Every year, someone gets upset about the Oscar nominations, and the one thing that still shocks me is the fact that people still care. This year, there were a few major snubs, including The Lego Movie for Best Animated Feature, Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Andre 3000 (All Is by My Side), and David Oyelowo (Selma) for Best Actor, and many more. But the most talked-about snub seems to be Selma which, while it did get nominated for Best Picture (you know it won’t win), is said to have deserved some more recognition from the Academy, especially director Ava DuVernay. And for the most part, I agree.
Selma is a very powerful film, and Oyelowo did a spectacular job as Dr. King. I don’t know if DuVernay is the best director of the year, as most of the strength of the film comes from the performances and the script rather than the directing, but I would say she did a better job than Bennett Miller or Morten Tyldum. Quite frankly, I think John Ridley deserves a nod for All Is by My Side. People really should be talking about that movie more.
But I digress. I have a lot of Jewish friends and family, and many of them point out the blatant erasure of several key Jewish figures. While watching the movie, I found the omission to be bizarre, but not consequential. This movie isn’t meant to educate people on the Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights movement, which many people didn’t know about. It’s meant to be a powerful movie about the triumph of willpower and black excellence. Still, it is admittedly a strange choice. Maybe Spielberg has the movie rights to those characters.
Yeah, another thing people noticed is that DuVernay and writer Paul Webb couldn’t use Dr. King’s actual speeches because Spielberg and DreamWorks own the rights to them. This doesn’t really harm the film all that much, as Webb manages to make some reasonable facsimiles that add to the film’s weight without being too over-the-top. At least, no more over the top than King’s actual speeches.
Even more notable than the film’s strengths is its lack of flaws. It’s just a solid movie all-around: great performances, great writing, pretty good cinematography, doesn’t lose my attention aside from a few points, decent though forgettable soundtrack. There’s not a lot to say about the film since everything about it ranks from decent to spectacular. That’s actually one of the few annoying things about the movie. Some things about it aren’t great, but those few things aren’t notable enough to talk about. With a movie like Lucy, for example, the good parts are excellent, and the bad parts are hilarious, which is why Lucy was one of my favorite movies of 2014 and why Selma is not. Yes, it was an excellent, moving film, but there’s nothing to say about it outside of that.
Still, I give Selma an A. I think I’ll do a double review of American Beauty/American Psycho and Tetsuo & Youth when they come out tomorrow. Or rather, two sequential reviews. In the meantime, like this review if you like it, comment if you don’t, follow me if you like it like it, you can also follow me on Twiter if you’re so inclined, and as always…
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