Moonlight

©2016, A24.

Photo: David Bornfriend.

 

There’s a scene in the first act of Barry Jenkins’ MOONLIGHT in which the young Chiron (Alex Hibbert) asks his surrogate father, Juan (Mahershala Ali), two questions:  Is his mother on drugs and does Juan sell them to her.   In that moment, Chiron looks to Juan’s girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monáe), to keep him honest.  After Juan cops to it, the fragile, taciturn boy whose detractors have nicknamed “Little”, leaves.  Juan breaks down into tears of guilt; he failed Little.

Adapted from Tarell McRaney’s semi-autobiographical play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, we are gifted a unique look into the life of a youth grappling with his burgeoning sexual identity.  “What’s a faggot?” he asks Juan.  Juan replies that it’s a word used to slander gay people.

MOONLIGHT is structured classically as a three act play:  Little. Chiron. Black.  Chiron by birth, his friend Kevin nicknames him Black—the significance is never revealed but it does fit the internalization of Chiron’s emotions.  Between the bullies at school and the bully of a crack-addicted mother at home, Paula (Naomie Harris), Little avoids conversation, except with Kevin and Teresa.

In the second act, Chiron (Ashton Sanders) continues to struggle with concentrating in class while others bully him, particularly a much larger boy, Terrel (Patrick Decile).  Without spoiling this pivotal middle chapter, I call your attention to the next morning.  Chiron, incensed, enters the school.  Note his clenched left fist and deliberate pace.

When we meet the adult Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) in the third act, he’s embraced Black by name, but not yet in mind and body.  It’s not a journey without an implied destination, but it’s how Jenkins gets us there that is of import.  Notice the crown atop his car’s dashboard.  He is his surrogate father’s son.

Representation has been at the center of the discussion for the past year since #OscarsSoWhite trended.  Earlier this week, DOCTOR STRANGE director Scott Derrickson made the rounds whitesplaining the tough choices (!) between typecasting an Asian “dragon lady” versus whitewashing the Asian character, as if it’s impossible to write an Asian character well and cast appropriately.  On Twitter I expressed curiosity why Derrickson never once thought to consult Asian filmmakers and resolve the situation, rather than screw it up and take the slap on the wrist.  At the other end of the artistic spectrum, Jenkins does the impossible: He informs the viewer about the impoverished black experience in America whilst representing the broader experience of the adolescent trying to become secure in his or her identity.

Jenkins accomplishes a feat of narrative genius.  The three stories of Little, Chiron, and Black, could exist separately as shorts.   As Rhodes informed us at the Q&A, the three principals never met on set and never discussed each others performances.  Their interpretations of the character come entirely from the script and directorial guidance.  Still, we see them as one person in different stages.

Still, we draw comparisons, none more apt than when Black finds himself alone with Kevin after a reunion dinner made with such care you’ll cry the next time you look at a plate of Cuban garlic chicken.  In that solemn moment, Black accepts himself.  To be a gay man is one thing.  To be gay and black is a lifetime of rejection from your community.  Admitting his love for Kevin, we witness Black transform before our eyes into Chiron, into Little.  He always knew who he was, but now he isn’t ashamed of it.

A coworker nearing retirement once told me, “You have to start making decisions for your life, before your life starts making decisions for you.”  Two years later he passed away.  Inevitably, Black’s arc takes him from Atlanta back to Miami, to Kevin, now a cook after a stint in prison.  It’s a nine hour drive, my wife points out.  Black would’ve driven a week to be with Kevin.

“I look at love on a scale of one to ten, and I feel like we settle for sixes and sevens, which is why we have divorce.  But I feel like Chiron found his “ten” in Kevin when he was seven years old.” – Trevante Rhodes

THE SOCIAL NETWORK tops DFW Film Critics Picks

©2010, Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Andrew Garfield, left, and Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg in Columbia Pictures' THE SOCIAL NETWORK. PHOTO BY: Merrick Morton


The Dallas-Ft. Worth Film Critics Association, of which I must disclose I am a voting member, announced the results of its 17th annual awards today.

The Association’s selection for Best Picture is THE SOCIAL NETWORK, for which director David Fincher also won Best Director. Rounding out the Top Ten: THE KING’S SPEECH, BLACK SWAN, 127 HOURS, WINTER’S BONE, INCEPTION, THE FIGHTER, TRUE GRIT, THE TOWN and THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT.

In the Best Actor category, James Franco was recognized for his performance as Aron Ralston in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, followed by runners-up, Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Robert Duvall (Get Low) and Michael Douglas (Solitary Man).

In the Best Actress category, Natalie Portman won for her role as Nina Sayers in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Ms. Portman is followed by Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right) and Michele Williams (Blue Valentine).

For Best Supporting Actor, we awarded Christian Bale for his role as boxing legend Dicky Eklund in The Fighter. Runners-up included Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Bill Murray (Get Low) and Chris Cooper (The Company Men).

Melissa Leo took Best Supporting Actress for her part as the hard knocks mother of WBU Welterweight boxers Mark Ward and Dicky Eklund, Alice Ward in The Fighter. She is followed by Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom), Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Mila Kunis (Black Swan).

David Fincher’s Best Director win is followed by Danny Boyle for 127 Hours, Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Christopher Nolan (Inception) and Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech).

BIUTIFUL was awarded Best Foreign Language Film over THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, MOTHER, LEBANON and I AM LOVE.

WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN” took home Best Documentary, besting EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, RESTREPO, THE TILLMAN STORY and MARWENCOL.

In the Best Animated Film category, TOY STORY 3 beat HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin was recognized for THE SOCIAL NETWORK, over Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION.

Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle won Best Cinematography for their work on 127 HOURS, followed by Roger Deakins (True Grit) tied with Wally Pfister (Inception).

The association voted WINTER’S BONE as the winner of the Russell Smith Award, named for the late Dallas Morning News film critic. The honor is given annually to the best low-budget or cutting-edge independent film.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association consists of 28 broadcast, print and online journalists from throughout North Texas. For more information, visit www.dfwfilmcritics.com.

AMPAS Narrows Foreign Language Contenders for Oscars

©A.M.P.A.S.®

Out of the sixty-five foreign language films originally selected for consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences®, nine have been selected to move forward in the next round of voting for the 82nd Academy Awards®.

Notes from the Academy press release:

Foreign Language Film nominations for 2009 are again being determined in two phases.

The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based members, screened the 65 eligible films between mid-October and January 16. The group’s top six choices, augmented by three additional selections voted by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee, constitute the shortlist.

The shortlist will be winnowed down to the five nominees by specially invited committees in New York and Los Angeles. They will spend Friday, January 29, through Sunday, January 31, viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

The candidate films are as follows:

From Argentina, El Secreto de Sus Ojos, directed by Juan Jose Campanella.

From Australia, Samson & Delilah, directed by Warwick Thornton.

From Bulgaria, The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner, directed by Stephan Komandarev.

From France, Un Prophète, directed by Jacques Audiard.

From Germany, Das Weiße Band – Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte, directed by Michael Haneke.

From Israel, Ajami—Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, directors.

From Kazakhstan, Kelin, Ermek Tursunov.

From the Netherlands, Winter in Wartime—Martin Koolhoven, director.

From Peru, The Milk of Sorrow—Claudia Llosa, director.

More information can be found at the AMPAS Official Website or Facebook page.

AMPAS Announces Scientific and Technical Awards

©A.M.P.A.S.®

©A.M.P.A.S.®

Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS®) announced the fifteen scientific and technical achievement awards to be received by forty-six recipients at the Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation, Saturday, February 20, 2010, at the Beverly Wilshire hotel.

In contrast to other Academy Awards to be distributed in other categories, a body of work prior to the current year may merit recognition for the scientific and technical achievement.

From the Academy press release issued this afternoon:

The Academy Awards for scientific and technical achievements are:

Technical Achievement Award (Academy Certificate)

To Mark Wolforth and Tony Sedivy for their contributions to the development of the Truelight real-time 3D look-up table hardware system.

Through the use of color management software and hardware, this complete system enables accurate color presentation in the digital intermediate preview process. The Truelight system is widely utilized in digital intermediate production environments around the world.

To Dr. Klaus Anderle, Christian Baeker and Frank Billasch for their contributions to the LUTher 3D look-up table hardware device and color management software.

The LUTher hardware was the first color look-up table processor to be widely adopted by the pioneering digital intermediate facilities in the industry. This innovation allowed the facilities to analyze projected film output and build 3D look-up tables in order to emulate print film, enabling accurate color presentation.

To Steve Sullivan, Kevin Wooley, Brett Allen and Colin Davidson for the development of the Imocap on-set performance capture system.

Developed at Industrial Light & Magic and consisting of custom hardware and software, Imocap is an innovative system that successfully addresses the need for on-set, low-impact performance capture.

To Hayden Landis, Ken McGaugh and Hilmar Koch for advancing the technique of ambient occlusion rendering.

Ambient occlusion has enabled a new level of realism in synthesized imagery and has become a standard tool for computer graphics lighting in motion pictures.

To Bjorn Heden for the design and mechanical engineering of the silent, two-stage planetary friction drive Heden Lens Motors.

Solving a series of problems with one integrated mechanism, this device had an immediate and significant impact on the motion picture industry.

Scientific and Engineering Award (Academy Plaque)

To Per Christensen and Michael Bunnell for the development of point-based rendering for indirect illumination and ambient occlusion.

Much faster than previous ray-traced methods, this computer graphics technique has enabled color bleeding effects and realistic shadows for complex scenes in motion pictures.

To Dr. Richard Kirk for the overall design and development of the Truelight real-time 3D look-up table hardware device and color management software.

This complete system enables accurate color presentation in the digital intermediate preview process. The Truelight system is widely utilized in digital intermediate production environments around the world.

To Volker Massmann, Markus Hasenzahl, Dr. Klaus Anderle and Andreas Loew for the development of the Spirit 4K/2K film scanning system as used in the digital intermediate process for motion pictures.

The Spirit 4K/2K has distinguished itself by incorporating a continuous-motion transport mechanism enabling full-range, high-resolution scanning at much higher frame rates than non-continuous transport scanners.

To Michael Cieslinski, Dr. Reimar Lenz and Bernd Brauner for the development of the ARRISCAN film scanner, enabling high-resolution, high-dynamic range, pin-registered film scanning for use in the digital intermediate process.

The ARRISCAN film scanner utilizes a specially designed CMOS array sensor mounted on a micro-positioning platform and a custom LED light source. Capture of the film’s full dynamic range at various scan resolutions is implemented through sub-pixel offsets of the sensor along with multiple exposures of each frame.

To Wolfgang Lempp, Theo Brown, Tony Sedivy and Dr. John Quartel for the development of the Northlight film scanner, which enables high-resolution, pin-registered scanning in the motion picture digital intermediate process.

Developed for the digital intermediate and motion picture visual effects markets, the Northlight scanner was designed with a 6K CCD sensor, making it unique in its ability to produce high-resolution scans of 35mm, 8-perf film frames.

To Steve Chapman, Martin Tlaskal, Darrin Smart and James Logie for their contributions to the development of the Baselight color correction system, which enables real-time digital manipulation of motion picture imagery during the digital intermediate process.

Baselight was one of the first digital color correction systems to enter the digital intermediate market and has seen wide acceptance in the motion picture industry.

To Mark Jaszberenyi, Gyula Priskin and Tamas Perlaki for their contributions to the development of the Lustre color correction system, which enables real-time digital manipulation of motion picture imagery during the digital intermediate process.

Lustre is a software solution that enables non-linear, real-time digital color grading across an entire feature film, emulating the photochemical color-timing process.

To Brad Walker, D. Scott Dewald, Bill Werner and Greg Pettitt for their contributions furthering the design and refinement of the Texas Instruments DLP Projector, achieving a level of performance that enabled color-accurate digital intermediate previews of motion pictures.

Working in conjunction with the film industry, Texas Instruments created a high-resolution, color-accurate, high-quality digital intermediate projection system that could closely emulate film-based projection in a theatrical environment.

To FUJIFILM Corporation, Ryoji Nishimura, Masaaki Miki and Youichi Hosoya for the design and development of Fujicolor ETERNA-RDI digital intermediate film, which was designed exclusively to reproduce motion picture digital masters.

The Fujicolor ETERNA-RDI Type 8511/4511 digital intermediate film has thinner emulsion layers with extremely efficient couplers made possible by Super-Nano Cubic Grain Technology. This invention allows improved color sensitivity with the ability to absorb scattered light, providing extremely sharp images. The ETERNA-RDI emulsion technology also achieves less color cross-talk for exacting reproduction. Its expanded latitude and linearity provides superior highlights and shadows in a film stock with exceptional latent image stability.

To Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins, John Monos and Mark Sagar for the design and engineering of the Light Stage capture devices and the image-based facial rendering system developed for character relighting in motion pictures.

The combination of these systems, with their ability to capture high fidelity reflectance data of human subjects, allows for the creation of photorealistic digital faces as they would appear in any lighting condition.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

AMPAS Selects Best Visual Effects Candidates

©A.M.P.A.S.®

©A.M.P.A.S.®

Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS®) announced the seven contenders for Best Visual Effects in the 82nd Academy Awards®: Twentieth Century-Fox’s $400 million gamble, Avatar, Tri-Star’s alien allegory to Apartheid, District 9, Warner Bros. Pictures’ releases Terminator Salvation andHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Paramount Pictures’ rebooted Star Trek, DreamWorks’ Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Columbia Pictures end-times film, 2012.

Members of the Visual Effects Branch of the Academy will screen 15-minute excerpts of each candidate film to pare the list down to three final nominees for Oscar® consideration.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

The 2009 Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, televised live by ABC.