Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Fruitvale Station": very timely release by TWC, a riveting conclusion

The Weinstein Company certainly picked the timeliest possible weekend for the nationwide theatrical release of Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station”.
The film is named after5 BART station in Oakland, CA where, at around 2 AM on New Years Morning, 2009, a 22 –year old black man Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) was shot by a white policeman (Johannes Mehserle) during a riotous confrontation.  The cop thought he was reaching for his taser and as convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served about one year in prison.

The film traces the last day of Grant’s life, New Years Eve.  It starts out slowly, showing Grant as a man capable of tending to other people (as in a grocery scene where he calls his grandmother to get a recipe for another shopper), particularly other children in his extended family, and women.  The film shows hin as somewhat caught by the economic system.  He has gotten fired for being late to a retail job, is helping a friend with rent, and sells a little pot for income.  He does not lead a sheltered life like some of us.

There is a flashback to an earlier stint in prison, when his mother (Octavia Spencer) visits him.  That shows Oscar’s potentially dark side, but the film is always sympathetic. 

His mother and grandmother encourage him to take BART rather than drive to New Year’s Eve parties.  They are on the train when the clock hits midnight.  The disorder develops in the car, which is emptied out into the station leading to a confrontation with police.  That sequence starts about 40 minutes before the end of the film, and is riveting. It's significant that a cop fulls Oscar off the train car after he tries to get back on and get out of the situation. 
The film played at Cannes and Sundance and won the big audience awards at Sundance.
TWC’s official site is here

There are some cell phone videos of the actual shooting, such as this one by JewelzTV here (requires Google account sign in to view).  Some of this or similar video is shown in reduced aspect as the film opens.   
I saw the film at the 8:45 PM show at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA Friday night, and the show came close to selling out.

I stayed in a Comfort Inn near the station in October 2000 when I went to am SLDN event. 

Angelika has been showing a short animated film in BW by Apple before some shows. 

I want to mention a Slate story by Peter Suderman, “Save the Movie”, about a 2005 book on cookie-cutter screewriting, “Save the Cat”, by Blake Snyder, that apparently is thought to be reducing Hollywood big budget films to formulas, link here. More on this later.  That hardly applies to this film.  

Wikipedia attribution link for Oakland City Hall.  

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