[#2015oscardeathrace] Selma (2014)

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Director: Ava DuVernay

Cast: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson, Giovanni Ribisi, Lorraine Toussaint, Stephen James, Wendell Pierce, Common, Alessandro Nivola, Keith Stanfield, Cuba Gooding Jr., Dylan Baker, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey

Screenplay: Paul Webb

128 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Glory” by Common, John Legend) [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

Selma is the story of a key moment in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr (David Oyelowo, Interstellar, A Most Violent Year): the fight for the right to vote. King has tries to get help from President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins, The Grand Budapest Hotel), but to no avail. His wife, Coretta (Carmen Ejogo, TV’s Zero Hour, The Purge: Anarchy), would hope to keep him out of harm’s way. But in Selma, Alabama, a woman named Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey, The Color Purple, The Butler) can’t even get registered to vote. King takes his civil rights movement to Selma in hopes of swaying Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth, TV’s Lie to Me, Pulp Fiction) to let them vote.

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While the film Selma isn’t perfect, it does contain some of the more perfect casting and performance work of the past year. David Oyelowo is the spitting visage of the late Dr. King. He has the look, he has the voice, and he has the mannerisms down to a science. Tom Wilkinson plays the former President filled with self-doubt and delusion. Rapper Common (TV’s Hell on Wheels, Smokin’ Aces) gives one of his best roles as James Bevel, as does Wendell Pierce (TV’s The Wire, Parker) in the position of Reverand Hosea Williams. We also get some great turns from some major Hollywood players, like Martin Sheen and Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), in small roles to elevate the craft of the other actors to something truly great.

Director Ava DuVernay’s camera is more stoic than static, offering what feels more like a live docu-drama than a sweeping picture, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did mess with the flow slightly.

I really enjoyed the song “Glory” from Common and John Legend that plays over the closing credits. It displays a plethora of African-American cultural music from the time of Dr. King to present day.

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Ava DuVernay’s Selma is a film that must be watched, if only for the powerful messages it conveys. I honestly did not know as much about this facet of the Civil Rights Movement, in particular the events in Selma, Alabama, and so I found the film engaging and shocking at times, and definitely worth your time.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Oscar Madness] Ted (2012)

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Director: Seth MacFarlane

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi

Screenplay: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild

106 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” by Walter Murphy, Seth MacFarlane)

I never thought Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West) would host the Oscars. I also never thought he would nominated for his own film that very year, but he was. And he was.

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Ted is the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, The Gambler) and a wish he wished when he was but a child. After receiving a teddy bear for Christmas, John dreamed that Ted would come alive and be his friend forever. That wish came true, and now, years later, John has become an adult, has a girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis, TV’s Family Guy, Black Swan), and wants to shed all the piece of his childhood. But is he ready to lose Ted (voiced by Director MacFarlane)? Now, John has to decide what is truly important as a loser boss named Rex (Joel McHale, TV’s Community, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas) threatens to take Lori away and a psycho fanboy named Donny (Giovanni Ribisi, Avatar, Selma) threatens to steal Ted.

Seth MacFarlane is great at taking cutesy little stories with lessons about love and growth and punctures them with toilet humor and crude content. I thought the plot was nicely laid out while flipping situations like a best friend moving out and morphing it into the story of a teddy bear.

The performances are more a live-action version of a Family Guy episode than anything of actual merit, but that doesn’t take away from the film’s enjoyment.

Ted’s motion capture performance by Seth MacFarlane looks really good and blends into the film well.

I loved the send-ups to films like Airplane! and Flash Gordon. I loved the Cheers DVD segments, and the wonderful flash Family Guy way about this film. It harkens back to the more simplistic of the cartoon’s episodes back before the first cancellation.

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Ted is a lot of fun if you are willing to accept the extreme crudeness of the piece. It is a hilarious time at the movies, especially for those who can “get” some of the more selective jokes.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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