Director: Ava DuVernay
Screenplay: Paul Webb, Ava DuVernay
Starring: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth
* Contains spoilers *
Why it might win Best Picture
Besides the fact that it’s a brilliant film, I think voters who are angered by the exclusion of the film from every other category except Best Original Song will cast their vote towards Selma so that it gets it wholly deserved dues. The film tells the story of Selma, a town in Alabama that became the focus of the nation as recent Nobel prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Oyelowo) led a revolution amongst the African American residents who were fighting for the right to register to vote. After numerous discussions with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Wilkinson), Dr. King fails to get the President’s support to pass legislation to allow black citizens to vote unencumbered, it’s decided that Selma is the place to peacefully protest. After all, in the early sixties less than one percent of black residents were registered to vote do to bureaucratic blocks and ridiculously prejudiced voting registrars. The first attempt at marching from Selma to Montgomery ends in the bloody assault of demonstrators, and the second attempt ends in Dr. King’s retreat out of fear the lack of police blockades were a trap. The eventual third march occurs after LBJ’s speech to Congress where he asks for the fast passing of legislation to eliminate restrictions on voting. The stellar performances of the cast, in particular David Oyelowo as Dr. King, make for an incredibly moving and powerful story. So many times during the fight for equality the people involved had to pick themselves up and persevere, and the way the cast portrays these emotions is so moving to watch. Weaving from hope to defeat to faith and back to defeat and hope again, the actors have a well crafted story to work with, and the ensemble cast provides Dr. King with effortless support. The dynamics between the protestors, juxtaposed with King’s marital tension is well balanced and provides a complex layer to the inspirational leader. While DuVernay’s film is about a triumphant moment in modern history, the film doesn’t fall prey to over enthusiastic victorious accolades and contrived moments of historical exaggeration. Beautifully shot, it’s a subtle and intelligent portrayal of tremendous change in the face of tremendous adversity.
Why it might not win Best Picture
I think too many people might not take enough notice of the film. It’s not as flashy or witty or clever as some of the other favourites, and that could hurt its chances. The pacing of the story is also a tad slow initially, which could stop it from capturing voters’ attention, leading them to discard it too easily. And while it is beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, it doesn’t have an other aspects that make it stand out from a filmmaker’s point of view – it doesn’t have use continuous shot method of Birdman, it doesn’t have the twelve year span like Boyhood, and it doesn’t have the frenetic, madcap energy of The Grand Budapest Hotel. One thing it also lacks is the emotion within the love story of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta, which is something The Theory of Everything did in an incredibly touching way. It’s a powerful story, there’s no doubt about that, but the film’s strengths also draw attention to its weaknesses, and while there aren’t many, there are enough to make the votes just fall shy of a win when they compare it to the other eight nominees.
Have you seen Selma? I’d love to know what you thought of it!
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