Friday, February 20, 2015

Oscars 2015: Best Picture Reviews - Selma

Wow, 2014 was an awesome year for film. There's been a lot of complaining that the Oscar nominees aren't diverse enough, but I think it's less about diversity and more about having such an exceptional pool to draw from in selecting nominees. I mean, the Best Picture nominees couldn't be more different and they address everything from mental illness to civil rights to homosexuality to ALS.

Selma is the kind of movie that, in other years, sweeps through the awards season collecting a million awards. It is well-acted, well-directed, well-written, engaging, and an interesting look at a major event in our history. Somehow it came out of the nominations without being a leading contender, but it's not an argument against the film. Instead, it's really a testament to the incredible film making that 2014 brought us.

This is the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. (I find it so strange that this is the first big movie about him!), but not of his entire role in the Civil Rights Movement. Instead, it's the story of Selma, Alabama, the march to Montgomery, and King's push to get the Voting Rights Act signed by President Johnson.

Personally, I find very few periods in history more interesting than the 1960's. Although I knew about the Civil Rights Movement, I found myself getting so angry during this film. Yes, I know that times have sort of changed, but it's just incomprehensible to me that these things could have happened - and still do in many ways. I was actually yelling to my husband about how ridiculous it all was, because how can anyone justify murdering someone for walking? For wanting to vote?

There were some extremely well-directed scenes in the film, especially in the church bombing and during the Bloody Sunday attacks. At the end of the film, real footage was used to document the march from Selma to Montgomery and I found myself close to tears. It's hard not to feel proud of our country for this, but at the same time, it's hard not to feel disgusted that it was ever needed in the first place.

Tim Roth is amazing as George Wallace. He's such a despicable character and it's played well, without being hammy or feeling like he's sitting there twisting a mustache. David Oyelowo is great as MLK, Jr., especially when he's giving the speech at the end. I imagine it's hard to capture that so effectively, and I also love that he gives such an iconic figure humanity throughout as well. The rest of the cast is really strong and I can't think of a bad performance, which is tough for such a huge cast.

It's hard not to hope Selma wins Best Picture, although I feel like it just came out in an unlucky year (for it, not for us). Every single nominee, except American Sniper, would be easily a Best Picture selection that I would be excited to see win. Sadly, I think Selma is incredible, but somehow just not incredible enough to hold up against films that ended up being a slight edge better. You almost wish the Academy could get keepers for next year's ceremony, because this is the movie that wins 9/10 years. Unfortunately, 2014 seems to be the 1/10 type of exception.

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