Selma

SELMA

Well the BAFTA’s have been and gone and my highlight was Stephen Beresford and David Livingstone winning the award for outstanding debut by a British writer, director or Producer for their work on one my favourite films of last year, Pride. Though as usual most of my picks for each award failed to succeed

The BAFTA’s gained a bit of controversy this year, considering the fact that Selma had not been nominated for a single award, despite the fact that the film has been nominated for two Oscars, one of which being Best Film. The BAFTA people did give a decent reason for why the film had been snubbed and I am inclined to believe them, though I will admit they probably should have been a bit more on the ball with it. Selma had been hyped up since late last year and the critics were even hyping it to sweep the Oscars, admittedly it really hasn’t completely done that only receiving a nomination for Best Picture and for Best Original Song, which made me curious, yet slightly worried. Why had this film, despite being predicted to do very well at the Oscars received so few nominations? To me, from what I had heard of it, it sounded like it would be a really great film. With that being said, I went along to a cinema to see it and was expecting it to be a really great movie.

Now the plot centres around Martin Luther King, so obviously it’s going to be very intriguing and powerful because of what the man stood for and his amazing civil rights work that he achieved in his 39 years plus this is the first film to centre on Martin Luther King since his death. Now the film doesn’t focus on Martin Luther King’s life as a whole, it more centres around his campaign to secure the ability for black people in the south to have equal voting rights by staging a march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama during the mid 1960’s. The film does this brilliantly, getting in quick and fast with the situation of racial discrimination that was going on at that time in very well told and effective ways. When the first five minutes of the film involve an explosion at a Church, it will get your attention, but in no way does it feel cheap or manipulative. As you would expect, this does give the film an un-comfortability when you are watching so much human suffering for a long amount of time, this film going on for just over two hours and it’s probably especially amplified for white audiences, especially considering that this is our dark recent history and we have a lot to answer for in regards to this, but I don’t believe that any sort of audience should shy away from this movie because of it especially with a message of racial equality in the film.

While this film does document a major victory for civil rights in America, it comes in the wake of a film that I saw last year, The Butler, which granted was released in 2013, but I didn’t get round to seeing it until last year (which I felt did a really good job of documenting almost the entirety of the civil rights movement taking place from the Eisenhower era to the election of Barack Obama) and I was thinking part way through the film that I thought I felt more of a connection to the civil rights movement in that film that I did in this one. But I felt by the end, the film definitely got across how important this particular victory was to the overall civil rights movement and honestly I actually thought by the end that both these movies played back to back would make and excellent double feature, though it would be slightly confusing considering that Oprah Winfrey is in both films! With it’s powerful politics and themes of racial discrimination you will probably think that there is little negative to be had on this film and I would agree! There is very little negative to say about this film, it was really powerful to sit through, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have some problems with the film overall. It mainly comes down to the film’s focus. The film does have a focus, it focuses mainly on Dr King, however I feel that has possibly pushed some very interesting figures to the side as a result. I didn’t need too much on these people, but with some of the cast members, I barely knew their characters names and was discovering them for the first time when I was watching the “what happened afterwards” section at the end of film. I would also like to say that I believe that the sections with Dr King’s family feel like a bit of an after-thought. They are very sporadic and sort of come in and out of a film and I felt that possibly having a film that focuses on both of them in equal measure might have helped slightly more as those scenes tend to make Dr King seem more human, whereas a lot of the scenes around his march and his civil rights work make him seem more like the re-incarnation of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong. Dr King was a hell 0f important figure, possibly the most important person of the 20th century, but he was still just human and I don’t feel enough of these scenes really get the human element of the man down. I think the best scenes of the film are the interactions between Martin Luther King and President Johnson because they come across as two men who want to work together, but for various reasons can’t work together, or at least, can’t be seen to work together. The film does make sure that these two don’t overdo these scenes. They only interact together 4 times throughout the whole film and they are kept short and sweet. They simply analyse the point and move on. I also felt the film was slightly too long and that a few scenes could have been shortened or cut altogether. If I sound like I am too negative about the film don’t think for a minute that I didn’t really enjoy watching this one. Though I will say, like Giovanni’s Island it is quite difficult to sit through at times because of the subject matter.

While I can’t comment on whether I think it deserved a BAFTA nomination for Best Film considering that while I may have seen 4 of the 5 films that were nominated for best picture, I still haven’t seen The Theory of Everything at the time of this review’s publication and I’m not sure whether I’d rather see that in this position over Selma but I still believe that BAFTA are missing out by not acknowledging how good this film is and, like I said in the intro, I do believe they are telling the truth on why the film has not been nominated, but it still feels like a miss-fire on their part. Maybe this film will do alright in 2 days time, at the Oscar’s, but I’m not sure I can count on that. I think it’s more than likely that the Oscar will go to Boyhood. But that is not to say that this plot is not Oscar worthy. It did a very difficult task of telling the story of one of the great victories of one of the greatest figures of the 20th century and it did it very well. With that being said, my personal pick for best picture at the Oscars is still The Imitation Game. But it’s at no discredit to this film.

Lets move on to the acting, and I have to say, this is probably one of the harder categories to do because I genuinely felt that most of the cast don’t play a large role in the film overall. Honestly, apart from David Oyelowo, as Martin Luther King and Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B Johnson, the majority of the cast sort of feel like glorified cameo’s. Oprah Winfrey really astounded me in the Butler, which earned her a BAFTA nomination and I was really hoping to see her shine again in this film, but she barely has any lines in this film. She has a lot of scenes that she appears in and does brilliant physical acting, but I would have liked to see her have a larger role. I was also looking forward to seeing Cuba Gooding Jr and Martin Sheen do very well in this film, but they really are glorified cameo’s in every sense of the word in this film They barely appear in this film, they are good when they are on screen, particularly Martin Sheen, but I was never given enough time to appreciate it. Honestly, I think you could have filled their roles with up and coming actors. While Coretta King doesn’t gain too much of a focus in this film she is played very well by Carmen Ejogo and I really think she should have received a best supporting actress nomination. The same goes for Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon B Johnson, he definitely deserved a best supporting actor nomination at the Oscar’s, he was really good in this role. Initially I felt he came across as too much of a villain for the film, not that the film requires an actual face to be the villain, the villain in the film is racism! But he really pulls it back towards the end and Wilkinson delivers one of his best performances I have seen in a while. Dylan Baker was alright as Edgar J Hoover, but I think he could have been better and Nigel Thatch feels really wasted as Malcolm X. With that being said we have to discuss David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, as he is the main character in the film and he basically brushes aside half of the cast for his role to be the focus. In short, he’s great in this role. He really dives into the character and you believe he is actually Martin Luther King a pretty big accomplishment for a British actor to pull off. I don’t think he goes to the same extent as, say, Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, who really threw himself into the role, but I still think he should have possibly received a Best Actor nomination along with Jake Gylenhall for Night Crawler (seriously, why is Robert Duval up for this award when hardly anyone gave a good review to the Judge). While David Oyelowo’s performance is amazing in this film I do think it comes at a price, that the rest of his cast, while giving very good performances, do feel like they are brushed to the side. I have already given most of my thoughts on them on the ones that particularly disappointed me, but I refrain from using the word “disappointment” because I really did enjoy all the cast, I just wish there was more time devoted to them. But that being said, it may have taken away from the film’s focus. I really liked these guys. I would love to see them turn up in more films in the future. To be honest, I didn’t even really know about David Oyelowo or Carmen Ejogo before going in to this film, but I am going to look up their filmography’s after writing this review so I can look up some more of their films.

The only thing left to talk about now is the film’s presentation. For me, I felt like this was a really great period piece, reflecting the 1960’s, especially in the costume design and the stock footage of the actual march that plays towards the end. This film also had amazing cinematography, really showing the size of the marches and demonstrations. You’re really feel like half of America has come on to the set to make the film. That being said, there is a CGI shot toward the end of the film that I felt looked really fake and took away from the effect, but luckily it’s not on there too long for you to actually notice. I also think David Oyelowo’s make up department did and excellent job of making him look exactly like Martin Luther King. He really is selling his identity as the eponymous man. I also think that the film’s cinematography aids in showing the harshness of some of the racially motivated violence that was going on at the time. Your really feel every punch, kick and swipe from a baton in this film. Half the time you are watching you are just thinking how painful it must have been.

The only thing really left to talk about is the actual song which is the other Oscar nomination that the film received. The song is called “Glory” by John Lennon featuring Common, and while I don’t believe it will defeat “Everything is Awesome” from the Lego Movie for the Oscar, I do think it is a very good song. It plays during the closing credits and it sums up the film pretty damm well. I noticed that a lot of people stuck around extra long to hear the end of the song and the only reason I didn’t stay much longer was I really needed to catch a train home.

To summarise, Selma is a good film that could have been slightly better. Does it deserve and Oscar nomination, yes I think so. I preferred it to Boyhood and Birdman which I felt were really over-rated films, but like those two films, I feel like that this film is really aiming for an Oscar and often that can be a film’s downfall. Where as I felt films like The Imitation Game were just trying to be a good film. Does that detract from the film, not too much though it also detracts from the fact that the cast and characters do feel slightly under-used. I really enjoyed this film for all the right reasons. It did some excellent commentary on some recent dark history, it gave some outstanding performances from various cast members and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again at some point and is a great credit to director Ava DuVernay. The one thing I was thinking when I was leaving the theatre was, “am I going to remember this film by the end of the year”. I’m still not sure!! I’m not sure I am going to remember it to the extent of Giovanni’s Island or Kingsman: Secret Service which have been two of the best films I have seen this year so far, but I think when I look back on the films that I have reviewed in the year I will think “Yes, that was a good film”. I think sometimes, that is just enough. I will say “Good Luck” at the Oscar’s on Sunday guys, even though I am rooting for Benedict Cumberbatch and The Imitation Game.

What are your thoughts on Selma. Was I right or was I wrong in any of my thoughts. I would love to hear your opinions. Please feel free to leave a comment if you wish to do so. I would love to see other opinions on this film and remember you do not need an account or be from a specific area to leave a comment.

If you would like to leave your own reviews of books, tv or movies for our user content section please send an email with a word document attachment and you’re name to calvin@axia-asd.co.uk (all in lower case) please indicate in the email if you wish to remain anonymous

I was struggling to decide what today’s question should be! I was thinking what would be your pick for Best Picture at the Oscars, but most of the films that are up for The Best Picture weren’t widely circulated and haven’t been seen by a lot of people tending to have more of a life on DVD. So it got me thinking. I mentioned earlier that I thought this film would make a good double feature with The Butler, but then I realised that Double Features are becoming a bit of a dying art and I think cinemas could benefit from doing more of these.

My question this week, therefore is:
“What two films back to back do you think will make a very good double feature?”

For my next review I am going to fulfil a promise I made last year and review the first of the three DC animated movies to come out this year “Jusctice League: Throne of Atlantis” I am aiming to get the review up Friday 27 February, but I could be delayed with this one due to the fact I am relying on a pre-order from Amazon to get the movie and that has gone badly in the past. So don’t be surprised if I am late with this one!! Though I am quietly confident that I will get the review out on time. Rest assured, I will get out the review, one way or the other. If there is no review up next Friday be assured it will come as soon as possible and the next one, you can be assured of will be The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which I aim to have review up on March 6.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this review. It is a joy to make them.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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Posted in Film Society
One comment on “Selma
  1. Calvin says:

    well my prediction fell through “Glory” beat “Everything Is Awesome” for best original song at the oscars. if you get a chance see both songs live performances at the oscars on youtube they have some really great set designs and are performed very well.

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7th August 2019
at 12:30 pm
The Next Axia ASDis 28th August 2019
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

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