May 11, 2013 at 6:18 pm #101452
Good trailer. Hope this gets an audience, Michael B. Jordan deserves to be a star so much. This also looks kinda different than I imagined, but also better than I thought. Nice use of The Roots on the trailer, by the way.May 11, 2013 at 8:23 pm #101453
Wanna see B. Jordan and Spencer both get nominated, though i have a feeling that wont be an easy feat. Fingers are crossed though.May 11, 2013 at 9:05 pm #101454
Why do you want Spencer to return? I hate that her win has entitled her to sticking around.May 12, 2013 at 6:24 pm #101455
^ Thats unfortunate you feel that way. I myself have issues with The Help so i understand man. But the performances were not one of them. I thought Octavia Spencer was incredible! And since my favourite supporting performance (Jessica Chastain in The Tree of Life) wasn’t nominated i was rooting for Spencer hard. And finally, to me anytime minorities are nominated its a joyous occasion. Since The Academy seems to only like honouring caucasians.May 15, 2013 at 4:52 am #101456
Watch this win the Camera d’Or at Cannes.July 5, 2013 at 8:38 am #101457
Can’t wait to see this!
(director: Ryan Coogler; 2013)
BY RICHARD BRODY
The director Ryan Coogler’s début feature brings a full and just measure of righteous outrage to the true story of Oscar Grant, a twenty-two-year-old Oakland man who, early on New Year’s Day in 2009, was shot and killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer despite being unarmed. (The officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.) Coogler reconstructs, mainly from Grant’s perspective, the events leading up to the crime. As played with searching, cerebral energy by Michael B. Jordan, Grant—who had done jail time (seen in flashback) for a drug-related offense—was attempting to become a better father to his four-year-old daughter and a better partner for her mother, Sophina (Melonie Diaz). But the movie doesn’t turn him into a pristine hero; caught cheating on Sophina, caught lying to her about his unemployment, he comes off as a warmhearted, hot-blooded young man wrestling mightily with his demons. Coogler weaves a comforting web of family around Grant, including his mother (Octavia Spencer) and grandmother (Marjorie Crump-Shears), to show all the more poignantly the intimate devastation wrought by his death. The movie is the model of decency and respect, and does honor to a life unjustly ended; it offers few surprises but is nonetheless shocking.July 5, 2013 at 8:40 am #101458
Blood on the Tracks
Michael B. Jordan breaks out in the terrific Fruitvale Station.
- By David Edelstein
- Published Jun 30, 2013
(Photo: Ron Koeberer/The Weinstein Company)
December 31, 2008, was a momentous day for San Francisco Bay Area resident Oscar Grant and now—with its edgy, overpowering dramatization in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station—for American cinema. Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar, a 22-year-old African-American ex-con and former drug dealer with a girlfriend (Melonie Diaz) who loves him despite one brief infidelity; a 4-year-old daughter named Tatiana (Ariana Neal); and no job. He was late for work at a supermarket one too many times. Now his back is against the wall.
Jordan gives a major performance. His Oscar is not a wholly admirable man. His motor runs fast; he acts before he thinks; he’s quick to get riled up. But he’s trying to grow up. He reaches out to strangers. He’s a dutiful son to an attentive (but easily fed up) mother (Octavia Spencer). He wins you over in an early scene: While driving, he calls his mom, who asks if he’s talking on a headset. He says yes—a lie. Then he pulls over and slides the phone over his ear into his tight cap.
Oscar inhabits a very public culture, an interdependent village of friends and family. What Coogler—in his first film—does harrowingly well is show how that village is full of dangerous corners, how every encounter has the potential to get ugly fast. It’s no one in particular’s fault. It’s everyone’s fault. Police are unnervingly ubiquitous. Watching Fruitvale Station, I thought of the “stop and frisk” policy of Mayor Bloomberg, who—no matter what you think of him—has an empathy gap. He doesn’t understand the cumulative effect of the presumption of guilt on people who already feel disenfranchised.
The end is as terrible as you fear—but it always feels preventable, not inevitable. Here are African-American men who’ve endured enough mistreatment and cops who rather than defuse a tense situation seem eager to escalate it. No one will let anything go. And so it goes. Fruitvale Stationwill rock your world—and, if the life of Oscar Grant means anything, compel you to work to change it.
Directed by Ryan Coogler.
The Weinstein Company. R.July 6, 2013 at 7:22 am #101459
Weinstein is behind this one……….nominations will happen I’d bet.July 6, 2013 at 9:26 am #101460
Weinstein is behind this one……….nominations will happen I’d bet.
They have began to promote this film like crazy.July 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm #101461
BY ARMOND WHITE
– JULY 10, 2013
By Armond White
And it was hell tryin’ to bail to the ovaries
With nothin’ but the Lord lookin’ over me
I was white with a tail
But when I reached the Finish Line—
YOUNG BLACK MALE!
–Ice Cube’s “The Product”
Young Black males rarely get such a smoothly beautiful portrait as in Fruitvale Station. It recalls how Ice Cube in 1994 brilliantly rapped about being a product of his environment in a cultural, biological, existential tour de force. But Oscar Grant, the real-life subject of Fruitvale Station, is merely a product of Sundance artifice. There’s no preparation for Oscar’s typical, mysterious, scary Black man flash of anger that occurs in Fruitvale Station–or his unfair destruction.
This prototype role recalls how Tennessee Williams once described Johnny Mathis: “He is a natural and fitted athlete–of body, of voice, of spirit…I tried to write a character based on him once, but I kept getting lost in the prototype.” Fruitvale Station’s writer-director Ryan Coogler seems similarly lost in prototype yet he was fortunate that Oscar’s imperfect personality–a sentimentally viewed sociological victim–fell to Michael B. Jordan (who played the Obama-like Student Council President in last year’s Chronicle). Jordan, a brilliant young actor, heir to Ice Cube’s hiphop perspective, gives this year’s most powerfully affecting performance. From making love to his girl Sophina (Melonie Diaz), beaming at his toddler daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) to respectfully addressing his mother Wanda (Octavia Spencer), Oscar is first seen as tender and naturally charismatic, an irresistible character study–and a star turn–until he gets “normalized” into a mysterious, unknowable memorial to real-life tragedy.
The little goatee growing on Jordan’s baby-fat chin marks him at an indeterminate stage of manhood when responsibility and social pressure descend upon him. At 22-years-old, Oscar is an awkward age for social-protest cinema that customarily prefers statistical victim protagonists (as in the adolescent dramas Boyz N the Hood, Fresh, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Precious, Menace II Society, et al). Oscar already has a jail record but suppresses his worldliness and is ready to give up selling pot; yet he displays a temperamental reflex to deal with harsh experience. Jordan shows complex feelings in Oscar’s eyes and voice: his feral and jovial moods, his hair-trigger anger and ardent affection.
At this level, Fruitvale Station represents the triumph of a young actor’s handsome vibrancy representing those young men who remain enigmas on 24-hour-news-networks. But you cannot write a character like this–as director-writer Ryan Coogler’s superficial screenplay (and Tennessee Williams’ confession) demonstrates. Coogler was fortunate to find Jordan who makes better sense of Oscar’s imperfect character than doesthe sociological sentimentality of this victim story.
Fruitvale Station is named for the subway stop of the Bay Area Rapid Transit where Oscar Grant was killed during a stop-and-frisk police procedure in 2008. Set in Oakland, Calif. (memorably the setting of Mario and Melvin Van Peebles’ extraordinary Panther, a dramatic history of the Black Panthers), it doesn’t recreate the tragedy with political consciousness like the Van Peebles; rather, Coogler’s softer approach settles on sorrow. This film aims to be a folk legend.
Coogler makes Oscar an existential casualty (as suggested in the overly symbolic scene where he helps a stray dog after a hit-and-run accident) which might be even worse than analyzing another infuriating police accident. Jordan’s marvelous characterization is betrayed by this concept. In the end, Oscar’s recognizable urban personality and frustrated ambitions are all angled to fit a sociological profile. The subway sequence where Oscar and Sophina celebrate with New Year’s Eve passengers indicate specifically West Coast Liberal geniality. But this surprising bonhomie is conveyed with a suspicious fake-documentary distance. At times Coogler steps back from his tale as if creating Bressonian distance through mismatched cuts, empty station shots and rough cell-phone imagery. These dubious esthetics smack of Sundance patronization (where Fruitvale Station took the Grand Prize).
It misses the spiritual beauty of Steve McQueen’s damaged American male in Robert Mulligan’s masterpieceBaby, the Rain Must Fall (1964) as well as the tough realism of Black urban consciousness–such as “The Black Book of Survival” that community activists used to hand out around Brooklyn’s Borough Hall warning young Black men: “When the police approach you CALM DOWN. They want to kill you.”
Coogler’s condescending to young men like Oscar may let Sundance swag-baggers feel better about themselves but reducing Oscar to a social statistic ruins the crucial moments when his behavior and fate need to be seen as clearly, unhurriedly and precisely as possible. It ignores the life force that Ice Cube made clear and that Jordan makes so appealing.July 10, 2013 at 6:29 pm #101462
Find theaters showing Fruitvale Station in your area
Image credit: RACHEL MORRISON
FRUITS OF LABOR Michael B. Jordan gives a stirring performance as the tragic Oscar Grant in Ryan Coogler’s brilliant Fruitvale Station
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DETAILSLimited Release: Jul 26, 2013; Rated: R; Length: 85 Minutes; Genre: Drama; With: Kevin Durand, Michael B. Jordan,Chad Michael Murray and Octavia Spencer; Distributor: The Weinstein Company
In the wee hours of Jan. 1, 2009, 22-year-old Oscar Grant III was detained by transit police on a train platform in Oakland. Before anyone knew what was happening, an officer had shot and killed him. Grant hadn’t done anything wrong (except defend himself in an alleged fight on the train). His murder was a tragedy — and part of what was sickening was the way it reverberated alongside other killings of young African-Americans by trigger-happy law enforcers over the decades. The media, reporting on events like this one, have only fostered numbness where the outrage should be. But Ryan Coogler, the extraordinary first-time writer-director of Fruitvale Station, does more than just burn through the numbness. He puts us in touch with the full, wrenching humanity — the moral horror — of the crime as if we were seeing it for the first time.
Coogler’s simple, powerful strategy is to dramatize Grant’s life during the 24 hours leading up to his death. After showing cell-phone video of the actual murder, he draws his camera in close to Oscar, played by Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) as a flawed, complex ex-convict who fools around on his partner (Melonie Diaz) but loves her tenderly; sells drugs but is trying, with half a heart, to go straight; and is a good daddy to his daughter. Jordan’s performance is grippingly subtle: He shows us the despair that’s ruling Oscar, the street ‘tude he puts on like armor, and the joy that comes out only when he’s at the home of his mother (Octavia Spencer). Coogler immerses us in this life, so that when it’s cut short, you won’t just weep, you’ll cry out in protest. Fruitvale Station is great political filmmaking because it’s great filmmaking, period. A
July 12, 2013 at 11:02 pm #101463
Why do you want Spencer to return? I hate that her win has [i]entitled[/i] her to sticking around.
Who else do you feel that way about?
There are a lot of actors that won the Oscar that should go away, but I do not feel that way about Spencer.July 12, 2013 at 11:41 pm #101464
Why do you want Spencer to return? I hate that her win has [i]entitled[/i] her to sticking around.
Why can’t she stick around?July 13, 2013 at 12:13 am #101465
I really like Michael B. Jordan. He was Emmy worthy for the final season of Friday Night Lights. He is a great actor, and I love that all of the reviews are pointing to his performance as the highlight of the film. I will be praying hard come Oscar nomination morning to hear his name!
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