Tag Archives: Selma

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‘Selma’ Vs. ‘American Sniper’ on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and “American Sniper” is topping “Selma” to be the No.1 movie in America. Yes, there’s irony there, but it’s also a good time to talk a bit about pop culture and the philosophy of nonviolence.

Gawker has a great article reprinting a long 1965 interview King once gave to Playboy and Alex Haley (who would go on to write “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”). King’s comments on music leaped out at me. I’m gearing  up to read from my novel “Game World” at various schools for African American history month, so King’s words about the power of culture have fresh resonance.

“In a sense, songs are the soul of a movement,” King says in the article. He adds “Since slavery, the Negro has sung throughout his struggle in America. Steal Away and Go Down, Moses were the songs of faith and inspiration which were sung on the plantations. For the same reasons the slaves sang, Negroes today sing freedom songs, for we, too, are in bondage. We sing out our determination that ‘We shall overcome, black and white together, we shall overcome someday.'”

“Selma,” which tells the story of King and the 1965 march he led from Selma to Montgomery, was mostly shut out at this year’s Oscar nominations. All twenty of this year’s Oscar acting nominees are white, and there are no women nominated for writing or directing (“Selma” director Ava DuVernay, who had been widely expected to become the first African-American woman to be in the running for best director, was shut out). “Selma” notched just two Oscar nominations, one for best picture–and another for best song.

This weekend, “American Sniper” pulled in an estimated $89.5 million, while “Selma” took in $8.8 million according to the tracking website Box Office Mojo. Perhaps the best way for people to celebrate the rest of MLK day would be to actually go see “Selma.”

Here I am talking about the “Selma” snub on MSNBC:

“Selma” and The Price of the Ticket

Selma2I read in the New York Times that New York City police, in what some reports are calling an apparent work stoppage, have sharply cut down on their actions on the street, with parking and traffic tickets dropping more than 90 percent. This weekend, I went with my 12-year-old son to see “Selma” at the Magic Johnson theater on 125th street. I came out of the theater to a $35 traffic ticket.

The movie was worth the price of all the tickets I had to pay. In recent months, there has been a wide range of films  in theaters with African-American themes–“Selma,” “Belle,” “Top Five,” and “Beyond the Lights” among them. None of the films has been a blockbuster at the box office, but “Belle” and “Selma” both have a shot at revenue-boosting Oscar nominations.

Several friends of mine have complained that some of the humor in “Top Five” is too crude for their tastes, but for the most part all of these films are the kinds of offerings that audiences, particularly moviegoers of color, have been hungering for Hollywood to make.

James Baldwin, in his collection, “The Price of the Ticket,” once wrote that “It goes without saying, I believe, that if we understood ourselves better, we would damage ourselves less.”

I think my son understood a little more about his own history after seeing “Selma.”

Now it’s time for more people to go see these projects so that studios will be encouraged to make more.

Just be careful where you park.

Check out my new novel “Game World.”