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What Oscar Forgot: Fruitvale Station

January 21, 2014

A series of posts on films that could have been nominated or perhaps never even stood a chance:


After watching Fruitvale Station, my wife and I hugged, exhaled, whispered, and took a walk in the cold air and crystallized snow. This film resonates, its power resounding from a world of real tragedy and regretable fact. The film opens with real footage of Oscar Grant III's death at the BART system's Fruitvale Station, and from there, it follows a day in the life of Oscar, each scene's daunting, yet subtle, importance magnified by knowing this man was real and did die unnecessarily. The film is understated on many levels. Race is obviously an issue, but the film does not force it, rather the indictment of racism is the lack of an explicit statement. The film need not state that such an environment exists, but reveals it gradually and persistently as a subtext that exists a posteriori.

Actions of regret are taken in an hour and a half introspection of a life that could have been lived for the better or for the worse, and, for the most part, the film does not partake in any melodrama and does not attempt to answer any of the hard questions that Oscar Grant's unseemly death surely raises. And that is the film's strength: its ability to ask without so much as a whisper. It does not speak, but exhales and you take that feeling of warmth escaping forever as the credits begin to roll in what feels all too soon and yet not soon enough.

Considering the other films nominated for Best Picture this year, it is a bit puzzling that perhaps the most relevant of all in terms of our current social and political moment was not even nominated, and yet, considering the confusion and debate and tragic leanings of Trayvon Martin's death, perhaps such a film was already made too late. Perhaps the same could be said of Oscar Grant's death. Every year that I am alive I come to doubt the power of art to make a difference a little bit more, but a film like Fruitvale Station that is not pretentious and simply tells a story--even if it's a story we are all much too familiar with--is enough to make me hold on a little bit longer to the importance of art, even as it makes me question the impotence of each individual life. This film will haunt you. You will need time to decompress. Your body will long for a slow snowfall in which you can see your own breath rise before you as you try to value its meaning.

Bryan Harvey can be followed on Twitter @LawnChairBoys.

4 comments:

Artise Gill said...

Well written Bryan. I could not bring myself to see this movie yet. A bit too raw for me to watch in public. I plan to watch at home where I can be emotional, reflective, disappointed, and sad in the private. I'm not sure why this didn't make the Oscar list, but I believe the message will resonate with its viewers well past the hoopla of that one glamorous night.

January 21, 2014 at 10:42 PM
Bryan Harvey said...

We watched it at home, and I'm glad we did for all the reasons you mentioned. I think I spent the last 20 minutes of the film staring out the window and then back at the screen and then back out the window and then back at the screen. Watching is extremely difficult because you couldn't tell yourself, "It's just a film."

January 22, 2014 at 8:50 AM
Michael Langston said...

It's kind of hard to say I enjoyed this film, as the absolutely unnecessary way this young man was executed is nothing close to enjoyable. However, I believe the story was portrayed in about the best possible way it could be. It's a shame this film wasn't selected as a nominee. Oscar Grant's death deserves to be heard by everyone and an Oscar nomination would have insured that. And knowing it lost out to a movie that is helping line the pockets of a scumbag like Jordan Belfort is even more disconcerting.

Great film and review, Bryan.

January 24, 2014 at 12:15 AM
Russ said...

Great review. Saw it with Brittany in the theater. Tough to get through and I just felt totally beaten down afterwards, but a well done portrayal.

No reason why this movie wasn't nominated for best picture besides the time of year it was released.

January 27, 2014 at 1:50 PM

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