Martin Luther King Jr. Film 'Selma' Snubbed on Oscar 2015 Nominations; Rev. Al Sharpton Calls 'Appallingly Insulting'

( [email protected] ) Jan 16, 2015 05:43 PM EST
New movie Selma details the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his march in Alabama in 1965. Photo: Paramount Pictures

Many are calling the snub of the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic "Selma" one of the biggest tragedies of this week's 87th Annual Academy Awards nominations list, especially considering the fact that this Monday celebrates the national holiday centered around the late civil rights leader.

The film is based on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. during the time surrounding the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama that was organized and led by King for equal voting rights.

The movie premiered in Los Angeles on November 11, 2014 and enjoyed a limited release in New York City, LA, and Atlanta on Christmas Day, but wasn't publicly released until January 9, 2015.

While it was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Score, many believe that this isn't enough to overcome what's being called a racist move by Hollywood. "The lack of diversity in the Academy Award nominations is incredibly depressing," said Twitter user @MarcDSchiller.

Variety Magazine's Editor-in-Chief, Claudia Eller, is calling this year's nomination list, which was officially unveiled on January 15, "shameful." She contends that this will be "a horrible year for diversity for the Academy: all white actors/actresses; no female writers or directors in Oscar race."

The movie stars David Oyelowo as Dr. King, Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon B. Johnson, and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King. While the film celebrates the work of Dr. King and the struggle he faced in the early days of the civil rights movement in the 60s, many have pointed out historical innaccuracies that they say could be problematic in the depiction of a movie as important and influencial as Selma.

 Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Lyndon B. Johnson's top assistant for domestic affairs from 1965 to 1969, wrote an article in the Washington Post that highlighted historical inaccuracies in the portrayal of the former president as a roadblock to King's vision. "In fact, Selma was LBJ's idea, he considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted - and he didn't use the FBI to disparage him," Califano said.

But the problem with the Academy's nomination list this year has to do with the make-up of the voting body being 94 percent white and an average age of 63 years old, according to director Spike Lee.

"Let's be honest. I know they're trying to become more diverse, but when you look at the Academy and 'Do the Right Thing' or 'Driving Miss Daisy,' are they going to choose a film where you have the relatively passive black servant, or are they going to choose a film with a menacing 'Radio Raheem?'" Lee asked in an interview with The Daily Beast. "A lot of times, people are going to vote for what they're comfortable with, and anything that's threatening to them they won't."

Lee contends that the Academy Awards shouldn't hold as much value as they once did. "You can't go to awards like the Oscars or the Grammys for validation," he said. "The validation is if your work still stands 25 years later."

President Obama plans a White House screening of the movie with its cast on Friday night after news of the nomination list came out, and Rev. Al Sharpton calls the list "appallingly insulting" for its lack of diversity. The Rev. Sharpton plans an "emergency meeting" with Hollywood officials to discuss the nomination list.

The 87th Annual Academy Awards will take place on February 22 this year.