Moonlight: In Review

Moonlight was the winner of the Best Picture Academy Award 2016 but will it be remembered for its cinematic prowess or its starring role in one of the Oscars’ biggest ever gaffes? Because let’s be honest – it was a clanger.

To answer my own question, it is a film that should be remembered for all the right reasons – as a melancholic, beautifully shot drama worthy of the highest accolades.

Apparently, this was a low budget creation and it is definitely not replete with Hollywood A-Listers, but financial constraints did not translate into artistic ones, at least not to my untrained eye.

Moonlight tells a story. It tells it subtly. It tells it slowly. It tells it poignantly. If none of this appeals then you are at the wrong movie, and I would imagine lots of people felt they may have taken a wrong turn somewhere on their way to their seat. Because unusually, this is a tale of drug dealing in “the hood” with minimal violence and zero gun shots. My husband seemed both shocked and a little disappointed by this, but I think the lack of gratuitous violence was part of the magic.

Moonlight is a story of addiction, prostitution, drug-dealing, bullying and homophobia, and yet it is not moralistic in tone. It portrays a cycle of poverty and ignorance and in so many ways each and every character is a victim. Due to  a lightness of touch and a genuine sensitivity, this becomes a story not of heroes and villains but of human beings. Humans who are often deeply flawed but who have lived lives without hope, privilege or advantage. Bad starts leading to bleak futures!

Mostly, Moonlight is a coming-of-age narrative. It tells the story of Chiron, first as a nine year old with more battles than any child should have to face, essentially raising himself in a community ravaged by crack-cocaine. Chiron is a child who stands out when all he wants to do is fit in. He is a miserable child trapped in a miserable world that seems actively trying to reject him.

Chiron’s teens, perhaps predictably, are a battle. A high-school battle against bullies, as the awkward young man struggles with his sexuality, and a personal battle with his mother who had long since abdicated her maternal role.  This was a movie that could so easily have become a cliché  – Chiron could have made defence a form of attack by fighting back both literally and metaphorically. Or he could have received some fairy tale passage out of the world of his birth and on to pastures greener. But Chiron is not a cliché and he does not try to conform or even seem to aspire to his society’s one-dimensional view of masculinity. Nor, however, has he the courage or self-belief to be proud of his individuality and to step away from his social world. He is quiet, awkward and perpetually unsure of who he is or what he wants to be, and it is the depiction of this non-stereotypical boy (and later man) that is where the movie shines brightest.

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Chiron is the central protagonist, who doesn’t say much. His uncertainty, his pain and even his joy, is communicated in other ways. Facial expression and body language are central to the creation of his character and three different actors combine seamlessly to portray one credible person. From Chiron the boy to Chiron the man, their performances combine to create something moving, nuanced and at times heartbreaking. But this is not a sad story either and there are wonderful, wonderful glimpses of humanity, compassion and love. Moonlight is just a very real story and one that deserved to be told.

If you haven’t guessed by now- I loved it, although I imagine not everybody will. Some may think it too slow, too silent or too ambiguous. Others will see it as both breathtaking and believable. If you missed it in theatres, Amazon Prime will be airing it soon so if haven’t already seen it, do yourself a favour and give it a chance. Make up your own mind on this one xo

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Never Look A Gift Carrot…..

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Yesterday, I got a gift of a bag of carrots. Not just any carrots either but carrots from Clonown, famed in song and deemed to have properties that would put the most extraordinary superfood to shame. Chia, Maca,Wheatgrass or Kale have nothing on the humble Clonown carrot. Not convinced? You really need to have a listen to this ode to the indigenous orange vegetable – skin, hair, fertility or muscle mass issues- you name it the Clonown carrot can fix it.

So there I was, carrots in a plastic bag, fresh Clonown dirt still attached and the farmer driving out the gate oblivious to the mud dropping from the wellies. Now all that remained was to decide if I wanted them for “supper or tae!!” And what exactly to do with my “fine big juicy” specimens.

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Traditionally, a stew or casserole would be the obvious choice, especially in the week in which we celebrate all things Irish, but neither would be my dinner of choice, especially on a rare sunny day like today. So I raided the fridge, pulled out the food processor and decided to experiment a little. If Brendan Shine had come to dinner, I think he may have added another verse for “Clonown Carrot, Ginger and Coriander Salad with a hint of Chilli”. (It’s not too late Brendan, you could debut it in the Gleneagle this weekend!) It would make the perfect side dish for rural Roscommon farmers after a long day at the bog!  You heard it here first.

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Joking aside, it honestly is one of the nicest incarnations of the humble carrot I have tasted for a long time, although I do admit to feeling that carrots are a vegetable best served raw. Incidentally, an option the celebrated ballad overlooks entirely! Although to be fair, in the Ireland that the illustrious Mr. Shine was immortalising, vegetables were cooked, or more specifically boiled, until they were soft. The only way to overcook a vegetable was to boil it dry and ruin your pot. Once there was still water, they were still perfect! They did not have fresh chilli added – sure that would “roast the gob off ya” and coriander was but a twinkle in the eye of the Irish herb garden (then merely a parsley patch). So carrots were sliced and boiled and maybe mashed with a parsnip on a Sunday. Simple!!!

And this recipe (if you could even call it that) is equally simple but infinitely more nutritious and possibly even more delicious. Here it is…

Ingredients:

  • 4 Clonown Carrots (I am sure other carrots would work too)
  • A handful of fresh coriander
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger
  • A finely chopped red chilli
  • 2 spring onions (for garnish)
  • Irish rapeseed oil (extra virgin olive oil would be perfect)
  • Vinegar of choice (I used wild mountain thyme vinegar because I was lucky enough to have it – not very rural Clonown circa 1980 I grant you)
  • A pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper

Method:

Rinse, peel and grate the carrots (I used the food processor) and place them in a medium sized bowl. Grate in the ginger. Finely chop the coriander and chilli and add both to the carrot and ginger. Mix everything well.

Whisk up a dressing in a little bowl or jam jar. I just used two parts oil to one part vinegar and added some seasoning. Pour the dressing over the carrots and mix until everything is lightly coated with the dressing. Snip some spring onion over the top. Serve as a fresh and delicious side dish with chicken or fish.

I had this for dinner with a portion of The Little Green Spoon’s Chicken Tikka and her delicious It’s Always Sunny Quinoa (a favourite since this blog post). It was the perfect healthy mid-week supper or “tae”, as Brendan himself would say, and although intended only as a simple side, the fresh, local carrot salad kinda stole the show. Give it a go with whatever carrots are local to you… and don’t be afraid to write a song about it. xo

 

Celebrate Yourself….

“We can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.” (The Mill on the Floss)

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The classics can be a drag to read sometimes (and that sacrilegious declaration comes from a teacher of English) but they invariably conceal hidden diamonds in the rough rock, like the above kernel of wisdom from George Eliot. Eons before mindfulness was a thing, or wellness a cliché, Eliot realised that every now and then we need to actively search out the things that make us happy. Simple? Yes. So why in the mania that is modern life do we so often put our own happiness last?

I don’t really have the answer, but I do accept that sometimes only you can be the rainbow on your own cloudy day and, if it feels like the sun isn’t shining for you, maybe you need to take proactive steps to reverse the unwelcome climate change.

Personally,there was quite a lot of grey in the kaleidoscope of my life this past month. We are renovating a house we are living in – not for the lovers of luxury (or sanity) I can assure you – and there were evenings with no heat, walls with exposed wiring, more dust than you can imagine and not a floor to be seen that didn’t have a hole in it for some reason. This, combined with fairly miserable weather, spiralling costs and a workload that is barely sustainable, and you will see how the sunniest of dispositions could be a bit more muted than normal.

But with days lengthening, the chill in the air dissipating and life simply being too short for self-pity, there comes a time to take control and seek out the beauty and the light. A time to hunger after the beautiful and the good. So here’s a few options I am favouring to inject a little colour into the dusty reality that can sometimes settle just about everywhere.

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Take More Walks:

If the problem is the grimness of the four walls that are currently surrounding you – get out of the house and see the beauty that is everywhere. I know the walls won’t be bare forever, the new floors will be stunning soon, the kitchen will once again be my sanctuary, but in the meantime I need to remember that if I don’t love what is in my eye-line, then I can just avert my gaze. So I’ve been doing it, getting out more and seeing the beauty in the ordinary, the sensational in the simple and the little winks of wonder from a natural world awakening for winter and bursting into spring. Take a look…..

Pamper, pamper, pamper:

Do something just for you! Something relaxing, something fun, something a little self-indulgent. For me it was a morning at the hairdressers and, to be fair, it was well overdue. I have to say I chose well with this one. I was home in Kerry and decided to check out a salon I have liked the look of for ages and I was really not disappointed. From the cute decor, to the cupcake and coffee with vintage reading material, it was exactly what I was craving. The stylist was also lovely and my tired locks were rejuvenated just the way I wanted – a real success. A reason to smile.

Enjoy a Date Night:

My husband will cringe at the phrase…. but I am afraid that’s what it is when a couple venture out on their own to do something recreational together!!! It doesn’t really  matter what you do – it matters that you take the time to do it. Consume some art – a movie, a piece of theatre, a gallery visit. Drink a cocktail. Eat great food. Go to a gig. Basically whatever floats your boat. For us it has been a mixture of all of the above. Prior to Lent (weird Catholic self-deprivation ritual) there were some cocktails. Alternatively, there is always room in my world for dinner or lunch somewhere delicious. And, as we are currently booze free (more a personal than a religious penance tbh) and on a very tight budget, we are seeing some movies to unwind. Last week it was Loving (I think the trailer really has all the highlights of this one – although I did quite enjoy it) and tonight we are going to try Moonlight. Cheap cinema tickets and a tub of popcorn – remember it’s the simple things.

 

I guess the moral of today’s story is that it doesn’t matter what you do, but if you feel like you need to do something to inject some cheer into your soul – then do it. You deserve it. We all do. Anne Frank (who was scarily wise for one so young) said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” I think we can paraphrase and revel in the reality that we need not wait a single moment to improve our own world, just for us, just because we are worth it. Find the light, see the beauty ..have a happy Sunday xo

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