Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.
For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated only white actors in all of it’s major acting categories. This means some raved about performances from the last year were snubbed, namely: Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation, Michael B. Jordan in Creed, the biopic Straight Outta Compton and its cast, and Will Smith in Concussion.
Of course, this will come as a surprise to no one who remembers last year’s most egregious Oscar snub – no nomination for the director of Selma, Ava DuVernay, or its leading man, David Oyelowo. It was one of the best reviewed films of 2015 (99% percent on Rotten Tomatoes is a huge thing to pull off, people!) and yet its director and star were not nominated?! Adding insult to injury, DuVernay’s nomination could have made history, as she would have been the first female Black director to be nominated for an Oscar.
Of course, the main reason I was so upset that she wasn’t nominated was because I thought both her and Oyelowo deserved to win. Biopics are not one of my more favorite film genres, as they tend to be overly corny and sentimental, and hit all of the same old tired beats. (Which is just one of the many reasons I love the film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, as it’s an almost perfect send-up of the music biopic genre.)
Selma is really the exact opposite of that sort of sappy film. It wisely chooses to focus on one particular (and important) moment in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and omits any of his famous speeches, or the tragic news of his death. In all actuality, it is a film less about MLK, and more about all of the many scholars and activists tirelessly working behind the scenes to push the Civil Rights Movement forward. It’s less about speechifying, and more about backroom machinations and the slow, sometimes tedious process of fighting for justice.
The fact that DuVernay wasn’t nominated last year, and that no actors of color were nominated this year, speaks volumes about just how far we still need to go. Of course, if you missed Selma last year, you can still catch up on it by checking it out from your local library. Or, you can check out one of these other great films from female Black directors: Pariah by Dee Rees, Cadillac Records by Carnell Martin, Eve’s Bayou by Kasi Lemmons, or Beyond the Lights by Gina Prince-Bythewood.
Me – I’m officially done with the Oscars.
If you too intend to skip the Oscars this year, I can think of no better replacement activity that watching (or re-watching) Selma. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!