MOONLIGHT AND SCRIPT: Do the critics care about kids like Chiron?

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2017

Part 3—The answer may be not so much:
The New York Times employs three film critics.

In their year-end musings on the best films of 2016, each praised Moonlight to the skies. One employed a bit of upper-end argot.

Manohla Dargis was perhaps most comical of the three amigos. Naming the film the year's third best, she praised its "lapidary visuals" as part of a very brief capsule.

Offering his own capsule of Moonlight, A.O. Scott extended his puzzling (and gruesome) formal review, a review we'll discuss tomorrow. Naming Moonlight the year's best film, he said, "The most eloquent testimony comes when words fail, when I run into someone on the street or at a party and they say, 'Moonlight,' and I say 'yeah, Moonlight,' and we take a deep breath because nothing more really needs to be said."

Gee, thanks for all the critical help! Where can the rest of us go to get paid employment like that?

(In his earlier formal review, Scott praised the way Moonlight "is infused with what the poet Hart Crane called 'infinite consanguinity.'" He closed by saying that he still can't decide what the film "is about.")

Among the Times' film critics, Dargis and Scott are the cultural lefties, the people inclined to articulate views which will quickly be derided as examples of "political correctness." Stephen Holden, the third film critic, is cast as the worn-out old coot.

Despite or because of this casting, Holden offered a surprise in his rather lengthy capsule treatment of Moonlight.

He too picked Moonlight as the year's best film. Indeed, he said it's one of the three best films of the past decade.

That said, Holden suggested a type of possibility we've long explored at this site. Among Holden's chic, white upper-class friends, the scribe seemed to say, nobody cares about black kids.

They certainly don't care about such kids if they're also gay drug dealers. Or at least, so Holden semi-said.

Below, you see Holden's full capsule. We think he, like many others, may be caught in a bit of a scripted stampede about Moonlight. But as he ends, he raises a very important question, a question about the actual values of our own self-impressed tribe:
HOLDEN (12/11/16): Kindness and tenderness, as opposed to tear-jerking melodrama, are traits not commonly associated with movies that aim primarily to thrill and excite. Genuine intimacy is so rarely encountered in film that when you come upon it, your tendency is to suspect that somehow you're being played.

But in Barry Jenkins's "Moonlight," my pick for the best movie of the year, there are moments of generosity and selflessness that take your breath away. This is an entirely human story in a medium enthralled by technology, violence and fantasy. As I watched the film, based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, it held me in a state of awed recognition and remembrance of the times I was touched by transformational acts of gentleness and caring.

These radiant moments soften an otherwise tough movie, about Chiron, a gay black youth played by three different actors, growing up in a Miami housing project where he acquires the armor of a street thug to survive. Along with "Brokeback Mountain" and "Boyhood," it is one of the three finest movies of the last decade or so. Is it a coincidence that all three have male protagonists who instinctively resist patriarchal brutishness?

In its brokenhearted examination of race, class, privilege and inequality in modern America, "Moonlight" is one of several excellent movies set in places beyond the country's affluent enclaves. When I raved about "Moonlight" to several well-to-do white liberal friends and described Chiron, they politely took note but behaved as if I were telling them to eat their spinach.

These same people couldn't wait to see films like "The Big Short" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," about the financial chicanery and decadence of rich white crooks. This, then, is the America we're living in: The haves would rather not contemplate the suffering of the have-nots. And we are shocked to discover that our indifference has consequences.
Uh-oh! In the America Holden lives in, his well-to-do white liberal friends don't care about kids like Chiron! According to Holden, they'd rather not "contemplate the suffering" of a child who, at nine years of age, already seems to be traumatized—is "tiny, desperate, unwell."

Is Holden right about his friends? We have no way of knowing.

That said, we'll suggest that his unflattering claim might be true of his film critic colleagues and friends. We've read many major reviews of Moonlight. We can't say we've found a single reviewer who recorded the amount of suffering on display in this striking film.

To state the obvious, there's nothing "wrong" with making a film which puts a large amount of suffering on display. It may be that something is wrong when major critics review such a film, but seem unable to see, or unwilling to describe, that large amount of pain, and the terrible harm it produces.

In his own five-paragraph capsule, even Holden tends to toe this critical line. He does mention the fact that "suffering" is on display in Jenkins' striking film. But he mentions this fact in passing, quite late in his account.

In the main, Holden describes a film which seems to be dominated by other qualities—by kindness, tenderness and genuine intimacy; by moments of generosity and selflessness; by transformational acts of gentleness and caring.

Is that what Moonlight is like?

To state the obvious, any answer will involve matters of judgment. That said, that's very much what Moonlight is like according to the corporate entities which promoted the film.

Let's be clear: We're speaking here about the suits. We aren't necessarily describing Jenkins' view of his own film, which is about, and not about, his own early years in Miami.

Jenkins made a striking film; the suits sold it as uplifting. We haven't seen the full press kit, but this is the official summary offered by the distributor, A24:
Moonlight

A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery,
Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. At once a vital portrait of contemporary African American life and an intensely personal and poetic meditation on identity, family, friendship, and love, Moonlight is a groundbreaking piece of cinema that reverberates with deep compassion and universal truths. Anchored by extraordinary performances from a tremendous ensemble cast, Jenkins’s staggering, singular vision is profoundly moving in its portrayal of the moments, people, and unknowable forces that shape our lives and make us who we are.
(According to the leading authority, A24 is "an American independent entertainment company founded [in 2012] by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges and based in New York City. It specializes in film production, finance, television production and distribution...Since their formation, A24 has been one of the most well-known independent film companies.")

A24 promoted Moonlight as "an intensely personal and poetic meditation" which "reverberates with deep compassion and universal truths." At the film's official site, the usual suspects color within these lines, as our journalists typically do when 1) a film comes from major established talent, or 2) when a film has been selected, by guild consensus, as a critical favorite.

To a remarkable extent, our journalists tend to be skilled at working from script. At Moonlight's official site, this is the first critical blurb that's offered:
Why Moonlight Matters

Its story may be sprinkled with drug dealers and addicts. But its message is clear: The world is richer and deeper and more complex than we ever imagined, and even its most troubled characters—just like us—are looking for love.

Stephen Galloway
The Hollywood Reporter
As it turns out, Chiron is just like us! Chiron is looking for love, "just like" we are.

Warning! People who peddle such masterful nonsense may not care about black kids! We've discussed this general problem for years. We'll return to the topic tomorrow.

For today, A24 is a business. Presumably, its suits were hoping that you and yours, and Holden's friends, would purchase tickets to Moonlight.

That said, did any critic, at any news org, describe the amount of suffering on display in this striking film? Did any critic even come close to describing the volume of suffering undergone by the child who's only 9 years old at the start of this film?

In our travels around the Net, the answer to date is no. We had to turn to LaLi Mohamed, up Canada way, to see Chiron's suffering described.

Holden seemed to say that his friends don't care about the suffering of kids like Chiron. Is it possible that his erudite, well-scripted colleagues may perhaps be a bit like his friends?

Tomorrow: LaLi Mohamed describes Chiron; Scott takes a Negro to lunch.

21 comments:

  1. Holden's liberal friends seem like some of the people making comments to the Drum article Bob linked to on Monday. Feckless and myopic; a couple of comments that I read show a tendency to dwell on the specific, rather than the big picture that Bob tries to paint. They fail to see the forest for the trees.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There does seem to be confusion.

      Liberals push and support policies that help people that are suffering, it is their main tenet. Liberals may find some of those that are suffering distasteful, white trash for example, but they still work hard to help them.

      In contrast, Republicans believe people should rely on themselves to fix their suffering. Policy-wise, Republicans are obsessed with helping the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

      Delete
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    3. i want to say a very big thanks and appreciation to Dr. Keke Odin the chief priest of all spell casters worldwide for bringing back my husband who left i and the kids for almost three months within the space of two days after following all instruction given to me. i am very much grateful for restoring peace in my marital home, and i pray God almighty give you the strength and wisdom to continue helping more people having similar relationship and marital problem like mine. for help you can contact him now through his email and mobile number below

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      i want to say a very big thanks and appreciation to Dr. Keke Odin the chief priest of all spell casters worldwide for bringing back my husband who left i and the kids for almost three months within the space of two days after following all instruction given to me. i am very much grateful for restoring peace in my marital home, and i pray God almighty give you the strength and wisdom to continue helping more people having similar relationship and marital problem like mine. for help you can contact him now through his email and mobile number below

      Email: greatkekespelltemple@gmail.com

      Mobile Number: +1 386-336-9876

      website: http://greatkekespelltemple01.webs.com



      i want to say a very big thanks and appreciation to Dr. Keke Odin the chief priest of all spell casters worldwide for bringing back my husband who left i and the kids for almost three months within the space of two days after following all instruction given to me. i am very much grateful for restoring peace in my marital home, and i pray God almighty give you the strength and wisdom to continue helping more people having similar relationship and marital problem like mine. for help you can contact him now through his email and mobile number below

      Email: greatkekespelltemple@gmail.com

      Mobile Number: +1 386-336-9876

      website: http://greatkekespelltemple01.webs.com



      i want to say a very big thanks and appreciation to Dr. Keke Odin the chief priest of all spell casters worldwide for bringing back my husband who left i and the kids for almost three months within the space of two days after following all instruction given to me. i am very much grateful for restoring peace in my marital home, and i pray God almighty give you the strength and wisdom to continue helping more people having similar relationship and marital problem like mine. for help you can contact him now through his email and mobile number below

      Email: greatkekespelltemple@gmail.com

      Mobile Number: +1 386-336-9876

      website: http://greatkekespelltemple01.webs.com

      Delete
  2. When you understand the only objective in life for these progressive critics is finding opportunities to say "I care but you don't," you understand the reviews.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your misreading, unless you read minds?

      Delete
  3. "patriarchal brutishness" "privilege". And Holden is NOT one of the 'politically correct' ones?

    Also, as far as watching a work of fiction in order to "contemplate the suffering of the have-nots". Well, it is a fictional have-not, so do we know it is any more real than Harry Potter or Captain Kirk? The mother is not just a have-not, but also a drug addict. So, isn't that a typical right-wing message? - Have-nots create their own problems.

    Anecdotally, one of my liberal friends on FB loved this movie. Also, most of my friends, like myself, have not seen ANY of the nine nominated films. Some had seen one. My brother's wife is waiting for Godot to bring them to Redbox.

    Myself, looking at the list of nominees since the year 2000 I have seen only 4 of them - Up, Brokeback Mountain, Crash, and Master and Commander. The last one because it happened to be on sale for a dime at the library.

    Looking at nominees from earlier years I have seen a lot more, some I was not all that impressed by - Silence of the Lambs? Yuck. Braveheart? Meh. E.T? Bleah. I recently got "The Right Stuff" from the library too, still have not watched it several weeks later.

    No, I am not sure why anybody needs to know that. As Calvin said, all of our life experiences become "boring stories with no point."

    ReplyDelete
  4. These radiant moments soften an otherwise tough movie, about Chiron, a gay black youth played by three different actors, growing up in a Miami housing project where he acquires the armor of a street thug to survive. Along with "Brokeback Mountain" and "Boyhood," it is one of the three finest movies of the last decade or so. Is it a coincidence that all three have male protagonists who instinctively resist patriarchal brutishness?

    Pssh. Obviously not. Because by "finest," he means films which best exemplify the sort of cultural marxist garbage modern liberals love to push. The main objective of the jew-conceived and jew-pushed critical theory is to deconstruct society, and all its values, mores, and norms. That means, first and foremost, attacking both masculinity and femininity. Thus, pushing the homosexual agenda is a means to an end. And added bonus is that it flaunts social norms and has a degenerative effect on traditional families, and promotes the normalization of aberrant behavior and mental disorder.

    So, no, it's no coincidence. It's nearly impossible for a film to get any considerable degree of praise from mainstream "critics" (Bob is very correct that they're reading from a script, but he's blind to where they're getting it from, and who's writing it), without the film attacking traditional social norms in some way or another. Homosexuals are still getting attention in film, but other vectors of media pozz have moved on to transexualism, and many are now to the point of actually attacking male homosexuals, as they're now apparently perceived as excessively traditional.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "cultural marxist garbage" Change your diaper, then get a GED.

      Delete
    2. Cultural Marxist Garbage is a reality that can afflict and destroy a culture but there is no reason to pin it on "Jews" regardless of who pushes it. There is no shortage of people or groups that push it. The biggest groups would be teenagers, the ignorant, and identity based hate groups. Various types of intellectuals push it but they are not limited to Jews and many Jews despise it.

      Delete
    3. Thank you @3:52.

      Delete
  5. "lapidary visuals" sounds like the film version of "luminous prose", a description that can make me run away.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "The most eloquent testimony comes when words fail, when I run into someone on the street or at a party and they say, 'Moonlight,' and I say 'yeah, Moonlight,' and we take a deep breath because nothing more really needs to be said."

    Analysts, please! Trigger warning so we can at least grab a barf bag.

    ReplyDelete
  7. My daughter refers to movies like Kill Bill as violence porn. I remember when people praised the movie Precious using similar language. I think these films represent a kind of victim porn. It is tempting to speculate what buttons it pushes, what needs it satisfies in the people who rave about such films.

    I find myself wondering whether we shouldn't be learning to empathize with more typical black experiences presented in films less Tyler Perryish. It is no wonder Trump thinks all black people live in hell holes when disproportionate attention is paid to the films that apparently have to rip out people's hearts in order to get them to feel anything. Abusing a child or abusing a woman, neither is "entertainment" unless there is something warped in the viewer to begin with. The premise that when a main character has been cruelly used, it excuses whatever they might do afterward is also questionable morally and a corrupt literary device, in my opinion. If all you want to do is react viscerally, it is less morally troubling to watch a fast and furious movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Quentin Tarantino and Mel Gibson are masters of this kind of porn.

      There is a related political phenomenon, the agonized "What do we tell our children" commentary around "racist" police shootings later exposed as lies being an example. A certain kind of activist enjoys framing an issue as representing an ism and then coming to the rescue of the victim, verbally or with violence. In either case it is about self-gratification and the consequence of creating the myth to support the response is harm to the group identified as victimized.

      Delete
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    2) Lost Love Spells
    3) Divorce Spells
    4) Marriage Spells
    5) Binding Spell.
    6) Breakup Spells
    7) Banish a past Lover
    8.) You want to be promoted in your office/ Lottery spell
    9) want to satisfy your lover
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    through drogunduspellcaster@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
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