Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Best Supporting Actor 2016: Mahershala Ali in Moonlight

Mahershala Ali won his Oscar from his first Oscar nomination for portraying Juan in Moonlight.

Moonlight tells the story of a young black man, Chiron, through three different points in his life.

Mahershala Ali is one of those actors who in the past offered consistently good work in very minor roles, where when watching him one can't help but ponder why he wasn't given a bit more to do. That was especially true recently in the bizarre way he was utilized in the series Luke Cage. In Moonlight though it seems Ali is given his due through the character Juan. The film actually opens with his character as we briefly see him in a short exchange that alludes to Juan's background. The focus quickly shifts towards his central purpose as he discovers the young Chiron (Alex Hibbert) hiding from bullies in an apartment building. Although Juan's method of discovery is to actually tear down a window, one can quickly see that Juan only has the best intentions for the boy. This is made all the more evident through Ali's performance that exudes such a warmth from his presence, through that slight smile and a curious set of eyes as Juan attempts to decipher Chiron's problem. Ali is only genuine in his realization of Juan's charity as he attempts to help the boy by feeding him and giving him a place to stay for a night. Ali brings this ease in the behavior suggesting a natural goodness within the man.

The highlights of the film for me come in the scenes where Juan continues to attempt to help Chrion, and allow him to break out of his shell a bit. Ali's approach to these scenes is very effective in the way he keeps a distance yet at the same time feels welcoming. Ali is careful not to overplay or overemphasize the charity in Juan. He instead shows his charity that is fitting for a man of his rough background, although that is in no way to say his charity worth any less. Ali's restraint is important in that he never makes Juan an unbelievable saint yet makes his good works wholly convincing. Ali keeps a more casual quality in Juan as he portrays him not ever trying to force something out of Chiron instead Ali shows Juan attempting calmly to inspire the change in the boy. There is one truly special sequence where Juan takes Chiron to a beach. He tries to teach the boy how to swim which is particularly authentic moment since Ali was in reality teaching Alex Hibbert how to swim. He also offers a bit of advice on making choices for one's own self. The history of a life feels expressed in Ali's delivery and he earns the wisdom in Juan.

Unfortunately Juan is not just a nice man in the neighborhood, but is also the neighborhood drug dealer. Working as such he discovers that Chiron's mother (Naomi Harris) is one of his customers. Ali is excellent in the scene in bringing out his intense anger as he questions her behavior, and her inability to provide for her son. She counters though that Juan is the one selling the drugs, and Ali is very moving in showing the sad realization in Juan's silence as he is unable to really excuse his own behavior. This leads to a final visit to his home by Chiron where Ali conveys a certain change in Juan. Ali in no way loses the warmth that helps to define his relationship with the boy, but throughout the scene he conveys the underlying shame in Juan as he recognizes that he is in some way responsibility for the boy's hardships. Ali is altogether heartbreaking when Chiron directly asks him if he is a drug dealer, as he so somberly admits to it. Ali is especially affecting in the way he suggests how deeply this pains him, as he reveals the quiet devastation in the man. That is Ali's final scene in the film, which seems unfortunate as it does not feel like we even get to say goodbye, and I will admit I do find the first third of the film to be the strongest part. That is to say nothing against Ali's magnetic work, he is a supporting player after all, and it is the testament to the power of his performance. His charismatic portrayal stays with you long after, his exit and leaves a lasting impression on the film.

83 comments:

Alex Marqués said...

I can't wait to see this film, he gets enormous praise everywhere for this role.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Great review. Bridges is definitely winning this lineup.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

I've yet to see this performance, but I really can't wait to.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore

Calvin Law said...

HELLLLLLL YEAHHHHHJ

Calvin Law said...

Oh shit. RIP Mary Tyler Moore.

Mike Hannigan said...

Good choice, Louis. Astonishing performance, pity he disappears so early from the story.

omar said...

Great review Louis, are you going to review Rhodes and Sanders in leading or supporting?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: If you don't manage to watch Lion after writing the next two reviews, could you move on to Lead and come back to Patel, whenever you do get the chance.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

For anyone who might be interested, I'm going to review on my blog the four acting categories of this year's Oscar, starting with Best Supporting Actor (sorry Louis I swear this is the last time).

https://reviewingperformances.blogspot.it/2017/01/best-actor-in-supporting-role-2016.html?m=1

Charles Heiston said...

Bridges will take this easily.

Anonymous said...

R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore.
Louis: Your thoughts on the Late Mr. Kent episode of Superman TAS.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I'm going to be really sad if he ends up losing the Oscar at the last second.

Calvin Law said...

If they pull a Nocturnal Animals on him, I swear...

Luke Higham said...

Robert: There's no way he's going to lose. Bridges has won already, Shannon was the sole nomination for NA and Hedges is 20 years old. Patel's the only one who could cause an upset, but he too is a bit young and Moonlight has far more momentum going in than Lion.

RatedRStar said...

I wouldnt expect anything other than a Ali Oscar win, I cannot see any reason why any of the others have a chance, its not the same as last year where Stallone was not neccesarily a lock to win as he was the sole nomination against big hitters like the completely respected Rylance, as well as the bigger films in Spotlight, The Revenent and The Big Short which received plenty of nominations. Moonlight is different in that it did receive plenty of nominations.

RIP Mary Tyler Moore

RatedRStar said...

Nowadays I think just getting an Oscar nomination is more important than winning really =).

Psifonian said...

Wound up actually writing a review for "Moonlight" after all: https://psifonian.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/moonlight-barry-jenkins-2016/

Calvin Law said...

Excellent review! I actually feel we agree on everything outside of Harris, but it just resonated with me more.

Mike Hannigan said...

I love this performance, but I doubt he'll win. Because this is a gay movie, they will likely take someone out of nowhere, just as they did with Crash and Brokeback Mountain in 2005. My guess is a sherriff, either Bridges or Shannon, it somehow fits Trump's America.

Alex Marqués said...

Oh yeah, sure, it's not like an actor has ever won an oscar for playing a gay character/being in a gay movie... really? Even in 2005, Hoffman won for playing Capote.

RatedRStar said...

William Hurt in 1985 =D and he got a huge cheer for it 2 lol.

Mitchell Murray said...

What did you think of Naomie Harris?

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that Michael Shannon is a huge equal rights supporter and Jeff Bridges is like the nicest person ever without an ounce of hate in his body so lol its not like Kirk Cameron is nominated lol.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your rating and thoughts on Clancy Brown in Highlander?

Robert MacFarlane said...

@Mike: Actually, given the Academy's recent re-haul and the diversity embraced this year, it would make sense for them to award an Oscar to a Muslim-converted black man in a film about a gay POC. It would be like symbol, sticking it to Trump in their eyes. Then again, maybe not since they did nominate Mel Gibson.

Charles Heiston said...

Mike: No offense, But your reasoning sounds stupid. If Hollywood is against Trump why would they give the sheriff who fits Trump america the win? At this point with the Oscars and diversity it would be most likely to give a gay black Muslim an Oscar.

Calvin Law said...

I should also note, I have very specific rewatch that has led to quite a change in my 2016 Best Supporting Actor.

Calvin Law said...

*done a

Charles Heiston said...

Calvin: And what's that?

Michael McCarthy said...

There's a very good chance I'll eventually come around to a 5 on Ali. I just rewatched the first segment of Moonlight and his reaction to Chiron asking "What's a faggot?" is brilliant.

Michael McCarthy said...

Also Louis, when are you planning on posting your Top 10 films of 2016?

Charles Heiston said...

Michael: That scene is an underrated gem.

Mike Hannigan said...

My general response to all of you. Apart from the guy who called me stupid as this is a level of discussion I don’t want to lower myself to.

Thanks for such a lively response. I get your points and I like your arguments about Hoffman and Hurt, although the latter won 30 years ago, so it doesn’t really count. But I’d also add Penn as Harvey Milk.

What I find your general mistake, though, is an assumption that Hollywood as such is liberal and open-minded. Well, most of the stars – perhaps. But in general Oscar voters are overwhelmingly white (94%), men (76%), and an average 63 years old. It doesn’t sound like a liberal avangarde, does it? Last year, they didn’t have problems with dropping Elba, who became first ever SAG winner with no nomination to Oscar.

Ali’s performance – wonderful as it is – doesn’t help him either. It’s subtle and quiet, and his character disappears early in the story. It’s nothing to compare with colorful one man shows given by Hoffman and Penn. Ali is very easy to be dropped, as proved at the Golden Globes, when they took ATJ out of nowhere.

I’m not saying Ali didn’t deserve to win. I’m saying that Muslim-converted black man in a film about a black gay may be too much for a conservative Academy.

I hope I’m wrong though.

Calvin Law said...

Mike's argument is actually very well thought through, so I see his drift.

Charles: Well I might as well reveal that Ali and Kubozuka are vying for top spot. I still love Neill in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but I'm questioning his supporting status and wonderful as he is, the other two have arguably more complex roles.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I'll see Moonlight later today, so I'll save my thoughts for afterwards. I am glad that Ali, if he wins (which is very likely) would be a very deserving winner.

RatedRStar said...

It is an interesting argument, it does make you think, what is the majority within the academy, from like their age to an opinion on another actor/film.

I know I mention them a little too much but the Hong Kong Film Awards only consists of 55 people with only a few of them being actors, and their voting is very odd since when Ten Years won the best picture award, there was numerous people within the comittee demanded the voting to be changed so its very odd how the voting truly does work.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I love your blog. I have three questions:

1. Why don't you review female actresses? I swear to god I'm not accusing you of sexism, I'm sure you have a very good reason.

2. There's this guy on YouTube named "Sir Lancelot Mcbutt" who comments on Youtube videos of actors winning Oscars, where he posts your reviews. Is that you? If not, do you mind? He doesn't really give you credit.

3. Do you have any professional experience in acting, or is this just a little hobby?

Anonymous said...

You know, your reviews are very interesting, but they're not exactly about acting. They're more about characters. You don't really comment on things like facial expressions. you more comment on things like character development.

Robert MacFarlane said...

@Anonymous: He's mentioned it before, but the reason about the actresses was that were already a few blogs about Actress Oscars when he started the blog. Now it's kind of too late to go back.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I concur with Robert, the best time for him to have done that was way back in 2010, whenever he started the blog.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: With 'Sir Lancelot McButt', It's not Louis. Someone copyrighted his opinions without asking his permission and Louis was told about this awhile back.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: He probably saw it as a hobby at first, but as the years go by, It's kind of become a profession to him, despite not being paid for it.

Mike Ock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I know he doesn't get paid for the blog, I mean does he have an acting-related profession, e.g. drama teacher. But thanks for answering.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I wouldn't think so, if he did, he wouldn't be devoting so much time to this.

Varun Neermul said...

I can't find louis thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Luke Higham said...

Harris - 3.5(Torn on this performance as I felt she was kind of terrible for much of the film. Obviously playing such a role requires a bit of intensity but felt very forced and ACTED to me. It also did not help in that I felt she brought a certain awkwardness in just delivering the lines in a completely natural way. I'm torn though because I thought she was pretty outstanding in her final scene. Finally her performance not only felt natural, but was an incredibly powerful depiction of her character's messy remorse over her past mistakes.)

Hibbert - 3.5(I actually would put the three Chirons in lead, though Hibbert's performance is the least lead so to speak. In that the first act is very much set up to essentially take the weight of many scenes off of Hibbert, and give them to the adult. Hibbert though gives a good performance within the more limited scope of his Chiron. He gives us a natural depiction of the boy's shyness and the pain within his shell. It's a moving performance as he just alludes to the slight breaks in it in his interactions whether it is in terms of revealing more anguish, or something better.)

Piner - 2.5(A little less assured I felt in his Kevin, though his performance still serves its needed purpose though.)

Jerome - 3.5(Didn't see his take exactly in his early scenes until the more direct scenes with Chiron. In those two scenes though I felt he was very effective in first providing some actual warmth in his interactions with Chiron, then being properly moving in bringing the devastation in his succumbing to peer pressure scene.)

Holland - 4(A very good performance as his work does well to wear the experience of the past but rather to portray it as pain he suggests it to be an actual growth in to something more. Holland captures well the combination of emotions and the very real challenge with Chiron. He captures the right chemistry as you can see them potentially connecting again, but Holland still keeps just the right distance though still keeping to life the idea of their past pains. What's more remarkable though is the way he suggests the earnestness in the attempt to essentially overcome the past to something else.)

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, your thoughts and ratings on Trevante Rhodes and Ashton Sanders in Moonlight.

P.S Thank you Luke

Charles Heiston said...

Mike: I don't recall calling you stupid. Please tell me how did i called 'you' stupid? And as far as your argument goes i see where you're coming from now. But i still think the Academy will do what looks best for them.

Anonymous said...

If i may say, I think Ali gives the best performance of 2016.

Luke Higham said...

Garfield is King for me this year. :)

Charles Heiston said...

Garfield all the way!

Luke Higham said...

On the Television side, I'd go with Paul Dano in War & Peace, though Harington, Cunningham and Cumberbatch (Hollow Crown) were superb as well.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: I've always wondered about this, and I hope it's not a stupid question. You have an immaculate attention to detail in your reviews (which has gotten even better over the years you've been running this blog), and I struggle to analyze why I like certain acting performances even 5% as well as you do. So, I've wanted to know: do you take notes while viewing the performances you review? Or is it all from memory?

Giuseppe Fadda said...

My favorite performance of the year (out of the ones I've seen) is Amy Adams in Arrival followed closely by Andrew Garfield in Silence.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

It's a great episode that actually finds a way to have a lot of fun with the idea of a secret identity, and I love the noir style with the narration as well. My only nitpick would be the ending where they apparently execute the guy a day after he's arrested.

Anonymous:

Brown - 3.5(Brown brings genuine menace to the role, but he's also just very entertaining. He plays it up a bit for sure, but it is fitting for a guy who has spent centuries being evil. It's a fun performance that is easily the highlight of the film.)

Michael:

I suppose I'll add it now given that, barring some hidden gem, I've seen the majority of the well praised films of the year.

Anonymous:

If I merely listed a series of facial expressions, it also would not be very interesting but I also feel to assess a performance one must look at what the actor does with the character, and both must be analyzed.

Varun:

Rhodes & Sanders - 4.5(Noticed that their performances must have gotten lost in copy and pasting. Sanders gives a interesting depiction of the middle Chiron as almost to conflicting forces in that you see some of the same reticence that defined a great deal of Hibbert's performance, but he also conveys this openness as though in attempt to embrace the person he wants to become. He is great in his key scene Jerome as Sanders also reveals Chiron without any barriers for a moment. Furthermore Sanders is excellent though in revealing the slowly growing intensity of the young man caused by the abuse, that finally bursts after the beat down scene. Rhodes also gives strong performance as a very different Chrion. In that he conveys a more innate confidence as a man, but also gives the sense of a reservation of a different kind. Rhodes gives us kind of the strength needed to be drug dealer, yet there is still emotional vulnerability alluding to his past. He then is terrific in his scene with Holland as the whole history between the two men is felt, but so is the certain distance in their time apart from one another. In the final scenes Rhodes finally suggests a real bit of internal solace as he finally opens up about his true feelings.)

Tahmeed:

From memory generally.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Any more 2016 viewings and your rating and thoughts on Michael Shannon in Midnight Special.

Michael McCarthy said...

Huh, kind of surprised not to see A Monster Calls in the Top 10.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Shannon - 3.5(Another element of the film that was just too thinly written for much to be made out of it, we just are given the general impression of a father who will do anything for his son. Shannon again has that presence that can make up for a lack of writing and he certainly brings the needed intensity along with just the right understated warmth to allude to the love for his son. It did not amount to much more than that for me. A good performance, but one where I did not feel like I even got to know the character, just a general idea of one.)

Louis Morgan said...

Michael:

It would be my #11.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Since you'll be choosing the alternate nominees for Lead, can I have your ratings and thoughts on those that you really won't consider reviewing.

Charles Heiston said...

No question Silence would be #1, But shocked to see Hell or High Water ranked up there.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I find it somewhat baffling that your favourite work from Shannon in 2016 was Elvis & Nixon.

Louis Morgan said...

Charles:

I thought my love for Hell or High Water was well known.

Luke:

There are those I won't be reviewing, but I'd rather wait still.

I'm a little baffled myself.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Not that I'm complaining by any means.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Since there are two spots open for Supporting, I would recommend Tom Bennett in Love & Friendship for one of them.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: You should probably review Hugo Weaving in Hacksaw Ridge as well.

Robert MacFarlane said...

My top 10 for 2016:

1. 20th Century Women
2. Silence
3. Moonlight
4. A Monster Calls
5. Arrival
6. Sing Street
7. Eye in the Sky
8. Jackie
9. Kubo and the Two Strings
10. The Edge of Seventeen

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: I recommend Billy Crudup in 20th Century Women or Woody Harrelson in The Edge of Seventeen for Supporting Actor performances you haven't seen.

Luke Higham said...

Robert: I was just about to ask you about Crudup or Harrelson, on whether you would recommend them for a review.

I'd take out Bennett and settle for either one of your choices.

Luke Higham said...

I think Bennett will get no more than a 4.

Michael McCarthy said...

The only Alternate Supporting reviews I'm invested in seeing are Foster, Neill, and the guys from Silence and Our Kind of Traitor.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Luke: Crudup has a surprisingly sweet character to play. He plays it in his usual understated manner, but he never feels anything less than sincere. Harrelson is hilarious, and his later more serious scenes are also great.

Luke Higham said...

Michael McCarthy: I won't complain with whatever way Louis does Supporting this year.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I do really want Skarsgard reviewed for Our Kind of Traitor. It's between him and Ali for my win.

Luke Higham said...

I'm probably not gonna make suggestions for the alternates. I'd rather let Louis do whatever he wants.

Luke Higham said...

I must say these last two years have been a major disappointment for Jake Gyllenhaal.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Yeah, I think as great as he was in Nightcrawler, it kind of started him down this path of trying too hard with every subsequent role.

Luke Higham said...

Robert: On my viewing of Demolition, I thought he was rather great, but since then, it's just a very good performance in a god awful film.

Luke Higham said...

Robert: My opinion of it could go down even further.

Robert MacFarlane said...

He was fine in Demolition, though no one could have made that script work.

Charles Heiston said...

Him in Demolition was pretty bad, His last great performance was Nightcrawler.