Selma

January 15, 2015 By

ADAM’S VERDICT 4.5/5

Everyone has to see this movie. Not because it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen, but because the subject matter is so important. It is especially important in a time of such racial tension.
The breathtaking (based on a) true story of a small, but incredibly important, segment of Martin Luther King Jr’s civil rights movement. The title, Selma, refers to Selma Alabama. In 1965 King and a large following planned and executed a fifty mile march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama. The performances in Selma are perfect. The story is incredible and even the few slight liberties taken with history can be forgiven for the sake of the narrative.

Martin Luther King Jr (David Oyelowo) is a preacher who shoulders the responsibility of trying to improve the social standing of all African-Americans, and all minorities in the United States. King constantly butts heads with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). Johnson has a respect for King, and understands his mission. Selma indicates that Johnson had the power to, at anytime, accomplish what the fifty mile march of the film’s climax ultimately would. This is likely true, but Johnson did not want his presidency to be run by someone else. He didn’t want his image hurt. Johnson says that he believes King’s goal will accomplish itself in due course. He ,Johnson, just doesn’t seem to see the severity and importance of taking action on it right away. Johnson isn’t painted as a racist. He just doesn’t care as much. The real history of the scenario is different, Johnson cared more than he was shown to in the film but it is understandable for the narrative that the dividing line needed to be more black and white, no pun intended.

There is a monumental scene in which Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) and King meet. Two icons in the civil rights movement who had different techniques at accomplishing their goals. The two historic giants settle their differences and show a mutual respect to each other for the greater good.

It seems no movie is complete without a villain, in this case the villain is historically accurate which makes him even more terrifying. George Wallace (Tim Roth) is the Governor from Alabama who actively works against civil rights and the Black community. Through Wallace it is clear that King isn’t fighting for new laws, he is fighting to have existing laws enforced. African-Americans in the 60s did have the right to vote, nationally. It is a sad fact that this right was denied to them on a state by state, or more local, level.

The Selma march itself is the focus of the film, it is not a full biography of King himself. However, the movie does an outstanding job of showing the historical legend as a man. A very human man who shoulders a cause for the good of an entire nation. The portrayal of King by David Oyelowo is perfect. Carmen Ejogo plays King’s wife Coretta Scott King. Coretta is a strong and supportive woman but the tension between husband and wife is addressed. With King spending so much time away from home, away from his wife and kids, and on the road with the 60’s equivalent of groupies, it makes sense that the wife would be stressed about their situation. The scene between Coretta and Martin is handled with extreme care and executed perfectly.

Giovanni Ribisi, Oprah Winfrey, and Wendell Pierce fill out the amazing supporting cast. There are more actors with roles big and small, limited screen time or not that leave quite an impression. For example, Tinity Simone, Mikeria Howard, and Jordan Christina Rice are far from household names. Their screen time was incredibly limited. Credited only as Girl #1, #2, and #3. These young actresses deliver some of the most haunting and effective moments in any movie that came out this year.

While the subject matter and performances are absolutely something to be praised the film itself is not without issues. The framing, picture quality, and cinematography were a mess in Selma. Characters were often framed to far parts of the screen, off center, and grainy. The camera bobbed in strange ways and the colors were often so muted it felt like there was a cloud over the lenses on the cameras.

Poor cinematography aside, Selma is an important movie. It tells an important piece of history and acts as something of a biography for a man who was larger than life.

My thoughts on the “Oscar Snubs”

I understand racism is still very real, and I understand there is a lot of racial tension in our country lately. However racism is a serious claim. To say that this movie was locked out of all of the awards purely on race is, in my opinion, taking things too far. I fully believe Oyelowo should have been nominated for best actor. I don’t know which of the fantastic actors I would have dropped out of the category in his place however. Plus, isn’t dropping one actor just to have a minority actor in the running racist in itself? Furthermore, to say Director Ava DuVernay was “snubbed” is a bit ridiculous. As far as a visual story telling medium goes the visuals were largely ugly and not award worthy.

Review via Sitdown, ShutUp.