selma reminder: 89% on metacritic 99% on rotten tomatoes and an A+ CinemaScore rating
— Mike Cavalier (@mikecavalier) January 15, 2015
As we covered yesterday, the film’s low number of Oscar nods was probably more a victim of a screener scheduling than anything else. But Noah Millman, contra most film critics, “had the feeling that most people didn’t really love the film”:
Indeed, I suspect that the Best Picture nomination is itself a kind of consolation prize, that voters were reluctant to shut it out altogether from the major categories. I understand why some observers are troubled by the unbearable whiteness of this year’s awards. But it isn’t fair for a single film to shoulder so much expectation. If it’s a problem, the problem originated not in this year’s voters but in casting and financing decisions made years before.
Beutler doesn’t buy that consolation prize argument:
Nearly all of the Oscar trophies are meant to reward skill and stylistic judgment, but the best movie award is the most subjective and thus the most malleable.
It’s capacious enough to allow that a story can be inspired, and the decision to turn it into a film brilliant, even if the technical execution is ultimately flawed. Selma isn’t a best picture nominee because the Academy felt politically obligated to recognize it somehow, but because best picture is the one category that really fits.
Suderman is befuddled as to why the film didn’t as least get an additional nod for Best Director:
I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I’ll leave that argument alone except to note that it’s always a little bit weird to see a movie nominated in the Best Picture category but not in the Best Director category, as if a film could be the best movie of the year but not also the best directed. You can imagine a case for the distinction, of course, but the Academy’s voting and nomination patterns don’t make that case.
But since 2009, the number of Best Picture slots has been double the number of slots for Best Director, shattering that pattern. And again, Paramount didn’t have time to send out screener DVDs to the Directors Guild. A Dish reader puts it well:
While the term “Academy” may evoke visions of hallowed hallways filled with wizened old intellectuals who bestow honors on film artists, it’s actually Hollywood’s PR machine. A qualified film not receiving “enough” nominations is no reflection of the quality of the film. Instead, it’s simply a failure of the film’s PR hacks’ effectiveness at marketing directly to the Academy voters. It’s not the film’s fault, nor is it the Academy’s fault; it’s the film’s publicists’ fault. In the case of Selma, I’ve seen more publicity for Paddington!
David Sims zooms out from Selma:
It’s crucial to note [that] the Oscars’ “diversity” shouldn’t begin and end with more nominations for Selma, which, to repeat, is a particularly Oscar-friendly movie. Plenty more films starring people of color—Beyond the Lights, Dear White People, Top Five, Rosewater, Belle—got barely a sniff of Academy attention (Beyond the Lights did get a Best Original Song nomination).
A reader notes:
It seems to have escaped all these commentators that African Americans do NOT define diversity. Alejandro Friggin’ Iñarritu is the Mexican director of Birdman, nominated for Best Director. He is hardly white. In fact, here in Mexico, his apodo (nickname) is El Negro.
Moving past the “snub” debate, Aisha Harris highlights was makes Selma so deserving of its Best Picture nomination:
[Director Ava DuVernay] rightly and effectively puts the black community at the center of the change of that moment, revealing in dramatic form the many moving parts that it took to get an important bill passed. It is not merely an “MLK biopic,” as many (including me) dubbed it before seeing it—it’s about the many black people (John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young) and support from progressive non-blacks (James Reeb, Archbishop Iakovos) that it took to push progress forward when Lyndon B. Johnson wanted to focus on other policy battles first.
And that, perhaps more than anything else, is what makes Selma such an ideal Oscar contender, and what makes its Best Picture nomination truly matter. It rises above other biopics—including its fellow nominees The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything—because it doesn’t cling to the ingrained falsehood that one extraordinary, brilliant man can be solely, or almost entirely, responsible for a major societal breakthrough. Is King portrayed by DuVernay as the inspiring force that he was? Of course—she doesn’t deny history. But she also shows how King could never have gotten things done without the minds, the risk, the sweat, and the cooperation of many others. And in that sense, the academy has finally gotten this side of history right.