The general theory discussed over and over is that the Best Pics these days tend to be everybody's second or third choice on their ballot because their first choices are too polarizing. Probably half of the Academy loved La La Land and half thought it was too over-rated and over-exposed, purposely listing it farther below in their ballots. Moonlight was fairly consistent in its rankings.
I am not too-too shocked by its win. At the time of the mix-up, I thought it was either planned in advance for ratings or to counter all of the anti-Trump jokes earlier so that Washington wouldn't declare war on Hollywood as long as the "oopsie" was discussed more by the media. It may be an art house choice, but no more so than A Beautiful Mind or Birdman.
The similarities to Boyhood are likely unintentional, but there are enough of them that it didn't feel as fresh to me. The former film lost to Birdman, something I never understood except that maybe the Academy voters weren't ready for that type of storytelling... until now, with Moonlight. Also Moonlight is a much more simple and straightforward film than Boyhood.
It got a lot of hoopty doo for being the first gay Best Pic and many in the Academy didn't want to make the same mistake as in the Brokeback Mountain vs. Crash battle, but it seems so much more prudish than that film and even previous Best Pics such as Wings (which had two soldiers more gaga for each other than Clara Bow and the dying one getting that one final kiss on the lips) and Midnight Cowboy ("I'm not a real cowboy but I'm one hellavah..."). I was critical of ABC's When We Rise for being too focused on the politics and not enough on the relationships because they wanted to please those viewers expecting all of their TV to be heteronormal, but there seemed less here to warrant an R rating than on primetime TV. Mostly we got a kiss on the beach and the impression of mutual fondling off camera. Otherwise Mike Pence, Mike Huckabee, Pat Robertson or Ted Cruz have little to be coiling in horror over here. (Then again, it is doubtful any of them watched either this or 1985's The Color Purple either, which lost to Out of Africa but still managed to get nominated despite same gender kissing and more dark skin than light on screen. Come to think of it, even American Beauty had a more prolonged kiss despite Kevin Spacey looking spacey.)
There is a lot to like. I thought Naomie Harris was more gung-ho in her performance than winner Mahershala Ali, although I also felt both should have been on screen longer. The cinematography was quite innovative with many hand-held shots moving along side the main characters in order to present the events from the child, then teenager's point of view. Sometimes the camera would purposely go out of focus, suggesting that you are looking through these characters' eyes. Again, I suspect the director also watched some Fassbinder material such as Ali: Fear Eats the Soul previously because those diner and earlier school cafeteria scenes had a similar choreography.