Award season can make the Oscar race seem like a sporting event, but Moonlight director Barry Jenkins is trying to keep that competitiveness in check.
Jenkins universally acclaimed film Moonlight is nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director for Jenkins, Best Adapted Screenplay for Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney and more.
While Moonlight is one of the most nominated films at the Oscars this year, there's one movie the Academy clearly loves more: La La Land. The Los Angeles-based musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone has a record-tying 14 nominations and is widely considered the frontrunner to win Best Picture and a whole bunch of other prizes.
Many Oscar pundits have Moonlight at no. 2 in the race, suggesting that if a huge upset occurs, the indie film could be next in line to nab the top prize of the evening. Despite the horse race nature of award season, though, Jenkins is trying not to get competitive about it. The director appeared on The Awards Show Show podcast this week and spoke about Moonlight's perceived rivalry with La La Land.
"I'm on this podcast, so very clearly, I'm participating in awards season," he explained. "So much is at stake with the results of all these things we're going through ... and yet I don't want those results to affect my feeling, my appreciation, my pride in the work that we did."
Despite (or perhaps because of) La La Land's status as a frontrunner, the film has received backlash, including from Kanye West collaborator Elon Rutberg, who called the movie "fascist." Jenkins hopes that there isn't a narrative of competition between him and La La Land director Damien Chazelle.
"I wasn't on set thinking, 'I'm going to make a film that can take down the 'white, fascist musical,' just like I'm sure Damien wasn't on set thinking, 'I'm going to make a movie that can take down the gay, black, hood love story told in an art-house way,'" Jenkins said. "It just doesn't work that way. Just like all these movies [like 'Moonlight', 'Fences', and 'Hidden Figures'] are being framed as a response to #OscarsSoWhite - I think they all arose in a vacuum, and they just arrived at this moment. It's great for people out there who need a narrative, but we're just trying to make art."
If Jenkins does win an Oscar, he may use the opportunity to make a statement, as Moonlight star Mahershala Ali did in his SAG acceptance speech.
"If I'm so lucky to give a speech, maybe I'll say a little somethin'," he said.
The Oscars air live from coast to coast Sunday, Feb. 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on ABC.