SELMA = 9 ½
This movie has “Oscar” stamped all over. That was to be expected, considering the topic. But outside of the powerful story of America’s black Messiah figure, the movie depicted the era which few young folks can remember in today’s world, an era where black people in the southern states were treated, and brutalized, and relegated as second-class citizens.
Some of the violent scenes where white cops virtually pulverize blacks for exercising their rights of peaceful protest were disturbing to say the least, especially for a Miami cop who lived through that same era. Though I was never eye-witness to such brutality, I know that discrimination and profiling did exist as standard behavior – for some – until the late 1970’s.
This film focuses primarily on the voting rights issue, and the resistance of white politicians, including President L. B. Johnson to propose a voting rights act. One salient scene depicts Oprah Winfrey playing an Alabama woman trying to register to vote, only to be rejected because she was unable to memorize the name of every county judge in the state.
A little known actor, David Oyelowo, skillfully plays the role of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, complete with vocal inflections, visual intensity and deep sensitivity. Oyelowo has played bit parts in other movies, including The Help, and Spielberg’s Lincoln, but this film will be his break-out role which will probably earn him an Oscar nomination.
Seasoned actor, Tom Wilkinson, portrays Lyndon B. Johnson as a man who was not so much a champion of the civil rights movement. Rather, he was resistant to introducing the Voting Rights Act, which made him so famous. Wilkinson will probably receive a Supporting Actor nomination.
If I had one criticism, it would be Oprah Winfrey’s small role in the movie. She did well, she is a good actress. But she is forever Oprah, who this viewer had a hard time seeing her as anyone but.
All drama. We all know the story going in. But it’s and gripping and well done. Congratulations to director Ava DuVernay.
I give this movie a 9 ½