The Oscars Need Selma More Than Selma Needs The Oscars

By  · Published on January 14th, 2015

Paramount Pictures

A renewed forehead slapping routine has hit the echo chamber of awards season watchdogs because Selma has, once again, come up short on the nomination front. This time it’s the short list for the Directors Guild, which looks 80% like photographs of the same man taken at different ages.

It’s unfortunate, but regular people don’t care about these awards. They’re important as a barometer within the professional community, but there’s no need for anyone outside of that to care. What regular people care about, is the Oscars, and it’s going to be a surreal scene on Thursday if Selma and, more specifically, Ava DuVernay are left off the nomination list. With ten slots, there’s almost no chance that Selma doesn’t get a Best Picture nomination, but the situation is far more difficult to predict when it comes to DuVernay’s inclusion.

This isn’t like when The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for best picture, where the Academy simply wasn’t in lock-step with a massively popular phenomenon. They aren’t, and shouldn’t be, beholden to raw popularity when it comes to making their decisions. It’s also not like when L.A. Confidential lost or when Fargo lost or any other time a deserving film didn’t get gold. Or when an art house favorite didn’t even get a nomination.

This is a situation where a movie has deftly used history to speak to our present without picking up the sledge hammer. It’s culturally important and immediate for both extrinsic social and intrinsic artistic reasons, and because of that it doesn’t need validation from the Oscars to survive beyond its release date shelf life. However, the Oscars need to recognize that impact in order to avoid appearing so out of touch as to be meaningless.

The problem being that, with an average age of 114, the Academy is often out of touch. Let’s hope that’s not the case this time.

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