Tag Archives: Fruitvale Station

For Your Queue: First Time Filmmakers Demanding to be Seen


Available today is new filmmaker Ryan Coogler’s impressive debut Fruitvale Station, telling the tragic story of Oscar Grant with the help of an award-worthy lead turn from Michael B. Jordan. Coogler’s evenhanded telling and his cast’s spontaneity and authenticity give the tale a fitting naturalism, but the film will be remembered as a look at two phenomenal young talents.


Likewise, Dee Rees’s 2011 drama Pariah introduced an incisive and compelling new filmmaker with the story of an urban youth just trying to find a way to thrive. Also like Fruitvale, the film owes its power to a revelatory central performance. Adepero Oduye rings not a single false note as a 17-year-old coming out and finding her stride.


Countdown: Best Underseen Films of 2013

Today we pay tribute to the most fabulous movies that no one saw in 2013. If you, too, missed them, don’t be too hard on yourself. Some were hard to find, some had such short runs that if you blinked, you missed them in theaters. But here’s your chance to make amends. Seek these out as part of your new year’s resolution to watch something awesome. They are sometimes bloody, sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, always intriguing, fresh and memorable. We give you the most tragically underseen films of 2013.

5. Only God Forgives

Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow up to Drive offers a nightmarish, polarizing vision of the revenge thriller. The near-silent Ryan Gosling leads a cast of misfits and miscreants (and worse) through a bloody piece of nastiness in Bangkok. It’s a visual, aural feat of wonder creating a dreamlike hellscape. The one-dimensional characters and lurid story guarantee you will either love it or hate it, but you will not forget it easily.

4. Much Ado about Nothing

Joss Whedon proves he can do basically anything as he spins the Bard’s classic comedy. Giving Shakespeare a modern-day treatment trips up many great filmmakers, but Whedon takes it in stride, employing a game cast to create a playful, satisfying romp.

3. Mud

The forever underseen filmmaker of extraordinary talent Jeff Nichols follows up his bewilderingly wonderful Take Shelter with this Huck Finn style tale. Matthew McConaughey excels as the man-child fugitive befriending a couple river rats interested in adventure. The result is a lovely journey of lost innocence and a vanishing American lifestyle.


2. Fruitvale Station

Ryan Coogler’s impressive feature debut offers a powerful and superbly acted account of the tragic death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant. Michael B. Jordan’s revelatory lead performance deserves to be in the Oscar conversation.


1. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

No one saw this movie, which is a tragedy given all the film has to offer. The aching romantic drama boasts exceptional performances from Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster as well as understated writing and exquisite photography. It’s an overlooked gem of rare beauty – one worth finding.


Countdown: Saving Your Summer

After Earth, The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim – it’s hard not to see the summer of 2013 as a moviegoing bust. But if you think it’s been a weak season, it probably just means you missed the shiniest gems of the year.  Voila: The countdown meant to save your summer movie experience. Here are the top 5 best of the season’s movies. You may have missed these, but you might still have time to catch them.

5. Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus

A mind expanding road trip works better than expected, as does this mostly improvised, funny and insightful flick.

4. The Way, Way Back

Sam Rockwell steals this one as the Bill Murray-esque role model to an awkward teen going through a tough time. Smart, uproariously funny and brimming with excellent performances, this is a true summer movie, and one not to be missed.


3. Much Ado about Nothing

Joss Whedon gives another reason for nerds to rejoice. He mines the Bard for the humor he intended, and puts together a house party that looks like an absolute blasts.

2. Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley directs a documentary that unveils a family secret, and in doing so provides fascinating insights into how families work, and how we all – including filmmakers – rework reality to suit our needs.

1. Fruitvale Station

Newcomer Ryan Coogler astonishes with his feature directorial debut, witnessing the devastating true story of Oscar Grant. We predict Oscars.


A Powerful Kick in the Gut

by George Wolf


If you don’t already know the true story behind Fruitvale Station, just make it a point to see this touching, powerful, superbly acted film, and read no further.

It concerns the tragic death of Oscar Grant, shot dead at the age of 22 by Bay Area transit police on the first day of 2009. A sad and needless incident, it arrives on the screen as a remarkably assured feature debut from writer/director Ryan Coogler.

Himself a native of the Bay Area, Coogler strikes the perfect tone to tell Grant’s story, eschewing easy grandstanding in favor of a personal, intensely intimate approach. Shot on location in Oakland, much of the film has a verite feel, presenting Grant as a flawed, dimensional character, a real human being living a life we just happen to drop into.

Coogler’s storytelling is so casual and free of pretension that it could have backfired, failing to hold an audience’s attention. His genius move is to open the film with (be warned) the shocking cell phone video of Grant’s actual shooting, thus giving the dramatic narrative that follows it a quiet sense of foreboding, as each minute takes us closer to the unfortunate turn of events that took Grant’s life.

In the lead role, Michael B. Jordan (The Wire) is simply a revelation. His nuanced performance shows us Grant’s soul, making it nearly impossible not to be moved by his fate. The supporting cast, most notably Melonie Diaz as Grant’s girlfriend and Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) as his mother, matches Jordan in equally heartbreaking fashion. The entire ensemble, top to bottom, is first rate.

A sure contender this upcoming awards season, Fruitvale Station becomes so eloquently universal precisely by remaining so personal. Though indeed an account of a young black man gunned down by a white security officer, the film’s only agenda is to tell Grant’s story, not manufacture a martyr.

In doing so, an impressive new filmmaker has delivered an important kick to the gut that you won’t shake for days.