Going into the awkwardly long, movie award season, I remember Birdman had most of the momentum. Having seen it, I was not that surprised. The movie is shot in such an innovative way. The story was interesting. The acting superb. But the ending, the ending left something to be desired. Most people I have spoken with about Birdman mention that they walked out of the theater angry, confused, and generally wondering, what the hell just happened there? It seemed like the three positives I mentioned already, the cinematography, story, and acting overshadowed the overall effect, which was meh.
Come Oscar night, one could see the award for best picture coming a mile away, the meeting of it and Birdman was inevitable. At that point in time I had not seen all the Oscar favorites, Selma among them. I was extraordinarily late to Selma, having just watched it a few nights ago, but now I know just how badly that movie was robbed when it came to the award for best picture.
Selma is a movie that instantly grabs ahold of you and shakes you, it makes sure you are watching, it pleads with you to remember what you are seeing, and it begs you to not look away. It is powerful, important, and artistic. As a whole, it works in ways that Birdman and other movies from last year did not.
As I watched, I kept asking, how was this movie so drastically overlooked? Why is Oprah not in more movies? Because in this movie she instantly conveyed powerful emotion without even speaking in most scenes. What did Birdman have that this one did not besides Michael Keaton stomping through Times Square in his whitey tighties?
I can think of a number of things Selma has which Birdman did not. To borrow from MLK Jr., it has the “fierce urgency of now,” a story, unfortunately, quite relevant to today’s ongoing racial tensions and institutionalized racism. It evoked an important sense of disgust for a big slice of this country’s past. I think as Americans we occasionally have to be reminded of how blacks were treated then and how they are still victims today because of the color of their skin. To learn the latter, all that is required of us is to turn on the news or read a newspaper. For the former, sometimes it takes a talented director like Ava DuVernay to bring the events of Selma to the big screen in such a way that haunts us for hours and days to come. And, hopefully, longer.
Hollywood is selective about what trends it chooses to buck. The trend of the white, male director seems to be a lasting one. The trend of making the majority of movies for a male target audience ages 16-25 is here to stay. These trends should be bucked in favor of bringing back a more important trend, that of awarding the Oscar to the best picture of the year, not just the trendiest.