Given some recent events within my own digital community, I thought I would try to cheer myself (and hopefully you) up by listing my personal favorite movies of 2014. Please note that although I saw plenty of movies this year, I wasn’t able to see everything. Meaning that, yes, I have heard about the critical acclaim, “Beyond The Lights”, “Top Five”, “The Raid 2”, and “The Babadook” have received…but Life was in the way of seeing all of those. Hopefully I will get around to those, soon.
“Selma”…I was really, REALLY nervous about this. Martin Luther King Jr. being a radical person whose legacy ended up being domesticated by the establishment and every fucking self-professed Not Racist person is one of the many reasons why. While I was glad to hear that the movie decides to tackle a particular moment in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, I was concerned that the movie would just be another one of those, “Untouchable” projects that would have the people behind it phone in their effort and get easy accolades, as is the case with almost every other fucking Oscar Bait movie that comes out by the end of the year. Also, while it focuses on Dr. King, I was afraid that it would not only skirt away from his humanity, but would also dismiss the efforts of everyone else: Malcom X, Coretta Scott King, the SCLC etc., creating not so much a movie but a walking stereotype going through one of their Greatest Hits.
Boy oh boy, am I glad to be wrong. “Selma” is not only one of the best movies of 2014, it is a complex, multifaceted movie that isn’t afraid to show the scars and pains of the movement. It’s a movie that is not afraid to be human, and it is through the humanity, the doubt, the struggle and the blood that one sees how important it is. This isn’t a movie about “Perfect Obedient Minorities” playing by White Establishment Rules and ultimately “winning” because they deserved it, like those #CopLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter fuckheads insist. No, this is a movie that shows how subversive, painful and ultimately radical the fight for Civil Rights is…and for all the right reasons.
It also helps that the movie is actually well made in its own right. Ava DuVernay’s sensitive and intimate direction, along with Bradford Young’s cinematography and Spencer Averick’s careful (for the most part) editing actually helps to emphasize the scope and depth of Paul Webb’s script. Oh, and for the record: yes, LBJ is played by Tom Wilkinson, but no, he is not portrayed as simply an Evil Jackass Holding The Brother Down. He’s portrayed as a flawed man trying to fight a lot of problems…not to the degree of Dr. King, mind, but he’s simply another human being in this movie, as is everyone else. Not a flawless saint, but not exactly a villain, either.
No, if you want “villain”, look no further than the very real George Wallace, played in a very nasty turn by Tim Roth. When he drops a line about blacks demanding not just rights, but also (eventually, according to him), “Money without having to work”, that’s when I knew that Tim Roth wasn’t just playing George Wallace as George Wallace, he also plays him as a representative of all the idiots crowing about “Cultural Marxism” as more minorities enter the workforce and create works of art like this. I have a feeling the folks at #Gamergate are going to rally behind his monologue as Star Wars has their black Stormtrooper and Intel donates money for outreach to minorities in tech, but hey. If artists cared about fuckheads picking and choosing from their work while completely missing the point of said work, we wouldn’t have, “Do The Right Thing”. Hell, we wouldn’t even have, “Fight Club”.
Carmen Ejogo is phenomenal as Coretta Scott King, displaying the mix of vulnerability and strength that one would have to have during the kind of situation “Selma” documents. Not a false note comes from them, and it’s for the better that the movie focuses on them and their strength, along with their fears, when That Scene occurs in the middle of the movie. Of course, the true winner is David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., whose central performance shows just how much of a human being he was. One can feel the guy LIVING, not just playing, Dr. King. It’s the kind of performance any actor would envy, because they don’t just fill in the character’s shoes, they live it, they ARE Dr. King. Here’s hoping the dude gets more work.
There’s actually a lot of complex things in “Selma” that I didn’t discuss. If you’re one of those people who thinks that Dr. King is portrayed too much as a modern day Jesus, with all of the flaws, struggle and radicalism airbrushed out, go see “Selma”. There’s a lot of good, layered surprises in this…just don’t expect the movie to placate you if you honestly believe that the old Civil Rights Movement was actually, well, “civil” before us dastardly #BlackLivesMatter minorities decided to fuck shit up.
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