Which film is better: “Moonlight” or “La La Land?”

Christopher Walker, Editor - in - Chief

The Academy Awards do not matter. History has proven, time and time again, the academy neither understands what is culturally relevant at the moment, nor what will go down in history as significant or worthy of remembrance.

For this year’s Academy Awards, there are only two films with any chance of taking home the Best-Picture statue: “Moonlight,” a film about a young, black gay man in the projects of Miami, and “La La Land,” a musical about love and heartbreak in Los Angeles.

Although this has certainly been the time for upsets (Trump winning the presidency and Atlanta losing the Superbowl), my money is on “La La Land” to take home the prize.

A sure-fire crowd pleaser, especially for female audiences, the movie is the epitome of cinema as entertainment. Undeniably well-made, intelligent and emotionally cathartic, audiences fell in love with the film and have treated it extremely well at the box office.

However, “Moonlight” is sweeping the smaller award circuits, circuits which award artistic merit over commerciality.  The movie is far more similar to contemporary European cinema; films are often sponsored by the government’s arts endowment, where cinema is seen more akin to art than entertainment.

The academy really is in a lose-lose situation. If they award Best Picture to “La La Land,” cinema geeks (one of the last consistent box-office-goer demographics) will complain loudly the academy cares neither for art nor diversity.

If they give “Moonlight” the award, mainstream movie-goers will lament the academy is out of touch with the average American, and Hollywood clearly does not want to save itself.

My personal solution to the problem would be to hand “Moonlight” the Best Director award, and “La La Land” Best Picture, the two most revered prizes at the show. Historically, the two have gone virtually every year hand in hand, a mistake the academy should remedy.

The truth is, it’s hard to be mad at the academy for likely going with the safe choice of “La La Land.” “La La Land” grossed nearly $300 million, while “Moonlight” is sitting at a comparatively weak $22 million.

However, Best Picture Award aside, there is still a debate worthy of consideration: which film is better?

Those who favor “Moonlight” say it’s an “important” film. A piece of art centered around a character neither the mainstream media nor Hollywood almost ever pays attention to: a film dealing with gay identity in an otherwise hypermasculine black American culture.

Those who favor “La La Land” point to the timelessness of the film; the movies “La La Land” pays homage to are unquestionably some of the most revered, remembered and rewatched staples Hollywood has ever produced.

Once again, the mainstream and the counterculture are locked in a fight over what will go down as relevant in the halls of history. There is no right answer; the truth completely depends on what you believe cinema really is. Art or entertainment?

You choose. They’re both excellent films.