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Why ‘Selma’ Didn’t Score More Oscar Nominations

Why 'Selma' Didn't Score More Oscar Nominations

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. 

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Comments

joenamherst

To ROGER MD: DUH! Look in any history book!

Matthew

To make assumptions/assertions about what anyone does or thinks or why based on the color or gender is racist and sexist.

King C

Thank you for telling me what I can and cannot accept as a white man. The ending of your article tellls the tale, but you had to try to take a shot at white people because we are OBVIOUSLY to blame for this "tragedy". Thanks for reinforcing a negative (and untrue) stereotype.

buba

I think you can summarize The Academy’s disorientation with the terrible American Sniper’s nomination. why oh why?!

AMrk

@E, very true, they knew it was (allegedly) oscar bait. Same as aniston. It got to be a little embarrassing, when people started saying, "This is BIGGER than a movie, its a MOVEMENT". Uh no. Plus, we all could tell that they were digging for oscars as soon as Oprah attached herself to the project.

E.

The most simple answer is that Selma wasn’t that good. And that it had some historical inaccuracies. And that it looked like a nice try to win plenty of Oscars. Look, the other director nominees are clearly passionate about their projects, and they represent their art in their very own way: Wes Anderson does his own thing, and it’s great. Bennett Miller is technically talented and likes to do dark true stories. Linklater was doing his work for 12 years, and that’s something, isn’t it? Inarritu just wanted to make a comedy like he does. The problem with Selma is that it’s a straight marketed product for the Academy – a winter release, historical true story, an inspiring main character etc. But DuVernay didn’t give much passion to it. Oh, and the fact that the AMPAS is afraid of accusations of racism is the reason it got the BP nom. "Glory" is a catchy song, so it was a lock. Selma is by NO means one of the top 8 films of the year. Ms. DuVernay can forget the Oscars and do something fresh.

Melvin

Apparently, it’s not what you think either, internet critic Anne Thompson.

Stella

Dear Academy.
Please do not feel you need to be politically correct this year. Vote with your heart, not how others will think of you.

NikFromNYC

Why is this text entry box so small and in italics? You mention whites being racist in a way that is itself quite racist actually, especially since Glenn Beck is now widely promoting this movie as a must see for everybody. Why would whites, normal whites of the Tea Party and Fox News crowd find Glenn Beck so popular if they were racist?! You are crazy.

Casey

Maybe it just wasn’t to the Academy’s taste? Maybe it was a giant mess of an Oscar campaign? You can bet that if Weinstein was producing, he’d hustle it out and would’ve scored way more love. However, a blanket statement that the Academy is against black characters standing up to white people is pretty hollow considering what won last year. You could single out Selma for the director nod but it’s not the only film that got snubbed in that category considering there’s 5 slots and 9 movies nominated. I was more peeved that Whiplash didn’t get the spot

Andy Halmay

Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear, we have politics now among the Oscar hopefuls and the race card is pulled and the Marxists are growling and all those big, bad WHITE MEN, always those nasty White Men and it his difficult for bigoted minds to take into consideration that perhaps other films were better.

Annethompsonsucks

"Acclaimed movie got a Best Picture nomination, but not a lot else…? DAMN YOU, WHITE PATRIARCHY!!!!! YOU’VE RUINED EVERYTHING! I HATE YOOOOOUUUUUU SOOOOO MUCH!!!!"- Anne Thompson

A Best Picture nod is nothing to sneeze at. DuVernay is an emerging director, she’ll be back here again. But yeah, you’re right Anne, it’s all TOTALLY the white patriarchy’s fault. White people suck, amirite?

UZoo

I actually feel embarrassed for the writer of this piece. what an absolute crock of shit.

Then again it is indiewire so somebody has to be raged about something

Sergio

Yeah sure slave movies. they love. A film about black people on their own making a positive change, that they seem to have a problem with. And by the way all this talk about the inaccuracies in Selma it’s funny that no one has any problems with the inaccuracies in American Sniper and his book the film was based on which he was called out for for all the flat out lies in it.

bman

"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."
I seem to remember 12 Years a Slave going down quite well with the Academy. Short memory.

Steve

Will said it right: for all its great intentions, Selma was not a great movie. I was astonished David O. was getting the positive reviews for a performance I felt was clumsy and unrealistic: he did not sound one bit like Dr. King, and certainly not a southerner. Most damning, the story was non-compelling, a retread of similar "march & protest" stories we’ve seen many times before on basic cable. While your opinion is often respected, Anne Thompson, it is also certainly a bit lofty and pretentious (as was Selma). I am not surprised the film did not connect with the voting Academy, nor domestic audiences, but only "critics".

DJ

@Will Agreed. A fan of Jason Moran on keys, so I was excited to see what he was gonna do with the score; it ended up as nothing more cues for swelling sentiment. I also noted the same as you: those paint by numbers closeups for emotional effect; disappointing rendering of secondary characters (did Diane Nash even serve a purpose in THIS narrative?! Tessa Thompson was used as window dressing). As far as "12 years…" I def. haven’t dismissed it and plan to see it. Just wasn’t a fan of McQueen’s earlier stuff was all.

Will

Hmm, not sure where to begin.
-The film featured ham fisted performances that were driven by expressing heightened emotional stereotypes instead of subtlety.
-It relied on a score to set the tone instead of the story
-The direction was executed to manipulate the audience, as opposed to allowing critical thinking.
-It did nothing to progress the artform. The film took no chances stylistically.
-I could go on and on.

Hmm, so you’re going to dismiss a film based on the work of one other film from that director? Sounds pretty close minded to me.

DJ

@Will Tonally, technically, and aesthetically the film felt extremely dated." Genuinely curious to see why you think that — can you cite any formalistic examples from the film? (besides the wide framing placing subject to hard right or hard left: a favorite technique of Bradford Young, the DP, for some odd reason). Never saw "12 Years…" but was not a fan of McQueen before that. Shame was an awful, film school exercise that spliced brooding montage into a vapid — oops, "deeply psychological" exploration of addiction –narrative.

StereoCultureSociety

This is crap. There was a whole lot going on with this blackballing besides late screeners. Let’s get real.

Larry Dillon

The revision of history was the narrative taught in high school civics class
I’m a liberal dem born & raised in Texas & I assure LBJ was a racist who pushed the CRA for reasons of politics….not because he was a freedom rider

Will

"It’s just not that good of a movie. The director made some strange decisions as to what merited showing and what didn’t. Her pacing was inconsistent and the juxtaposition of emotions scattered. I wanted to see a comprehensive film about this seminal moment in our history but alas the task was bigger than the director."

Thank you.

Will

"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"
That wasn’t the problem. It’s hard for a person of any color to accept a trite, melodramatic bait film that uses a dated cinematic language to reach it’s audience, like Selma. Tonally, technically, and aesthetically the film felt extremely dated, in contrast to last year’s winner, "12 Years A Slave" (Which apparently wasn’t too hard for white voters to swallow, given it was a story of an oppressed black man standing up to his slave master), which was an absolute masterpiece in filmmaking, with director McQueen creating an experience that felt like both a step forward for the artform and for the cause it represented.

Sergio

There was a clear conspiracy out to get the film and they won. And ye Roger MD that is true whether you like it or not, though of course it’s hard for you to believe it

Phil Melton

"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." Especially when that white president actually was in sympathy with the black man, and history was falsified to create a different story.

JoeS

"But another reason "Selma" didn’t do better is that finally, it’s a small indie made on a tight $20 million budget…The Academy judges these films on their scale and scope."

WHIPLASH? WINTER’S BONE? AMOUR? Hardly big budget movies with "scale and scope" – ALL Best Picture nominees.
Try another tack.

Andrew James

What Eddie said.

What Hardy Said.

What Roger said.

Jess C.

Dumb article. Period

ricardo

Clearly it wasn’t as good a film as the others….. Birdman is great, and there was no way they’d forget grand Budapest….. I’m more concerned about interstellar missing out

Brian

I like Eddie’s remarks. The idea that the ranks of elderly Academy voters need to prove they’ve been to the theater to see every movie they’re voting for is hilarious. Just imagine the huge black market in used movie ticket stubs that would ensue. The mind boggles at what movies would be nominated if this rule were in place, although I absolutely agree with it in principle. It’s a motion picture academy and the films nominated by all rights should have been ONLY experienced in a theater. That’s the way it was for decades before the 1980s when home video penetrated the homes of Academy voters and the films that competed before the screener era were much, much better. Thank you, Eddie.

Aris Tian

haven’t seen

David Ehrenstein

It’s hard for a lack man like me, old enough to remember the events depicted, to stomach a film full of LIES

Roger MD

"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."

Got a source to back up that claim?

DL

this is so frustrating.

hardy campbell

It’s just not that good of a movie. The director made some strange decisions as to what merited showing and what didn’t. Her pacing was inconsistent and the juxtaposition of emotions scattered. I wanted to see a comprehensive film about this seminal moment in our history but alas the task was bigger than the director.

Eddie

Isn’t this the MOTION PICTURE Academy? Why aren’t these people seeing the films in theaters? Are they too good for the common, plebeian experience that is what their whole industry is supposed to be about? The Academy should just prohibit screeners. Period. And you should be required to have a passbook with confirmation that you have seen the movies you’re voting on. "They didn’t deliver the movie to my house" is a lousy excuse for not recognizing cinematic excellence. And "Selma" is an excellent movie.

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