Monday, February 2, 2015

Selma review; oh, Selma how you've been wronged


You often hear people talk about how important a film is.  Or how a film has the ability to raise awareness about a certain subject matter.  A film can even remind us about of the wrongs that took place in our country.  A film can be more that just entertainment, and that's exactly what Selma is.  Directed by an incredibly talented African-American young woman named Ava DuVernay; the film stars David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo as Martin Luther King Jr., and Coretta Scott King.  I can't wait to tell you more about this film.  Let's go.

What I liked about the film:
The Incredible Story/The Writing
The script was written by Paul Webb, and it is terrific.  Selma takes us inside Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights movement.  There is a very apparent story being told on the surface of this film; and I enjoyed that story very much.  But it is what takes place behind the scenes that will make you think, it will make you ask questions.  The film dives into the relationship between MLK and President Johnson, and his role in the civil rights movement.  The story also examines the different ideals set forth by MLK and Malcolm X.  The movie does a great job at showing what a non-violent movement has the capability of becoming.  

The relationship between MLK and his wife is prominent in the movie, and it is a compelling relationship.  Just imagine what MLK's wife Coretta must have gone through.  This woman had to become accustom to death threats, on a daily basis.  She must have feared for her life, every time she stepped foot out the door.  Yet, she understood that what her and her husband were trying to accomplish was too important to stop.  I loved watching this relationship, and all it's ups and downs.  

Talk about how tight knit the script is and how there is no waste.  Every scene matters and every words spoken matters.  I really appreciate this type of writing, the older I get.  By the way, this is Paul Webb's first screenplay!


The Acting
I've been a fan of David Oyelowo, the actor who plays MLK for a long time.  He is poised, in control, and demands attention everytime he is on screen.  Oyelowo goes through so many emotions throughout the film; anger, frustration, sadness, happiness.  And Oyelowo plays them all beautifully.  The film very well could have been a documentary about leadership, considering we see just how MLK got the best out of people.  Oyelowo played a great leader.

Carmen Ejogo is terrific.  She plays MLK's wife as a smart, loving, supportive woman, who is not afraid to voice her opinion if she does not agree with what she sees.  I thought that was important in a film like this.  How could we appreciate a film about civil rights, if woman are nothing more than arm candy in the film.

Tom Wilkinson plays President Johnson and does a fine job.  At this point, what else would you expect out of the great Wilkinson?  There are other bit roles that flushed out the cast, most notably that of Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth and Giovanni Ribisi.  For no reason other than time, I will not go into more detail.  But trust me, they all give top notch performances in the film.   

Snubbed.  Period.  (The Director)
It wasn't until I got out of the theater that I understood what all the fuss surrounding the film, was all about.  And by fuss, I mean the sheer lack of Oscar nominations Selma received.  Ava DuVernay directed a fantastic film.  And this film is more than just entertainment; yet the movie could only muster up two Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Best Song).  It's a shame.  DuVernay makes so many great choices.  The set design, the costumes, the cinematography, the editing/pacing, the music, the songs... all these departments of course have someone in charge, but they all made DuVernay's vision a reality.  Now I understand what all the fuss is about.


What I didn't like about the film:
Who Was this Man?
What kind of family man was MLK?  The relationship with his wife is explored, but not much if any with his kids.  While I dislike 3+ hour biopics, it would have been nice to learn more about the man in which the film is about.  Some minor flaws in his character are explored, but no one is perfect.  

The Ending
The ending was too abrupt for me.  I felt like it needed another scene or two to really drive the message home.  I felt as if there was a plan for more, and the filmmakers simply ran out of money.  I can't speak intelligently as to whether or not that was the case, that's just what it felt like.  And the entire movie, we're shown glimpses of the FBI surveillance on MLK; but then what?  Why show us all that if it leads to nothing?  I really wanted just a bit more pay off for the amazing build up.   


The Verdict:
Oh, Selma How You've Been Wronged
I need movies like this.  WE need movies like this.  Selma is more than a MLK biopic.  Selma reminds us, that while we've made great strides towards civil liberties, we still have a long way to go.  We need not look further than the past 18 months, to see how important the message of this film is.  Ferguson, Missouri, Trayvon Martin, and so many other horrific stories are a constant reminder of how much more work there is to do.  I for one was incredibly moved by this film, and hope you all have an opportunity to see it.  As of today, it is my favorite film of the year.  

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