A Tale of Two Movies.

We are HUGE movie fans in this family. Often, if we have a free weekend day or two, you can find us at one of the two movie theaters that are conveniently located within about six minutes of our house. Checking out a movie is an easy afternoon getaway, and one of our theaters even serves lunch and dinner in addition to popcorn and candy, so it’s a great way to spend date night.

I’m not sure if it’s because we’re just easy to please, because we let ourselves be carried away/entertained by what’s on the big screen rather than analyze every little thing in hopes of discovering plot holes or other mistakes, or because the movies on which we choose to spend our (pocketfuls of, OMG) money are truly wonderful, but we have picked very well in the past couple of months. Last month we enjoyed “Interstellar”, “Wild”, and “Unbroken”.

This weekend we saw two absolutely fantastic movies—one today and one yesterday—both of which I would recommend as required viewing for every American, and each of them having been treated very differently by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

—Don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this post.—

First, “American Sniper”. We saw this amazing film yesterday and it will stick with me for a long time. It stars a super-beefed up Bradley Cooper and a brunette Sienna Miller, and was directed by Clint Eastwood. The film tells the true story of Chris Kyle, the deadlist marksman in the history of the United States military, with 160 confirmed kills. There were impactful moments throughout the more-than-two-hours of this movie, but what stood out the most to me was the portrayal of the sacrifices—physical AND mental—that are made by not only the members of our military but also their spouses.

Image: Warner Bros.
Image: Warner Bros.

Jim was in the Navy for ten years. He was on an aircraft carrier in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm and was in an extremely safe place compared to those on the front lines. Back in those days there was no email and there were no cell phones; we had to rely on the post office as well as occasional HAM radio calls. I’m not sure what’s better: being mostly ignorant about his daily goings-on as I was, or being able to stay connected as much as today’s military families are. My heart ached for Sienna Miller, who played Chris’ wife Taya, throughout the film.

Watching Chris’ story was heart-wrenching but eye-opening. The people who defend our country’s freedoms every day are superheroes.

“American Sniper” received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (Cooper), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Surprisingly, Clint Eastwood was snubbed in the Best Director category.

Today Jim and I saw “Selma”, the film about the fight FOR freedoms which begins with the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and tells the story of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery (Alabama) voting rights marches, led by Martin Luther King Jr. and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, along with John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Image: Paramount PIctures
Image: Paramount Pictures

Watching the film was very emotional for many reasons, especially in light of the recent events in Ferguson. It’s amazing to me that, as recently as fifty years ago, Black Americans did not have the right to vote. We have come so far in fifty years but at the same time we have so much further to go in order for everyone to be truly treated equally in this country. I believe that in order to move forward, we do need to take the time to look back at what once was.

My friend Alexandra wrote a much better summary of why you and your over-aged-thirteen kids should see this movie than I could have, so I’m linking it here. My favorite line? “These films are needed to capture and cast open the cost, which was high, of the story of Americans wanting to be accepted as Americans.” They are NEEDED. You NEED to go see this movie.

The movie, directed by Ava DuVernay and starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, and Oprah Winfrey (with appearances by the likes of Common, Martin Sheen, Cuba Gooding Jr. and many more!) was not looked on as favorably by the members of the Academy, who are 94% white and 76% men; it was only nominated for Best Picture and Best Song. That’s it. Deb Rox wrote a great call-to-action post over on BlogHer in which she implores you to support this movie by buying tickets to see it, especially this weekend as we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (I know that my theater has plenty of matinee showings tomorrow, with it being a national holiday. I bet yours does, too.)

Two great films, two important historical tales. It’s time for popcorn, you guys. Go see them.


  • marybeth

    Is there a history of the nominating committee overlooking critically acclaimed movies centering on non-white story-lines? Your article implies that is why it was not as heavily nominated when you state the racial and gender composition of the nominating committee.

    • Melisa Wells

      Hi Marybeth, and thanks for stopping by!
      Yes, there is a history of that; here is just one article…

      It’s also women directors that are commonly snubbed (besides DuVernay this year, there’s also Angelina Jolie, who did a total kick-ass job on “Unbroken”).

      I’m just saying that the fact that most of the Academy members are white males and there is a lack of diversity in nominees when there are LOTS of deserving films/actors/directors/whatever out there, it seems like a strange “coincidence”.

  • Angela Youngblood

    I saw Selma yesterday and can’t stop thinking about it. So powerful, so emotional. I am definitely going to see American Sniper for sure.
    As far as the Oscar nominations, I love watching movies and LOVE the Oscars, but I just feel so upset about this year’s nominations. Ugh. I don’t understand how you can have a “best film” nomination without also having a “best director” nom…I’ve never understood that.

    • Melisa Wells

      Same here. Considering how much responsibility the director has for the final outcome, it seems like the two categories should be combined!

  • Shannon

    I saw Selma on Saturday and it will remain with me for a very long time. I think it’s one of those movies that people need to see, one that offers a new level of understanding.
    American Sniper is next on my list.

  • Heidi BK Sloss

    Can’t wait to see these and the other movies you mention. Most Christmas holidays find us daily at the movies, but since my accident, we have been watching movies at home–not the same. One of my favorite movie theaters was in St. Louis. They removed all of the downstairs seats and replace them with couches and arm chairs. It has an upstairs with traditional movie theater seats and the concession stand sold real food and real drinks. It is in a historic building in the city of St. Louis. Made going to the movies much more fun!