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Oscar®Oscar® Nominee for Best Picture, Original song—“Glory”

Movie Review

Selma

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Brian C. Johnson
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive (due to language)
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Political History Drama
Length:
2 hr. 2 min.
Year of Release:
2014
USA Release:
December 25, 2014 (limited—19 theaters)
January 9, 2015 (wide—2,179 theaters)
January 16, 2015 (2,235)
DVD: May 5, 2015
Copyright, Paramount Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Paramount Pictures

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Racial Issues and Christianity
Get biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?

being willing to die for what you believe in

1960s African—American Civil Rights Movement

Selma to Montgomery marches that led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Wikipedia)

President Lyndon B. Johnson

civil rights marches

nonviolent demonstrations versus riots

civil disobedience

Governor George Wallace

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

White supremacists

Featuring: David Oyelowo … Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin SheenFrank Minis Johnson
Dylan Baker … J. Edgar Hoover
Tom WilkinsonPresident Lyndon B. Johnson
Giovanni RibisiLee C. White
Cuba Gooding Jr.Fred Gray
Tim RothGeorge Wallace
Alessandro Nivola … John Doar
Carmen Ejogo … Coretta Scott King
Oprah Winfrey … Annie Lee Cooper
Wendell Pierce … Reverend Hosea Williams
Tessa Thompson … Diane Nash
CommonJames Bevel
Lorraine Toussaint … Amelia Boynton
Niecy Nash … Richie Jean Jackson
Keith Stanfield … Jimmie Lee Jackson
more »
Director: Ava DuVernay
Producer: Cloud Eight Films
Celador Films
more »
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

On December 10, 1964, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., addressed the world as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. King begins,

“I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.”

So begins director Ava DuVernay’s “Selma.” Standing on the stage in Oslo, Norway, King (David Oleyowo) shares his concern for the people of the American South who have ben denied such basic human rights essentially afforded to them by the Constitution of the United States, namely the right to vote.

Just as Gettysburg was a pivotal moment in the turning of the Civil War, Selma, Alabama was the tipping point of the American Civil Rights Movement. Much has happened since the Montgomery Bus Boycott had changed the public transit system. Organizations like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had made tremendous efforts to destabilize the status quo of maltreatment of black citizens. King and his colleagues had effectively garnered support for societal change, but King realized that significant federal legislation, specifically voting rights protections, would only happen if the entire nation’s consciousness was raised. He needed President Lyndon Johnson to use the power of the Oval Office to enforce freedom and justice for all.

“Selma” is a victorious film that reintroduces our nation to its own history, especially the strategic nature of the Civil Rights Movement. The film is successful in its depictions of the complexities of figuring out the “right” thing to do as well as the rivalries between the big personalities of those involved, including Johnson himself (Tom Wilkinson). Wilkinson’s portrayal of Johnson has been questioned and panned in popular social media. LBJ was a politician, just like Lincoln, who acted in his own political best interest—and only when his hand was forced. The film also accurately examines the internal conflicts within the leaders of the movement including James Farmer and John Lewis.

It explores King’s “competition” with Malcolm X and the hatred he faced from the likes of the FBI’s director J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker) and Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth). DuVernay also takes on the long-held belief that King had dalliances with other women beside his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo).

It is violent and gut-wrenching, but it truthful in its use of violence. The film especially confronts the violence of “Bloody Sunday,” the moniker used to describe the actions of the law enforcement officers who led an all-out assault on the non-violent, passive resistors. The film is brilliant for how it connects the Selma of 1964 to our present-day national discussions on race and the criminal justice system (e.g., Ferguson, MO). It is tough to watch, but eye-opening.

In my opinion, “Selma” is a must-see film. In his real life, Dr. King appealed specifically to the body of Christ to not be complacent in their duty to act to change a society for the betterment of all. “Selma” does the same thing—this is a call to action. What will YOU do to insert the love of Christ into a broken world?

Violence: Heavy to extreme / Profanity: Heavy—“G*d-d*mn” (5), “Oh my Lord” (2), “How in Chr*st’s sakes?”, “J*sus H. Chr*st,” “d*mn” (7), “hell” (3), *ss (2), f-words (2), s-words (7), SOB / Sex/Nudity: Moderate—contents of harrassing phone message (no nudity)

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Racial Issues and ChristianityGet biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I am old enough to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. I had college mates at my New England college who had the compassion and means to go to Selma to take part in this march to Montgomery. I thought David Oyelowo perfectly embodied the persona of Dr. King—his voice, his manner, his passion, and also his flaws. I was impressed also by Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, in a performance that was subtle, strong and pitch perfect.

There were a number of moments when I was brought to tears by the painful events depicted in this movie. I remember seeing these events on television news. I appreciated that the filmmakers inserted historic footage of the march, making the reality of this fight for freedom and justice even more real and moving.

There were quite a lot of remarkable performances, including Tim Roth as Governor George Wallace and Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon Johnson.

I am glad I saw this film, as painful as it was to see the hideous violence, because it helped me remember Martin Luther King’s passion for justice and human rights. What a terrible and violent period in American history. I thought about my schoolmates who were somewhere in that historic footage as they marched for a better America.
My Ratings: Moral rating: / Moviemaking quality: 4
Halyna Barannik, age 68 (USA)
Positive—This is a magnificent film, incredibly acted, nuanced and filmed, and dealing with a serious moral issue, in which some but not enough progress has been made (see reference to Ferguson in the song played during the closing credits).

A lot of attention is paid to relationships between the characters involved, as well as issues involved in nonviolently challenging a long existing and well accepted evil. We are also called to bravery in the face of wrongdoing.

The religious community comes out looking pretty good for its role. There is some controversy about the historical accuracy of how LBJ is depicted (some of King’s earlier relationship to Kennedy and his later conflict with LBJ about Vietnam may have been mixed into the film, as well as FDR’s famous statement to supporters “you want me to pass this, make me do it” which is what happens in the film.). more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Stanley Hirtle, age 69 (USA)
Positive—In just one word; a masterpiece. Everything is perfect, the acting, accuracy, script, directing. EVERYTHING. This film is not offensive, not one bit; it shows the story of a man who changed the history forever, a man of God, full of faith. He had his flaws, but he was faithful to God, and he changed everything, and now in this time we have forgotten the things that Martin Luther King, Jr. did to change history, the racism is one of them, he fought to end the racism and now the racism is the problem, remember Ferguson, it’s time to change history once again.

The song “Glory” by John Legend and Common, touched me; it gave me chills when I heard it. The film deserved more than just a nomination for Best Film and Original Song for the Academy Awards. It deserved for Best Actor, Director, Screenplay, Photography, Best Supporting Actress. This is a cinamatic masterpiece. I give it my acclaim, because it deserves it.

If you want to show a film about a man of God who changed history with God on his side. “Selma” is that film. A must see film. ★★★★★
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sergio De La Cruz, age 18 (Guatemala)
Positive—As someone who has had extensive conversations with my parents and grandparents about their lives in the Jim Crow era (and the immense faith required to survive and know that God will vindicate), I was so moved by this film. I really felt this was a vivid reenactment of everything my family has told me and shown me through pictures.

The acting was superb (Oyewolo TRANSFORMED!), and the story is a vivid reminder that we are way more alike than we realize: ALL of us—black, white, brown, yellow, red—want to be treated with dignity and respect. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Marin, age 35 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—My wife and I were happy to have seen this movie, as it is well filmed, offers an intriguing plot, features excellent acting, and tells an important chapter in a great man’s life—Rev. Martin Luther King (why is he never called “Reverend” in the movie?). I was sad to research later and discover that the “Selma” portrayal of President Johnson as something of an adversary to MLK was quite inaccurate—phone recordings show Johnson actually suggested strategies to MLK on how to make the march from Selma into a powerful demonstration to turn national light on voting rights injustices upon black people. But these filmmakers must have wanted a white “bad guy” in the highest levels of government, so they threw LBJ under the bus in constructing the script.

There are touching scenes of Coretta Scott King fearing for her family’s safety, and confronting MLK on his extra-marital affairs, but this was all done with implying the affairs, not actually showing them.

The only real bad taste left in my mouth was in staying through the credits at the end of the movie, accompanied by a hip hop track that, quite tastelessly, had a line in it comparing the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri as somehow now the next compelling civil rights issue—c’mon, that is a dramatically different situation from the civil rights issues of MLK’s time, and it was a cheap shot, IMO, to insert it into the film’s soundtrack given the careful decision of the Grand Jury.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Scott Wessling, age 60 (USA)
Neutral—The actor portraying President Johnson gave a more emotional representation of Johnson than he really was. He displayed anger and bitterness where Johnson would have simply been matter of fact. Johnson may have asked King to back off, but would have been matter of fact and not bullish and angry concerning Kings activity. Poor choice for the role.

I would have enjoyed the movie ten million times more had Oprah not been in as many scenes as she was (even to the point of her character being in decision making scenes with King and his advisors)? Oprah is all about Oprah and she spends her money accordingly. Most of it is for good; it is just that her contributions are well advertised to benefit her name as well. I have no doubt she insisted on being in as many scenes as she was. That alone bugged me to the point of not enjoying the movie as much as I should have.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Bob, age 68 (USA)
Movie Critics

…David Oyelowo is electrifying as Martin Luther King in Ava DuVernay’s furious, gutsy and all too timely account of black America's struggle for Civil Rights…
—Tim Robey, The Telegraph [UK]

…Big moments help mask overall unevenness… [3/4]
—Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail

… DuVernay worked miracles with $20 million… For once, this isn’t the white version of history, but neither is it a whitewash of King and his complications. We see him struggling with fidelity issues with his wife Coretta Scott King… [3½/4]
—Peter Howell, Toronto Star Newspapers

…Humanizing Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. …it was worth the wait. …a stirring, often thrilling, uncannily timely drama that works on several levels at once. … [4/4]
—Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

…one of the most powerful films of the year …it also arrives with a raw-nerve urgency and timeliness that no one could have predicted. … [A]
—Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

…Star and director triumph in this vibrant look at the civil rights movement…
—Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter

…Standout performances from a stellar cast… the intellectual focus on an emotionally charged issue—one that is still relevant today—makes it a must-see. …
—Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

…Brilliantly acted and directed… Oyelowo gets deep into the skin of the central character, a brilliant strategist haunted by what he terms “the constant closeness of death.” … [4/4]
—Lou Lumenick, New York Post

Comments from non-viewers
Negative—On June 19, 1963, President Kennedy sent the Civil Rights Bill to Congress Selma March 7, 1965. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was introduced in Congress on March 17, 1965 as S. 1564. “Selma” may be a better than an average movie, but it is politically correct history, which is, by definition, distorted history. Unfortunately, the average person’s concept of history is more profoundly imprinted by movies than the history classes that many slept through. Since an accurate view of history is crucial to understanding the present, and since to pilot a life into the future is best done when you know where you started then reporting the truth of the past trumps artistic license.

Artistic license is not a license to lie. Some of the historical inaccuracies are as follows:

1. The total absence of Dr. Ralph Abernathy who was always at Dr. Kings side during the entire civil rights struggle.

2. Replacing the two Jewish Rabbis with two Catholic Priests, not to Disparage Catholic Priest for both Catholic Priest and Rabbis were heavily involved in the civil rights movement.

3. Implying that Johnson authorized the leaking of tapes of King’s impropriety when in fact is was Jack Kennedy for this leak occurred before Johnson became president.

4. From the time he was sworn in Johnson sought the implementation of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act.

5. Johnson did not oppose the Selma march, some historians indicate that he used the brutal results as and way to move it through and have it enacted by congress.

6. Witnesses still alive and history books establish there were not animosities between Johnson and King in the White House meeting.

If you want to see the movie, good. I myself plan to see it, but don’t to take this movie as gospel, and it is best watched after you have done some historical research and if you can watch the newsreels of the actual Selma march. It may be a well made and quality movie, but that makes it even more harmful to the study of history. Many time the best well-made movie and quality movies may do a effective job of distorting history.
—Elvoyce Hooper, age 73 (USA)

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