Davie Oyelowo plays Dr Martin Luther King Jr in this depiction of historical events during the civil rights movement. African-American people were allowed to vote, but in the South it was nearly impossible for them to register – many impediments were put in their way from the racist bureaucracy, and in meetings with President Johnston (Tom Wilkinson), King was unable to get the president to act to overrule this appalling behaviour. Eventually, a large group were to walk from Selma to Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, in a peaceful protest. And with opposition from the army, the police, the KKK and the white population of the state as a whole, things turned violent.
This is a very slow-moving film that shows King as human, with all his strengths and weaknesses. But when the action moves from the planning and discussions and meeting and gets down to the key events, it is truly horrific. I am a big crier in films, but this was absolutely heart-breaking. I cried because the events were terrible, but I also cried because this was happening, and I cried because so much progress was made during the civil rights movement and yet look at the world we live in. Things should be better. And we shouldn’t need horrors like this to change the world, should we?
Selma won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Written for the Motion Pictures – Original Song (Glory) and was nominated for Best Picture.
This is a tough film… it starts as a film about a couple of hopefuls who are trying to get a possibly innocent criminal out of jail and turns into… well, I don’t really know what. It’s all really tricky.
Zac Efron plays Jack, a young guy in Florida in the 1960s who is dragged into a strange world after his brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) returns to town to try to expose injustices in relation to a murder conviction. The convicted is Hilary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a repulsive man from the swamps. Ward brings along his writing partner Yardley (David Oyelowo), who creates waves as he is a black man in this racist society, and Charlotte (Nicole Kidman), a racy woman who believes after corresponding with Van Wetter, that not only is he innocent, but that they are in love. Jack is in love with Charlotte in no time. And then things get really horrible. The whole story is told by the family maid, Anita (Macy Gray).
It’s interesting, and then it is creepy, and then it is a bit shocking, and then thing get a bit twisted, and then things get horrible and then more horrible and I am possibly never going to recover. And Nicole Kidman, well, generally I find her very difficult to watch these days, but she it fabulous in this. No wonder she was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance.
Will (James Franco) has been trialling a new drug to combat the effects of Alzheimer’s, testing it on gorillas. His boss, Steven (David Oyelowo) is concerned with making money, but when one of the treated animals appears to go crazy and get quite violent, Steven pulls the plug. There is a little baby, Caesar (who later is played by Andy Serkis with a whole bunch of special effects), who Will takes home to his father, Charles (John Lithgow), who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and Caesar is very smart, having had the effects of the drug pass down from his mother. When his renegade use of the drug on his father stops working, Will develops another without realising the danger of it. Meanwhile, Caesar has gone all protective on the evil neighbour who was hassling Charles and ended up in an unpleasant facility run by John (Brian Cox) and Dodge (Tom Felton). Caesar has come to understand that he is not human, and he gathers an army to find his home.
Phew. It’s a big plot, really, and I haven’t even covered it all. There are some truly shocking lines in the story (I think my favourite was “You know everything about the brain except how it works”) and parts are pretty cheesy. But overall, I really enjoyed it, I enjoyed the way the characters interacted and it has set itself up for the sequel, the recently released Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Special Effects.
Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) was a butler at the White House under eight different presidents during over many years of the civil rights movement.
What I enjoyed about this film was the journey of Cecil’s son, Louis (David Oyelowo) through the Freedom Riders, with Martin Luther King Jnr, into the Black Panther movement and beyond. It was a well told story, with the structure of the interactions with the presidents to show the way things didn’t change at the same time that everything changed. Still, you do need to suspend your belief a lot – it is a big ask to have a film span such a long time and have the same actors. Both Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey looked far too old for their young years, though the aging of the other actors was more effective. The story is strong enough to beat those flaws.
The Butler was nominated for BAFTAs for Best Supporting Actor (Oprah Winfrey) and Best Make Up/Hair.