HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:77
“Selma” was subjected to some extreme scrutiny and controversy when it came out in theaters. Not because they were disputing anything about Martin Luther King Jr., his march, his speech at the end or the raw look they took at his personal life, but rather at the huge rift that the film makers portrayed between President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). A rift that has been highly debated and seems has very little historical data to stand on, but that is something that I will leave up to the historians and what not, as it had very little influence over the rest of the film itself. What I will say, is that “Selma” takes a good hard look at the issues of civil rights and the flaws in a leader during a time when there has been a level of discomfort and rumblings amongst the American people over the issue of black civil rights once more. The movie itself is very good, but flawed with some rather dry performances outside of David Oyelowo, who absolutely steals the show, and elevates the movie to a higher standing.
It’s 1965 and Martin Luther King Jr. has already given his “I have a dream!” speech. Voting rights have been restored to the Negro population and segregation has ended under Lyndon B. Johnson’s reign. However, with great change comes great resistance, and the south is resisting and digging their heels in, finding every little loophole and excuse they can to deny a race their rights. There was a huge uprising of dissent over these injustices, and several leaders came to the front, with the two most vibrantly visible figures being Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) and Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo). Malcolm X is most famously known as one of the most militant leaders of the African American figure heads, while MLK Jr. was diametrically opposed as a non-violent protestor. Using his influence Martin went around the country forming protests and acting as a lightning rod for his people to rally around.
Markin Luther King and Lyndon B. Johnson were former allies against injustice, but now Johnson is frustrated with King as he believes that the war on poverty is a bigger issue than the voting issue that MLK so intensely rallies behind. This divisive point will force them apart in the movie, giving J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker), head of the F.B.I. all the reason he needs to wage a PR war against the American icon. Unruffled, Dr. King and his associates realize that something larger must be done. Moving into Selma, Alabama, they set base there and prepare for a march that will lead them all the way up to the capital. The whole issue with Selma Alabama, is that it was one of the most segregated and famed hotspots of the entire civil rights movement. Over 50% of the population is Negro, yet less than 2% of the black citizens were registered to vote and the Sherriff was a backwards thinking bully with too much power for his own good. A powder keg in the making.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44185[/img]Setting up the beginnings of the march turns out harder than anticipated, as Hoover and his PR smear campaign works wonders on Coretta King (Carmen Ejogo), with threats against their children’s life as well as tapes and proof of King’s marital infidelities (that have been confirmed through multiple third party sources over the years) and the bond between husband and wife weakens, leaving him vulnerable. Steadfast and brave, the man surges forward, against a myriad of odds and treats the march as general treats an assault on the enemy. Using strategic moves and a quick wit, Dr. King soon finds that he can’t do this all by himself, leaving a trail of dead bodies at the hands of the move hateful opposition to the movement. Sparking something inside the American people, what was just a “black” cause becomes an American cause, as more and more people of every race and creed flock to the Selma March and try to force Lyndon B. Johnson’s hand in the issue of a federal mandate on voting rights.
“Selma” is one of those movies that I can’t rate as perfect 5/5, even though there are the sappy parts of me that really want to. The movie was completely riveting and utterly compelling in its emotional charge. I cried, I laughed, I felt a surge of violent anger against those who beat with prejudice against a person for the color of their skin, but I also had to look at the movie from a technical point of view. Besides David Oyelowo, the rest of the cast wasn’t given a whole lot to work with. We have a HUGE variety of excellent actors, ranging from a cameo from Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi (who did a fantastic job in his small part), Omar J. Dorsey and even a tiny part by Oprah herself (although I’m not going to rate her as one of the “fine” actors). Outside of our title character, the rest of the movie was bit by the numbers and dry. However, I must say that David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. was beyond phenomenal. His vocal queues and the introspection of the famous man was spot on perfect with little room for criticism. His snubbing at the Oscar’s was a shock to me, and one that I wish was different, even though it takes nothing away from the fabulous performance.
“Selma” takes a bit less of a white washed look at a great American hero, one that is less glossy and spot free as you may have been taught. Most of us remember MLK as being a sweet, nonviolent resistor of injustice and one that seemed to go by without a hitch. However, MLK was an incredible thorn in the side of politicians everywhere and controversy followed in his wake. J. Edgar Hoover called him the most dangerous Negro alive at one point and the F.B.I. spent years bugging the man and collecting data in an effort to smear the man and shut down his stirring of the pot. Dr. King’s private life wasn’t as serene and spot free either, as he had a proclivity towards other women, which the F.B.I. and the movie capitalize on (the movie in a much more tactful way), using it as a wedge between him and his wife, Coretta Scott King. The man is still an incredible inspiration, and a fantastic civil rights flag waver, but it was nice to see a slightly more balanced take on his life as a whole, and that the struggles he and others underwent was portrayed rather than the uber shiny façade that many have painted him over the years. My only major beef is about the rift shown between him and the President, one that is hotly debated and seems to have less grounding in reality than the rest of the movie.
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44193[/img]“Selma” comes to Blu-ray with a decent, if not ever so slightly disappointing 2.40:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray disc. Digitally shot and processed, “Selma” is clean and clear with the detail and shows no signs of manipulation other than some mild banding in darker sequences. HOWEVER, the picture is drained of most color and looks a bit flat with some VERY poor black levels. The blacks are washed out and form almost a haze over the entire movie. Exceptionally dark scenes suffer the most with lack of detail and form in those hard to make out spots. The main one being that scene where King and his associates are in Jail talking about their next move. The colors lean towards a light sepia hue, and even though there is a splash of primary color here and there, is mostly dominated by earthy browns and golds rather than a wide array of colors. Now, before I go any further, let me reiterate that this desaturation of color and poor black levels is NOT a problem with the encode, as it looks that same way in the theatrical viewing I had. Paramount’s encode of the film, did a near immaculate job, and besides the banding looks a picture perfect representation of the theatrical content. It’s just not a movie that will shine as a demo disc on any format with the way it was shot.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44201[/img]“Selma’s” 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is just what you’d expect from a drama. It supports great vocal clarity and spot on directional queues, just without a whole lot of surround or LFE support. It’s not surprising, and not a negative either, as it is not the type of film that really that you would expect or want a wild three dimensional audio experience from. The majority of the movie is all vocals, whether they be loud and booming from the bleachers as Martin Luther King Jr. gives his famous post Selma march speech at the White House, or the hushed tones as Martin and his associates plan their next move in a jail cell. The dynamic range is mild, but very well balanced, giving precedent to the dialog while allowing for the crescendos of the score to amplify the mood and stir emotions when necessary. LFE is rather light and usually is just there to give weight to the score, or add to the sickening thud of a billy club beating someone or the “pow” of the occasional gunshot. Surrounds are used with a few ambient noises, but due to the dialog heavy nature of the track, they don’t get an enormous workout. It’s a solid track and does the limited job that it does quite well.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44209[/img]• Audio Commentary With Director Ava DuVernay and Actor David Oyelowo
• Audio Commentary With Director Ava DuVernay, Director of Photography Bradford Young, and Editor Spencer Averick
• The Road to Selma
• Recreating Selma
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Music Video
• Selma Student Tickets: Donor Appreciation
• National Voting Rights Museum and Institute
• Selma Discussion Guide
“Selma” has its fair share of flaws, but it’s the performance by the leading man that really breathes life into the experience. David’s portrayal and ultimate recreation of his speaking patterns and inner turmoil brings relevancy and empathy to a man that has become a U.S. icon in history. Without him the film would have been a decent historical movie, and it was a shame that David Oyelowo was snubbed for an Oscar nomination, as his performance was above and beyond what I’ve seen in the actor to date. Video was a bit disappointing, but is a good replication of the theatrical source, and the audio is excellent, and along with a very very healthy array of extras makes this a definite watch in my book.
Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth
Directed by: Ava DuVernay
Written by: Paul Webb
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DD 5.1
Runtime: 128 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: May 5th 2015
Buy Selma On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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