Earlier this year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences faced a torrent of criticism when, for the second season in a row, it nominated only white actors and actresses in the four performing categories. Academy voters looking to address that imbalance this year will be all over Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, an intimate and haunting drama about a poor, fatherless African-American kid growing up in the closet in the predominantly black Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. No less than three fine young actors play the boy at age nine, 16, and 26, and another three play the schoolmate whose fate is intertwined with his. Naomie Harris gives a striking performance as the boy’s angry, crack-addicted mother. But the strongest work comes from Mahershala Ali (Netflix’s House of Cards) in the supporting role of Juan, a neighborhood drug dealer who takes the boy under his wing. Ali’s character may disappear from the narrative after the first of its three chapters, but he continues to shape the boy’s emotional journey to the very last scene. Continue reading >>