The 2015 Grammy Awards telecast was, it turned out, bookended by reminders of Paramount's “Selma” just as Oscar ballots are making their way to the hands of voters for the final phase of Academy Awards voting. Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, currently in release, was profiled on CBS' “60 Minutes” news program, while Common and John Legend closed out the Grammy ceremony with a rousing rendition of the film's Oscar-nominated original song “Glory.”
In the “60 Minutes” piece, most of the fire around the film was broached, with DuVernay being asked whether she thought being a woman of color finding this kind of success (the film is one of 2014's most critically acclaimed) could open a door for diversity in Hollywood, for instance. “I don't know,” DuVernay said. “I'm not a big believer in one person that's a door opener. Because I can open a door but if no one else comes through it, if it's allowed to close after me, it doesn't mean much.”
And either way, for reasons nuanced (the film was potentially underseen in major AMPAS branches due to late screener arrivals) or otherwise (#OscarsSoWhite, etc.), DuVernay failed to land a Best Director Oscar nomination and actor David Oyelowo failed to secure a nomination for his towering performance as king.
“Every time it was said to me I just moved it to the side,” DuVernay said of the countless people who felt confident in the run-up to nominations that she would be the first African American woman nominated for Best Director. “Because I never thought it would happen anyway. So when the nomination didn't come, it didn't do damage to me. It did for David.”
And when asked about criticism vis a vis the depiction of President Lyndon B. Johnson's politicking in the film, she held the same ground she has all season. “I disagree,” she said. “It's as simple as that. History is to be interpreted through the lens of the people who are reading it and experiencing it on the page or at the time, and this is my interpretation.
“I think the things folks are talking about is that he was a vigorous champion of civil rights. He did turn out that way. But he didn't start that way. To try to push the idea that he was always 100% in the corner of the black man and woman in America is to not know your history.”
She closed with a salvo that has been oft-repeated from the “Selma” camp throughout: “I'm interested in having people of color at the center of their own lives.”
And the Common/Legend performance was a pretty epic send-off, notable at the end of a night that included a big win for the song's Oscar competition, Glen Campbell's “I'm Not Gonna Miss You,” in the Best Country Song category. Prior to the performance, Beyoncé took the stage to perform “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” from the “Selma” soundtrack
“Selma” is now playing in theaters.