The Real Reason Why “Selma” Got Snubbed in the 2015 Oscars
With Oscars nominations released this week, the world was stunned to see the debut film from talented director Ava Duvernay, Selma, reduced to only 2 nominations (Best Song for “Glory” and Best Picture). While I fully expect “Glory” to take the win (I mean… John Legend), I won’t hold onto hope that Selma will take the most coveted prize of the night. There’s a few reasons for my pessimism.
Full disclosure: I have not seen any of the other touted films. I don’t care to see a film about Nazi spy codes or Stephen Hawking’s journey into manhood or another troubled White man in the armed forces or Budapest hotels or White kids dealing with divorce or whatever the hell Michael Keaton is doing playing himself in Birdman. I just don’t give a fig about any of those stories. I’m sure they were acted well; I’m sure Bradley Cooper cried because he missed his family just before he took out a pivotal target; I’m sure that hotel was the place to be. But what does any of that matter? I mean, really.
Call me ignorant if you like. I just know most of these films will be forgotten a few months from now. They’ll be added to the archive of “That movie was pretty good but I can’t really recall anything about it.” But, Selma is monumental and unforgettable, not just for what it portrays but also for being a movie of the moment.
Having seen the movie on opening weekend, it remains fresh in my mind. David Oyelowo faded away and a humanized yet enthralling Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took his place. Carmen Ejogo’s Coretta Scott King had me raving for hours. And Ava Duvernay’s directing took what could have been an overwrought biopic and made a stunning narrative of a pivotal moment in history. Yet, and still, this is the whitest Oscars nominations have been since 1995.
Moves like this are ripe for conspiracy theories. Some might say that it is meant to help cool the unrest gripping the nation in the wake of the Michael Brown decision. Some may say Selma just wasn’t artistic enough. Some may even say White people are just more interested in awarding themselves.
These are all excuses. Just like they tried to say that Ava Duvernay missed a nod because she is a first time director. Check her IMDB profile. It’s just not true. Just like the screeners red herring. They weren’t provided to critics prior to release? Boo hoo. So you didn’t get that cherry on top of entitlement. All of this is to excuse and distract from the truth.
To me, the message is clear: If you ain’t making a slave film, Hollywood ain’t checking for you.
They loved 12 Years a Slave and Amistad and Glory and even Django Unchained. But Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for equality just doesn’t hit that White guilt sweet spot like slaves being whipped, beaten, or hung then subsequently saved by a samaritan-like White man. When I exited the theater, I remarked at how non-graphic the brutal scenes were. I saw it as a strength. Maybe the Academy disagrees. The focus of the movie wasn’t blood being spilled or limbs being broken. It was about fighting to feel human when treated otherwise.
That is the Black experience in this country. From slave ships to Selma to Ferguson. And Selma‘s seemingly fruitless fight to be recognized is a mirror of that.
Maybe I am biased because I am Black. I can admit that my ethnicity influences my movie choices and enjoyment. But can we at least admit that this goes for White folks too? The stance we have taken in this site about most award shows is that they are for White people. The Golden Globes, the Academy Awards, and even the Grammys. White, White, and White. Why? They are masked with an heir of fairness and the notion that they are meant to award the most deserving. In truth, they are meant as a means to rub each other’s backs and signal to the world what the elite deem worthy.
So, just like we shouldn’t have been banking on the fact that the Oscars would get it right where all of the other award shows have been getting it wrong, don’t expect Selma to bring home that Best Picture win. There is no White angst, it doesn’t make White people feel guilty, and it doesn’t make them feel good about themselves either.
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