The Oscar buzz for Moonlight began shortly after the film started making the rounds at festivals such as Telluride and Toronto. By the time of its wide release in November, the buzz had grown into near-universal critical acclaim. At the Golden Globes earlier this month, the film won a statue for Best Picture, Drama, making recognition from the Academy Awards pretty much inevitable.
So, few were surprised this morning when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Moonlight's nominations for the 2017 Oscars — eight in all. But that doesn't make the Miami film community any less proud.
Moonlight is nominated in categories, including Best Picture; Best Director, for Barry Jenkins; Film Editing, for Nat Sanders and Joi McMillan; Supporting Actress, for Naomie Harris; Adapted Screenplay, for Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney; Original Score, for Nicholas Britell; Cinematography, for James Laxton; and Supporting Actor, for Masherhala Ali.
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Directed by Barry Jenkins and adapted from a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight follows Chiron, a boy growing up in Liberty City, the Miami neighborhood where both Jenkins and McCraney grew up. The city of Miami is the backdrop as Chiron struggles with his fraught relationship with his drug-addicted mother; threats and fights with school bullies; and the secret of his sexuality.
Moonlight's biggest competitor at the Oscars this year is La La Land, which is nominated in five of the same categories as Moonlight and essentially swept the Golden Globes, including awards for which Jenkins' film was also nominated. Some La La Land critics have pointed out the cultural insensitivity of a film about jazz starring white people; Saturday Night Live even roasted the Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone project for that reason — while mocking people proclaiming Moonlight is an important film without having done the work of seeing it in theaters.
The Academy Awards ceremony will take place February 26.