I see a lot of movies. Maybe not as many as my brother Kahron when you count DVDs and foreign flicks and whatnot, but I go to the movies at least 2 or 3 times a week. I've seen nearly all of the best films to hit theatres since the mid-90s and put in a lot of time to watch Oscar-worthy films from the 70s and 80s as well.
That's all important info because I truly believe Selma is one of the maybe top 10 films I've seen ever. I think what makes it stand out for me isn't just the history lesson and subject matter. I grew up reading a lot about MLK, have watched just about every movie made about slavery or Civil Rights, and have read MLK's legendary book "Why We Can't Wait" every year for over a decade.
What makes Selma stand out to me as a great film is it's balance. Everything about it is balanced in my opinion. The acting is superb but not so good that the film is overshadowed like with Benedict Cumerbatch's performance in The Imitation Game or Daniel Day-Lewis' performance in There Will Be Blood. David Oyelowo may still win Best Actor for his genuine and honest portrayal of Dr. King.
The writing is spectacular, and makes for a well-paced film that has equal parts aggression and action along with solemnity and soliloquy. The cinematography and direction is first-class, which is impressive considering the director Ana Durvernay hasn't done major studio works before. Big credit to Brad Pitt's Plan B studio and Oprah for their roles in getting this important film made, despite the fact that the King family didn't grant rights to MLK's speeches due to the conflict of having already done so for Steven Spielberg's upcoming King biopic. My guess is that that movie will be pushed back to 2018, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of King's assassination in April of 1968.
Here are my key thoughts from Selma:
1. It should win Best Picture. If it doesn't, I hope The Grand Budapest Hotel wins. I love Boyhood, but I think it's more of a feat in cinematography than story.
2. David Oyelowo should win Best Actor. I don't even need to see American Sniper yet to know that an honest, humanistic portrayal of a man as iconic and revered as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not at all easy. I think Oyelowo did better in this role than Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and on par with Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray. The last two or three minutes of the film sealed his Oscar win for me.
3. I loved the young actor that portrayed John Lewis. Stephan James has a lot of potential. I was disappointed Michael B. Jordan wasn't cast in the film until I saw this breakout performance.
4. If you think about it, how crazy is it that Steven Spielberg has the rights to MLK's speeches and not a Black female director like Ana Duvernay with a movie co-produced by Oprah Winfrey. Hollywood is funny. It truly is all about money.
5. For those not super familiar with the Civil Rights Movement beyond the names MLK and Malcolm X, this film is jam packed with all kinds of information and roles of significance like Common as James Bevel, Andre Holland as Andrew Young, and Tessa Thompson as Diane Nash.
6. Between Selma and Dear White People, Thompson has had an especially huge year but should try to make sure she doesn't get typecast too hard as an activist, anti-racism type in films seeing as how there aren't many roles for that and she's too young to miss out on the romantic comedies sure to come her way.
7. Is it just me or has the food at Alamo Drafthouse slipped a bit to the point where its becoming hard to justify seeing indie films there instead of Violet Crown? Don't get me wrong, I love me some Alamo, and when Fast and Furious 7 comes out or another Avengers movie comes out, that's where I'll see it...but the food is seriously on the down tick and I'm trying to figure out why. Thankfully, the peanut butter and chocolate milkshake is still on the menu.