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MurphTheSurf3 On January - 23 - 2015

King 1

I went with a friend to see “Selma” today. It is only showing in a few theaters and in most of those on one screen a couple of times a day. It had a working Budget of $20 million and has made $32.4 million at the box office. That is bad. Really bad. We were the only two there. We know the manager well and afterwards we asked him how the crowds had been. His answer: “Poor to start off with….and they they got worse.”

Selma is a historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb and Ava DuVernay. It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams,and Martin Luther King,Jr. of SCLC and John Lewis of SNCC. The film stars British actors David Oyelowo as King, Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon Johnson, Tim Roth as George Wallace, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, and American rapper and actor Common as James Bevel.

Selma received nearly universal acclaim from film critics. Praise has gone particularly to the film’s acting,cinematography,and screenplay. On Rotten Tomatoes the film currently holds a rating of 99%,based on 150 reviews,with an average rating of 8.7/10. The site’s critical consensus reads,”Fueled by a gripping performance from David Oyelowo,Selma draws inspiration and dramatic power from the life and death of Martin Luther King,Jr. — but doesn’t ignore how far we remain from the ideals his work embodied.” On Metacritic the film has a score of 89 out of 100,based on 43 critics,indicating “universal acclaim”

It got tons of publicity. So where are the crowds? Well, I live in very conservative Missouri in an area where there are few blacks but “12 Years a Slave” did rather well here. It was made for $22 million and made $188 million.

Was the film over-rated?  Maybe. I thought it was good but not great. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5. Why? While there were some powerful moments, overall the film seem slow. While there were compelling characters, overall I found it hard to care for the central characters as much as I cared for some with much smaller parts. While there were riveting scenes, there was a lot of lag time in the narrative. It did not grab me and it did not take me for a roller coaster ride.

And maybe that is why the film is so good. I was involved in the Civil Rights Movement as a stupid high school kid and as a little less stupid college kid. As an adult I worked in the inner city for a number of years. Looking back I recall lots of down time waiting for things to start, lots of confusion about what we doing and how it would help, lots of experience with leaders who were very, very human.

The most riveting moment in “Selma” fizzles out because that is what really happened. King is dynamic and waffling. King is a moral leader in matters of race and poverty but a failed husband. King seems supremely confident but clearly has deeply seated doubts.

King is neither Superman or SuperVillain. He is a great man leading a movement that is barely holding together. The film captures all of that.

But it is not a “WOW” experience. It is a “Hmmmmm” experience.

Let me add one other thought: The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement is a Mixed One. I think that many would say that King’s movement has left a very mixed legacy behind it. Blacks, Whites, Hispanics et. al. look upon it as noble but somehow disappointing. Part of this comes from a lack of knowledge and understanding, but part of it comes from the lived experience that many have. Finally, non-violence, philosophical dialogue, and often expressed angst do not make for captivating film.

“American Sniper” is a different story. With a budget of $58.8 million, it has made $154.6 million in far less time in the theaters. There is no moral ambiguity in that film. There is no doubt about who is good and who is evil. It lets American audiences vicariously target the “enemy” “radical, jihadist muslims.” I understand this as well.


Written by MurphTheSurf3

Proud to be an Independent Progressive. I am a progressive- a one time Eisenhower Republican who is now a Democrat. I live in a very RED STATE and am a community activist with a very BLUE AGENDA. Historian, and "Gentleman Farmer."

30 Responses so far.

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  1. jjgravitas says:

    I haven’t been in a movie theater in over 10 years, so I won’t be seeing Selma until its available for streaming on cable. Important though it is, I expect that this film is not popular in the South & Midwest as it is about what they would refer to as an “uprising” of the very people they wished would remain in the shadows. Sad but inevitable. Action blockbusters are what put asses in the seats. How is the film doing in the Northeast?

  2. VegasBabe says:

    Havent seen it yet but I will!
    Nirek, here in Vegas, we have several theaters with these divine, reclining seats that work like lay-z-boys, problem there is your subject to fall asleep!
    By and large, I haven’t a clue as to why folks aren’t going to see this bit of American history. To many folks still in denial perhaps with more not wishing to be reminded of a time that was extraordinarily difficult for a great many fellow Americans.


    Just got this “pearl” on my email:

    SEIU Logo

    McDonald’s fires 10 workers.
    Bosses say:

    “There are too many black people in the store.”

    Send McDonald’s a message: Racist harassment like this is NOT ok. End it – and pay the fired workers back pay and damages NOW >>

    I was fired from McDonald’s because I don’t “fit the profile.”

    What profile? Well, my boss never said. But she did say:

    “There are too many black people in the store.”

    And she did say: “We need to get the ghetto out of the store.”

    And: “It’s dark in here and needs more lightening.”

    Today, I’m filing suit against McDonald’s, along with 9 of my former coworkers, for firing us on racist grounds. Will you stand with us?

    Tell McDonald’s: Racist harassment is unacceptable and illegal. Pay your workers damages and back pay today. >>

    I worked hard at McDonald’s, working my way up from cashier to manager in less than a year. I never had a disciplinary action or write-up filed against me. Then one day they fired me—just like that. Now I need to figure out a new way to support my two kids.

    We asked McDonald’s corporate to help us get our jobs back, but the company told us to take our concerns to the franchisee – the same franchisee that had regularly harassed us on the job and then fired us.

    The fact is – this problem is bigger than just our store. There’s a problem with a company as a whole when its workers have nowhere to turn when facing racism on the job.

    If we had a union, we could stand together and demand respect, but on our own, our bosses get away with racist harassment.

    Sign the petition: McDonald’s must pay back pay and damages to the fired workers like me and make sure that this type of blatant racism never happens again at any McDonald’s in the country.

    Monday was Martin Luther King Day and today we find ourselves still fighting Dr. King’s fight. It’s simply ridiculous that in 2015, we still have to take our bosses to court for racist harassment in the workplace. But we do.

    Please take a stand with us today.

    Thanks for all that you do,

    Katrina Stanfield
    Former McDonald’s Employee

    • Kalima says:

      Here is the story I read the other day.


      McDonald’s sued for racial bias

      Ten former McDonald’s workers file suit against the fast-food chain in federal court in Virginia, alleging racial discrimination.


      • kesmarn says:

        Kalima, for a company with a black CEO, this is pretty shocking. I would think that if Donald Thompson doesn’t launch an investigation into this situation and deal with any wrongdoing, it will be a real statement as to what his and the company’s priorities are.

        • Kalima says:

          Hello kes, I didn’t know who the boss was, but as you say, this is outrageous and should be investigated to the fullest. I don’t eat their food but do care how they treat their workers.

          Btw, they are not doing so well in Japan, especially after the tainted chicken, a piece of rubber, and lastly, the human tooth found in their food. 😯

          • kesmarn says:

            Yuck, yuck and McDouble Yuck, Kalima! I avoid their food as well. Especially since I read a piece called “Anatomy of a McNugget.” Disgusting doesn’t begin to describe it.

            And the same word applies to the way they treat their employees.

  4. gyp46 says:

    Let’s see if I can do justice here. I also went to a matinee with very few people in the audience, also went with a couple who live most of the year in Missouri, we went in Yuma,Az as we are all seniors. The difference between our reactions to the movie could not be more different.
    A bit of background, as a 18 year old west coast boy who joined the Navy and was then shipped off to the ‘oceans’ of Memphis, Tenn for schooling in 1964 my world of ‘whiteness’ was smashed by reality. I spent a year traveling around the south on weekends by train and hitchhiking. Talk about an eye opener, boy howdy, that was an education in and of itself. I was there during this period and listened to the rhetoric of the white population. One incident sticks out after 50 years, and that was in Miss., about midnight, walking into a train station to buy a ticket back to Memphis, seems I walked through the wrong door and the seller of the tickets refused to sell me one, even though I was in uniform, WHY, because I walked into the ‘black’ side of the depot, she made me go out and around the building to the ‘white’s only’ door and then proceeded to sell me the very ticket she should have sold me on the other side.
    Now back to the movie experience, when we exited we stopped to discuss the movie, my reaction was renewed anger about the atrocities perpetrated against other Americans, the couple from Missouri, watching the very same movie came out with the belief that all ‘young blacks’ should take a lesson from this and stop provoking the establishment,(i.e.) the police. They talked about ‘not’ talking back, doing what you’re told, when you’re told, amazing how individuals watch the same thing and see something entirely different.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      Two sets of experiences, two sets of eyes, two sets of filters and two very different experiences of the same film. I get it. I suggest your friends however have very thick filters in place. And you seem to share that opinion with me. Thanks for sharing.

    • LightningJoe says:

      This is what happens in end-game social restructuring, as the Reich Wing has been shooting for, for years now.

      The attitudes with which the population has been taught to view things (through propaganda in this case) take over; and, even though the REAL lessons are in fact plain to see, the newly-incorporated Reich Wing Droids draw exactly the WRONG lesson from what they see, by referring all observed phenomenon to their “newly” biased way of seeing things.

      Sorry to have to say this, but the ONLY way through this now, since we adamantly refuse to stop broadcasting FUX Hate Teevee, is to go through the fire, and come out the other side…

      • MurphTheSurf3 says:

        Tough words, but true one. Many have been engineered to shape perception in a way that meets the needs of the power brokers. You are new here I think. Welcome. Your honesty will be most welcome and appreciated.

      • kesmarn says:

        Welcome to the Planet, Lightning Joe! This past Tuesday I attended a public forum at our local mosque on the issue of terrorism and Islam. The main point was that the vast majority of Muslims totally condemn terrorism. But they’re having a hard time getting that message out because the media presents the public with such a different message.

        Several people in the audience mentioned FOX “News” as a very significant part of the problem. Their relentless fear- and anger-mongering — and even outright falsehoods — tend to poison the well (to use their currently popular expression) and set people at odds with each other when we should be trying to work together.

        Roger Ailes has an awful lot to answer for.

        • MurphTheSurf3 says:

          I so agree with you….those who make a living from the hate they can churn up do indeed have a lot to answer for.

          This story is a powerful one. I have had similar experiences with Muslim friends.

    • kesmarn says:

      So — instant and unquestioning obedience, all the time, to any alleged authority figure is the “successful” way to live life? I realize you’re not saying that, gyp46, but that seemed to be the take-away from the film for the other couple. Which is genuinely frightening.

      I would call that a life not worth living.

      People in authority can be wrong. And are wrong. It happens all the time. I can hardly imagine where we’d be if no one had ever questioned authority when it behaved unjustly. I just know it would be a pretty ugly place. Putting on a uniform or being elected or being ordained or getting a law degree doesn’t confer instant virtue — or even ordinary sound judgment. We have to view authority through the lens of a well-formed and adult conscience, and then decide whether we’re going to go along with what that authority says.

      But then, I know that you already know that! :-)

  5. Nirek says:

    I also don’t go to the movies, but for reasons of comfort. The seats are always too uncomfortable for my knees. I wait for the movie to come out on dick or free TV. I’m always a couple yearsbehind the times.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      It is a film worth seeing when you can as you can.

    • kesmarn says:

      Nirek, if you happen to have Netflix, there’s a remarkable documentary out now called “Vietnam in HD.” It contains some unbelievable footage of “home movies” shot there along with first hand accounts of the war. It’s definitely not easy to watch, but — although I’m no expert — it seems to be one of the most “real” things I’ve ever seen on Vietnam.

      • Hey Homie! I watched that the other day. It was very well produced and definitely gives the viewer a sense of what that war was all about.

        • kesmarn says:

          Isn’t it amazing, Homie? I could only watch one episode, because it’s very moving and emotionally draining. But somehow it feels therapeutic too — to get the real picture of what was happening there.

          I do want to go back and watch the rest of the series, though. As soon as I get my courage up!

          • Hey Homie! Yeah, it’s pretty grizzly at times. Anybody with a shred of empathy would have a difficult time watching it. But as you say, there is a sort of catharsis to it.

            A lot of incredibly brave men and women were there and didn’t get the recognition they deserved, for their immense sacrifices.

            The very sad thing about that whole war was that it was one of attrition where body count was the main purpose. It wasn’t about taking land and holding it, like in previous wars. So many good young men died for no seemingly good reason. So much waste. Unspeakable waste of human life.

            • kesmarn says:

              Totally agree, Homie. It was a war that never should have happened. And it deeply affected a whole generation — even down to the present day. (I think we saw that in the Kerry vs Bush campaign.)

              And probably beyond.

      • Nirek says:

        Kes. I don’t have Netflix but will look for the film you mention.
        As I have said before my memories are vivid and haunt me. I always think about the one I’m sure I killed and wonder who is taking care of his family. If he were not shooting at me I would not have had to shoot back.

        I’m considering a second part to my first ever post “Life of a draftee”. Don’t know if anyone would want to read it.

        Peace, my friend.

        • kesmarn says:

          Nirek, I know I for one would be very interested in reading the next installment of “Life of a Draftee.” I really hope you’ll go through with your plan to write it.

          After seeing this documentary, I feel I have a little more understanding of what you and the guys you served with went through. I hope it wouldn’t be too distressing for you to watch it, but at least you would have the ability to turn it off and/or walk away if you watched it at home. I can’t deny that it is very vivid and they use the men’s own words to describe things. But it seems to be honest in a way that a lot of fictional representations of that era can’t quite achieve.

  6. fjb says:

    I gave up going to the movies decades ago mainly due to poor acting and poor representation of minorities in films, so missing what may be a great film is par for the course for me. I have to think real hard to remember the last film I watched in a theater.

    Selma, though, does bring out a phase of America that many whites do not wish to relive; it is much to embarrassing for them. They wish to hide in the corners and believe they are fine citizens while they allow other citizens to suffer.

    In short: America is now the opposite of its original intentions; there is only freedom for some.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      There is certainly some of that in play but given the success of films like “12 Years a Slave” I believe the problems fall more into line with those I listed in my post.

  7. Beatlex says:

    People want to see things explode,or blow up real good.for the most part.Look at it’s co nominee,American Sniper.Let’s hope the Academy can see past their biases and reward merit over mayhem

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      This is a common observation- the film does not attract the most significant demographic groups for profit making….you list what sells.


    Excellent,MTS…I did not watch 12 years…because I knew I’d be terribly disturbed and upset.One of the best movies recently, IMHO, The Help.Impacting…I should also include The Butler which as well, brought several tears down my cheeks.But I will Sunday go watch Selma.
    I understand around the blogosphere, pl are furious because they think the director kind of like “betrayed” L.B.Johnson because he was (apparently) very much a fundamental key on the Civil Rights movement.Yet he referred to all blacks as “negroes”..Could it be it? I have never much cared for your former accidental President due to quite a lot of suspicions on him betting how many Presidents got killed and his chances of “getting in”.
    American Sniper will not see any dime of mine.Nothing coming from that senile, empty suit, racist Eastwood, will have me going to any theater.Never liked the guy, always thought he was a buffoon and after the episode of talking to an empty chair -- pulled the final string.But I am sure SELMA will be a big hit all over the world.Cheers.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      I will be interested in your insights and observations. I noted several of your thoughts in my post. After you see Selma, drop a note here.

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