5 Martin Luther Kings To Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
While I understand some of you want to veg out with your Netflix and look at this as just another off-day, let's not forget that this Monday exists to honor civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. It's more than ever important to consider how far we've come since the '50s and '60s, and how far we still have to go. Fortunately, it's a story often told in media, and many men have slipped into King's shoes for an adaptation of those trying times.
Of course, the obvious pick is Selma, currently up as a contender for Best Picture at the Oscars, but notably snubbed for Best Director and Actor, respectively. David Oyelowo is the latest actor to portray King, in this case during the 1965 Selma-to-Montogomery march, and it's a riveting story that has the Oprah stamp of approval (she co-produced, so you know it's good). But hey, not every King portrayal has been so drama-intensive. Whether it's an anecdote of his accomplishments, a full-blown biopic, or, you know, a cartoon, there are a few Kings you can pick to watch today.
Let's take a quick chronological look on the faces (and voices) behind the man, so you can relive his legacy.
King was a mini-series that followed King's life, with Academy Award nominee Paul Winfield taking up the title role. You'd be hard pressed to find the complete series on DVD on short notice, however; it took 27 years before it made it onto discs. But if you're willing to wait, King should be out on Blu-ray January 27th.
1999: Selma, Lord, Selma
This is the Disney-sanctioned variant of what's in theaters right now. It focuses on Sheyann Webb, who was the youngest participant in the Selma-to-Montgomery march and who later penned a book of the same name. King here acts as a mentor to Sheyann and her young friends. He's played by Clifton Powell, best known from his role in Next Friday. (Which is, in turn, best known as the sequel to Friday, where your treasured "Bye, Felicia" stems from. Clearly, this was his peak as an actor.)
1999: Our Friend Martin
Don't even try to tell me you didn't watch this classic cartoon a minimum of five times in elementary school. I mean, it's the same life story of King, but with time traveling youngsters. And, though you couldn't tell from the animation, there are some big name actors in here! Jaleel White (you know, Steve Urkel) voices teenage King, and LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow fame voices him as an adult. Burton later played King again in the Muhammed Ali biopic, Ali.
Boycott was an HBO film that you can order off Netflix to rent, or that you can buy from the online HBO shop. Sadly, that's your best case scenario right now. In any case, Boycott follows the Rosa Parks incident and subsequent boycotting of public transportation. Jeffrey Wright plays King here. Wright is no stranger to the HBO family, also boasting a role in the miniseries Angels in America, but you crazy kids may know him as Beetee in the Hunger Games series.
As previously mentioned, Selma was brutally snubbed by the Academy this year, with Oyelowo's turn as King forgotten in the "Best Actor" category. Interestingly the response to this, as well as a lack of black actor nominees entirely, came through a sort of peaceful protest: the #whiteoscars hashtag on Twitter. On the plus side, Selma is still in theaters right now, so, if you haven't seen the film yet, this would be the perfect opportunity to celebrate King's fight to bring equality. Clearly it's a fight now more than ever worth fighting for.
Image: Paramount Pictures