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Thanks, Peter. I didn't want to assume that Poland's use of quotes meant he was actually quoting someone on Team Selma, and that's partly why I posted here. I suppose he was using the quotes in a people-are-sort-of-alleging-this way, although the quotes could be interpreted as having actually been said by someone, which is how I interpreted them on first read.

 

Anyway, I'm glad to know that these words haven't actually been said by Selma folks (per Google), but I wonder how the charge got out there and is hurting the film if no one actually used those words.

 

EDIT: Re-reading the Poland column, I see that he alludes to the quoted wording as having been discussed earlier in the week. I suppose I could track down that discussion for elaboration.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Francine Prose:

 

As a member of a generation that, because of Johnson’s stand on Vietnam, underestimated or ignored his admirable record on domestic issues, I was sorry to see him cast as the villain of a story in which his actual involvement was much less obstructive. Mythicized versions of history, however apparently harmless and mild, can leave a permanent mark. A friend said she found it difficult to read T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which she greatly enjoyed, without conjuring up the image of Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.
 
Were I a director, I would want to avoid the sort of errors and exaggerations that make reasonably knowledgeable audiences so dubious and uneasy about what they’re being shown that it ruins their pleasure in watching. Presumably this is what happened to the writers who have helpfully pointed out what Selma and the other films got wrong. Inaccuracies, one hopes, are less likely to lodge in our minds if we are made aware of what they are.
 
Meanwhile I can’t help noticing the difference between historical films whose veracity stirs up a controversy and historical films about which nobody seems to care if they’re true or not. One need only compare the tenor of the conversations generated by the mistakes in Selma and (to a somewhat lesser extent) The Imitation Game with those kicked up by the question of what Mike Leigh did and didn’t get right in his brilliant Mr. Turner; in fact, it would seem, not many people went to see Leigh’s biopic about the landscape painter, J.M.W. Turner, though it was one of the best films of last year.
 
But why should that be surprising? Which subject is our society more anxious about? Race, segregation, homosexuality—or nineteenth-century British art? The chatter about most biopics—Big Eyes and Get On Up, among others—is, by contrast to the arguments over Selma, so soft as to be almost inaudible.
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Alex von Tunzelmann @ Guardian gives the film an A for history and a B+ for entertainment, but she never mentions the J. Edgar Hoover subplot, which everyone seems to agree is the film's biggest historical (and even dramatic) error.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Hollywood Reporter has pages from both scripts -- pre- and post-DuVernay's rewrite -- and specifically, what it has is both scripts' treatments of MLK's extramarital affairs. It also has comments from "David J. Garrow, author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on King, Bearing the Cross", who says both scripts are "horrid" on this point ("He faults Webb for dubiously depicting King with a prostitute, and DuVernay's film for depicting Johnson as reluctant on civil rights ('100 percent false') and for inventing the scene where Coretta confronts King for cheating and he says he loves her only. . . . 'The person who would have done it right is that Paul Greengrass guy.' Garrow, who has spoken with six filmmakers about King films, says that Greengrass was the smartest and most historically minded 'by a humongous margin'").

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Slight digression: I still remember, during my first visit to the college bookstore to pick up textbooks for which I would then bill my parents, seeing Garrow's Bearing the Cross and buying it, even though it wasn't assigned for any of my classes. I just wanted to read it, and I figured my parents would never question the purchase of such a book.

 

I did read a good chunk of it, but it's long. To this day, I remember it chiefly as a book that explained Gandhi's influence on King. That bugged me at the time; I wanted more about King's Christianity, separate from Hindu ideas. But Garrow was tying King's faith to Gandhi's influence -- chiefly the principle of nonviolence.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I did read a good chunk of it, but it's long. To this day, I remember it chiefly as a book that explained Gandhi's influence on King. That bugged me at the time; I wanted more about King's Christianity, separate from Hindu ideas. But Garrow was tying King's faith to Gandhi's influence -- chiefly the principle of nonviolence.

Well, Gandhi openly acknowledged that in this (principles of nonviolent resistance) he was taught by Thoreau, so maybe more about King's Christianity, separate from "whatever the heck Thoreau was" ideas.

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Interesting. I still have the book. Maybe I'll pick it up and read it again -- or for the first time.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I love this movie.  The big scenes are potent.  Lingering most of all, though, are the small, quiet scenes of family, the ones full of doubt, pain, and a wavering hope. 

 

BTW, the conversation in the jail cell is the first Hollywood scene that has ever made me excited to go home and memorize Bible Scriptures.  I love the way the artfulness of that moment stirred that desire more than any sloppy "modern Christian" film could ever have done.

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Now available on Blu-ray and DVD. 

 

My latest for Crux: The staying power of Selma

 

Long after other Best Picture nominees of 2014 have been forgotten, Ava DuVernay's "Selma," starring David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will still be watched, appreciated, and talked about.
 
That's not just because of the enduring importance of the subject matter, or the fact that "Selma" got there first. The fact that a half century elapsed before the first big-screen dramatic feature film with King as the protagonist (and that it was ultimately spearheaded by mostly British filmmakers, including screenwriter Paul Webb and Oyelowo) is striking, but the first film on an important subject isn't always worthy of its historical significance. "Selma" is.
 
It is the great achievement of "Selma" not only to liberate possibly the most iconic American figure of the 20th century from his own mythology, but also to capture a lively sense of the civil rights movement as a cause of many players with varying points of view.
 
"Selma" also evokes a larger cultural milieu in which civil rights weren't the only issue on the table, victory was by no means assured, and the best means of achieving victory were not at all clear.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Saw it.

Liked it, but three caveats.

1: Going in knowing that the treatment of LBJ was unfair, you can't help but undercut the dramatic tension by wondering what corners were cut in order to make the narrative work (and yes, the narrative worked).

2: Going in knowing that the filmmakers did not have access to the original (copyrighted) speeches of MLKjr you can't help but wonder what the original speeches were, or how close the filmmakers got to portraying the essence of MLKjr's penchant for delivering soaring oratory.  On a side note, I'm wondering if lobbying (and attaining) a national holiday in this great man's honor would mean that his writings should have been placed in the public domain as part of the deal.

3: Seeing "Milton Waddams" as the head of police you can't help but wonder if he ever got his red stapler back.  (Yeah, not fair, since he has dozens and dozens of credits since 1999, but that's what an iconic role does for you).

 

I can see that they wanted to lower the hagiography approach, and make MLKjr more human.  Oleyowo did a fine job on this front.  But Oleyowo, IMO, lacked the gravitas that past MLKjr portrayals had in the past, in those parts where he had to really soar.  He was a 7 out of 10, in scenes where he needed to be a 9.

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Yeah, me too.  It's like there's a tendency to make this film Mississippi Burning all over again.  White folks aren't really the focus of the movie, so let's stop giving them and their portrayal veto power.

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Yeah, me too.  It's like there's a tendency to make this film Mississippi Burning all over again.  White folks aren't really the focus of the movie, so let's stop giving them and their portrayal veto power.

 

Amen.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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White folks aren't really the focus of the movie, so let's stop giving them and their portrayal veto power.

 

Respectfully disagree.  Truth is truth is truth.  A filmmaker who crafts a true-to-life narrative has a weighty responsibility to be as faithful as they can to the events that it depicts, and do so over creating a compelling narrative.

 

Case in point: The Social Network is a masterful film, but now that Zuckerberg is a more public figure, it is clear that the filmmakers felt it was better to do a hit job (so to make a tighter narrative) than to be true to its source.  And Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness comes into play.

 

If LBJ's portrayal was indeed biased--I plead ignorance--then it hurts the film in multiple ways. 

Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Yeah, me too.  It's like there's a tendency to make this film Mississippi Burning all over again.  White folks aren't really the focus of the movie, so let's stop giving them and their portrayal veto power.

I thought this criticism started with Andrew Young? 

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To my knowledge, no one has ever come out and said that the film was justified in saying LBJ authorized J Edgar's attempts to blackmail MLK. In fact, the film's defenders (as discussed earlier in this thread) have all basically conceded that that was an error on the film's part. So, LBJ defenders still have *that* toehold, at least. (Plus, the film's suggestion that LBJ authorized the blackmail makes zero sense in purely *dramatic* terms, within the diegesis of the movie. So that whole subplot doesn't work historically *or* dramatically.)

 

As for "this isn't about white folks"... uh, actually, yes it is. The whole *point* of the story -- as MLK himself says in the movie -- is to raise white consciousness. The fact that many white people join the black protestors for the climactic march -- thus leading to a change of heart (or at least policy) on the white president's part -- is kind of what the whole movie is leading up towards.

 

Do I overstate things? Perhaps, but only to counteract an overstatement in the opposite direction.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Those wanting a longer look at MLK's life story will dig Sam Pollard's latest documentary, MLK/FBI.  Though mine would be a dissenting voice in these environs, I think it's a stronger film than Selma.  

Here's my full review: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/2020/09/diy-virtual-film-fest-part-2-mlk-fbi/

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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