Here's Why 'Moonlight' Won Best Picture Last Night

Finally, the right movie took the award home.

As if it were yesterday, I recall the bitterness and disappointment I felt 11 years ago when Crash stole the Best Picture award at the Oscars from the much more deserving and memorable film, Brokeback Mountain. I took that loss personally, because a stirring and original film that dared to tell a story other films wouldn’t tell—a story that resonated deeply with me and mirrored certain experiences in my own life—was eclipsed by a film that seemed to win mostly because it was set in Los Angeles and concerned people in show business. Who even remembers what Crash was about now? I don’t.

I went to bed before the end of the Oscars last night, and I fully expected to wake up to the same feeling of disappointment this year. I have to admit that I really wanted Moonlight to win, for personal reasons that echoed my hopes for Brokeback Mountain 11 years ago. This time, against all odds—and in a stunning reversal of fortunes that unfolded live on stage with a dramatic mix-up of envelopes—it did win. A low-budget ($1.5 million) film about a gay African-American kid growing up in one of the poorest areas of Miami took Best Picture from the high-budget, glitzy Hollywood blockbuster musical that most people seemed to expect would win the award. (To their credit, the producers of La La Land were gracious on stage when the mistake was revealed and they turned over the trophy to the cast and creators of Moonlight.)

In October 2016, when I saw Moonlight in the theater, I was so moved by it that I wrote a review in The Huffington Post. I called it “the most human film of the year,” because—without musical fanfare or CGI effects or elaborate costumes—it tells the story of one human being’s coming-of-age and his struggle to find his place in a world that seems set against him from so many angles: race, sexuality, socioeconomic status and family circumstances. That the film accomplishes this with three different and equally talented actors portraying the main character across three stages of his life is a triumph of both acting and directing. Moonlight won Best Picture because it’s a stunning masterpiece of filmmaking and a bold, original work of art. And it won, too, because the story it tells is both widely relatable and deeply truthful.

That, perhaps, is the biggest reason to see Moonlight, if you haven’t already. Now more than ever, we need not escapist fantasies but truthful, honest, authentic, and diverse stories of human experience—stories that emphasize the things we all have in common: our suffering and joy, our hopes and fears, our wounds and emotional armor, and our deepest desire: to give and receive love.

Read my review of Moonlight here.


Dennis Hunter is the author of You Are Buddha (2014) and the forthcoming The Four Reminders (2017). He lives in Miami with his husband. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.