What a funny year when a well-made, socially relevant, historical biopic about Martin Luther King Jr. is passed up almost completely at the Academy Awards. You can site that it was a competitive year all you want, but having now actually seen “Selma,” it is mind-blowing that such a stellar film with such a stake in our national history was completely brushed away. Now, it did ring in a Best Picture nomination despite only having one fellow nomination for Best Original Song, but without a Best Director or Best Original Screenplay nomination, it simply has no chance of winning. Plus, having a black AND female director would have made Oscar history, simply by a nomination alone. But instead the much less liked “Foxcatcher” and Bennett Miller took that spot from her. With Ferguson and the recent call to arms from the black community against police officers, it almost feels written in the stars that “Selma” would have more of a position in this year’s Oscars race. But it doesn’t and for that, it’s a shame.
Regardless of how many nominations it received, “Selma” is a phenomenal biopic of the late Martin Luther King Jr., which focuses on his struggle against the U.S. government in enforcing the black’s right to vote in 1964. Setting up camp in Selma, Alabama after President Lyndon B. Johnson shelved his concerned, King plans a peaceful protest that involves a unified walk from Selma to the state’s capital of Montgomery, where he plans to give a speech in front of the capital building. David Oyelowo is our Martin Luther King Jr., to which he becomes Dr. King. There are times where the camera catches him just right to where he could easily be mistaken for the civil rights activist. Not just his image, but his voice transforms as well. At times, director Ava Duvernay uses actual audio recordings of King and it can easily be confused for Oyelowo’s voice. Tom Wilkinson fills the shoes of President LBJ and even though there is controversy surrounding his depiction, Wilkinson plays him with a strong, commanding presence that I personally think shines him in quite an admirable light.
Emotions run high in the film, going as far as to blend fact with fiction, real imagery with cinematic reproductions, both in such a seamless way. The imagery of the attacks of “Bloody Sunday” at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, in particular, were so enraging that I found myself with tears in my eyes and my fists clenched. To think this happened only 50 years ago is baffling. The idea of racism in general, feels so outdated and peculiar that to think it still occurs today is heart-wrenching. A key scene of a young black man being shot during a night raid echoes even louder today, following last year’s events at Ferguson. And even though I keep a wavering opinion about that particular instance, the idea that anyone could be targeted because of their race makes me pray for a more accepting society. So please remind me how a film so pertinent to the times and so undeniably well made could be glazed over by the Academy.
Despite a lack of support for the film, the producers of “Selma” are no strangers to the Academy. Christian Colson has been nominated as apart of Best Picture twice before for “127 Hours” (2010) and “Slumdog Millionaire” (2009), for which he also won. On top of receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2011, Oprah Winfrey, who also stars in “Selma,” was previously nominated for her role in “The Color Purple” (1985). Also, Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner both won last year for their producing work on “12 Years A Slave” (2013). Gardner also had one previous nomination as producer on “The Tree Of Life” (2011).
What’s its competition? Unfortunately, everything is competition for “Selma” this year. “Boyhood” and “Birdman” are the frontrunners with “The Imitation Game” and now “American Sniper” not far behind. With the numbers that “Sniper” pulled over the long MLK Day weekend shows just how far down the ladder “Selma” really is. Personally, I will always remembering seeing this film on that Monday, and the way that I felt because of it. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” also pulled a lot support this year, with 9 nominations, positioning it too with better chances of taking Best Picture than “Selma”. “Whiplash” and “The Theory Of Everything” also have 5 nominations to “Selma’s” two. Unless the Academy suddenly feels guilty and decides to vote for it, which is a huge long shot, the chances of “Selma” winning are low. And not that it should matter, but with “12 Years A Slave” winning last year, the chances of making black history two years in a row is probably far fetched as far as the Academy is concerned.
// Produced by Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner // Directed by Ava Duvernay //
// Dated Viewed: Monday, January 19th, 2015 // Arclight Hollywood // 41 films – 35 days //