Film Review : Selma (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 98%
Nominated for Best Picture

Directed By – Ava DuVernay
Starring – David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth, André Holland, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Colman Domingo, Omar J. Dorsey, Common, Lorraine Toussaint, Dylan Baker, Wendell Pierce, Stephan James, Keith Stanfield, Henry G. Sanders, and Stephen Root

A chronicle of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

Pencil me into the group that is upset that both Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo were not chosen as nominees in this years Academy Awards. I don’t think it was politically fueled like some people are claiming, but rather just an injustice to superior work in the film/acting industry. They flat out should have been included.

Man, this was a powerful film. It took me a long time to see this because I knew it was going to be a powerful experience. I guess I just didn’t want to go through such a thing until I knew I was ready. I wasn’t ready though. I was choked up throughout most of the film. It’s funny how just the presence of David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. was enough to get me emotional. The man was almost identical to Dr. King. That wasn’t enough though. His performance is what drove this thing home for me. He’s mesmerizing in every single scene that features him. My eyes focused on him as if I were really looking at the man who fought so hard for equality years ago. I would never go as far to call myself an activist. I’m far too lazy in my life right now to appoint myself with that title. Ideally though, I stand tall for equality. I believe that every person in this country deserves equal rights. I’m a big supporter of the LGBT community and the legalization of gay marriage. I’m a supporter of a government that creates laws for the people and not their own gain. I’m in favor of a military and police force that would just fucking relax. I do this all from my bedroom though. I know in my heart that if the opportunity arises where I can help make a change, I’d do it. I guess it just hasn’t presented itself yet. Watching David Oyelowo portrayal Dr. King stirred up a lot of these emotions inside me though. It takes a tremendous performance to do that and Oyelowo accomplished that. It may be the performance of the year for me.

There is still some political hoo-ha that I need to get off my chest. I’ll try to relate it to the film as much as I can.

Ferguson was fascinating/revolting to me. When the big riots were going on, I was able to watch on my computer thanks to the miracle of iPhones. This film couldn’t have come at a better time. People think that what happened in 1965 is ancient history. Ha. That shit ain’t over and it probably never will be over 100%. We still have rampant racism going on all over this country. We have military police lining the streets with assault rifles and tanks to try to “defend” themselves against protesters armed with and harsh words and numbers. Sure, we aren’t lynching black men in the streets anymore. There are laws now that says we can’t do that. I have no doubt in my mind that if those laws weren’t in place, they’d be happening every weekend like Bingo. Racial crimes are still being committed out there on both sides. That’s what gets me about Ferguson and why this film is so important right now. The film focuses on the non-violet march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama. Non-violent. Hell, not only were they non violent, but they were polite in doing so. That’s why Martin Luther King is remembered today in the same way Ghandi is also remembered. Fighting violence with violence is never the answer long term. I remember seeing video of the riots in Ferguson. There were people antagonizing police. They threatened them and covered their faces with bandannas as if they were going to rob a house. Oh wait, that’s what they did. They looted the business of their city because they could. They didn’t care about what was going on. They just needed a reason to fuck shit up. It’s a horrible way to look at things.

This is still happening. Racism isn’t over. It’s hiding in the shadows. Selma is a film that brings light to the darkness I feel.

It’s a beautifully shot film. I haven’t seen Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything, or The Imitation game. I can’t comment on those directors. I can say however that this film couldn’t have been filmed better. There isn’t any exposition in the beginning of the film. This isn’t a bio-pic or a History Channel movie. The film doesn’t insult our intelligence by giving us the back story on how Dr. King became who he was. This was about the march on the capitol. I liked this way of telling the story. I was able to be drawn in more with the attention to detail being focused on an event that took place over the course of a couple weeks. You lose a lot of the power when you’re telling a story that spans years. This film stayed focus on the march and in doing so kept me focused on the message at hand. The camera work was also impressive. Many shots involving Dr. King bathed in back light were just a beautiful thing to see. Emotional scenes didn’t feel forced or unearned. I was fighting back tears in most of the brutal scenes of what went down during these marches. None of it felt heavy handed or too dramatic.

There were other great performances besides David Oyelowo. Tom Wilkenson and Tim Roth did fantastic jobs portraying LBJ and George Wallace.Both are actors that in my opinion don’t get enough work for how great they are when they do. Stephen James, who had a smallish role as a young John Lewis, was also very impressive.

I’ve always been an admirer of Dr. King and what he did for equality in this country. I always viewed people with racism in their hearts and speech as confusing because I don’t see people as divided. I’ve always laughed at people who claim that we live in the greatest country in the world. It takes some pretty big balls to make that claim while there is so much wrong still going on. I don’t know which country is the greatest. I like to think that we have the potential to stake claim to that title. There is a lot of work to do though. A lot of work. Political activism in the media comes and goes. People, including myself admittedly, get bored and move on to the next story. Ignorance makes us think that just because something else is happening that the previous news stories just kind of went away. Ferguson is still a mess racially. There may not be riots in the streets every night, but it’s still a city full of ignorant people on both sides of the argument. We’re a country in debt. We’re a country who can’t decide if we should be teaching Creationism/Evolution, whether we should grant gay people the right to marry, or even whether we should be at war or not. How can a country with so many divided segments call itself the greatest country in the world? It confuses me.

What gives me hope however is the arts. As long as films like Selma are being released to the mainstream, there will be new people with views that they never had before. Dr. King started a new way of thinking for a lot of people and granted new rights to people who already had it figured out. It’ll never end though. Hopefully people will see this film for what it is, a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, powerful remembrance of what we were at one time as a country, what what we still are today.

5/5




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