Tag Archives: academy awards

Film Review: Selma

Written by Leslie Bryon Pitt






















For me, Director Ava DuVernay’s best piece of direction comes from shooting her subject Martin Luther King Jnr (David Oyelowo) from the back in a simple close up. The low angle shots of King while he makes his speeches are also powerful and illustrate his effectiveness as a public speaker. Nevertheless the shots from the back are the moments which made my exceedingly short, tightly curled hair stand up on end. We’re witnessing what King faced, almost seeing it from his eyes. More importantly, we’re not only “behind him” as audience members, we’re figuratively behind him as a force. As King marches, the film captures such a community’s sense. We come as one.

DuVernay’s craft has been under the scope as of late, due to her lack of nomination in the Academy Awards for best director. It’s a shame, but I pay those trinkets little mind. Yes, it’s one of the whitest Oscars we’ve seen in a long time, but the nominations are a symptom and not the cause. If the Sony hack did anything, it highlighted how blacks are considered in terms of cultural currency in Hollywood. I’m not entirely sure Selma needs that. The best movies never usually win Oscar’s anyways. When watching Selma I felt sure, no matter what happens to the film in terms of awards, the film would be seen, enjoyed and examined by its audience. As a film, it’s strong enough to do that.

Selma chronicles the plight of Martin Luther King during one of the most pivotal moments of the civil rights movement, the campaign to secure equal rights for blacks. King plans to demonstrate with an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, through the heart of the rural south. Which, despite recent actions is a still a time of segregation and tremendous unrest. The film opens with King obtaining the Nobel Peace prize in Olso, but is contrasted with the tragic bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. This moment, which occurs suddenly during the opening moments pinpoints the peak of the violence and helps consolidate King reasons for the march.

The film delves deeper into the issues of such a troubled time. To illustrate the movements in time, we are treated to the FBI reports as they spied on King. We peak at heated dealings between King and the country’s president Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). Both George Wallace (Tim Roth) and Malcom X (Nigel Thatch) appear and assume their positions. We witness the violence on the streets and the pressure in the offices and the weight bearing down on one man’s shoulders.

This is completely David Oyelowo’s film. His powerful display along with Paul Webb and Ava DuVernay’s thoughtful screenplay gives us a layered and mesmerising portrayal of King. Selma succeeds in a way that the likes of Lincoln (2012) does not. A man of faith but not saintly, King is portrayed as a flawed yet thoughtful man. Fierce in debate, but self-conscious about the path he wants his plans to take. Oyelowo infuses the films grand speeches with the power of a pastor, reminding us of just how strong King was as an orator. Some of Selma’s best scenes are when they show King as a man as opposed to the icon. Laughing and joking with his partners despite being in jail, sitting around dinner tables or on sofas while they shoot the breeze or plan the march. These moments illuminate Selma because as a film of this nature, it often feels that we do not see these images enough. Moments of black men looking and feeling real, as opposed to static figureheads or stereotypes. Oyelowo, who at one point saw this project hit the skids when it’s original director; Lee Daniels, quit the project, makes near every moment his time on screen count.

Selma is not perfect. From a narrative prospective, some of the dialogue feels flat, while the film starts to stroll during the later stages, losing some of the economy provided earlier on.


The film is also a great entry point into the history, but it’s not the history, with a broader scope of the surrounding elements being found in the likes of Spike Lee’s documentary 4 Little Girls (1997). If you’re not up with your knowledge, some characters will feel light until you’re informed fully of who they are during the final credits. One or two of the scenes feel a little trite and DuVernay’s decision to utilize modern hip-hop at the film’s end is understandable yet a jarring misstep.

Such stumbles, however, are mere scuffs on a shiny shoe. Elements which are easily forgiven with the power and emotion that DuVernay gives in other sequences. Moments such as the realisation of Kings Infidelity bring high volumes of tension. The film’s violence is not as explicit as 12 Years a Slave (2014), but the films period and its victims, remind us of just how recently these events occurred. The moment in which King must console the grieving father of Jimmie Lee Jackson is as sobering as it is heart-breaking.

Through all the furore of Ava not becoming the first black female director to be nominated, we’ve seemed to have forgotten the reason we watch films have never been about awards. Many complain about the awards season being a circle jerk, and yet every year we proclaim more outrage of the next perceived snub? Selma does what it needs to without the need for the trinkets and accompanying blurb. It’s smart filmmaking, which entertains, educates and illuminates. Try as hard as it might, the shine of a glittering statue should not blind us from this. In ten years’ time, I will be more likely to remember Selma and DuVernay’s filmmaking, then whoever wins an Academy Award. But if we really need the gleam of Oscar for some sort of material honour. We will wait to see who Selma inspires. Then, as quoted by King in the movie “We go again”.

Kushfilms.com review of Selma – a film we are proud to be marketing in the UK!

The Oscars – Kush Looks back

Written by Lamar Fergus-Palmer

The Oscars has long been the ‘centre piece’ of the awards season. Millions tune in from all over the world to watch the spectacle, and 2014 did not disappoint. Films are often judged and promoted based on how many nominations/wins they’ve received, so the evening itself is always full of shocks, surprises, emotion, and a huge amount of press.

The 2014 Oscars had arguably more talking points than the other Oscars in years gone by, and it was without a doubt the most talked about award show in recent memory. With that in mind, at Kush Films, we will take a look at the highlights of the 86th Academy Awards.

12 Years A Slave Wins Best Film

Regardless of what happened, it only seems right to start with what will now be considered the best film of 2013/14 as the winner of both the BAFTA and Oscar for the Best Picture 12 Years A Slave.

Directed by 44 year old, British Steve McQueen, some thought that 12 Years A Slave may finish behind Gravity in the running, as it has taken almost seven times as much money at the box office. However, it was 12 Years A Slave that prevailed much to the delight of a star-studded producer and cast list, which included; Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Lupita Nyong’o.

McQueen, who gave the acceptance speech, dedicated the award win to all those who suffered and still suffer slavery today. He said, “everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” in a very moving speech that eventually saw him jump into the arms of his cast and crew to celebrate.

Lupita Nyong’o wins best supporting actress for role in 12 Years a Slave
Nyong'o, best supporting actress winner for her role in "12 Years a Slave", racts on stage at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood

Following on from the above, Lupita Nyong’o took the Oscar for best supporting actress beating out strong competition, most notably from Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle). The Mexican born Kenyan had previously won 23 of the 31 ‘major’ awards she had been nominated for in her very first feature film role on 12 Years a Slave.

Lupita Nyong’o took the time to thank the real-life slave who guided her to shape her moving performance as Patsy, and she also thanked Steve McQueen, and fellow cast members, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender. She closed with the line “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

Gravity picks up seven academy awards

While the team involved with Gravity would have been disappointed that they did not pick up what could arguably be considered as the biggest awards, the movie did win the most awards of any film of the night, seven in total, including:


Best Director – Alfonoso Cuaron

Achievement in Visual Effects

Achievement in Sound Mixing

Achievement in Cinematography

Achievement in Sound Editing

Achievement in Film Editing

Best Original Score

With seven Academy Award wins on the night Gravity now sits alongside other films like; Schindler’s List, Shakespeare in Love and Lawrence of Arabia who have also all won seven Oscars.

Dallas Buyers Club wins both major male awards

Dallas Buyers Club also had a night to remember, as it picked up the two main male awards; Matthew McConaughey won best actor, and Jared Leto picked up the award for best supporting actor.


Both winners gave emotional speeches with McConaughey thanking his father, who passed away when he was just 23 years old and Leto, who praised those who had died from AIDS, as his character in Dallas Buyers Club had the condition.

The other antics
The Oscars are known just as much for the red carpet, presenting and skits as it is the awards now, and this year’s 43 million viewers (the most in a decade) were not disappointed with the entertainment.

The historical selfie that almost broke Twitter

When Ellen Degeneres (the host) decided that it would be a good time to take, and post a selfie of her and several of Hollywood’s elite, including; Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt she probably didn’t realise just how popular the post would be.

Until that post on her account, Barack Obama’s Victory Photo was the most re-tweeted tweet ever with over 750,000 retweets. In just a few hours the Ellen selfie surpassed one million, then two and now sits on 3.3 million re-tweets.

Jennifer Lawrence falls over again
After falling over on the way up the stairs to pick up her 2013 best actress Oscar, Jennifer Lawrence was hoping that 2014 wouldn’t bring the same fate. Well, while she avoided an on-stage fall, she did stumble on the red carpet, and it was caught by camera, much to her disappointment.

Leonardo Di Caprio – the man overlooked
With five personal Academy Award nominations and no wins, Leonardo Di Caprio (Wolf of Wall Street) put on a brave face as the best actor award was handed over to Matthew McConaughey. Of course, Twitter blew up with memes and statuses about how Di Caprio would seemingly never win a best actor Academy Award.

While he might have some way to go to overtake the late Peter O’Toole, who was nominated for best actor eight times without winning, those on social media did have some light-hearted fun with Di Caprio’s loss.

The pizza delivery guyellen-degeneres-serves-pizzWhen Ellen says she’s ordering pizza you better expect a few large boxes to turn up, regardless of the timing. Delivering the pizzas to some of Hollywood’s elite, Edgar Martirosyan, who WAS a real deliveryman from a local pizza establishment, seemingly had no idea that he would be delivering to some of the biggest stars in the world.

Martirosyan hand delivered the pizza to stars, including; Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Jared Leto and many others before making his way back to work, sans tip. Ellen collected for him and then gave him $1,000 the next day on her show. What a night for Edgar Martirosyan and Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria that experts say received up to $10,000,000 worth of free advertising because of their appearance.

The 2014 Oscars was action packed to say the least. Congratulations to all the winners, especially 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen and Lupita Nyong’o and commiserations to the runners up, as they say the show goes on – hopefully the line-up of films for the 2015 Academy Awards will be just as great as those in 2014.

© Kushfilms.com 2014