Tags Posts tagged with "movies"


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Rob Carraher

Julia Docournau’s feature debut “Raw” has been the subject of film festival controversy despite being received as highly regarded cinema. The horror genre is known for making those with the strongest of stomachs a bit squeamish, but Docournau’s “Raw” takes the gore to a surprisingly new level.

It’s not that such gore hasn’t graced theaters before, but the way that Docournau presents it, allowing for eyes to feast on all its cannibalistic glory. But what separates “Raw” from past cannibal flicks is its desire to place storytelling at the forefront rather than relying simply on shocking images but nothing of substance.

“Raw” opens by introducing Justine (Garance Marillier), a vegetarian teen entering her first year of veterinarian school. The college lifestyle is a dramatic change for Justine as she becomes the target of “rookie” hazing. Her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), gladly takes part in breaking Justine into her new environment.

When Alexia pressures Justine into eating a rabbit liver as part of the hazing festivities, Justine’s life begins to change. The taste of liver awakens an overbearing satiation to consume even more meat–including human flesh. Justine juggles the responsibilities of being a college student, or lack thereof, with her new-found cravings.

Docournau not only directed but also wrote “Raw.” Her twist on the classic coming of age story and cannibal story creates a familiar yet original approach to the horror genre. Her craft is seasoned to the point where it seems almost impossible to believe this is her first feature film. Very few directors manage to capture the terror of the genre and still land on their feet by the film’s end. Docournau does just that. This is a sign of an aware filmmaker.

One of the high points of “Raw” is the way it handles the theme of lust. In a handful of scenes, Marillier brilliantly personifies lustful emotion. In the context of the film, lustful incorporates more than just sexual desire. In that sense, these scenes become ever more uncomfortable and awkward for viewers, but there is an allure that more than imprisons the mind.

The juxtaposition of this woman-coming out of her shell on a college campus and the engrossing, unexplainable realization of being a cannibal is a work of genius, and a creative way to deliver this sort of content. Neither situation could be very comfortable for the individu-al experiencing such extreme life changes, but once again Marillier brings her very best to the role. Rumpf’s more relaxed portrayal as Alexia helps to contrast the two sisters, and drives the urgency for Justine to understand her new life.

There is certainly an undercurrent being displayed about feminism in Docournau’s construction of “Raw.” As the film comes to a close, it becomes very apparent of such message. It’s not a “in your face” sort of message, and that is what makes it all the more effective. Docournau’s characters are female and strong, and they aren’t trying to be something they are not. It is very difficult to walk away and not be enamored with Justine and Alexia as rich characters in a thrilling tale, much to the credit of Docournau’s writing melding perfectly with Marillier and Rumpf’s performances.

As excellent as the storytelling and performances are in “Raw,” it would be a mistake to not talk about the gore. There are some simply stunning exhibits of the gnarly, bloody aftermath of cannibalized events. If an appetite was present prior to the film, it certainly goes missing before exiting the theater. Few films go as far as “Raw” does, and the design element is extraordinary. It makes one wonder if these visuals could possibly be fake, they look so real. Mix this with an intense and haunting soundtrack, and Docournau has constructed the complexities of the cannibal-horror genre that are often missing from many other films.

The gore may bring audiences to the theater, but Docournau’s craft will leave them witnesses of something special. “Raw” will likely finish as the year’s best horror film, and deservedly so. For a bunch of unknowns to come onto the cinema scene with such strong first effort is quite rare. Whether a fan of horror films, foreign films, or films with exquisite sense of construction and delivery, “Raw” will surely please.

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Photo Courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com

Jeff Turner

1. Taxi Driver
Travis Bickle is a great character, and it’s impossible not to relate to him. But in an animated kid’s movie he needs to sing, and he needs to not be so down–even if that’s what every day of life is like when its unwise to talk about who’s in the basement.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road
This thrilling piece of the Mad Max series was gruesome and brilliant–but it could of truly thrived as a family oriented animation.Max’s passion sets a great example for impressionable children.

3. Seven
This movie would have been so much better if it had a happy ending. What if Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman all hugged and they forgave Spacey for killing all of those people? Spacey didn’t even do that much to hurt them. He’s a good boy. Kevin Spacey should have been forgiven in a family friendly animated remake of “Seven.” He’s a good boy.

4. Blue Velvet
My lord, David. Too violent. Does Dennis Hopper have to breathe from a gas mask and hurt that poor girl? Why can’t he help the children instead? And who is Jeffrey Beaumont supposed to be a role model for? He just kills Frank at the end and that’s how he solves all his problems. Imagine if everyone dealt with their issues that way.

5. Boogie Nights
This movie is about. SEX. UN. BE. LIEVABLE. Just when it seemed movies couldn’t be a more immoral, they go and make a movie about sex. Instead of making “Boogie Nights” about S-E-X, let’s make it a remake of “Explorers.” Fun for the whole family and no satanic behavior!

6. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Why make a movie about a serial killer and market it to children? Really, studios? He should be a serial juggler. He goes around, and he juggles balls and oranges for all the kids and everyone’s happy. Henry should learn a lesson at the end about how to be nice. Make a nice movie. These movies are unacceptable for role models like Hollywood producers.

7. Midnight Cowboy
This Oscar winner about a male prostitute was good, but it was just too inappropriate for kids! Why not make him a professional juggler? That’s much more fun. Mov-ies these days are way too inappropriate, not like the old days.

8. A Clockwork Orange
This Stanley Kubrick classic was too inappropriate for kids in its original form. What if instead of brutal sexual assault, Alex and his Droogs gave people hugs? That’s not all, instead of being addicted to sex, Alex can be addicted to puppies. Here’s a puppy. He’s really loveable, his name is Sheldon

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Photo Courtesy of variety.com

Rob Carraher

The controversy surrounding Asghar Farhadi’s “The Salesman” lead to him not coming to the United States to accept his Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The tension between the United States and Iran led to what became a political statement during the award’s show. And maybe that played into its eventual victory, but removing all the controversy, “The Salesman” is an excellent example of auteurism.

Ironically, the film has little to no political themes and could easily be plugged into the culture of any other country and be just as captivating. In fact, the use of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” throughout the film acts as a marriage of sorts between cultures and proof of worlds that aren’t so far apart.

As “The Salesman” opens, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) Etesami are forced to leave their apartment as it is deemed unsafe. Just as their participation as actors in a rendition of “Death of a Salesman” begins, they must find a new home to live in. A fellow actor, Babak (Babak Karimi) finds them a new place, which has been recently vacated by its previous resident.

One evening, Rana is home organizing and cleaning the new apartment when she is attacked by a perpetrator. Emad sets out to find the individual who attacked his wife as he seeks justice.

Farhadi is no stranger to writing award winning screenplays as his film, “A Separation” also took home the prize for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars in 2012. In “The Salesman,” he has constructed story, but an enthralling one that keeps its audience constantly wondering what is coming next. It is apparent that Farhadi set out to create a film that has universal appeal and with a thoughtful lesson to hold viewers’ minds hostage for the days following the initial viewing.

The acting ensemble led by Hosseini and Alidoosti is exceptional. Never once are these characters confused for performers trying to be bigger than their roles. It is easy for one to relate to these characters’ situation from the very stand-point of the human desire to protect loved ones. It is a shame that Alidoosti’s performance wasn’t recognized by the Academy. Her ability to capture the life changing events of being attacked and having to deal with the emotional aftermath is perfection. Hosseini certainly holds his own as the stoic character in need of keeping his cool.

The film doesn’t try to impress audiences with over the top cine-matography or gimmicky special effects. Fahadi lets the film speak for itself. The characters tell their story, and at times it seems like it’s not going anywhere, but the intrigue is always there.

“The Salesman” isn’t going to leave its audiences in awe, but it refuses to let go well after its viewing. Much of that is its ability to latch onto the humanist aspects of its delivery. Its lack of a groundbreaking cinema experience forces viewers to focus on its purpose, and that is where it thrives.

Farhadi does well to capture the minds of his audience. It doesn’t matter whether they are from Iran or the United States or anywhere between. Every person who experiences “The Salesman” has an opportunity to connect with its universal message. Patience is necessary as it slowly burns toward a climax, but it is well worth the experience. And in a tense political climate, the world could use a film that represents foreign cultures as they are, more similar than different for other cultures around the world.

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Photo Courtesy wired.com

Rob Carraher

The superhero genre from a realism approach isn’t a new technique, but because of content, it is often hard to capture. Christopher Nolan changed the game with his rendition of Batman, but no other director has been able to hit that chord quite right since then.

James Mangold’s latest outing, “Logan,” realizes the humanity aspect of the character Wolverine in a way that maybe even Nolan was unable to do with Batman. This dark take on the X-Men mainstay uses an excellent script and vision by Mangold, coupled with a seasoned cast of veterans to truly bring these characters to life in one of the most engaging superhero tales every made.

“Logan” takes place in the near future where mutants are dangerously close to becoming extinct. James “Logan” Howlett (Hugh Jackman) is quickly deteriorating in health as a result of adamantium poisoning. While battling substance abuse, Logan is now spending his time as a hired driver and taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in an abandoned Mexican smelting plant just across the border. He is approached by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), who is on a search for a girl by the name of Laura (Dafne Keen).

Logan is soon tasked with protecting the girl as he and Xavier find themselves being pursued by Pierce. It becomes apparent that Laura is Logan’s daughter and as they search for safety, a bond among Logan, Laura and Xavier is created.

“Logan” thrives on simplicity. It doesn’t try to build an elaborate plot, only to be riddled with holes by the time its crescendo is reached. Though there are some questions left to be answered, Mangold has constructed a tight-knit script with thoughtful purpose and an original twist on the superhero genre.

The audience understands where “Logan” is going, but remains engaged for the entirety of its 2 hour journey. Even more impressive is Mangold’s ability to incorporate relevant current issues without it becoming overly political. This makes Jackman’s Logan that much more stoically heroic.

Dare it be said that Jackman pulls off an award-winning performance in “Logan.” It is not likely that he will acknowledged come the end of the year, but if nothing else, he should be in the conversation. His portrayal of an embattled man, weary from many years of mutant power bearing, is subtlety extraordinary. Some of that is attributed to superb writing, but Jackman nails it.

The same can be said of Stewart’s Xavier. If it is true that these two actors have played these roles for the final time, they certainly put everything they had into these performances. Their on-screen chemistry is on point, and worthy of the emotional tribulations delivered to viewers.It would be a shame to not mention Keen’s performance as Laura. Few children can throw punches with the big boys and be nearly as effective. Keen does just that. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her land more big time roles as a result of her work here.

Though the film’s sound effects and soundtrack are above average at best, the limited use of visual effects displayed are top notch. The film prides itself on not over using green screens as many of its franchise predecessors have done. Never once, does it feel like what is being seen on screen was created in a visual laboratory. That is a refreshing experience in an era where everything is over-hyped with the latest CGI technology.

The film is extraordinarily violent, and the special effects to exhibit said violence is hauntingly real. Because it isn’t as amped up as many of the other action films that will come out this year, it won’t be recognized for its precise work. But it should be.

What honestly sets “Logan” apart from many of the other genre films is that it truly cares about how it looks. The color matches the tone of the film, which is somewhat drained of life. Mangold had a dark vision for the film, and though much of “Logan” takes place during the daytime, his camera still creates an aura of direness. It would be easy to compare Mangold’s directorial work here to that of Nolan’s in his Dark Knight trilogy. Though such a comparison isn’t completely off base, it does a disservice to the originality of Mangold’s work. Just as Jackman should be considered for awards at the end of the year, it wouldn’t be farfetched to put Mangold in the same conversation.

Although dark, and at times hard to handle emotionally, “Logan” is the perfect example of how to capitalize on a realistic approach to the superhero genre. Films like “Logan” have been presented in many ways, but never quite the way Mangold does here.

Through his simple, but effective plot, Mangold brings this drab tale of wolverine to life with the likes of Jackman and Stewart. His vision is one that will likely be mimicked by filmmakers for years to come, but “Logan” will be very hard to top.

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Photo Courtesy of fandango.com

Jeff Turner

Fifty Shades Darker
The sequel to the commercial success “Fifty Shades of Grey” sees a new director and the premise getting sillier. Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson get back together after their split in the last movie. But a figure from Christian’s past (Kim Basinger) starts to get in the way. Presumably there’s discipline involved.

A portrait of one of America’s most famous relationships, “Jackie” is fundamentally about a woman needing to demonstrate great poise while she is in deep mourning over her husband.

A Dog’s Purpose
What’s more romantic than an animal cruelty controversy? (A joke, please don’t take a date to see this movie on Valentine’s Day.)

La La Land
The leading frontrunner for Best Picture is still in theaters and is just as good the second and third times as it was the first. Damien Chazelle has established himself as a director for the ages and “La La Land” is a surefire future classic.

Re-released into theaters, “Moon-light” chronicles the sexual awakening of a young black man in Miami, and his eventual romance with a childhood friend, which extends well into their adult lives. “Moonlight” finds peace in chaos for these characters, and there is an affection for them and their love.

After getting lost on a train at age 5, Saroo (Dev Patel) is adopted by a loving Australian family. 25 years later, in his adulthood, he gets a growing urge to find his original parents. “Lion” is fundamentally about the love a child can share for his family, and about how an adopted family can come to know and love a child that was never thiers. It is about familial bonds, and the good things people are willing to do for one another.

The LEGO Batman Movie
Another light outing guaranteed offer a lot of laughter. The film just looks like fun, and sometimes that is enough to justify date night. The film follows Batman as he adopts an orphan (voice of Michael Cera) to cope with his loneliness. Early reviews are praising it as a fun Batman movie.

“Paterson” is a gorgeous film with a couple who sincerely love each other as a centerpiece. Plus, that dog deserves an Oscar. It follows the poetry of everyday life, and the couple at its center never get mad at one another as they each continually make sacrifices to keep the other happy. It’s a film with a mature understanding of relationships, and a total delight.

The Space Between Us
Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) was born on Mars and has an online relationship with a girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson), when he pressures his dad (Gary Oldman) into letting him come to earth to be with her, his dad opposes the trip, but eventually it works. However, eventually Gardner is unable to handle Earth’s atmosphere, so he runs the risk of being sent back. He and Tulsa now must find out what is the best option for him going forward and why he is the way he is.

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Photo Courtesy of gizmodo.com.au

Rob Carraher

The career of M. Night Shyamalan started with so much promise. “The Sixth Sense” redefined what audiences expected for thrillers. “Unbreakable” and “Signs” managed to keep the hype for Shyamalan’s work high. But then it started avalanching from there. What seemed like a career destined for greatness was disappearing little by little. What appeared to be a long career, filled with blockbuster hit after blockbuster hit, turned into one ridiculed on the basis of one box office bomb after another. That never stopped him from continuing to put out films. “Split” is his latest attempt to regain some of what made him a relevant director/writer. It can certainly be argued he has found his groove once again.

“Split” follows the life of Kevin Wendall Crumb (James McAvoy), a man with dissociative identity disorder. Crumb captures three teens: Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula). In interactions with Crumb, the three girls begin to realize there is something particularly strange about him as various personalities begin emerging. Between his visits with the captured girls, Crumb visits his psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley). It emerges that Crumb has a total of 23 separate personalities, some of which are more prominent and dominant than others. In a race against time, the girls plot an escape in hopes of avoiding a run-in with Crumb’s newest rumored personality, “The Beast.”

If for no other reason than to see McAvoy’s stellar performance, “Split” is well worth viewing. Not many actors are given the opportunity to play eight different roles within the same film, but McAvoy does so with ease. He is especially on point when he is portraying the personas of Barry and Hedwig. McAvoy’s face enamors as he captures many of the personas in his expressions. The way he postures himself allows the audience to buy into the differences displayed on screen. If “Split” were a slightly more respected film, there are no doubts that McAvoy would be in the conversation for an Academy Award.

Taylor-Joy holds her own opposite McAvoy. Adding to a growing resume, which includes the main role in last year’s critically acclaimed indie horror film, “The Witch.” Her nuanced mix of sadness and confidence keeps viewers asking questions throughout. In a couple scenes where she is left alone with McAvoy’s numerous characters, she is believable as a young woman desperately negotiating her way out of the nightmare she is living. Not to the same extent as McAvoy, but Taylor-Joy provides an impressive performance that should coax people into seeking out future work.

Most not to his credit. Shyamalan is known to unleash some rather bizarre characters and experiences upon his audiences. In “Split,” it almost works to perfection, but lands just a little bit short. The climax of the film brings out one of those bizarre experiences. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why it doesn’t quite work, but it’s somewhere between not preparing the audience for what transpires and just being a little too over the top. Because of the film’s PG-13 rating in place of an R rating, these moments come across as being anti-climactic. Shyamalan had a chance to really etch his film into viewers’ minds, but may have let it drift away for some.

Not well advertised, “Split” has a connection to one of Shyamalan’s previous works, and it makes a difference. What seems to be a forgettable ending brought much greater appreciation in the context of its relation to the other film. It certainly sets the stage for an opportunity to thoroughly connect the two plots with another film. The intrigue of what might come next makes this experience well worth it. The twists of Shyamalan’s early work made him a house hold name in the early 2000s. He has since lost that credibility. His precise conclusion here not only connects “Split” to that time when things were good for him, but shows that magic isn’t completely gone.

Although not his best work, Shyamalan has seemingly found a little bit of what captured audiences almost two decades ago. “Split” is worth seeing to witness premier performances from its leading actors and regain faith in Shyamalan as an innovative filmmaker. It is rare to find an entertaining film worth seeing during the lull before the big stuff starts emerging in the spring. January and February typically are reserved for those films that didn’t quite cut it, but are being released to make some money back. “Split” shouldn’t fall into that category. Whether it is seen in the theater or at home, “Split” is a worthy watch for movie-goers of all kinds.

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Photo Courtesy of msnbc.com

Jeff Turner

The Oscars have been announced, and they offer up the most surprising contenders the show has seen in years. Some, like “Lion,” “Hidden Figures” and “La La Land” are pretty par for the course. There are others that are more unconventional, though. Films like “Moonlight” and “Arrival.” For the sake of this article, everything from best picture, director and the acting categories will be covered.

It is no surprise that “La La Land” will likely take the trophy for Best Picture come Oscar night. The movie has received 14 Oscar nominations and is the year’s big popular entertainment.

Everyone hates it when politics gets bought up, but is this the right time for “La La Land?” This is a year where we have elected a President who has openly went after people of color and many in LGBT community are living in fear. This is not to inject the Oscars with more self-importance than they already have, but, aside from being a masterpiece, “Moonlight” is the film that should take the trophy.

Another easy prediction is the success of Damien Chazelle as director of “La La Land.”

Many will talk about the ending of “La La Land” as one of the most masterfully crafted moments of 2016 and the praise is well-earned. Chazelle is clearly going places, so while that could be used as an argument to wait on awarding him later in favor of Barry Jenkins or Kenneth Lonergan, it could easily be used as an argument to acknowledge him now.

Casey Affleck is likely to take home the honor of Best Actor. Nothing against Affleck, but Lonergan’s direction and script are the stars of “Manchester,” he merely gets to reap the benefits. Denzel Washington, with “Fences,” must deliver a one-man tour-de-force, biting into every scene and commanding the screen. Nonetheless, it seems he will be leaving the Oscars empty handed in the wake of “Manchester by the Sea.”

Best Actress is a bit more up in the air. Emma Stone is simply delightful in “La La Land,” it must be the strongest performance of her career thus far, and she’s rarely had a bad day. While Stone’s performance is strong, Natalie Portman still poses a threat to taking to the award—however, it is unlikely.

It may be an unconventional pick, but Mahershala Ali’s performance seems most deserving of Best Supporting Actor. His performance in “Moonlight” is like the culmination of something he has been building up to since he burst onto the scene in “The Place Beyond the Pines.” His performance in “Moonlight” is brief, but it has the feeling of a soon to be iconic display.

Viola Davis is more than deserving of Best Supporting Actress. While Denzel is the headliner, Davis is given all the subtle character work–she has more to chew on. She delivers one of the best scenes of the year and her acting is heart-wrenching. Even if it weren’t one of the best performances of the year, recognition of Davis’s talent would still be long overdue.

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Photo Courtesy of youtube.com

Jeff Turner

10. Swiss Army Man
“Swiss Army Man,” the directorial debut of the duo Daniels, uses so many tropes and throws so many emotions at the viewer that may seem familiar, and eventually transmutes that into a wholly original experience. The film takes one through an odyssey of heightened experiences all at once. Plus, Daniel Radcliffe offers up one of the best performances of the year. Sort of a “farting corpse ET.” It is divisive, and the division has shown, but it would be foolish not to include it among 2016’s best.

9. The Nice Guys
“The Nice Guys” demonstrates the steady hand of a master, with Shane Black employing his technique as a guy who has been writing this kind of a buddy cop formula for 20 years. The acting is all around excellent, Ryan Gosling’s comedic timing is pitch perfect and Russell Crowe is the best he has been in years. There’s a child actor who plays Gosling’s character’s daughter, and even she’s pretty good.

8. The Edge of Seventeen
John Hughes made specifically engaging movies in his day, but many of them, even “The Breakfast Club,” are flawed. Kelly Fremon Craig’s “The Edge of Seventeen” is an excellent teen comedy often reminiscent of Hughes’ iconic works. It is often hilarious, but best of all, rich with empathy and an understanding of its characters. It’s a brilliantly directed master-stroke that establishes Craig as a voice to stick around for a long time.

7. Manchester by the Sea
“Manchester by the Sea” is the kind of movie a filmmaker only gets to make once or twice in their life. It is a masterful, meditative work about death. The big moments are well quiet, and nuanced. Casey Affleck offers the best performance of his career, with director Kenneth Lonergan allowing him the space to do so much without saying a word.

6. Green Room
Jeremy Saulnier is one of the most exciting filmmakers that has made it within the last decade. His use of imagery lends creativity and intrigue to what are otherwise straightforward stories. His latest, “Green Room” is a mercilessly tense thriller centered around a struggling punk band and a venue of neo-Nazis. It is brutal, it is savage, and it is irresistible.

5. Silence
Martin Scorsese’s latest film is eas-ily one of his most fascinating. It’s also a masterpiece, with Scorsese meditating on the limits of faith and how to persevere when under the literal threat of death from an oppressive government, as well as his own Catholicism. It is a film that demands multiple viewings, and one that stays with the viewer long after they leave the theater.

4. A Monster Calls
This is a movie where one would be hard pressed not to sob his or her eyes out. Director J.A. Bayona knows, that for the movie to work the viewer must form an irreparable bond with the characters. They are written in such a way where that this exists in spades. Sigourney Weaver gives the standout turn but attention must be paid to Lewis Macdougall as yet another standout child actor.

3. The Witch
Robert Eggers’ debut can truly be called Kubrickian. This is his debut, and saying something like that is basically a kiss of death (Shyamalan among others). There’s a lot to be excited about with Eggers, he has a strong grasp of atmosphere, tension, themes, and characters.

2. La La Land
“La La Land” is the major populist hit of 2016. This has earned it some backlash, as will always happen. The fact remains, is that this is yet another masterpiece from novice filmmaker Damien Chazelle. It is magnetic, it is magical, it is hypnotizing. Watch it, and then watch it again.

1. Moonlight
“Moonlight” is a perfectly assembled achievement, a slow and meticulous masterwork building and creating a person’s life. The direction is wonderfully chosen, and the cinematography gorgeous. It also represents huge steps forward for diverse cinema. These kinds of stories often will end poorly for their characters, but with “Moonlight” the ending is relatively hopeful. The film plays out more like life, and when portrayals of all cultures improve and evolve, the medium of cinema improves and evolves. Director Barry Jenkins has delivered a film that will stay for years to come.