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Re: Fruitvale

Postby Sabin » Mon Dec 02, 2013 11:59 am

The most frustrating thing about Fruitvale Station is how much it makes you feel like a dick for not liking it. I didn't like it as I was watching it, especially in the horrific "climax" (man, do you even feel like a dick for calling it a climax), which made me feel even more like a dick for not liking it.

We follow his life through texts and conversations sent and had. During a patch where we don't know what he did, he tries to save a dog's life for no reason. Y'know, so I like the guy.#noconfidenceinsubject I would literally prefer he did anything else but try to save a dog's life. Isn't there a burning building and a screaming baby somewhere?

An aversion I find that I have with film as I grow is that if I am watching an outpouring of emotion and I don't find it to be earned, I turn completely off. This means that dramas are not always my bag. What can I say about the final scene about Fruitvale Station except that I was going to describe it as "well-executed" until I caught myself. His family huddles around in prayer, hoping that he survives, praying, and I couldn't help but remember The Passion of the Christ. Not because Oscar Grant is in any way Christ-like. He's dying for nobody's sins. But because Fruitvale Station exists, PoC-like, not as a celebration of life but a vessel for mourning, a place to put your grief. For some, watching Oscar go into ill-fated surgery as his family huddles in prayer is a transcendent experience. For me, I felt like a dick because I knew this guy wasn't going to make it, and all I could think about was that I was watching a lot of emotion that did not feel earned. He's no Christ figure or Bressonian lamb, but Michael B. Jordan (very good) is playing a young man sent off to his death and it never feels like anything else. I might be more interested in a film that shows this halfway through and the rest involves the riots that took place afterwards, allowing the people in his life to manifest their grief in interesting, compelling ways rather than mourners waiting for the ninety minute mark. I think that is kind of gross in a way that I will absolutely not pipe up and say in a room full of people who love Fruitvale Station.

No idea where this Octavia Spencer talk is coming from. Coming from someone who thought she was good in The Help (if not Oscar-worthy) I found her to be entirely credible as a human mother born of this Earth, but that's it. It's Melodie Diaz whom I've found to be just an adorable presence since Raising Victor Vargas ten years ago (ah!) who deserves any awards that Michael B. Jordan isn't eligible for..
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Fruitvale

Postby ksrymy » Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:05 pm

Mister Tee wrote:First, the acting, primarily by Michael B. Jordan, who conveys all those sides of Oscar I mentioned above, and never makes it seems as if they're screenwriter's conceits that can't cohere in a single character; rather, he makes them all seem naturally blended elements of a multi-dimensional personality. He's charming, he's infuriating, he's scary -- it's a really terrific performance. Most everyone else is also quite good, but especial notice should be given to Octavia Spencer, who'll probably surprise a lot of people here with a really restrained and moving piece of acting.

I know I've voiced my rants about the Academy's obsession with white guilt recently, especially in regards to The Help, but, damnit, if Octavia Spencer did not do a great job here.

Tee has it completely right: you will be shocked by how reserved and restrained her performance is. She's a completely believable human character unlike she was in the movie I just mentioned.

And I was floored by Michael B. Jordan's performance. He wasn't a Trayvon Martin type martyr of the media here - instead, he's depicted as a deep, complex, multi-dimensional person. He's been in and out of jail, and, because of this, his relationship with his daughter suffers (and, boy, it is heartwarming when they're together). He tries to get his job back, but his lateness prevents that. I'll echo was Tee said: he's charming, infuriating, and scary. The constant "bruh"s (instead of "bro") in his dialogue were unbelievably annoying, but that's the script's problem.

Coogler's direction and script are nothing to awe over, but I feel he could sneak in much like John Singleton before him.

What makes this film succeed and surpass white guilt is that Oscar Grant isn't oppressed by the white man the whole film. His boss fires him and refuses to take him back because he's always late and not because he's a racist. When the cop comes along, he doesn't shoot Grant because he's black - he does it because he's hesitant, trying to gain power over the crowd, and not because of racism. Yes, the cop says, "Nigger," but it's quoting what Grant just deemed the policeman as.
"Men get to be a mixture of the charming mannerisms of the women they have known." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Re: Fruitvale

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Jul 20, 2013 8:37 pm

Bottom line on the film now called Fruitvale Station is, it's very powerful. After too many years of seeing the Sundance pet turn out mediocre, I went in with hopes rather diminished, but the movie scored at the higher end of expectation.

This isn't to say it's terribly artful. There are nice directorial touches -- and the all-important platform fracas is staged/edited extremely well -- but there are also a few pointless attention-seeking shots (like a long-held whizzing-by BART train). Writer/director Coogler scores better on the script level. He creates a fully dimensional Oscar Grant -- a guy who's been to jail, who cats around on his girlfriend, who's too quick to look to dealing grass in a pinch, whose temper flashes with frightening speed...but also clearly loves his kid and his mother (his whole family, really), and is making an honest effort (professionally, personally) to be some kind of mensch. Coogler also manages to take a seemingly uneventful day and fill it with some semblance of drama -- partly by showing us the horrific scene to come right at the start, but also by filling these scenes with conflict, with drive. That said, I do have to fault the rookie writer for a few inventions -- one, involving a dog, that's merely sentimental (and adds little to the narrative), and another, a too-coincidental encounter near the end, about which I thought to myself while I was watching it "This better be true" -- I got a little angry at the film when told it wasn't. Oh, and on a matter of pure dialogue: I don't care if six people can vouch for what Grant's daughter said during their final moments together; it comes off way too obvious, and it's beneath the film to have it there.

The flaws aside, the film really works because of two things. First, the acting, primarily by Michael B. Jordan, who conveys all those sides of Oscar I mentioned above, and never makes it seems as if they're screenwriter's conceits that can't cohere in a single character; rather, he makes them all seem naturally blended elements of a multi-dimensional personality. He's charming, he's infuriating, he's scary -- it's a really terrific performance. Most everyone else is also quite good, but especial notice should be given to Octavia Spencer, who'll probably surprise a lot of people here with a really restrained and moving piece of acting.

The other thing that carries the film is the sheer emotional power of the event being chronicled. As I said, Coogler films that key sequence on the BART train/platform extremely well. I always had a problem with the riot-precipitating event in Do the Right Thing -- the policeman strangling the radio guy -- because it happened so openly, so coolly, and went on for so long that you had to believe the cop willfully/viciously chose to murder the kid. Here, the event happens the way I imagine most FUBAR scenes like this do: cops revved up too high lose control of the situation and lash out in such a way that it's almost hard to grasp what's happened, till it's clear it's all gone to hell. It's immensely exciting filmmaking and immensely sad storytelling.

As for the other Oscar -- the subject of this board -- I could imagine both Jordan and Spencer with nominations, though best actor will presumably be crowded; Coogler's best bet is probably for original screenplay. Of course, in this era of up-to-ten, best picture is possible, if the film continues to earn as well as it has in its opening weeks.

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Postby MovieWes » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:10 pm

I've recently been hearing a lot of great buzz about Fruitvale, which was picked up by the Weinstein Co. at Sundance and is being tipped by some as this year's Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Find Out Why Fruitvale Was Sundance's Biggest Film And A Future Awards Contender

Fruitvale began earning huge buzz from pretty much the moment it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last Friday. Really, we should have seen it coming. Yes it's directed by a newcomer, 26-year-old writer-director Ryan Coogler, and yes it doesn't feature any of the kind of huge names that send festival audiences flocking. But it promised a leading man turn from Michael B. Jordan, the star of Friday Night Lights and The Wire who's never been anything but great, and supporting work from Octavia Spencer, still not even a year off that Oscar win for The Help. Add that to a compelling, infuriating true story, and how on earth was Sundance not going to embrace this one?

It also helps, of course, that Fruitvale is very, very good, a naturalistic and emotional recounting of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Oakland man who was shot in the back by a police officer while lying, handcuffed and prone, on the floor of a train station. Like so many modern tragedies the event became famous thanks to cell phone videos, and sparked riots and protests across San Francisco that continue to this day. Fruitvale-- named for the BART station where the shooting occurred-- opens with the real life cell phone footage and closes with scenes of a protest timed to the fourth anniversary of Oscar's death, on New Year's Day just this year. But what comes in between provides vital context for that heartbreaking but anonymous death. Fruitvale makes damn sure that Oscar Grant matters.

A Great Man biopic of sorts, laying out all the reasons that Oscar was a valuable member of society gone too soon, Fruitvale sometimes leans a little heavy on this best traits, especially since it compresses the story entirely into that last day. We see Oscar obey his mother's (Spencer) commands that he use a hands-free device while driving and reneg on a deal to sell drugs and rescue a dog hit by a car and help a random white girl (Ahna O'Reilly) figure out which fish to fry by calling his grandmother right there at the fish counter. These all seem like things Oscar would really do, but maybe not all in one day, and the portent gets even thicker in scenes like the one where he tells his daughter not to worry about the sounds of gunfire outside, and promises he'll take her to Chuck E Cheese on New Year's Day (it was open?)

But Fruitvale feels so authentic and warm-spirited, and Jordan is so compelling in the lead role, that these are mostly things that could bother you afterward. In a world where young black men die of gunshot wounds _______, and in an industry where they are rarely depicted as full-fledged characters, it is a rare pleasure to spend this time with Oscar Grant and then an outrage to lose him. He's not a saint, prone to irrational anger and some bad decisions, but he's trying, and that warmth comes through in every interaction he has, even with the boss who won't hire him back.

The film's final act, when Oscar is goaded into a fight on the train and then apprehended by the cop who will kill him, is tense and then mournful, going almost entirely silent at the exact moment the audience has broken down into sobs. Spencer and Melonie Diaz, who plays Oscar's girlfriend Sophina, carry the final act with performances equally as strong and nuanced as Jordan's, bringing in the audience to wait with them at the hospital to find out Oscar's fate. Oscar's life was not extraordinary, a former felon and drug dealer taking steps toward a better life, but he mattered, and Fruitvale-- its few moments of overdone fiction included-- lets us know that better than any news report or protest could.

I was shaking by the end of Fruitvale, holding back tears and alive with anger, the knowledge that it wasn't just a trigger-happy and angry cop that killed Oscar Grant, but an entire culture in which young black men are distrusted and abused and considered expendable. Clearly it wasn't just me-- Fruitvale won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in its category, proof of both its artistic strengths and incredible power over an audience. It will be in theaters later this year from the Weinstein Company, though I predict under a different name (Fruitvale is a meaningless word for anyone unfamiliar with the San Francisco area transit system). The name won't matter, though-- the ringing buzz around Fruitvale will last until its time for audiences to be moved and outraged by it all over again.
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)

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