Wednesday, August 19, 2015
SELMA = A LARGE BAG OF POPCORN...with your fist in the air
Selma starring David Oyelowo as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, and Tim Roth as Gov. George Wallace was a rough story of the dramatic events surrounding the equal voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. With appearances by Oprah Winfrey, Giovanni Ribisi, Tom Wilkinson, and Common, the cast is really stunning. There is so much to praise about this film, but I will highlight just a few things.
Ava DuVernay & Julie Pearce
These two women have solidified themselves in the hall of fame for my top female artists right along with Georgia O'Keefe, Billie Holiday, Jill Scott and Phillis Wheatley. DuVernay likes to take her time. There are plenty of awkward, loaded pauses mixed in with ample concentration on visuals of tortured human beings. Her direction of Oyelowo as Dr. King was so reverent of the lauded figure but honest to the character of the man. She displays incredibly organized filmmaking for a subject matter that was essentially about a chaotic event in our collective pasts. With Pearce as music director, the combination these two women present is a one-two punch. Pearce shows her appreciation for musical depth with her mix of a contemporary take on "Precious Lord Take My Hand" by Ledisi, "Ole Man Trouble" by Otis Redding, "Keep On Pushing" written by Curtis Mayfield, "Easy Street" by Sarah Vaughan, and the Oscar-winning "Glory" by Common, John Legend, and Rhymefest. Black music is crucial to black struggle/politics and apparently DuVernay and Pearce know this well.
Four Little Girls
The opening scene of this film is a stab in the heart, a knock to the viewers' collective consciousness. There were audible gasps, sniffles and hands wiping faces in the aftermath of the first 10 minutes of the film. We were instantly transported back to Sunday, September 15, 1963 on an intimate level. We are reminded that this story about a long walk over a short bridge has high stakes.
Oprah Winfrey & Henry G. Sanders
Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper played a small but powerful role. Her courage in spite of trepidation was so moving and her tiny role was the story of so many. Sanders as Cager Lee also played a small role, but his portrayal of a broken heart was powerful and reminded us that everyone pays a price, from the big guy at the podium to the little guy at the back of the church. I truly think Sanders was a standout performer amongst many big names.
The song that carries the end credits was written and performed by black musicians, John Legend, Common and Rhymefest, who went on to win Oscars for their efforts. The lyrics mention police shootings of unarmed black men and the demonstrations that follow in present day while harkening to our nation's past concerning race relations. Yet the song is triumphant in its use of abundant strings and call-and-response harmonies signaling that only a collective change of mind will heal a nation that is hurting from deep-rooted racism.
Selma is a must see.