(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Fruitvale Station (2013)
One Sentence Plot Summary: Oscar Grant goes through the last day of his life before being murdered by a police officer on New Year’s Eve 2008-2009
Why It’s on the List: This is a tough movie to watch and talk about because it’s based off a real person who was murdered by police at a BART train station. Director Ryan Coogler even begins by showing the actual footage of what happened to Oscar Grant. I remember watching this just under 90 minute film and being floored by what I had seen. This is pretty depressing, and that’s before you take into consideration that a dog gets run over and Grant has to deal with that on his last day. This is an incredibly powerful piece of filmmaking, and it’s wild to think this was Coogler’s debut.
If not for Octavia Spencer finding funding and forgoing her salary, this movie might not have happened at all. Michael B. Jordan was on the precipice of movie stardom after roles on such shows as The Wire and Friday Night Lights. Jordan has become Coogler’s muse in so many ways, and this was their first collaboration together.
There really isn’t a lot of plot to this movie beyond Oscar Grant experiencing his last day. We do get a flashback from the previous year as he visits with his mother in jail, but much of this movie concerns that tragic last day. Grant is not perfect. Coogler certainly doesn’t pretend Grant is flawless. This movie only hints at many of the issues Black people in this country face in favor of focusing on Grant’s experience, but Coogler did touch on some of these issues in broad strokes through Black Panther. I’m curious to see where he goes in his career and whether he will return to this kind of personal filmmaking again.
Ultimately, the goal of this movie is to tell the story of one man whose life came to a tragic end. It turned out really well, and it’s a shame that things like what happened to Oscar Grant have only continued. It’s great that Coogler and Jordan have elevated themselves into the upper echelon of Hollywood. It’s just a shame that Oscar Grant is on a long list of names who’ve had their lives taken away.
*Originally, this was going to talk about the actual results of the case, but very recently, prosecutors have finally re-opened it. The police officer who murdered Grant served only 11 months for manslaughter, and that’s pretty disgusting.
*This was released by the Weinstein Company. Something really needs to be done with their films so that they can still be enjoyed but the logo isn’t seen beforehand.
MVP: Ryan Coogler lives in Oakland, so the setting feels incredibly lived in and not typical of a big Hollywood production. The movie is grainy in such a way that fits the theme and setting. We see Oscar Grant trying, but he’s far from perfect in a positive way. Just because you’re not perfect doesn’t mean you deserve to be murdered by the police. This is an incredible first film. Coogler is really going for something powerful in telling a story that almost never gets told. To tell the story of a real person being murdered in this way is not easy because there’s no clear ending, no happy ending. Since this movie, Coogler has made two excellent films within franchises. Hopefully, he returns to these smaller stories at some point.
Best Performance: Michael B. Jordan’s three best performances are likely in the three Coogler films. There’s something about his delivery and intensity that shines through when he plays Grant, Creed, and Killmonger. What impresses me so much is that Jordan can be a protagonist or hero while not being perfect. In Black Panther, he was able to cross over.
Best Quote: “I told him to take the train. I told him to catch the BART. I didn’t know they were gonna hurt my baby. I should’ve just let him drive. I should’ve let him drive, but I wanted to keep him safe. You gotta let me hug him. Please, let me hug him. Please. Please! He didn’t like to be alone.” – Wanda
Is there a sequel? No.