Selma appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a solid visual presentation.
Overall, I felt sharpness seemed positive. Occasional instances of softness appeared, especially during shots in the White House. Despite those moments, the movie usually displayed fine delineation. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and I witnessed no edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent in this clean presentation.
Like many period films, Selma went with a semi-sepia feel, though it also tended toward teal and orange at times, but not to an enormous degree. Within those choices, the colors seemed fine. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows looked smooth. I felt mostly pleased with this transfer.
Given the movie’s character focus, I didn’t expect a lot from the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, but it offered occasional zing. Most of the livelier moments revolved around the protest sequences, as they gave us some dynamic moments.
Otherwise, one should anticipate fairly atmospheric material. Music spread across the speakers well, and environmental elements added a good sense of place. There wasn’t a lot here to dazzle, but the mix suited the story.
Audio quality came across as positive. Speech seemed natural and distinctive, without edginess or other problems, while music appeared full and rich. Effects rarely taxed my system, but they were accurate and showed good range. The movie brought us a solid “B” soundtrack.
The Blu-ray comes with an array of extras, including two separate audio commentaries. For the first, we hear from director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyewolo. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/character subjects, cast and performances, sets and locations, historical elements, music, editing and cinematography, and related areas.
While the commentary includes occasional insights into the film’s production, those don’t appear with much frequency. Instead, the track tends toward a lot of praise for the film and all involved. DuVernay and Oyelowo still muster some decent notes, but the lovefest makes this a less than useful piece.
In the second commentary, we find director Ava DuVernay, editor Spencer Averick and director of photography Bradford Young. During this running, screen-specific discussion, we hear about the same subject as the first chat. However, this track follows a logical emphasis on technical areas, especially editing and photography.
Despite the inclusion of two new participants, this commentary feels an awful lot like the first one. That means a lot more happy talk, as we often hear excited pleasantries connected to the film. Again, we do learn a bit about the movie, but there’s not enough substance to turn this into a consistent and valuable discussion.
Two featurettes follow. The Road to Selma run 13 minutes, 16 seconds and offers info from Oyewolo, DuVernay, producers Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner, producer/actor Oprah Winfrey, screenwriter Paul Webb, and actor Carmen Ojogo. We learn about the project’s development, DuVernay’s approach to the material, and story/character/performance areas. “Road” lacks a lot of substance but it gives us a few decent notes.
Next comes the 26-minute, 29-second Recreating Selma. It provides notes from DuVernay, Oyelowo, Webb, Ejogo, Winfrey, Gardner, Kleiner, Congressman John Lewis, former Congressman/ambassador Andrew Young, production designer Mark Friedberg, costume designer Ruth E. Carter, and actors Wendell Pierce, Colman Domingo, Omar Dorsey, Common, Stephan Lewis, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson, Lorraine Toussaint, Giovanni Ribisi, Tom Wilkinson, and Tim Roth.
This one looks at history and characters, locations, production design and costumes, and period details. I like the fact we learn a little more about the movie’s supporting characters, and it’s great to hear from the real Young and Lewis. “Recreating” can be a little scattershot but it comes with a reasonable array of good information.
Six Deleted and Extended Scenes occupy a total of 29 minutes, 43 seconds. Much of that running time shows improvisation in a courtroom scene, as we see supporting characters testify; that collection fills more than half of this compilation’s length. The others scenes tend to expand existing material and also add to our understanding of those secondary roles. Most of these are good but I’m not sure any would’ve worked in the final film.
Next we find a Music Video for “Glory” by John Legend featuring Common. I like the Oscar-winning song itself, but the video lacks inspiration, as it just mixes simple lip-synch shots with clips from the movie.
Under Historical Elements, we split into two areas. “Newsreels” (5:16) shows two clips connected to the Selma march, while “Images” presents 10 photos from that same area. Both are good but they seem insubstantial; surely the disc’s producers could find a lot more material in this vein.
A few more short pieces ensue. Selma Student Tickets: Donor Appreciation goes for two minutes, 57 seconds and thanks those who donated tickets for students to see Selma. This feels like a self-congratulatory piece.
With the seven-minute, 50-second National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, we hear from historian Sam Walker. He talks about the museum and lets us know about its displays. This could’ve been nothing more than an ad, but the combination of Walker’s comments and images of the exhibits makes it informative.
Finally, we get a Discussion Guide. This offers teachers ways to use the film to educate students. Like “Donor”, it comes across as a bit self-serving; good teachers shouldn’t need a Blu-ray to tell them how to instruct kids.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Selma. It includes “Donor Appreciation”, “National Voting Rights” and previews but lacks all the other extras.
Despite a compelling story and some strong acting, Selma falls short of its goals. The movie feels too loose and scattershot to investigate its subject in more than a superficial manner, and it feels more manipulative than it needs to be. The Blu-ray offers mostly good picture and audio along with a moderately informative set of supplements. Selma brings us an often entertaining but ultimately disappoints.