The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

August 6, 2013

One of the best films of the year

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 — “Fruitvale Station” is a film that tells the true story of a young black man whose life ends tragically after midnight on Jan. 1, 2009. The filmmakers waste no time telling the audience what is going to happen. It opens with actual footage of the shooting recorded on a cell phone by an innocent bystander. There is no mystery here; just a story of the last 24 hours of a young man’s life before he is killed, perhaps accidently, perhaps because tempers flared and cooler heads did not prevail. This is a sad, moving, brilliant film.

Following the real footage of the shooting, the film recreates the events which began just after midnight, Dec. 31, 2008. We meet Oscar Grant, his girlfriend, and their daughter. This is a loving family. Over the next hour or so (the total running time of the film is a mere 85 minutes, proving that much can be packed into a small amount of screen time), we come to understand who Oscar is and with whom he shares his life. Some scenes are moving. Some are humorous. Some disturbing.

One of the strengths of the film is that Oscar is not drawn as a perfect hero or victim. The audience learns he has been in prison. And Oscar’s temper flares more than once almost to the point of violence. He has been and is involved with drugs. However, he is a young man who loves his mother, his girlfriend, his grandmother, his family and friends and especially his sweet little girl. As each of these relationships is portrayed, it is difficult to not grieve for these people because unlike them, the audience knows what lies ahead. When the mother is depicted as almost begging her son to ride the train rather than driving into San Francisco for New Year’s Eve, one realizes that is a request she will carry with her forever.

Another strength of the film is found in the small stories that offer glimpses of who the real Oscar Grant was. (I am assuming that these stories are based on actual events that he experienced the last day of his life.) Helping a female stranger who wants to know how to fry fish by calling his grandmother for instructions, aiding a pregnant woman who desperately needs a restroom, or assisting a dog who has just be struck by a car, each of these clarifies who Oscar is and who he might have become.  

Then there is Michael B. Jordan’s depiction of Oscar that should earn him an Oscar nomination. Octavia Spencer, a previous Oscar winner for “The Help,” plays Oscar’s mother and has her best scenes following the shooting. Add to these a whole host of others who do great work.  

There is no way to watch “Fruitvale Station” and not reflect on the Travan Martin case. Regardless of where one stands on the encounter between Martin and George Zimmerman, almost everyone agrees that in the end, it is a tragedy that a young man died. Oscar Grant was another young man who may or may not be judged as responsible for his own demise. (In this case, the cell phone film helps to sort out the blame. If only there was something similar in the Martin case, the verdict might have been less divisive.)  The absolute truth in both cases is that a young man with his whole life before him will never get to live that life because of a situation that could have been easily avoided.

I commented to a friend a few days after seeing “Fruitvale Station” that I wondered if some filmmaker would offer a story on Martin like the one told so expressively about Oscar Grant. He bet it is already in the works. I am not so sure, but if it is, I hope it is made with the same dignity and courage as “Fruitvale Station.”  

This is one of the best films of the year and I hope many will seek it out.

Roger W. Thomas of Albemarle reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.

Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Patrick Gannon Fake news or sign of some more trouble?

    RALEIGH – Of the three situations I can recall where agencies receiving large sums of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t divulge employees’ salaries, two of them ended badly. The third – involving a group of charter schools in Southeastern North Carolina – is playing out right now.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    WASHINGTON - The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • D.G. Martin Where did all these new voters in North Carolina come from?

    “Voters born elsewhere make up nearly half of N.C. electorate.”
    So begins the latest DataNet report from the UNC Program on Public Life, directed by former journalist Ferrel Guillory.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Some light for Dems in their time of darkness

    RALEIGH – Earlier this year, state Sen. Ben Clark, a Hoke County Democrat, became a hero for a day among his party and environmentalists when his amendment to require more well water testing near future fracking sites passed the Senate. It even gained the support of a number of GOP senators, against the wishes of the Republican bill sponsor.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Maintaining hope

    Gardeners are facing challenges with the weather this year. It seemed like we were getting great conditions in April and May. The weather was warm and we were getting some good rains. Then sometime in June the rain stopped. It got so dry that I didn’t have to cut the grass. While I enjoyed the break, the garden was not happy at all. I was having to water quite a bit to keep the vegetable garden alive and growing.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd I may be a bit behind the times, but at least I can find ‘America’

    I seem to be reading about and dealing with technology a lot lately.
    I  love technology and have always been fascinated by gadgets of all kinds and the wonderful things they can do. You never seem to go through an entire day without some form of invention enhancing your life.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Meeting out in open helps negotiations move ahead

    RALEIGH – State lawmakers reconvened in Raleigh on May 14 promising a brief legislative session this summer, but as July moves along they are still in town and tackling big issues.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Larry's Sketch 7.16.14.tif They don’t give a darn for Duke University

    John “Duke” Wayne’s heirs are suing Duke University over trademark rights.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content