The directors branch of the Academy is notorious for not recognizing women. Alas, the slings and arrows aimed at "Selma" may have had a negative impact, but clearly there was enough passionate support for the film for it to be one of only eight Best Picture Oscar contenders, with only a Best Song nomination. That’s rare. (Watch Common and John Legend’s "Glory" win.)
It’s hard for many white men to accept a narrative that celebrates a black man standing up to a white president who has been lauded for his Civil Rights achievements. The Academy is dominated by white men, and many voters were not ready for this revisionist history about Martin Luther King Jr,. and Lyndon Baines Johnson.
It’s too bad that the film, which DuVernay overhauled, did not credit her on the original screenplay along with writer Paul Webb. The film was not a WGA signatory, and Webb had contractual solo credit. If DuVernay’s name had been listed, the film might have landed a nomination.
But another reason "Selma" didn’t do better is that finally, it’s a small indie made on a tight $20 million budget. (Paramount picked up North American rights to the film financed by Pathe.) The Academy judges these films on their scale and scope. Ava DuVernay is a relative unknown, even if she was admitted to the Academy recently. And the film’s Brit lead David Oyelowo ("The Butler") is not an established star.
"Selma" was finished late and hit the race late. Paramount’s screeners to the DGA, SAG and PGA were affected. Only AMPAS and the Broadcast Film Critics–whose entertaining awards show will be telecast live on A & E Thursday night–got screeners. More and more, late arrivals are at a disadvantage in terms of catching up with awards contenders–unless you are Clint Eastwood.