Patterico's Pontifications


“Selma” and David Oyelowo’s Snub by the “Academy”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:20 am

Last night the family went to see “Selma,” a movie that dramatically fictionalizes Martin Luther King Jr.’s protests in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote unhampered by interference from racist government officials.

I thought the movie was excellent. The speeches and scenes seemed very true to life, and I believe that they took the texts of speeches directly from transcripts and recordings. [UPDATE: This belief is wrong. See UPDATE below.] The movement’s use of the media, and desire to affect whites’ opinions by seeking out confrontation in a nonviolent manner that would make the protestors seem sympathetic, was well reflected in the film, which also addressed both the FBI surveillance of King and (subtly) his extramarital affairs.

The movie was driven by the performance of David Oyelowo as King. His performance was compelling, to the point where it was possible to suspend disbelief and imagine you were watching historical events unfold. The movie concentrates on the events in Selma; there is no assassination or “I have a dream” speech.

I don’t follow movies or Oscar nominations. When I walked out of the movie I said to Mrs. P.: clearly the Oscars are going to be all over that. She tells me that’s not so. Apparently it got a “Best Picture” nomination and only one other: a nomination for Best Original Song, for some piece of crap rap song that runs over the credits and very nearly ruined the whole thing for me. But what is stunning to me is that there was no Best Actor nomination for Oyelowo — for a performance that, to me, was one of the best I have seen in years.

The nominations for Best Actor are all from films I haven’t seen, although I intend to see one of them: The Imitation Game. (I like Benedict Cumberbatch quite a bit from the Sherlock series and will happily watch him in anything that is rumored to be good.) So I can’t say with any certainty that Oyelowo deserves it more. But it’s very, very hard for me to imagine Michael Keaton or Steve Carell delivering a performance better than the one I saw last night.

For what it’s worth, Mrs. P. says that the buzz out there is that the filmmakers did not play the political game well in terms of getting out the screeners to the chuckleheads who vote on this stuff, promoting it, and so forth. Of course, that simply reveals the truth of what George Lucas on the topic in the clip below. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, I love this quote about the Oscars: “It’s nothing to do with artistic endeavor. At all.”

UPDATE: it turns out that I was wrong to assume that the speeches in the movie are taken directly from speeches given by King. This Washington Post article explains:

What’s more, “Selma,” which opened in Washington on Thursday, makes the bold move of dispensing with King’s most familiar and famous speeches: Working with an original script by Paul Webb, DuVernay carefully paraphrased King’s oratory, so that the words Oyelowo speaks in the film have King’s cadence and meaning, even when they’re not literal.

The reason is simple: “We never even asked” for the rights to King’s speeches, said DuVernay during a recent visit to Washington. “Because we knew those rights are already gone, they’re with Spielberg, and secondly we found a way to do it where we didn’t have to ask for permission, because with those rights came a certain collaboration.”

I have heard a lot of King’s speeches, and I think the filmmakers did a great job replicating the tone of those speeches in the film — which is why I had assumed they had used original texts.

Thanks to commenter gitarcarver for enlightening me (and you).

30 Responses to ““Selma” and David Oyelowo’s Snub by the “Academy””

  1. Racists

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. This is an organization that honored a rapist that fled before sentencing and escaped justice. I have not watched since then.

    Mattsky (8ac613)

  3. You don’t plan on seeing American Sniper?

    Movie decided to whitewash the rabbi that was heavily involved in King’s marches and was a huge part of the fight for civil rights. Any reason for that?

    NJRob (d36337)

  4. As many people do, I avoid commercial theaters. So I’ll be late to the admiring of Eastwood’s film.

    SarahW (267b14)

  5. My friends in SAG did not ever receive a screener for Selma, so they kinda blew it. I’m shocked that the Oprah dropped this ball, seeing as how she has millions with which to conduct an Oscar PR strategy.

    I haven’t seen it, because I’m tired of being bludgeoned by it all, but maybe I will now that you’ve recommended it.

    American Sniper is good, very good!

    Patricia (5fc097)

  6. I believe that they took the texts of speeches directly from transcripts and recordings.

    You would be wrong, sir. The speeches were fictional representations of King. Steven Speilberg owns the rights to the speeches and there are “collaboration” demands that come with seeking to use the speeches / words.

    See here:

    The speeches are in the “style” of King, but they are not his words at all.

    gitarcarver (71ca11)

  7. The Oscars have been politicized and manipulated for decades. Many terrific performances have been overlooked in the nomination process because there are just so many of them. Often one suspects popular actors and directors win for performances for which they did not deserve to, to sort of make up for other past times when their performance in a film DID deserve it. Quite a few seemingly small, curious “best picture” wins have been won over other nominated films that have gone on to become classics. The whole Oscar thing is not worth getting too invested in.

    But hey, it’s a night for Hollyweird folk to preen and pat themselves on the back for being—–themselves. The Oscars are broadcast world wide and are used to stir up interest in film across the globe where so much of the studios’ revenue is ultimately achieved. I predict that Selma will win best picture (because…racists!), although several other nominated films (in particular, Boyhood) deserve it more, IMO. I’m rooting for Bradley Cooper for “best actor”.

    elissa (54cf9b)

  8. My girls are into movies, and my daughter’s mother is a big Eastwood fan. He won her over with “Bird” and sealed the deal with “Letters from Iwo Jima”. I’m sure they’ll see both and they have been making a Girl’s Night out of the Oscars for years. They’ll tell me all I need to know.

    nk (dbc370)

  9. i saw maze runner this weekend it was very good

    you learned a lot about giant mazes and about how it’s important to work together as a team

    i would strongly recommend this movie to anyone who wants to learn more about improbably giant mazes

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  10. The director of “Selma” said she’d made a decision not to do another movie that had a focus on “white heroes”, e.g., “Mississippi Burning”. It sure is pissing off a lot of LBJ fans. He and Bobby Kennedy weren’t saints, which will come as big news to some leftwingers.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  11. Phineas and Ferb have at least three episodes with mazes. And one with maize. And all six seasons of Clone Wars are now On Demand. I’m good.

    nk (dbc370)

  12. The movie offended a lot of Democrats by making LBJ seem less of a racist than he really was.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  13. Colonel,

    It is evergreen to point out that Bobby got his start with Joe McCarthy’s Senate investigations and was later beaten out by Roy Cohn for the job of being Joe McCarthy’s lead lawyer when he was attacking the “imaginary” Communists in government.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  14. that’s a lot of clone wars

    i watched an episode when it first came out but i don’t remember what happened just that they had those light-swords and there was a lot of jumping around

    if this “selma” movie had more light-swords and more jumping around maybe they would have done more better at getting nominations

    i bet Oprah never even thought of that cause she’s very linear

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  15. They could have nominated the actors who played MLK, Coretta Scott King and John Lewis for best Actor and best supporting actress and best supporting actor, and there still would be no nominations for African Americans.

    Dave (in MA) (037445)

  16. the amount of my interest in Holllyweird, the garbage they produce and the swine involved in making said garbage can be most accurately measured in nano-5hits, as in “i don’t give even a single nano-5hit about this nontroversy.”

    redc1c4 (589173)

  17. The Academy is all about politics. The problem with Oprah is that every once in a while, she parachutes in, makes a movie, at the same time invents some racist affront that she has suffered for publicity, and then expects to win it all. Dues; they have to paid…

    Gazzer (c44509)

  18. I don’t respect George Lucas on bit. Star Wars and Indiana Jones is all plagiarism and art direction. But his assertion that the Oscars have nothing to do with artistic merit is right on the money. As long as you make a movie about show business you’ve got an Oscar waiting for you. Look at the Oscar wins for “Shakespeare In Love,” “Moulin Rouge,” and “Argo” (pretending to produce a movie) and the losses of “Apocalypse Now” and “Saving Private Ryan.” When was the last time you heard someone quoting or referring to a scene in “Shakespeare In Love?”

    CrustyB (69f730)

  19. when a movie like Gran Torino doesn’t even get a nomination, you know the Oscars are a fing joke.

    redc1c4 (269d8e)

  20. Kevin, I read a good book about Cohn years ago and it had much info on Bobby Kennedy’s actions back then. Quite the opportunist.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  21. 10. Colonel Haiku (2601c0) — 1/20/2015 @ 8:55 am

    It sure is pissing off a lot of LBJ fans. He and Bobby Kennedy weren’t saints, which will come as big news to some leftwingers.

    There aren’t alot of LBJ fans (Vietnam war and all that, and Robert Caro is not really a fan) – but there are people still around who were around in those days, and otheres who have studied this Civil Rights revolution very well.

    Conversations between Martin Luther King and Lyndon Baines Johnson are on tape, and they have them having an argument.

    So far I’ve heard the movie gets three thinbgs wrong.

    1) It makes LBJ into a villain who opposed the march on selma when actually he was encouraging it.

    2) It has LBJ starting the taping of Martin Luther King, when actually it wass Robert F Kennedy or J.Edgar Hoover, acting on his own. At that time the legal theory the FBI was operating on was that they could bug anybody as long as they didn’t try to use it in court.

    The Outfit sued, and won in the United States Supreme Court in Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967) Congress then passed a bill creating a system of authorizing warrants for wiretapsand bugs but never again was organized crime to be bugged the same way/

    This was one of two important legal victories for organized crime, the other very very significant one being Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961) which brought the exclusionary rule into state court cases.

    3) The third distortion is omitting the presence of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in Selma.

    Sammy Finkelman (e806a6)

  22. the director is a racist … how hard is it to understand why nobody wants to honor this movie ?

    KaiserDerden (faa0ee)

  23. 22. KaiserDerden (faa0ee) — 1/20/2015 @ 12:45 pm

    the director is a racist … how hard is it to understand why nobody wants to honor this movie ?

    Is Hollywood, or the people who slected the nominees, really, really that aware of it? Or of he problems with the movie, anyway.

    If so, there’s hope.

    Sammy Finkelman (e806a6)

  24. I hear that this move “The Graduate” is quite good. I will have too see if it is playing somewhere this weekend.

    Ipso Fatso (10964d)

  25. Does anybody realize that Martin Luther King was employing, with the encouragement of LBJ, what are now called Alinsky tactics? Meir Kahane did that too with the emigration rights of Soviet Jewry.

    This involves picking one case, and pretending it is a total surprise.

    Sammy Finkelman (e806a6)

  26. Keaton’s performance in Birdman was excellent – the sort where you walk out of the theater thinking Oscar. I haven’t seen Foxcatcher, so I can’t offer any informed opinion on Carell there.

    NickM (f8e14b)

  27. The Academy maxed out its “White Guilt” card by voting for the decidedly mediocre race porn film 12 Years A Slave. I’m sick of being called a racist every five minutes. I’ll keep my money in my wallet when it comes to Selma.

    Funeral Guy (afbf7b)

  28. Why do droids, including identical hive-mind battle-droids, talk to each other in funny voices instead of using built-in radio communication? And clone troopers have Australian accents. Perplexing it is.

    nk (dbc370)

  29. Wow, so you reviewed a movie without knowing the history, and then were inclined to believe the movie? *shaking head* This is why people think Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her house. However, those low-information voters are why we have Obama. And low-information moviegoers are why we keep getting historical revisionist films like this one. If Hollyweird can lie to conservatives and have us trumpet their lies, then there is no hope for America, politically. Now, the stars ARE as far away or as near as they want them to be.

    InRussetShadows (7b08a4)

  30. 28. nk (dbc370) — 1/21/2015 @ 8:37 am

    Why do droids, including identical hive-mind battle-droids, talk to each other in funny voices instead of using built-in radio communication?

    How would be be able to hear them if they didn’t talk out loud? And if they didn’t talk out loud, how would a movie tell us what they are doing or want to do?

    And clone troopers have Australian accents. Perplexing it is.

    How would moviegoers instantly recognize who was a clone trooper, if they didn’t have a special accent that nobody else in the movie had?

    Sammy Finkelman (e806a6)

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