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Who Will Win?
It’s La La Land Vs. Moonlight in their first of many one on ones. In terms of cinematography, these two films have a lot in common.
There’s a notable use of colour in both films. For La La Land, cinematographer Linus Sandgren would bring out the reds, blues, yellows and greens of costumes and set pieces during musical numbers to contrast with the realistic scenes in between them. It’s especially notable in the opening number “Another Day of Sun,” Which sees the colourful dresses of the dancers clash with the realistic blue skies and grey freeways.
While that film emphasizes basic colours, cinematographer James Laxton emphasizes neon colours for Moonlight. Drawing inspiration from the film’s original title “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”, Laxton shoots night scenes with a hint of blue, especially when Chiron’s alone on the beach. Other colours he focuses on are greens from buildings, yellow for street lights, and pinks for neon lights, each one used in selective moments to bring beauty to the shot. A perfect example is a scene where Chiron’s mother (Naomie Harris) screams homophobic slurs at her son. Laxton shoots the scene with a point of view shot in slow motion, with pink neon beams through a door right behind her. He also shows a POV shot of Chiron standing in a dingy kitchen, taking the verbal abuse.
Both films use the colours sparingly. Most scenes are shot with realism, so when they go for a stylistic approach to a scene, it’s something special. At first, La La Land seems to only go for stylization for musical numbers, but they also use it for scenes when we go inside our main character’s heads. Whenever Sebastian starts to play a solo tune or Mia’s deep in thought, the world around them goes dark, with a spotlight on them.
Moonlight is more particular with their stylization. For the most part, Laxton brings a beauty to the lower-class Miami setting, portraying days with a bright sunny tone and nights with dark blue skies and yellow street lights. They feel realistic, and yet there’s a beauty to how he shoots the scenes. Even when it’s just someone’s just cooking’ it’s shot with a particular beauty. The stylization’s a little lower key with this one, but the film still equals La La Land in its beauty.
But the award’s going to go to the more impressive and flashy La La Land.