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Excellent and moving film
gogarrett24 January 2015
We had to see this movie after so many conflicting things were said about it. I did not go in with high expectations and was surprised to find that everything about the movie was excellent, from the casting, costumes, and sets, to the filming, script, directing, lighting effects and music. It all worked for me. I was moved and upset in all the right places, from the shocking beginning to the triumphant, and also foreboding end. The cutting in of actual film footage towards the end was welcome and not overdone or trivialized. Kind of like, let's slip the audience back into reality now. This was real. It really happened and people kept on fighting and dying for civil rights in America after the events of this movie.

I loved it. It should have gotten more Academy Award nominations than it did. Especially for the actors who played Martin and Coretta King. I can't believe they are not even Amerian actors. Nicely done accents. The actor who played LBJ was also very good, but being from Texas I was not as convinced by his accent. If I was on the Board for the Academy Awards I definitely would nominate this movie for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress - at minimum.
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'Selma' is a powerhouse of a film and stays with you long after you see it. Don't miss this film.
bryank-0484412 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
It's no doubt that Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most influential people in the world. He fought for basic human rights, received a Nobel Peace Prize, and not only changed a nation for good, but changed the world. This film is not necessarily a biopic on iconic man, but rather a glimpse on a short period of time that focuses on the 1965 voting marches from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama, that was to ensure that anyone, no matter your race, color, creed, or religion, could have the right to vote.

These marches and peaceful demonstrations were well documented by the press back then and eventually led to President Lyndon B. Johnson changing the law so that everyone had to right to vote in any election without hassle. And this film 'Selma' shows us the hardships, violence, brilliance, and struggles of Martin and his followers and believers for a better place to live. It's an emotional roller coaster for sure, but with its award winning performance by David Oyelowo ('Interstellar') and great camera work, 'Selma' hits all the right notes, despite a few pacing problems.

We start out with Martin receiving his Nobel Peace Prize, as the master of ceremonies tells us and him that the world knows and loves the work he is doing. Once back in the states, Martin heads to the White House again to talk with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) about singing a law into effect to allow the black voters the right to vote without hassle, which Johnson doesn't do. Concurrently, while it is legal for the black population to vote, the law enforcement and people who work at the voter booths are not allowing them to vote for prejudice reasons, particularly in the South. That is when Martin and his people head to Selma to stage a demonstration until the law is passed.

Martin picks Selma, because he knows their law enforcement are violent assholes who have no love for human life, but are blinded by hatred for something they don't know. Knowing that his followers will show peaceful demonstrations and marches, he is willing to bet that the white law enforcement will show brutal violence with the hopes of these acts of chaos will be shown on live TV for the world to see, forcing the President to make a move. His strategy worked, but not without some pain and sorrow.

Director Ava Duvernay shows us just how horrible and violent these marches were, and it's hard to watch in certain moments as we ask ourselves, "Were we really capable of this?" And we quickly think, "Yes, and it still goes on today." The main issue I had with 'Selma' was that were too many moments that slowed the film down due to a long shot of someone looking intense into the camera or into the wide open. I get why these moments were there, but it seemed to happen after each scene. But it's a minor complaint in an otherwise excellent film.

David Oyelowo plays Martin Luther King Jr. flawlessly. Not only do we see his strengths in speeches and rallying people for good, but we also see his internal struggle with his family and own willingness to carry out his life's work. Oyelowo definitely deserves some awards for this role. Thee rest of the cast including, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Common, Carmen Ejogo, Giovanni Ribisi, Oprah Winfrey, Keith Stanfield, Wendell Pierce, Martin Sheen, and Cuba Gooding Jr. all turn in amazing performances. 'Selma' is a powerhouse of a film and stays with you long after you see it. Don't miss this film.
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A good MLK biopic that could have been great.
trublu2159 December 2014
Selma tells the story of Martin Luther King as he organizes the infamous marches during the height of the civil rights movement. To be fair, Selma is a good film. It isn't a great film, but it is good. David Oyelowo gives a great performance as MLK despite feeling like a bit of a miscast but it isn't enough to sustain interest in his character, which is shameful considering the great and brilliant man that he is portraying. All in all, Oyelowo doesn't pack the punch that we all want to see out of a MLK based film. At 122 minutes, this film wallows in cheap drama surrounded by some serious heavyweight performances, it creates an uneven balance between what is great and what is mediocre. Actor Tim Roth does great work here in portraying the ruthless and racist George Wallace. Roth delivers an evil performance that will turn your stomach with every syllable that spews out of his mouth. Roth does a great, outstanding job in making you hate him and I definitely give him high praise in this film. Another stand out performance is Carmen Ejogo, who portrays Coretta Scott King with such honesty and velocity that she's hard to ignore. Ejogo's performance is one that I continuously am thinking about even as I'm writing this. The supporting cast is huge in this film, featuring Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr, Giovanni Ribisi, Common and Oprah Winfrey. But just because the star power is here, doesn't mean they're all good. Honestly, the supporting cast outside of Tim Roth and Common are mediocre at best. Oprah Winfrey delivers a performance that we've seen multiple times over the course of her acting career. It is nothing new, especially because it feels she is just rehashing the same performance from last year's The Butler or from the much superior The Color Purple. Winfrey serves as more of a distraction than anything else. Common is awesome in this film in a small but crucial role to what Oyelowo's King wants to achieve. Common proved before that he can act, but here, he proves that he isn't just another rapper turned actor, he really delivers force to this film with blunt and swift justice. The screenplay here is Selma's downfall. Written by first time screenwriter, Paul Webb, it really feels like Webb's first rodeo, making classic first time mistakes between cheesy dialog and long drawn out scenes that, in retrospect, serve little purpose to the film as a whole. Despite these issues with the screenplay, it was in the most capable hands possible for this film...Ava DuVernay. While there are major pacing issues with the film, DuVernay directs this with a determined efficiency that oozes out of every second of the film. While this can't save Selma from falling casualty to a lot of cliché scenes and cheesy dialog, she does make up for all of what's wrong with the film with a handful of great performances and awesome cinematography. Overall, Selma is nowhere near the Oscar contender that I wanted it to be nor is it the biopic that a man as great as Martin Luther King, Jr deserves but Selma is a decent film that reminds me more of Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" or Lee Daniels' "The Butler" rather than last year's instant classic "12 Years a Slave". It's a good movie, nothing more, nothing less.
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There's Probably a Lot Better Versions of the King Story
Hitchcoc19 January 2015
Once one gets used to the fact that the film of the original events in Selma, Alabama, is more interesting than this fictionalized piece, it starts to become a disappointment. The young man who plays Martin Luther King, Jr., does a decent job, but there is something lacking. When we hear speeches by King, there is a power to his delivery. Something is missing here. While a British actor plays King and he does great with a southern American, his delivery lacks the punch. What makes the movie worthwhile is the portrayal of the marches, all three of them. The first is so graphic in its violence as those marshals block the area on the other side of the bridge. Also missing is lively dialogue among the leaders of the movement. They are so stiff where they should be fighting among each other, expressing their fears and bringing us into the process. Lyndon Johnson is seen as the bad guy (along with, of course, George Wallace), but his portrayal is stilted. Where is that Texas accent. He is so impressed in our minds. There should be more bluster and casual dominance in this figure. While this is a decent rendering of a major event in the development of man's quest for freedom, it falls a bit flat.
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Let Freedom Ring! Selma is a highly engaging film about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It's a must-watch.
ironhorse_iv29 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Selma, might not be in the running for any 2015 Academy Award categories, but the snubbing, wouldn't stop the film from being a captivating portrayal of the Selma to Montgomery march of 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. Seeing this play out on film was indeed a great watch. With an array of wide shots and gliding camera-work, under gospel and melancholy score, director Ava DuVernay delivers. You really get how the admired leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his followers prompted change. Oyelowo really digs deep in the role of M.L.K. He play King with a wide acting range; from being grand speaker of sermons, to him, playing the quiet defeatism when it come to confronted by his wife, Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) about his infidelity or his misjudgment when it comes to how the Civil Rights, should be run. A scene where the lively group sits down for a home-cooked meal even show a charming human side of Martin Luther King Jr, that's rare to see. It was great to see, Oyelowo overcome, years of being typecast as the over the top angry black man in these racial dealing movies. I was really glad, that Oyelowo fought very hard for 7 years to get the role of King, and found a way to get his biggest critic, Lee Daniels, the original director attached, off the project, because, in my opinion, I found Lee Daniels to be a really horrible director. Most of the supporting characters were pretty great in their roles. This movie allows Carmen Ejogo to play Coretta Scott King, a second time and she just as good as her performance in 2001's TV Movie, 'Boycott'. The historical accuracy of the film's story has been the subject of controversy, particularly with regard to Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson and his relationship with King. The film portrayal of Johnson is indeed, less flattering than it should be, accusing the president for being a time-wasting political leader that allow the FBI to monitor and harass King, on his watch. Maybe, there is some truth to that, but I really like how Tom Wilkinson portray him as a very complex character with way too much political problems to handled, at one time. Tim Roth as Governor George Wallace was wonderful. I love the tense scene between him and LBJ. Still, there were some characters that didn't get much of film time. In Depth examine of characters like Viola Liuzzo (Tara Ochs), seem to missing. The movie end credits, makes it seem like she was a big character in the film, but you rarely see that. I like Oprah Winfrey's bit part in the film as Annie Lee Cooper. It seems like she was a big part of the film, but she rarely mention, toward the end. Other mainstream actors like Cuba Gooding Jr. as Fred Gray and Dylan Baker as J. Edgar Hoover should had been cut out of the film, because they couldn't act, even in their short scenes. Even big historical characters like Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch), seem lost in the odd pacing of the film. We see him, talking to Coretta, about joining the movement, and its leads to nothing. Later in the film, King mention that he was assassinate, a few weeks early, but there was no scene with him, getting whacked off. There was little to no reason, why he was brought in the story, because his character play so little to the Selma movement success. DuVernay's movie structure is indeed, bit off. The movie make it seem that the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963, happen during King receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. I know, Ava DuVernay did this for a story telling stand-forth, and it kinda works, but for anybody that know history. These small changes can be, a bit jarring. While, the movie isn't a documentary, and I'm willing to take artistic license. I just thought, maybe they could had patch up, some of these gaping holes and make it a lot focus driven film. Racism is difficult to depict on screen. Even at its most realistic, it can seem cartoonish in modern context. At times, the movie seem a bit harsh when portraying White Southerners. I really doubt, that they're all racists. The film makes it seem like the good whites folks came from the North, all to support, the Civil Rights movement, after seeing the brutal attacks at that Bridge. That's hardly the truth. There were a lot of White Southerners followers within MLK's group even before that event. Overall: Some people think this film was just create to stir the already tense race issue, since recent events like the Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and Michael Brown's shootings have put people already on the edge. Because of movies like this is why there is so much racism in society because animosity never goes away. Certain black groups will be always eyeful and paranoia. White people will feel unwanted, and feel with guilt. We get it already. Racism is bad. Yes, a lot of movies feature black actors, focus way too much on the race card. There are other issues, black people go through. The subject that's never brought up which is more relevant is class. Racism is tied to classism. I think the movie kinda hints at that. So, it get some credit. While, this movie on the surface, seems like throwing fuel in the racial-tensions fire. I glad that films like this exist. Even if it's not teaching you anything new that you don't already know. They help people know, about their history and encourage them to more positively impact their future through an attitude of compassion and a reverence for change and progress towards equality in a peaceful matter. This is one of the movie's greatest strengths and why it's a must-watch.
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Fueled by a gripping performance from Oyelowo.
drawlife20 January 2015
Film critic Richard Roeper said it best. Selma is a film that provides a history lesson, but doesn't feel like a history lecture. Not one bit.

I foresee a bright future for the director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo. For DuVernay's second or third effort, it's quite an achievement what she manages to do with this film. For nearly fifteen years she's been working in studio marketing and publicity and her film speaks for itself. She directs the film with flare and keeps the film emotionally grounded. Even though at times you think you know whats coming, DuVernay keeps us at bay and also provides us with some neat surprises. Also give Paul Webb some credit with his sharp screenplay.

David Oyelowo truly embodies MLK. More often than not Selma tends to focus on something not many people tend to expect in a movie about MLK. The script showcases his doubts and insecurities. Oyelowo comes through with a deeply felt and compelling performance. He also nails Dr. King's speech patterns, voice, even his posture and shows that Dr. King has his flaws, but is a compassionate person. I find it hard that anyone will be able to take their eyes off him. What a performance. Shame that it was overlooked by the Academy.

Everyone in the cast brings their "A-game." I liked Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, but I wanted just a little more of her character, but she makes up the most of what she has. Oprah Winfrey is solid as Annie Lee Cooper. She has a very substantial role and has a nice subplot. Other particular standouts are Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson, Tim Roth as George Wallace.

Selma takes itself very seriously, there isn't much humor to be found, and any break from documenting its events are often downbeat character moments. However DuVernay's talent is in full blaze. This film is very heavy, but it always grabs your attention, often in the hands of Oyelowo's performance. The March 7th, "Bloody Sunday" sequence is brutal to watch, but DuVernay and cinematographer Bradford Young achieve and deliver quite an intense and impactful set piece. Literally, it hits you in the gut as we watch history forged in flesh and blood.

I am still shocked that this film received so little recognition by the Academy. Oyelowo and DuVernay should have been nominated at the very least. I believe you can blame that to Paramount Pictures as I heard that they did not deliver the screeners on time for the Academy voters. It's a pity.

By the time we arrive at the film's postscript, revealing the fates of several people chronicled by Selma, it's almost impossible not to be moved by their courage and sacrifice. Selma to me, is not just a biopic, but rather a film that celebrates a community action through the eyes of Martin Luther King Jr. This movie sadly, could not be more relevant right now.

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Captivating Portrayal of the Civil Rights Leader and Intensely Moving Story
valen06023 January 2015
The words I best describe this movie are "profound" and "intense." From what I've learned since my school days, equal rights among race was a very touchy subject when it came to American history.

David Oyelowo's portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. was so spot-on that I was immediately drawn in to see every detail of the film play out. I was disturbed and further curious at the same time amongst every scene that unfolded during the key moments of the film.

Basically, it featured how much King sacrificed and went through in the 1960s to maintain blacks rights to vote and eliminate segregation from all states. I couldn't believe how much violent injustice and racial discrimination were used to intimidate innocent people who were trying to have the same rights like many in America.

Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr, and rapper-actor Common brought out great performances as the individuals who stood up for what they truly believe in and they wouldn't let hate stand in their way. Tom Wilkinson's portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson was rather physically uncanny and his scenes brought out the angst of what he had to face at a time when violence was further escalating during the Civil Rights Movement. Tim Roth as Governor George Wallace made me feel to hate the man for his segregationist beliefs, but when confronted by President Johnson himself, it just got real.

The juxtaposition of real-life archive footage in the movie gave a nice touch to how very genuine these people of Selma endured plenty of horrible confrontations. Whether these usually ended in violence or even death, they just kept growing in numbers and overcome all who stood against their true beliefs in racial equality.

My only nitpick was that of President Johnson's confrontations with Martin Luther King himself. I've learned in the history books that they've had their fair share of disagreements, but nothing this intense as shown on screen. Nevertheless, it proved that being an American President was no easy feat at a very difficult time. Overall, this is a film that didn't require lengthy (moving) MLK speeches, instead it focused on tense confrontations black people had to endure and how one individual stood tall and fought back not with violence, but with powerful words and strong beliefs. I applaud David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay for providing a glimpse into how racism was overcome by one profound man whose legacy still reverberates to this day.
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A bridge too far for Civil Rights
bob-the-movie-man13 February 2015
Last year's "Pride" brilliantly demonstrated how far gay rights have come in the UK in 30 years. Selma does an equally superb job in showing how far racial equality has come in the US in 50 years.

The year is 1964 and racial tension is rife in the Southern states, with attacks and murders of black citizens going unpunished by the combination of a white-majority policing and legal system. Enter Martin Luthor King (English actor David Oyelowo) at the point of receiving his Nobel Peace prize. King insists at a Presidential level (with Tom Wilkinson playing Lyndon Johnson) that black citizens be allowed unfettered rights to vote in elections, with the aim of securing a more just and balanced society. Looking for a suitable location to mount a media-led stand, in an age before social networking and 'Arab-Springs', King centres his attention on the Alabama town of Selma, mounting a series of non-violent (at least on their side) protests and marches. The local redneck police chief, Wilson Baker (David Dwyer), and the state governor, George Wallis (Tim Roth), are not going to stand for this and the tinder-box reaches ignition point during a march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery.

Nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture (but only that in the major awards, so winning chances are probably near-zero), Selma is primarily an excellent example of an ensemble cast that works particularly well together. There are a wealth of outstanding performances: Tom Wilkinson's Lyndon Johnson comes across as a surprisingly sympathetic character (jerking me out of my natural Vietnam-coloured perception of the politician); Oprah Winfrey (also a co-producer) provides a text-book example of acting without acting, her expressions doing all of the work; Dylan Baker (so fantastic in "The Good Wife") is chillingly sinister as J. Edgar Hoover; English-born Carmen Ejogo plays (extremely well) a similar role to Sienna Miller's in "American Sniper" as the wife alienated by her husband's calling; and Giovanni Ribisi ("Saving Private Ryan", "Friends"), Cuba Gooding Jnr and (a bizarrely uncredited) Martin Sheen turn up in great cameo performances.

But towering over all of this great acting is Oyelowo's performance which is simply outstanding: every death and injury is etched on his face. This is a Martin Luthor King that you can really believe in. I would have personally bounced Bradley Cooper in the nomination list for him, and it is astonishing (given his English background) that he was also overlooked at the BAFTAs. He must be feeling pretty aggrieved right now. Mr Oyelowo – if you are reading this – this critic thanks you for an outstanding performance.

As a relative newcomer to direction, at least for a movie of this scale, Ava Duvernay does a great job with some of the action scenes (with particularly the shocking opening to the film showing enormous style). Paul Webb (apparently with this as a screen writing debut – – how on earth did he get THIS job?) does a creditable job, with lots of memorable sound-bites that stick in the mind. Where the film ran into soft mud for me however was in the personal scenes between the married couple: they don't really provide enough insight into the stresses of King's serial adultery, and the plotting becomes slow and dull…. I personally lost interest in most of these scenes and was desperate for the film to get back to the 'action' in Selma.

Also of note is the end title song – "Glory" by John Legend and Common (who also stars in the film) – which is also nominated for an Oscar and won the Golden Globe.

Both gay rights and racial equality undoubtedly still have much further to go, but this does make you proud that as US and UK societies we have come so far within my own lifetime. A recommended watch, particularly for those with an interest in sociology and/or American history.

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ferguson-67 January 2015
Greetings again from the darkness. Historical dramatizations can be a tricky business, as delivering both truth and entertainment value is quite challenging. There is always an expert quick to point out any artistic license taken at the expense of historical accuracy. Of course, most movie lovers have come to accept that even the best-intentioned Hollywood looks at history will be at least as focused on selling tickets as educating the public. Because of this, the swirling controversies for this film are neither surprising nor overly distracting from its message.

March 7, 1965 is known as Bloody Sunday and marks one of the most despicable moments in U.S. history. It was also a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and can be viewed as shrewd strategy from Martin Luther King, Jr. and his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The movie makes it clear that MLK had a full understanding that Selma, Alabama and it's racist, redneck Sheriff Jim Clark provided the perfect opportunity for a violent reaction to King's demonstrations and protests. It also makes it very clear that there was boundless ignorance, hatred and racism on the part of many southern whites. If the subject matter is somehow not enough to grab your attention, the startling event that occurs 5 minutes in will surely leave you shaken.

The film does an outstanding job of focusing on two pieces of this most complex puzzle: 1. the boots on the ground – the grass roots movement of the people, and 2. the ongoing political debates occurring between MLK and LBJ, between LBJ and his staff, and between MLK and his lieutenants.

The Civil Rights Act had already been passed, so the efforts were in hopes of overcoming the obstacles faced by southern blacks who wished to vote. One of the film's best scenes has activist Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) trying yet again to have her voter registration processed, but being rebuffed by a county clerk through an impossible Q&A session. These intimate moments are where the film excels: Coretta questioning MLK on his love for her, MLK speaking with grandfather of Jimmie Lee Jackson outside the morgue, and MLK turning down the proposal of US Attorney John Doar (Alessandro Nivola).

In an odd twist of casting, four of the leading characters are played by Brits: David Oyelowo as MLK, Tom Wilkinson as LBJ, Tim Roth as George Wallace and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King. All four are excellent, but it's Mr. Roth as the racist-beyond-belief Alabama Governor Wallace that is the most slitheringly evil, while Mr. Oyelowo gives what can only be described as a towering performance of the man many of us know only from history books and news reels (and a January holiday).

The supporting cast is vast and talented, and because the story spends so much time on the individuals, many of these spend little time on screen. In addition to Andrew Young (Andre Holland), Reverend Hosea Williams (Wendell Pierce), J Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker), and Lee C White (Giovanni Ribisi), we also see activist Diana Nash (Tessa Thompson), CT Vivian (Corey Reynolds), John Lewis (Stephen James), and Judge Johnson (Martin Sheen). The most bizarre moment has Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) in a quasi-Mr Rogers depiction as he discussed his new found approach with Coretta.

The original King speeches are owned by another studio so those delivered here by Oyelowo have been re-written and revised, yet the words and Oyelowo's powerful oratory deliver the message loud and clear. While it can be argued that the film delivers only one point of view (the FBI was no friend to the movement), it can just as easily be argued that previous films have done the same thing – only from the "other" perspective (Mississippi Burning, Ghosts of Mississippi).

In what can be viewed as the first serious movie on Martin Luther King, director Ava DuVernay announces her presence with authority. She will have no need to return to her career as a movie publicist, and we will be watching to see what type of projects appeal to her after this. In a brilliant move, the story focuses on a period of just a few months in 1965, rather than tackling the MLK legacy. She presents him as a man with strengths, flaws, doubts, and determination. It's clear why so many followed him, and it's all the more painful to know that so many resisted.
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An intelligent, resonate and expertly crafted piece, if a little dry.
Sergeant_Tibbs23 January 2015
Poor Selma. This Oscar season is quite unsatisfying without being able to see Selma live up to its full potential had a proper awards campaign taken place. While I expected it to still do well with the Academy, instead it makes an appearance similar to Pride at the Golden Globes. Sitting (almost) alone in the Picture category representing a minority. At least it seems it'll win Best Song. There's two aspects that sorely deserved a nomination, with all due respect to their peers. One is David Oyelowo's performance as Martin Luther King Jr., who nails his articulate speeches with an arresting passion. Sparks fly in his hands and you can't take your eyes off him. The second is Ava DuVernay's direction, whose delicacy, intelligence, and gravitas shine on screen. I marvel at how she wrote those original speeches yet still demonstrates a remarkable restraint. Selma takes itself deadly seriously, there's not a lick of humour to be found, and any break from documenting its events are often downbeat character moments.

There's a reason - the critics weren't kidding when they said that Selma feels like a mirror to society today with the violence and unrest. It's almost disturbing, but it resonates stronger than I ever expected. The film may be very dry, but every time it starts to lull it grabs you back, often in Oyelowo's hands. The most rousing moments of the film are when people are joining arms to do something together. Bradford Young's cinematography is the aspect that really holds it together. He relishes in the darkness, pushes objects to the edge of the frame, and holds so much tension in the air. At the very least, he makes this film such expertly crafted cinema. However, I would've liked to have seen King withstand a bit more damage. He may be courageous but it's difficult to have a truly compelling protagonist without taking some punches themselves. Perhaps Selma is too broad for its own good. It may not incite a fire in me like the filmmakers have, but I certainly admire the filmmaking. Lots of bright futures in this cast and crew.

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Overrated, Undercooked, Irrelevant and a Reluctant Redundancy
LeonLouisRicci2 July 2015
Director Ava Duvernay has said that Her Portrayal of LBJ as a Reluctant and Reticent Player in the Civil Rights Movement was such because She didn't want to make a "White Savior" Movie.

This Rewriting of History is Wrong in so Many Ways. Perhaps the most Obvious is that without a "White Savior" like President Johnson there wouldn't have been a Civil Rights Movement, as we know it. Johnson Pushed Legislation, therefore Sanctioning and Legitimizing the Concerns with the essential Backup of Federal Law.

The Cause would have Stalled and been Dominated by the Southern "White Supremacist" Dixiecrat Mindset of Governors (Wallace) and His ilk, Law Enforcement (Sheriff Jim Clark, Hoover) that were Racists Overlords carrying some mighty Big Sticks.

The usually Reliable Tom Wilkinson is just Awful with His Portrayal of President Johnson, in Real Life LBJ was a strong Supporter from the Get Go. Wilkinson shows no signs of Immersing in the Role and is an irritating Bore the way He is Acted and more Significantly Written. The Same Can Be said of Tim Roth as George Wallace. No Fleshing Out, just some Smirks and Line Readings.

David Oyelowo as Dr. King is, when not behind the podium, a Gazing Ghost and seems Lost in an Etherland of Self-Reflection and Myopic Mental Meanderings. The Soul of MLK is Missing and the Great Civil Rights Leader is shown to be an Inanimate Introspect.

Overall, the Movie is only sporadically Effective invoking the Struggle and the Film comes off as an Irrelevant Redundancy when put Next to the Verbiage and Documentaries on the Subject.

It Seems Hesitant, Reluctant, and often times Pouty about its Concerns and Historical Significance. Overrated, Undercooked, and in the End, a Big Disappointment.
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Excellent depiction of Martin Luther King Jr.'s epic take on the Civil Rights Movement
george.schmidt4 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
SELMA (2014) ***1/2 David Oyleowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Giovanni Ribisi, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Sheen, Dylan Baker, Tessa Thompson, Lorraine Toussaint, Common, Wendell Pierce, Niecy Nash, Andre Holland, Stephan James, Omar J. Dorsey, Nigel Thatch, Jeremy Strong. Excellent depiction of Martin Luther King Jr.'s epic take on the Civil Rights Movement and the titular firestorm march on Alabama amidst racial strife and a heel-dragging LBJ administration. Oyleowo uncannily sounds like the late leader and gives a powerful Oscar-worthy turn as does Ejogo as his long-suffering better half Corretta Scott King. Novice screenwriter Paul Webb and rookie director Ava DuVernay make a fine team in breathing life into a historical moment that resonates even more today with a rippling effect of social conscience to mainstream injustice.
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Grim Oyelowo is miscast as MLK in this preachy, by-the-numbers hagiography
Turfseer27 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Director Ava DuVernay has mainly been criticized for her depiction of President Johnson as being a reluctant or obstructionist political actor. DuVernay was quoted as saying that she wasn't interested in making a "white savior movie," perhaps implying that Johnson has been given too much credit for his role in the civil rights movement. DuVernay admits that not everything in "Selma" is historically accurate, but she's entitled to fictionalize events under the rubric of "dramatic license."

Indeed, the most compelling scenes in the film appear to be those involving Johnson's political machinations. DuVernay would like to us to believe that King and Johnson's relationship was much more confrontational than it was. Joseph Califano Jr., a former LBJ top assistant for domestic affairs, points to a recorded phone conversation between King and LBJ on January 15, 1965 in which LBJ appeared to be much more constructive than confrontational.

However, DuVernay attempted to justify her portrayal of LBJ as a reluctant actor, citing a 2013 article by Louis Menand in "The New Yorker." Menand maintained that Johnson was not proactive after progress toward getting the Voting Rights Act passed had slowed: "Johnson had the most ambitious legislative agenda of any President since F.D.R. (his idol), and he explained to King that he was worried that Southern opposition to more civil-rights legislation would drain support from the War on Poverty and hold up bills on Medicare, immigration reform, and aid to education. He asked King to wait. King thought that if you waited for the right time for direct action (as nonviolent protests were called) you would never act."

In DuVernay's best scene, LBJ finally "comes around" and tells off George Wallace face to face. What's so great about this scene is how LBJ attempts to appeal to Wallace on his level, even employing the "N" word to show Wallace that he's just a "good old boy" at heart. But when Wallace won't listen to reason, LBJ makes it clear that the days of the Old South are numbered.

DuVernay undoubtedly would have liked Johnson to come around sooner and attempts to slightly steal his thunder in his famous "We Shall Overcome" speech by having him speak before a sparsely populated House of Representatives (Bill Moyers insists that the chamber was completely packed and LBJ's speech was "electric").

The rest of "Selma" is pretty much in part, a by the numbers hagiography. DuVernay chose David Oyelowo, a British actor who starred in her earlier feature, "Middle of Nowhere," to play Martin Luther King Jr. Oyelowo is sadly miscast playing King as a grim-faced, stoic preacher, failing to convey a shred of King's warmth or humanity. For those who wish to see the definitive portrait of King, they can find it by viewing the 1978 TV Miniseries: "King", starring the sensational Paul Winfield. There is no comparison between the two performances and one can find the entire Winfield miniseries on Youtube under the films of Paul Winfield.

DuVernay is more successful when she sticks to straightforward historical events. There's a compelling scene when Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper is rebuffed by a racist clerk when she attempts to register to vote at the county courthouse. Coretta Scott King has little to do in "Selma" so I suppose her meeting with a seemingly muted Malcolm X proves to be her character's most exciting scene. The revelation that King was still miffed by Malcolm X's earlier claim that he was an "Uncle Tom," also proves to be quite fascinating. The two confrontations with the racist police in Selma are competently done, but I can't help once again recommending the Winfield miniseries, as the police-protester clashes there, seem more realistic.

Except for a memorable confrontation where Andrew Young talks down a vengeful crowd of dispirited King demonstrators, the "supporting players" simply don't stand out. This is particularly evident when King is greeted by his staff at the safe house in Selma (by the way, this is about the only time you see Oyelowo smile during the entire movie).

Eschewing a "warts and all" approach, DuVernay puts her MLK on a pedestal. There's little hint of the "family man" or charismatic leader. DuVernay unfortunately was hampered (stymied if you will) by the King family, who always demand financial remuneration whenever any of his speeches are used in fictional portraits such as "Selma." DuVernay paraphrased King's speeches, but little of it sounds spoken by the great man!

Adolph Reed Jr. of the University of Pennsylvania implies that DuVernay "inscribes a monolithic and trans-historical racism as the fundamental obstacle confronting, and thus uniting, all black Americans." One can't but help note that DuVernay believes that there's a continuity between the protests of the civil rights era and the recent protests in Ferguson. While the Civil Rights Era was a monumental and seminal part of American history, to equate Martin Luther King's non-violent movement with the events that occurred in Ferguson, seems absurd. To my mind, MLK probably would have rolled over in his grave had he seen the pathetic and self-destructive acts by those who were caught on camera rioting in Ferguson.

Even though murders of blacks by police are statistically extremely low, media exposure has convinced many people that this happens all the time. While African-Americans were true victims of endemic racism until the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, the cries of victimhood today, especially in regards to "police brutality." are not clear-cut. Some police may be outwardly racist as well as "heavy-handed" or "insensitive." But recent events have also proved that some African- Americans intentionally provoke the police, leading to tragic overreactions.
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Far more important than entertaining
KnightsofNi1120 January 2015
Some of the darkest and saddest pieces of our history often make for the most compelling and powerful films of the year. Such is the case with Selma which takes us back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, showing us the tragic strife that the African American community was put through. Selma focuses specifically on the voting rights movement where Dr. King and his followers led an historical march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to peacefully protest Alabama's segregated voting rights in order to obtain equality across the voting board. It's a startlingly relevant film that explores a time in US history many would prefer to forget, and one that challenges us to look at our modern day society and draw some disturbing connections.

Admittedly it is a little bit sad that a film about civil rights can still have so much relevance in 2015, but such is the way of prejudice and bigotry in all of its ever changing forms. Selma does a fantastic job at making this fight as real and accessible as possible, highlighting this struggle on a personal level for King and his associates. These events were well before my time, but as far as I know this film paints a very realistic picture of the time, from the look of the sets, the costumes, and the emotions and tensions filling the air.

At the end of the day, though, it's the portrayal of Dr. King that drives this film home. David Oyelowo is a powerhouse that carries this film with a startlingly accurate representation of the reverend; one that is filled to the brim with passion and poise, while also breaking down the larger than life illusion that surrounds the man, and bringing him down to earth as the very real and very flawed human being he actually was. His controversial decisions are touched upon in the film, as well as his infidelities which truly bring him to the human level.

It's a damn good thing that Oyelowo can carry this film, too, as the emotional prowess of the story relies solely on him. Selma is packed with a great supporting cast with everyone from Tom Wilkinson to Tim Roth to rapper Common, but there is no denying that all these supporting players play second fiddle to Oyelowo. If Oyelowo is at a 10 as the lead of the film the rest of the cast sits at an 8 across the board with no one character getting a lot of attention as the focus consistently remains on King. I would have liked to see some more attention turned towards the supporting cast, but with a biopic on one of the most influential names in American history you almost have to expect this.

Selma highlights a grim portion of our history, one so grim that it needs to be immortalized in film so that we don't forget the troubled history we came from. This is an incredibly important film about an incredibly important man. It's not something you watch for entertainment value and not something you watch over and over again, but it is something you need to watch to gain some highly accurate perception of a crucial time in history it is imperative we never forget.
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Weighed down by its clunky first half
jtindahouse5 February 2015
There's been a lot of discussion over whether or not director Ava DuVernay should have been nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards. Personally I would have to take the seemingly unpopular opinion that she was the one thing holding this film back. Admittedly the end of the film was very well done and even quite moving, but up until that point the whole thing just felt so clunky and unnatural. I see that she is quite inexperienced in the director's chair, and I feel that there was potential there, so hopefully she can iron out the odd flaw in her technique and become a really good director in the future.

David Oyelowo is the other one stirring up some debate over his lack of a nomination. I do feel he was quite hard done by, giving a quite terrific performance. The voice and accent he used were absolutely perfect and a pleasure to listen to throughout. The rest of the cast was also excellent. I was very interested to see how Oprah Winfrey went in her role and I'd have to say she held her own very well.

The movie itself is good, but never enters in the realms of being great. As previously mentioned the ending is perfectly executed and will leave a good taste in a lot of people's mouths and even help them to forget some of the earlier indiscretions the film commits. Sometimes historically accurate films get bogged down by needing to be 100% in line with what actually happened. This is simply an unfortunate part of the genre which can't be avoided. Does it deserve its nomination for Best Picture at the Academy Awards? Just.
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jack_o_hasanov_imdb25 August 2021
It was a good movie, I also liked the acting.

Music was also good.
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Something is Missing, Flat
NanoFrog19 January 2015
Something, hard to define, is missing in this important film. This film takes the viewer on a journey to Selma Alabama at the crucial time of the Civil Rights movement that took place during the life of Martin Luther King. It covers the important facts, describing clearly the sad situation that people of color faced in trying to register to vote in the segregated south. Even today, the efforts by white-dominated election boards make it more and more difficult for people of color to register and make their votes in the old south. The actor playing Dr. King, in my view, is one of the serious problems this film has. He seems to do a good job, but something serious is missing. The fact that he is not an American is part of this problem. There is something artificial about his acting. It is technically sound, yet lacks some deeper presentation of the driven, inspiring personality that defined Dr. King. Perhaps the problem is in the context. We don't really see any sense of the history that lead to this confrontation. The beat down on the bridge is, in my view, poorly filmed and does very little to capture the full outrage, violence and terror of that event. Certainly this is a difficult scene to set up and record, but Hollywood is very well-equipped to do things like this. A lot has been made of the so-called snubbing of Oprah in this film. She has a small part in the beginning of the film, a scene that could have been played by anyone. The scene where she tries to register to vote, while being questioned and intimidated by a series of crazy questions from the voter registrar is very helpful in telling us what this film is about. There is nothing exceptional about her small part, so I see no cause at all for her to imagine that for such a small part she should be nominated for an Academy Award. The very idea seems really childish. A lot of facts were left out, or glossed over; so an enormous opportunity seems to have been lost. Selma is a good film about the civil rights movement, but not a great film. It is flat, the lead actors are not very interesting and the script, in particular, seems half- finished. It comes across as a rough draft of an idea for a film rather than a finished product. I was very disappointed in this film. In particular I did not like the actors playing Doctor King or President Johnson. The photography, the camera work, as well was not very good...flat and dry. Perhaps we all have inflated expectations. This is such an important and dramatic story; yet it was created and presented in a very un-inspired form with to many missing parts. The part I absolutely did not like at all in any way is the "song" that closes the film. The semi-rap composition was very disrespectful and tried much to hard to be "relevant". And the fact that it is one of the few points on which it was nominated by the Academy, as "best song" is just sad.
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Another Bio-Pic that misunderstands its purpose
Robert_duder11 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I saw exactly one trailer for this before Birdman and right away I thought that this would be one critics would love or it would be another case of The Butler where audiences loved it but critics mostly ignored it. It seems to be falling somewhere in the middle. In some ways I was disappointed with the film but it resonated with me because it was so familiar to other bio-pics I've seen recently like J. Edgar or Invictus or Mandela (and no I'm not picking on Clint Eastwood or Nelson Mandela) Consider this, we have yet to have an epic bio-pic about the entire life of Martin Luther King Jr. We have never seen an incredible actor stand up and perform the "I Have A Dream" Speech or watch in horror as his brutal assassination is recreated. We have never had any of that. So when you go into a film that focuses on one tiny aspect of a man who is larger than life, you walk away feeling more than a little cheated. What happened in Selma was very important...don't misunderstand me...but I wanted more. I wanted to see more Dr. King, I wanted to see more of the story and what he did and I felt like this spent too much time focusing on that one event and you don't get anything else around it. They do try to establish the tumultuous world and do so very effectively but there are very few of us who haven't seen this done before in films.

The cast was good but fell short of being great in my opinion. David Oyelowo was very good as Dr. King. What an incredible role for him to take on and he certainly looks the part, sounds the part and delivers his one particular speech very very well. It actually gave me goosebumps to think about what Oyelowo could have done with the role had they given him more to work with. Same could be said for Carmen Ejogo who plays his wife. Their dynamic and side story actually was one of the most interesting in the film and they could have revolved an entire film around their marriage, that would have been more fascinating. Despite reviewers saying otherwise I thought Tom Wilkinson did an excellent job playing President Lyndon Johnson. He isn't given as much as he could have either but what he does is very good. There were some interesting conversations between him and various other political figures that I think were perhaps meant to imply various historical actions (a fascinating conversation between LBJ and J Edgar played by Dylan Baker held implications about the Kennedy Assassination I believe and perhaps Dr. King's assassination too.) Oprah Winfrey has a small role mostly in the beginning of the film but she proves again that she still has some acting chops. Everyone else in the cast is good in various small but integral supporting roles. No one really stands out from the main cast as important as their characters are.

Before even looking at the director for the film, I thought to myself I guarantee they are someone with out a lot of experience. Ava DuVernay has done a little of this and a little of that but doesn't have a ton of experience yet behind her. I think it showed in this film. She probably had a lot of great ideas and tried to pack everything in there but I feel like she is missing what could have been provided about this story. Any film with Martin Luther King at the forefront should be moving and have a profound impact and Selma failed to do that for me. It was decently told and I understand everything and there were some good scenes but nothing we haven't seen before and it just gave us information and didn't move us or make us feel like we were there. I watched this back to back with another historical based on a true story film called Unbroken and both movies gave us plenty of information but failed to put us in the shoes of the people there and that's what a great bio-pic and period piece should do. Much like The Butler last year, I felt like this didn't give what it could have so its a miss in my books. 6.5/10
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A deeply moving picture
richard-17879 January 2015
Yes, the acting in this movie is all first-rate. David Oyelowo, by far the most striking presence in the movie, will probably get an Oscar nomination for his understated but therefore all the more powerful performance as MLK. (My bet is that the Oscar for Best Actor will go to one of this year's performances of a man suffering from a disease, since that is what the Academy seems to honor most.) What makes this movie so deeply moving, however, at least for me, is 1) the script, which is a masterpiece of organization and character development, and 2) Ava DuVernay's direction, which pulls together a very complex series of elements into a single narrative flow that, though it moves slowly, never once in the 128 minutes loses our attention, or even lets down the almost constant intensity. Nothing is overdone. Nothing is unnecessary. Almost everything is understated. Brief scenes have powerful effects by the placement of a camera, the timing of the dialogue (waiting for MLK to answer his wife's question about whether he loved any of the women he has had affairs with, etc.). People will praise David Oyelowo's performance, and deservedly so. But the real star of this movie is Ms. DuVerney, who makes everyone and everything else look amazing.

At the very end, after all the credits - for which I found some of the music to be the only let-down in the entire picture - there is a statement that this is not a documentary, but rather a feature film that takes the liberties with historical fact that feature films take. And, certainly, it would be interesting to learn where this movie deviates from those facts.

But in the case of this movie, it won't, in a sense, make a lot of difference. This movie makes such a profound effect, using all the tools at the disposal of a first-rate director, that it will be seen by those outside this country as "the truth." It may not be the most-watched American movie around the world during the next few years. But this I can guarantee you: it will, more than any other American movie of the last several years, shape how much of the rest of the world sees us for the next several years.


A postscript: this morning I read a column by Maureen O'Dowd complaining about the largely negative portrayal of LBJ in this movie. She quoted presidential historians who maintain, evidently with good reason, that Johnson was more pro-active in moving toward civil rights reforms than this movie suggests. That is unfortunate for LBJ's legacy, because the power of this movie, one that is going to be watched over and over again for years to come, is certainly going to trump the work of presidential historians in the minds of the general public even here in the U.S.
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Honest, but ordinarily treated!
namashi_113 January 2015
Ava DuVernay's 'Selma' is an honest film, about a significant chapter in American History, but the tone as well as the execution is so ordinarily done, that it doesn't throw you in the power you might expect. It has its share of pluses, but overall, it has a very thin vibe, which adds up as a minus.

'Selma' Synopsis: A chronicle of Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

Late/Great Dr.King's journey to secure equal voting rights, was nothing short of astonishing. He emerged victorious & made a breakthrough for all his people. And 'Selma', without a shed of doubt, is a earnest attempt to re-tell his story.

But, as I mentioned before, the treatment is plain ordinary. Be it sequences of those violent epic marches or moments of Dr.King's personal life, they all look as if they were shot with less enthusiasm.

Paul Webb's Screenplay is good, but not gut-wrenching. Ava DuVernay's Direction is impressive, but only in parts. Cinematography & Editing are sharp. Score by Jason Moran is passable.

Performance-Wise: David Oyelowo as Dr.King, delivers a committed performance. He embodies the American legend & enacts the part with gusto. He's the best thing about 'Selma', hands down! Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon B. Johnson, is over-the-top. Tim Roth as George Wallace, is limited to a few scenes. Common as James Beve, is fair. Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, is very good. Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper, is wasted. Martin Sheen as Frank Minis Johnson & Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Fred Gray, leave a mark.

On the whole, 'Selma' isn't bad, but it isn't great either. One expected much more!
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Powerful and compellingly realistic portrayal of a memorable man
ArchonCinemaReviews9 January 2015
Ava DuVernay's film Selma is a powerful cinematic telling of the lesser known chronicle of Martin Luther King Jr.'s campaign for equal voting rights.

The tale told in Selma is not the narrative of Dr. King's fight for peace and societal equality, but the peaceful dispute for voting power and autonomy.

Ava DuVernay directs the powerful story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. towards the later years in his life, as written in screenplay form by Paul Webb. The man we see is an accomplished and ultimately successful advocate and recognized by the Nobel committee for his efforts in the civil rights movement. His work as a reverend and a leader is far from finished. In 1965 he is brought to Alabama to lead a dangerous campaign for equal voting rights amidst a racially vitriolic environment.

Duvernay and Webb's film is not an idealistic portrayal of a humanitarian and his movement but a realistic representation of a man. For over a decade King has been fighting, and the man we see is justifiably growing tired as the crusade turns increasingly complicated. David Oyelowo takes on the insurmountable task of portraying one of the most respected activists in American history and succeeds gracefully. Oyelowo encompasses the silent power and commanding oratory skills of the famous African-American Civil Rights advocate. Selma also has close to twenty compelling supporting roles, each matching Oyelowo's dynamic performance.

Selma is a mighty cinematic experience that seems relatively historically accurate and free from severe embellishments, though I am not a historian so I can not say for sure. The political figures are varying shades of gray in a complex political climate. Further, DuVernay does not shy from the horror in the violence, neither does she exaggerate.

It will be surprising if Selma does not elicit an emotional response. The story may not bring out the tears from a sobbing cry of sorrow but will evoke the catching and hurtful ache from the pain of the racial injustice of that generation. A truly effective film will make its audience relate and sympathize, and that is just what the filmmakers of Selma accomplish. As an evocative response from an artwork; that is a marvelous sentiment to achieve.

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Ava DuVernay's passion pours from the screen with a history making performance from David Oyelowo...
ClaytonDavis24 December 2014
Passionate, informative, and tenderly told, Ava DuVernay's vision of Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for voters' rights is fully realized in her newest film "Selma." Written by Paul Webb, the film is ambitious, moving, and features a performance fit for the history books from David Oyelowo. It's one of the single best things you can see in 2014.

In a time where the state of our country is in disarray over race and politics, "Selma" hits our doorsteps at the right time for both sides of the coin to indulge and see how far we've come, or how little we actually have. "Selma" shows the good and the bad, the perfect and imperfect characteristics of one of the most important figures in the fight for civil rights. There's respect, which goes without question, but there's an emotional and raw honesty that DuVernay and Webb choose to tell us about the man who was Dr. King. She doesn't paint the rosey picture you'd come to expect from standard biopics these days. She lays it out, leaving us to decide for ourselves if something outside of what he contributed to our country is great enough to look passed. DuVernay offers in many ways, the single best direction of the year.

Invigorating from beginning to end, David Oyelowo owns every frame of the picture. You don't see performances like this too often especially of a real-life figure like MLK. I go back to works like Denzel Washington ("Malcolm X"), Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi"), and George C. Scott ("Patton") to find a more jaw-dropping or complex acting performance. Something like this only seems to come around once a decade. This may be our decade's. It's more than just the embodiment, it's the decisions in the silence that makes Oyelowo so amazing. You will remember this performance forever.

The entire cast does an admirable to amazing job in their respective roles. Carmen Ejogo is simply electrifying as Coretta Scott King. An impeccable example of wearing the emotions and feelings at the brim without letting go. Just sensational top to bottom.

Despite some hiccups in the accent department, Tom Wilkinson and Tim Roth are serviced well as Lyndon B. Johnson and George Wallace. Both have their opportunities to stand out in their respective scenes but ultimately stand as reminders that we are eagerly waiting to get back to Dr. King.

DuVernay's triumph comes from the extras and smaller name cast she utilizes as sprinkles in every instance that they appear. Stan Houston as the treacherous Sheriff Clark is superbly focused and embodies the mindset of every unfortunate person of hate during the time. Henry G. Sanders and Keith Stanfield in many ways become the heart and soul of the film without no more than just a few moments of screen time. Oprah Winfrey and Lorraine Toussaint also execute their roles proficiently.

The slick and vivacious manner in which "Selma" is assembled is thanks to the genius people behind the camera. Cinematographer Bradford Young is just too great at what he does at this point in his career. With another stunning framing form in J.C. Chandor's "A Most Violent Year," he rises in the ranks to join Roger Deakins and Emmanuel Lubezki as one of the most exciting DP's. Spencer Averick's editing keeps "Selma" on pace, and engaging 100% of the time. Jason Moran's score is palpable and justified in every sense of its usage.

"Selma" is just a joy to behold, a magnificent example of passionate filmmaking that lacked sorely in 2014. It propels DuVernay among the ranks of the best filmmakers working today. Naturally brought to tears, it's a gut-wrenching and honest look into our history. Fulfilling, promised, and profound. One of the year's best films.
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Its central premise is slanderously wrong--if that were not true, it'd be great
alanjj3 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Even if Joseph Califano hadn't made the point, I would have been appalled by the portrayal of LBJ in this film, since I'm old enough to remember LBJ. The CENTRAL PREMISE of this film is that MLK had to do something dramatic, and even court tragedy, in order to convince a reluctant LBJ to push the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That is the "drama" on which this entire historical fiction hinges. The climax comes when fictional LBJ changes his mind, having witnessed what local authorities did, and what Gov. George Wallace allowed, on a bridge outside Selma. LBJ then makes an address to Congress, the bill is passed, and everyone praises MLK for making it happen.

As Califano said, "Selma was LBJ's idea, he considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted — and he didn't use the FBI to disparage him."

I don't mind when liberties are taken with historical fact in the interests of making a good film. I've defended "The Imitation Game" despite various distortions--the central premise, that a math wiz named Turing made it possible for the Brits to crack the Enigma code, that he conceived of computers as we now know them, and that he was persecuted for his homosexuality, are true beyond dispute (although other events were involved in breaking the code).

But Selma's key dramatic element, it's emotional core, is based on well- known and well-remembered historical fact, and it is a lie. The filmmakers say that the film is a dramatic story, and that they have taken liberties, yet they make it seem, by the use of a teletype device at the bottom of the screen, that they are recounting events contained in FBI wiretaps--the teletypes contain dates of particular events that we are seeing dramatized. It is a device that gives veracity to the tale.

Of course, it's just a film, and the filmmakers are not responsible for the impressions of history conveyed who don't know it, but I could sense that the young people in the auditorium where I saw the film were emotionally invested in seeing LBJ as a villain. An audible gasp arise when LBJ, speaking with George Wallace, referred to the "Nigras"; I saw a person near me shaking his head, as though the N word had been said. If LBJ were alive and if public figures were able to sue for defamation, he would have a case against this defamatory motion picture.

So why did I give it any "stars" in this rating system? Because, other than the central premise, it was a terrific movie. David Oyelowo is a magnificent actor. The speeches written for him to deliver, in lieu of the actual speeches which they were not given the rights too, were powerful, and delivered with such sincerity and force that you wanted to go out and march behind Oyelowo. The director did not ignore MLK's affairs with other women, but portrayed him and Coretta talking about them, dealing with them as adults. There is a recognition of MLK as a flesh-and-blood human, as well as a person who was able to recognize, in himself, that he was in a position where he could change the world. The scenes of freedom marches were powerful and exciting.

So, with the exception of its main story line, this movie is great. And because of falsity, the movie is slanderous.
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Selma: The Courageous March for Civil Rights - why it is still relevant today.)
reelinspiration21 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I went away from the screening feeling empowered to write an inspiring review of, "Selma." I was deeply moved by the image of marchers from diverse religions, black and white, standing together against injustice and inhumanity. These people risked their lives for the rights we enjoy today. And the themes are still so relevant in this time of racial discord and disillusionment with those in power.

Then there was the controversy around the accuracy of the film's depiction of President Lyndon Johnson as a deterrent to the march at Selma. Director Ava DuVernay explained that it was her artistic vision. She suggested that people research it for themselves. After doing my own research, I found that President Johnson's involvement was not black and white. He was first and foremost a Southern politician. I believe that, "Selma," is DuVernay's honest take on the events. Her vision is to invite the audience into the spirit of the movement from the point of view of its black protagonists. It was greater than just one man. It was a community coming together to figure out the best way to accomplish their civil rights objectives.

The movie shows how African-Americans were humiliated, threatened with losing their jobs, beaten or even killed for attempting to vote in the South. A group of civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo), decide that the best course of action is to fight for the unobstructed right to vote. King meets with President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to request that he pass the Voting Rights Act. But the president's goal is to keep a handle on the civil rights movement and he is only interested in uncovering King's next course of action. He claims that there is too much on his plate, including fighting poverty, to pass a Voting Rights Act.

The activists decide to bring attention to the issue by holding a non-violent demonstration in Selma, Alabama. As the protesters kneel down before Sheriff Jim Clark, a police officer strikes an elderly man who has difficulty kneeling. When two protesters intervene to protect the man, the police respond with a vicious attack. The protesters flee, but the policemen are unrelenting in their pursuit. One young man helps his family escape into a restaurant, where they pretend to be eating. The policemen track them down and shoot the young man in cold blood. Spurred on by this tragedy, the community rallies together. They organize a non-violent march from Selma.

When the peaceful marchers reach the end of a bridge, Sheriff Jim Clark is waiting for them. He sics his armed state troopers on the marchers. The nation watches, horrified, as the marchers are savagely beaten as white citizens cheer. Martian Luther King sends out a call to his fellow clergy to stand with him as they march again. Moved by the inhumanity, they come to show their support. It is inspiring to see black and white people from all religions joining arms and standing together.

The reason I wanted to include the excerpt from his Montgomery speech is that it still rings true today. Martin Luther King educates the nation on how after the emancipation, the Southern aristocracy was afraid of the freed slaves organizing with the poor whites for better working conditions, so they passed the Jim Crow segregation laws to separate them. The inherent message was no matter how low the white man was, the blacks were lower. (Not unlike how our current politicians use undocumented immigrants as scapegoats, blaming them for causing the recession by taking the poor man's jobs.)

Witnessing the inhumane treatment of the blacks at the march in Selma created more understanding of the plight of African Americans - which allowed President Lyndon Johnson to finally pass the Voting Rights Act in 1965. I hope witnessing these events will remind us of the difficult battle that was waged to achieve these rights, so we won't allow them to be taken away.

Movie blessings! Reel Inspiration dot blogspot dot com

I will be writing about Director Ava DuVernay in an upcoming Reel Inspiration post on "Women Directors."
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It was a fantastic movie to watch!!
bbickley13-921-5866428 December 2014
I don't think I ever seen a movie that created such a real portrayal of Martian Luther King. He was a great man indeed, but let's not forget he was just a man, and that's the greatest thing about him.

British actor David Oyelowo nailed it, Just nailed it! it was amazing to watch him work.

Most movies I've seen about Martian Luther King (with the exception of the movie Boycott) attempt to go over his entire lifetime, but like Boycott, the movie focuses on the struggle of one of his many accomplishments,the fight for suffrage. It was this focus on the one topic that we got to see more of the man. Showing people that it was not an easy task just shows us all what we can do.

In this time and age it was hard watching some of the images going on in this movie. Some things have changed so much and it's painful to see how people use to be treated. While some things have not changed, which saddens me greatly.

I only wished this movie came out a few weeks earlier. The world needs to be shown again how battling equality should be done.
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