In a major shift, Syrian Kurds ally with Damascus to work side by side along the northern Syrian border    Egypt raises concerns about Ethiopia's GERD with German, Italian and Chinese envoys    Egypt's foreign minister begins tour of Central, Eastern Europe    US, European visa holders can now avail tourist visas to Saudi Arabia    Tunisians vote for president in test of young democracy    Egyptian parliament's budget committee begins discussing new customs law    Egypt's Sisi, Ethiopian PM to meet in Moscow to discuss GERD issue    Delta Life Assurance's assets rise to 1.23bn Egyptian pounds June-end    IMF positive about Egypt's economic trajectory    Vitamins, omega-3 supplements improve autism symptoms    'Alarming upsurge' in measles has devastating impact, WHO warns    France says suspends weapons sales to Turkey    We achieved our objective in second half: Italy coach after Greece win    Formula One: Mercedes driver Bottas wins Japanese Grand Prix    We were not patient: Spain boss Moreno after Norway draw    Saudi Arabia to launch new logistics zone in Jeddah, open to private investors: Statement    Seven people killed, 15 missing after Japan typhoon    UK Labour's Corbyn unlikely to support deal between PM Johnson, EU    10K fans to attend Egypt's friendly against Botswana in Alexandria: EFA    KaramSolar in talks with 5 banks to secure billion-pound solar plants    Egypt to increase daily oil output to70K in FY2020 – minister    Sisi, Ethiopia's PM agree to overcome obstacles in Nile dam talks    Why vacations are important for health    A brief history of the Cairo Opera House    Egypt reaffirms to US congressional delegation cooperation with Nile basin countries    Austrian Handke and Pole Tokarczuk win Nobel prizes for literature    Egypt's Zamalek president hopes 80,000 supporters attend Generation Foot match    Egypt's PM accuses Ethiopia of backtracking Nile water deals    In Photos: Alexandria Film Festival kicks off 35th edition    Farwell to Egyptian comic actor Talaat Zakaria    Egypt's PM, ministers to address parliament in Ethiopia    Barcelona paid €92 million to players in bonuses last season    Eating fish is linked to better sleep, higher IQ    Sisi stresses importance of technological universities, technical education    Egypt's Rowad Modern Engineering renovates 40% of Manial Palace    Grand Egyptian Museum's construction works 93% complete    Court sentences six to death, 41 to lifetime imprisonment violence related case    Trump says he would release Mideast peace plan after Israeli elections    ACWA Power compares 3 bids to supply production units for Luxor power station    What do you know about gold alloying?    NBE announces EGP 2.5m prizes for handball youth teams for their world achievements    Jennifer Lopez evokes Egyptian outrage post her North Coast performance    Al-Sisi honours Egypt's scholars on Science Day    IS claims responsibility for suicide bombing killing 63 in Afghan wedding    Political parties gear up for parliamentary, senate, local elections    Unprecedented Glory: Egypt win Men's U-19 World Handball Championship    12th National Egyptian Theatre Festival fuel up public theatre art scene    Ministry of Environment has a plan for "black clouds season"    







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How 'Moonlight' pulled off the Oscar upset of a lifetime
Published in Ahram Online on 01 - 03 - 2017

Long before Barry Jenkins made his way to the podium through the bewildered throng that packed the Dolby Theatre stage at the Academy Awards, he sat in a Toronto hotel room explaining his movie's quiet power.
"There's something in the way black men grow up in this country," said Jenkins. "There's a lot of information on these men's faces when they're not speaking, partly because we're robbed of our voices so much by society and the things society projects on us."
It was, in a way, fitting that "Moonlight" — stealthy and silent — won best picture amid such cacophony Sunday night. Since its fall film festival debut, Jenkin's tenderly lyrical film has steadily risen not through the loud kind of arm-waving that often catapults movies to the top prize — big box office, scene-chewing performances, historical sweep — but instead by a soulful, unremitting glow that slow-burned all the way to the Oscars.
Now that we more or less have some answers to "What the heck happened?" in the Oscars' final moments — EnvelopeGate, if you will — we can turn to that other puzzler: How did "Moonlight" just pull off one of the biggest upsets in Academy Awards history?
While not quite as gasp-inducing as the gaff that preceded its win, "Moonlight" will surely rank alongside, if not above, shockers like "Shakespeare in Love" (over "Saving Private Ryan") and "Crash" (over "Brokeback Mountain") for sheer, oh-my-god surprise.
The odds were stacked against it. "La La Land," with a record-tying 14 nominations, was seen as the hands-down favorite, having run up prizes from the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes. Though this usually hapless critic predicted a "Moonlight" win , virtually every Oscar prognosticator considered "La La Land" — like Hillary Clinton, it turned out— a lock.
But just as Clinton learned, there are dangers to being the presumed front-runner, especially when you're seen as a representative of nostalgia and tradition in turbulent times.
Widely expected to honor itself again by awarding a showbiz celebration like "La La Land," Hollywood veered instead to Miami's Liberty City, and a film that ripples with the humanity of a young man — black, gay, poor — seldom dignified by the movies or other realms of society. Yet "Moonlight" isn't a traditional social drama but a deeply personal one, soaked through with the kind of empathy many believe is missing from the national discourse. In the wake of the election of Donald Trump — surely a factor on Oscar night — Hollywood chose not a love letter to itself, but, as filmmaker Mark Duplass argued in an open-letter to academy voters , a "love letter to the core human values that connect us all."
"Moonlight," arguably the most critically adored film of 2016, is unquestionably deserving. In fact, it might even be too deserving. Films this good don't often win best picture. Even "La La Land" star Emma Stone took a moment in the chaotic aftermath Sunday to exclaim: "I love 'Moonlight!"
But "Moonlight" was made for just $1.5 million. It was only Jenkins' second film, and his first in eight years. Having made $22.2 million at the box office, it's one of the littlest-seen best-picture winners ever. The littlest seen best-picture winner was Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" (2009), which had made $12.7 million at the time of the Oscars.
The comparison is a good one, in some ways. Like "Moonlight," ''The Hurt Locker" triumphed over a colorful event movie that was praised for resuscitating the theatrical experience: "Avatar." And it was boosted by some compelling history: Bigelow's film was the first best-picture winner directed by a woman.
"Moonlight" is the first directed by an African-American filmmaker. Its win, also the first for an LGBT-themed movie, is sure to inspire a generation of filmmakers.
Only one major studio release (Warner Bros.' "Argo") has won best picture in the last decade. "La La Land" was distributed by Lionsgate, often called a "mini-major," and had much the feel of an old studio musical. Its 14 nominations and $370 million-plus in global box office only enhanced its reputation as the juggernaut front-runner — with the requisite backlash to go with it.
But, increasingly, small wins big at the Oscars. For four years straight, the Film Independent Spirit Awards winners — "12 Years a Slave," ''Birdman" and "Spotlight" — have lined up with the Oscars. It could well be that academy voters, working in an industry that increasingly makes little beyond branded blockbusters, are most moved by the personal cinema that has managed to escape Hollywood.
"I hope we are moving in that vein," said Tarell Alvin McCraney, co-writer of "Moonlight," which was based on his play. "I hope the storytellers up here and their proud journey here can imprint on someone out there watching, that they, too, can stand here too, and also tell their stories as daringly, as intimately as possible."
"Moonlight" had won at the Writers Guild Awards and the Globes and (unlike "La La Land") been nominated for best ensemble by the Screen Actors Guild.
But it broke all the rules that help predict Oscar winners. There are factors that may have played a role, like the revamped film academy, which added 683 new members in June to help diversify its ranks. And the best-picture category, unlike the other categories, uses a preferential ballot to select the winner, a ranking method adopted in 2009 when the category increased from five movies to as many as 10. It's a system that rewards films with broad support, not necessarily the most No. 1 votes.
Jenkins didn't have any answers himself, sounding amazed and impressed that the industry "voted for a film about a marginalized character from a marginalized community told in a very unorthodox way."
"I guess anything's possible," said Jenkins.
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