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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

Last week in my post recapping the Critics’ Choice Awards, I lamented the fact that “La La Land” had beaten “Moonlight” for Best Picture despite my not having seen “La La Land” yet. Well, I finally saw it yesterday and you know what? It is great. Like, really great. The performances were wonderful, visually it was stunning and I can’t wait to get those songs on my iPod (yes, I still have an iPod). But did I like it better than “Moonlight”? The jury is still out.


While it seems absolutely insane to pit these two equally great and wildly different movies against each other, it’s exactly what has been happening this award season and will almost certainly continue to happen when the Oscar nominations come out next month. Sure, “Manchester By The Sea” (which I’m seeing later today) is up there too as one of the frontrunners, but I see the competition for Best Picture really sitting between “La La Land” and “Moonlight.” They’re both perfect fodder for the Oscars. One is a rousing tale celebrating Hollywood and all of the dreamers who go there to make it big in the moving pictures biz, the other a moving coming-of-age story filled with brilliant unknowns. The Academy eats that stuff up.


What “La La Land” has going for it that “Moonlight” might not is the spectacle. The gorgeous costumes and big flashy song and dance numbers would definitely not fit in “Moonlight’s” Miami like they fit in “La La Land’s ” Los Angeles. It’s one of those movies that will eternally have a spot in great movie montages for years to come because it just looks so gosh darn pretty. (Not to say that “Moonlight” isn’t pretty. That shot of the mother standing in the hallway awash in a magenta-colored light? That could go up in an art museum tomorrow.) Spectacle does well with the masses, or none of those superhero movies would ever take off. It’s what’ll keep people going to see “La La Land” in theaters and what’ll keep them watching it at home.


But what “Moonlight” has that “La La Land” doesn’t is a certain sense of importance. It’s a story that needed to be told and needed to be told now, much like last year’s big winner, “Spotlight.” The way it artfully addresses issues like sexuality and race should not be ignored, especially in a time when those issues are so front and center. No shade to “La La Land,” but it could come out five or 10 years down the road and it would most likely still receive the same glowing response. “Moonlight” hits a nerve that’s incredibly present now and that’s worth noting and recognizing, even if it doesn’t rake in the box office bucks.


In terms of which one I liked best, I’m still not entirely sure (but I am leaning more towards “Moonlight”). In terms of which one the Academy will like best? It’s much tougher. They do love to celebrate themselves, and “La La Land” fits that to a T, but they also love to give the underdog a shot from time to time, so “Moonlight” could still have a significant chance. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens in February.


Have you seen “La La Land” and “Moonlight”? What do you think of their “Best Picture” chances? Still upset that “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” continues to be snubbed at every awards show? Me too, dear reader, me too…


And last, but certainly not least, in this lovely holiday season, I’d like to say to you and yours…


Stay classy.