Being Entertained

Alternate Title: On the Difficulty of Opinions

It was a cinematic weekend that just passed. Saturday I saw "La La Land", Sunday was the Golden Globes, Monday I saw "Moonlight". Today, I wrestle with my emotions.

Now, I'm sure most of this is stemming from being a straight, white guy, but "Moonlight" did nothing for me. It was beautifully shot, had some fantastic sound editing and was acted fairly well across the board, but I left the theatre trying to decide what I thought. I told my wife, 'I'm full of emotions, I just don't know which ones.' Half of that sentiment was in jest, but there was also quite a bit of truth to it. It was fine. Following along with the reactions that filled my Twitter timeline Sunday night, I was expecting to be blown away. Maybe that was the problem, I succumbed to expectations. However, after watching both, "La La Land" is the superior film. 

This is where it gets dicey, I suppose, because I'm not disenfranchised. Like I said, I'm just another straight, white dude. I even have an affirmation written on a Post-It stuck to my mirror: "Never, ever forget - you are a middle-class, North American, white man... it could be harder. Much harder." And I think that's what people were drawn to about "Moonlight", it was great to see two disenfranchised communities feature prominently in a major motion picture. Progress! Or something. But here I am talking out of my ass about something I know nothing about.

What I do know, is what entertains me. What captivates me. What surprises me when I see that over two hours have passed. And "La La Land" did it for all three. During the much shorter "Moonlight", I caught myself wanting to look at my phone. I day-dreamed how I'd like to go to Miami, just once. I thought about how the three actors playing Chiron didn't really look like they were supposed to be the same person. My wife and I continued to talk about it long after we left. Whereas for "La La Land", we both said, "that was cute." And left it at that.

So what makes a 'Best Picture'? Is it social commentary? Is it film making prowess? Is it the story, the actors, or score? Is it the whole package? Is it escapism? For these questions I have an answer. But if the 'Best Picture' is the film you talk about after, the one that stays with you for some reason, well then I might have a different answer.

Looking back through the nominees and forward to the upcoming Academy Awards, I can make assumptions. "La La Land" will probably clean up again, as it did on Sunday. People will cry foul over "Moonlight" being snubbed. And this is the difficulty with opinions. We all have them, we all have our own biases, we all have our own experiences which shape how we think and react to art. If I had a vote for Best Picture, my opinion would be shaped by my own life, my own feelings of what is entertaining, my own prejudices and biases.

And I'd pick "Hell or High Water."

Have you seen any of these films? Let me know what you thought about them, or how wrong my opinion is!