedingly well-made, and on the whole, bets don’t come much surer than that.

For those unfamiliar with the particulars, Moonlight follows the story of a bright, sensitive, and quiet African-American kid growing up in and on some of the meaner streets of Miami, and wears its conventional three-act structure on its sleeve by first focusing on its protagonist as a nine-year-old nicknamed Little (played with amazing confidence and nuance by Alex R. Hibbert), then a troubled sixteen-year-old who answers to his given name of Chiron (Ashton Sanders), and finally as a mid-20s “gang-banger” who answers to the street name of “Black” (Trevante Rhodes). Jenkins’ script (with a “share” on the story credit given to Tarell Alvin McCraney) is a surprisingly subtle and largely internalized yarn that eschews anything even vaguely resembling the moralizing we see in so many films that fit into the broadly-defined “troubled youth” sub-genre, and that deftly navigates the tumultuous and complex evolving relationships that Little/Chiron/Black has with his mother, Paula (Naomie Harris); father figure/mentor, Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monae); and best and only friend, Kevin (Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and Andre Holland, respectively), while at the same time remaining almost intensely introspective from start to finish. It’s a tightrope act of the most daring and potentially treacherous sort, to be sure, but it sure seems effortless enough in the hands of this — and I don’t say this lightly — amazingly talented cast. Literally no one turns in a performance that could be called less than stellar, and some (Ali, Hibbert, Sanders, Rhodes, and Harris) are downright historically memorable. If you’re an aspiring actor, particularly an aspiring actor of color, this flick is a veritable clinic that should be required viewing.

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And ya know what? The same goes for the rest of you, too. Moonlight treads brave thematic ground in its presentation of the life of a young, gay black man coming of age in a hostile environment and subsuming not only his sexuality but his very happiness for the sake of survival, and takes a highly gutsy non-judgmental approach to the contradictions about urban life inherent in so many of its characters : Juan is the closest thing to a decent role model Little has, but he’s also a drug dealer who sells his youthful charge’s mother crack; Teresa is a kind-hearted woman who’s willing to look the other way when it comes to how her boyfriend makes a living; Paula is a desperate addict who would probably like to do the right thing but doesn’t even know how to anymore; Kevin is the only person to show physical and romantic love for Chiron as a teen yet is also willing to punch him in the face to “prove” his manhood; etc. It would be easy — shit, too easy — for Jenkins to editorialize on any or all of this, but he shows downright heroic restraint in not doing so, as well as a tremendous amount of faith and trust in his audience to form their own conclusions without him telling them what they should think. The warm patina added to the proceedings by the quietly Euro-stylized cinematography of James Laxton gives the film a unique and and highly personal “final touch” in stylistic terms, and the end result of all these meticulously-executed elements is more than just a bit, dare I say it, magical.

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So, the question that comes immediately to mind after all this heady praise is a very valid one indeed — is Moonlight, in fact, the best film of 2016?

I wish I could answer that with anything other than a blunt and honest “who the hell knows?,” but I can’t. I haven’t seen a good number of the films nominated for Best Picture, much less all the great ones that didn’t get a nod from the Academy, but I will say this much — it’s probably the best film that I saw, and odds are very good that if you check it out, you’ll agree. I’ve been rifling through what passes for the contents of my mind since seeing it looking for some grounds — any grounds — on which I can proffer even mild criticism for what Jenkins has achieved here, and I have to admit : I’m coming up empty. I can’t think of a more powerful or unqualified endorsement than that.

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We’ll know in fairly short order whether or not the Hollywood establishment agrees with the glowing assessments offered by myself and other amateur and professional critics for Jenkins’ entirely unpretentious character-driven masterpiece, but something tells me that, Best Picture Oscar in tow or not, Moonlight will stand the test of time more steadfastly than its competitors simply because, for all its contemporary relevance, the story being told here, and perhaps even more crucially the way in which it’s told, are well and truly timeless.