What a stunning, important, moving, magnificent film. It might have not won the Oscar, but it will surely enter collective cultural memory and countless syllabi.
The entire ensemble of actors and actresses was great, lead by a brilliant David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. Great directing and cinematography, too. For me, the “4 little girls” bomb attack particularly stood out, but there were so many less showy, more mundane or domestic moments that were well done, too. Ava Duvernay did a really good job, I think, at showing Martin Luther King as a human – not a saint – and how important others were for the movement – John Lewis and SNCC, Coretta Scott King, the SCLC, but also local women and organizers in Selma. It’s hard to compare three so different movies as Boyhood, Birdman, and Selma, but Selma is the more important movie. If it’s better than Birdman (which I haven’t seen yet because I live in a cave) or Boyhood (which I also loved) I don’t know, but it’s certainly not worse.
Leading up to the Oscars, an anonymous Academy member claimed that Selma isn’t “art.” In a way, that is even true – if you think of “art” as “l’art pour l’art.” The skilled, artistic work in Selma was not its own end, but is used to create a profound impact and to tell the story of a struggle. A struggle that in many ways is still going on today. Watching the 1st Oval Office scene in which LBJ tells MLK that other issues are more important than the Black vote, I couldn’t help but think of the discussion going on on Twitter between certain White Feminists™ and people of color – particularly Black women – who criticized Patricia Arquette for her backstage remarks and the way Arquette’s framing erased Black women. After people (of color) pointed this issue out, they were immediately called divisive and told to focus on “bigger fish” like wage equality.
Many scenes of the march, particularly when the State Troopers put on their gas masks and clubbed men, women, clergy, and youngsters, immediately brought the last summer in Ferguson to mind. The story Selma tells isn’t over, yet, and the film makers know that. That makes the movie so important and so great.
Did you know that 11,000 faces identical with Christ’s are growing thinner in the federal prison? They had no money and no guns, and their pants were not creased. The policeman grows fatter each day and rivals the new tanks. He blots out the doorway of the little café. A couple seeing him spills the milk at the counter, remembering what they did under the bridge last night.
But the policeman is blind. He strikes only when he hears a loud noise. There are others, though, who have eyes like shifty hawks, and they prowl the streets searching for a face whereon an illegal kiss might be forming.
This passage from the prose poem by Smart is likely referring to the crime of adultery, but the images resounded with me after the events of the past few weeks in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and beyond.
Lisa Bloom, (Gloria Allred’s daughter) is an attorney, author, CNN legal analyst, and founder of general-practice law firm The Bloom Firm. Let me just tell you it’s nice to see an actual lawyer reading McCulloch and his team for filth. These words aren’t more valuable because she’s a white woman, but it’s certainly heartening to see white allies publicly denouncing that miscarriage of justice.
Really respect this series of tweets by Lisa Bloom. Got me asking a number of questions that I had not yet considered.
It’s worth your time to clock through the twitter screenshots, Lisa Bloom asks all the questions I had concerning the actions of the state attorney in the Darren Wilson case/non-indictment. It’s also valuable to check out her twitter account (link above) Currently she is tweeting her thoughts on the statement/treatment of Dorian Johnson (Mike Brown’s friend who was with him) in front of the grand jury. McCulloch asked him harder questions, was rather hostile. McCulloch cross-examined the teenager who witnessed his friend get shot and killed, and not the shooter.
Could Darren Wilson be charged/indicted again by a less incompetent/biased state attorney, or would that be double jeopardy? Shouldn’t be, as he was never formally charged, right?
One of the more terrifying aspects of U.S. culture at the moment is the normalization, if not naturalization, of violent deaths. Especially school shooting and police brutality, which should be rare and shocking incidents, are naturalized to a point where they are treated not so much as horrific human (inter)action, but as “tragedies.” Don’t misunderstand me: These deaths are horrible tragedies that bring great sadness and grief to those close to the killed, and often also to others involved in the incident.
Yet so often, these human actions are treated as tragedies in the way natural disasters are tragedies: Terrifying, horrible, but unavoidable and reoccurring parts of U.S. life. Once the terribleness and spectacularness has been broadcasted and shops have reopened, people (both in the media and in front of screens) increasingly just shrug. Like there is nothing to be done. Just brace for impact when the next wave comes.
But that is just not true. Other than tornadoes or hurricans, which are truly beyond the grasp of human power, police violence and school shootings are carried out by humans. Humans who aren’t pure, uncontrollable, “natural” evil either, but social creatures, living in our middle, where they come from and where they belong. That is a difficult aspect to live with, but it is also an aspect that opens up these naturalized tragedies to change. Social environments, their human inhabitants, and their outcomes can be changed for the better. The solution to these problems are complicated, aren’t easy, most still lie in the future (though other coutries seem to be able to deal with them) and change won’t come easy. But these deaths are man-made, not sublime, terrifying nature.
police are blaming social media because we’ve hit a point in social media where mass amounts of people are being made aware of events via first person accounts, through photos and videos and live streams
of course they’re blaming social media because social media is making it harder to lie and hide the truth
This is behind a lot of complaints about social media/the Internet by authorities, especially by those whose power rests on concepts the Internet challenges: Authorized accounts and news; nation-states and borders; a separation between people / citizens / accredited journalists / politicians.
Critics generally don’t associate Black people with ideas. They see marginal people; they see just another story about Black folks. They regard the whole thing as sociologically interesting perhaps, but very parochial. There’s a notion out in the land that there are human beings one writes about, and then there are Black people or Indians or some other marginal group. If you write about the world from that point of view, somehow it is considered lesser. We are people, not aliens. We live, we love, and we die.
Apart from being an on-point observation by the great Toni Morrison, this quote struck me as topical in two ways.
It reminded me of an interview with Saul Williams on the entertainment and pop culture podcast Studio 360. He talked with host Kurt Anderson about the early cancellation of Holler If Ya Hear Me, the musical based on the music of Tupac Shakur, axed on Broadway after just one month. He made a similar point to the quote above: A lot of the bad reviews came from critics going into the performance with preconceived notions about what a “Tupac musical” will be like, expecting some kind of 90s gangsta reenactment. Critics who focused on what was actually happening on stage gave much more favorable reviews. The culture clash that led to the early closing of the musical wasn’t on stage – Saul Williams convincingly made the argument that rap, especially narrative, story-telling rap, is a good basis for a musical play – but in the audience. Broadway audiences aren’t quite ready. Saul Williams also argued that the theme of the musical, young Black struggle and violence, is still a current problem. That’s my second point, representation of poor, young Black life in middle-American pop culture is still rare, problematic, and desperately needed. Literally: The current events in Ferguson and their mainstream media coverage are insult and second injury to the local community, revealing deep, racist wounds in American everyday life.
A GoFundMe campaign raised $234,910 and counting in support of Ferguson PD Officer Darren Wilson, the killer of Michael Brown who is currently not charged with a crime and is on leave with pay, as far as I know. The donations are even fucking tax-deductible.
Meanwhile, the preliminary grand jury case against Wilson is called “Michael Brown Case” throughout media, casually criminalizing the dead boy’s name while leaving Wilson’s name in the smaller print. He could probably walk the streets unrecognized, at least outside of the immediate St.Louis area. But he has a support fund now. Like George Zimmerman, cashing in for killing an unarmed kid.
I think I’ll go set something on fire now. Metaphorically, probably.
[Tweet by @DrJaneChi: Before you call Ferguson a “war zone” remember that one side is shooting & the other has their hands up.]
Valid. In my mind, I’ve been comparing the images coming out of Ferguson with images of military coups in places like Thailand or Egypt: A highly militarized “police” cracking down, extremely violently, on largely democratic protesters armed, at the most, with sticks, stones, and bottles. It is surreal, yet not surprising.