When the two presenters awarded the final, and biggest, award of the night, I saw the awkward moment unfold live from our family room.
“And the winner is,” Warren Beatty said just before a long, lingering pause. Then he handed the envelope to his co-presenter and “Bonnie & Clyde” co-star, Faye Dunaway.
“La La Land,” she exclaimed.
It made sense. “La La Land” is the dazzling, cinematic treat written and directed by 32-year-old Damien Chazelle. A fresh take on the classic movie musical, “La La Land” tells the story of two young people dreaming to make it as working artists in Los Angeles. The double entendre of the title alone should win a prize. It swept award season, even tying “Titanic” for the most Oscar-nominated film of all time. Chazelle had just won Best Director (the youngest person ever to win it) and the stage was still warm from “La La Land” star Emma Stone’s Best Actress speech.
And then, on stage, the surreal happened. “La La Land” hadn’t won. “Moonlight” had. As I sat in disbelief, I remarked to my unfazed kids that the snafu would surely be talked about for years to come.
Thirty-seven-year-old Barry Jenkins directed and co-wrote “Moonlight,” which chronicles young Chiron’s life in three chapters — youth, adolescent and young man — against the backdrop of a drug-riddled neighborhood in Miami Beach. Each day means survival for Chiron, physically as well as spiritually.
At first I thought the Academy had it wrong, even after they got it right. “La La Land” had surely bested the slower, smaller-budgeted and at first glance simpler “Moonlight.”
Yet after more thought I realized “Moonlight” is anything but simple and as a study of human behavior encompasses more than “La La Land.”
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental levels of need at the bottom and the need for self-actualization and self-transcendence at the top.
If our primal needs like food, water, warmth and rest are not fulfilled, there is no chance for a human being to move up the pyramid in his or her personal evolution. If a person’s basic needs are fulfilled, he or she is then motivated by security and safety and so on, up and up.
For instance, it would be nearly impossible for a young child living in fear every day to focus on making friends or doing well in school. Next up in the middle of the pyramid comes psychological needs, including relationships with others. We see Chiron navigate the first three levels of the pyramid in three distinct phases as he grows up.
We may have brief brushes with it, but most of us never reach the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy, what he called self-actualization. This is also referred to as full potential and includes being motivated by creative outlets. The main characters in “La La Land” played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone only teeter between the top two levels, esteem and self-actualization.
Many people around the globe don’t get the food, warmth and loving relationships they need, which in turn holds them back from realizing their full potential. “Moonlight” poignantly shows one character’s struggle for the basic necessities in life all while staying true to himself. In contrast, the characters in “La La Land,” despite their toils, already have it made.
Julie Samrick is an El Dorado Hills mother of four children. She can be reached at [email protected]