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The State of the Race: Fruitvale Station Poised to Make Oscar History

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As of this moment, only two films look poised to enter the Best Picture race with a golden ticket. Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station. Already a champ at Sundance, an impressive reception at the Cannes Film Fest, with rave reviews from the critics who matter, and a director who is poised to make film and Oscar history becoming only the second black filmmaker to earn Best Director and Best Picture nominations, Fruitvale Station leads the pack for Best Picture in the pre-Telluride Oscar race.

Three other films right now seem to have what it takes to go all the way but they come with certain caveats. Alexander Payne’s magnificent Nebraska, seen in Cannes, has the stuff for the top nominations. Before Midnight is the best reviewed film of the year and will easy top the critics top ten lists by year’s end. But for the industry monolith that is the PGA/DGA and SAG, Before Midnight will need to count on those voters having seen the other two. It doesn’t quite work as a film on its own because you can’t possible tap in to the frustrations of the two leads without the context of their past.

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The other one to keep an eye on is the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. Whether it also earns a director nod for the Coens will depend on the quality of all its rivals. George Clooney (Monuments Men), Ron Howard (Rush), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street), John Wells (Osage County), John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Ridley Scott (The Counselor), Bill Condon (The Fifth Estate), Spike Lee (Old Boy), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Jason Reitman (Labor Day), Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine), Lee Daniels (The Butler), and depending on whether it will be seen in 2013 to qualify for Oscar, Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman).

The stories that are likely to crowd around Oscar look to be mostly homespun stories – deep on American themes, and many of them true stories. August: Osage County and Nebraska will be about Americana, family troubles and endurance. Monuments Men, Rush, Captain Phillips, Wolf of Wall Street, Saving Mr. Banks, American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club are all TRUE STORIES. We’re reflecting back on our American past and trying to make sense of it without an eye on international box office, mercifully. Some of these films will make money overseas and some won’t.

It is also going to be an extraordinarily strong year for actresses, with Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Julia Roberts, Emma Thompson, Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Octavia Spencer all in strong roles.

This year the Academy will be wanting to change up their demographics. After so much bad press of being a group of elderly white men they have made an effort to broaden their base, inviting many diverse talents in for membership this year. At the same time, several black writer/directors have emerged with films up for consideration.

If you’re a black filmmaker in Hollywood your movie has to crossover to white audiences (sadly). You have to wow the critics, then the ticket-buyers, then the Academy. How do you do that? It isn’t easy. That’s why in 86 years of Oscar history only one film, Lee Daniels’ Precious, has managed a Picture AND Director nomination. One time. In 86 years. [John Singleton received Best Director and Best Screenplay nominations in 1992].

Their biggest missed opportunity was in not rewarding Spike Lee for Do the Right Thing and instead rewarding Driving Miss Daisy, which won without even a director nomination. They haven’t quite made up for that error and one of the reasons for that is “racism fatigue.” Readers on this site, you’ll notice, and many people I’ve spoken with since Do the Right Thing are tired of having the discussion. No one wants to be thought of as a harpy, or a white person constantly trying to alleviate their caked on whitey guilt. But I’ve been at this for fifteen years and it’s been almost twenty years since Do the Right Thing was all but shut out. Not much has changed. So we have to keep bitching, all of us do.

Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station has run the gauntlet and passed with flying colors. His is a film that had a few critics shifting in their seats uncomfortably but most others rose to a standing ovation. It isn’t just that Coogler’s success will right the wrong of the Academy’s white-centric voting for decades. Sure, if you want to be that guy who writes a great review to help an up and coming auteur like Coogler I won’t stop you. Coogler’s film is good. It’s really good. He doesn’t need favors at this point.

The other black filmmakers entering the race will be McQueen, Daniels and Lee. It is an astonishing, breathtaking array of black auteurs — so much so that one might call it a new wave, or a movement. I feel lucky to be living through it.

But it’s early yet. I’ve just booked my Telluride pass and will be attending at the end of August. By the time the festival is over we’ll probably know what film has the stuff to win the monolith triple crown — PGA, DGA and SAG before Oscar finishes off the job. Stay frosty, Oscarwatchers. This is only the beginning.

107 Comments on this Post

  1. JamDenTel

    I think Fruitvale Station’s best bet is in the Best Actor category–even critics who had mixed feelings about the film praised Michael B. Jordan.

    I am concerned by the reviews which say that the film comes close to being a hagiography for Grant, or that the film doesn’t illuminate the story sufficiently enough to justify its being made. I don’t know if those fears will be borne out by a viewing, but we’ll see.

  2. Although I commend your championing of non-white filmmakers, let’s be honest here. It’s not that the “elderly white men” group is progressively keeping the black filmmakers from getting nominations, it’s that there aren’t a lot of black filmmakers who have made great movies period. When looking at white filmmakers, maybe 1 in 10 make a great movie worthy of consideration…1 in 10 out of hundreds. Now with black filmmakers there are probably 1 in 10 that make great films worthy of that same consideration too, however there are far less than hundreds of them around. That means that good filmmakers who are non-white in this country will always struggle since the majority of filmmakers are white. Spike Lee is the only black filmmaker I can think of that legitimately got robbed of a director nomination. John Singleton and Lee Daniels never caught that lightning again (thus far), Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere wasn’t great enough for a director nod (not saying it wasn’t great, but not great enough for that coveted spot), Tanya Hamilton is promising but it’s not like she was ever snubbed. Steve McQueen is the only one I can think of who gravitates between solid storyteller and expressionist painter who should be in more talks than not. To boil it down it’s more like, which directors (other than Spike Lee) were completely overlooked for a director nomination and which of the nominees from that year should’ve been kicked out for that person?

    That all being said I’d love to see more filmmakers of color to break through the mold but, again, there are far more white filmmakers than black filmmakers, which makes their odds that much more difficult. I really hope Coogler can do this though as Fruitvale Station is in my top 3 most anticipated films of the year.

  3. Can’t wait to see this. Looks like a very diverse year, hope Oscar rewards what is deserving.

  4. Now I wish I wasn’t a white middle-class male so that my opinion wouldn’t always be (unfairly) tainted with the baggage that brings. Could I be a black working-class lesbian instead plz?

  5. If David O. Russell was good enough, Ava DuVernay was good enough.

  6. I´m feeling Sasha is really pushing this film harder than reality.

  7. I am excited to see Fruitvale Station but I am still uncertain of its Oscar prospects. The Academy has gotten better about honoring films from the beginning to mid point of the year (Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Tree of Life, The Help, Midnight in Paris, etc., ) but the reality is that films still released in the last quarter of the year have a leg up on getting nominated for the top prizes. Beasts was the only summer film from last year that scored an Oscar nomination for best picture. Fruitvale Station is critically acclaimed–but so is Mud, Before Midnight, Frances Ha, Stories We Tell–and all of them will certainly still be in the conversation at year’s end…not to mention Blue Jasmine which has very strong best picture buzz and a critically acclaimed performance from Academy favorite Cate Blanchett. Fruitvale Station NEEDS guild support and critical support at the end of the year to remain viable…because there are some behemoth films coming out that will hog the spotlight at the end of the year (Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davies, Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave, Monuments Men, Saving Mr. Banks, August: Osage County, etc.)…

  8. Alboone

    As a black man I mean no offense to my fellow people of color when I say this, but after seeing Coogler in a couple of interviews the dude is just not that articulate. Steve McQueen is no chatterbox himself but he is English and carries himself with a bit more confidence.

  9. julian the emperor

    +1

  10. Dorian Banks

    Can’t wait to see this with the great reviews it’s getting! It would be really nice to see Michael receive one of the major critics awards.

  11. Maybe Sasha believes she can will a film into being nominated. I’m in no way connected with the business, but I’d say it’s foolish to claim that Fruitvale OR Nebraska have a “golden ticket to the Oscars” — especially at this stage of the game. She’s certainly overstating the critical love for Fruitvale, and her unbridled zeal for Nebraska seems out if step with the general Cannes buzz (though as a Payne fan, I hope it’s warranted). It’s one thing to argue in support of a film you love, but it’s another to project your own feelings toward a film onto everyone else. I’m reminded of the time she or Ryan thought I was foolish for suggesting that Dragon Tattoo had a far worse chance of a Best Pic nom than Tree of Life. She was certainly wrong then, but more than that, she was letting her massive love for the film cloud her judgment. Or perhaps, as I stated earlier, she believed herself powerful enough to draw blood from a stone by simply promoting it nonstop (despite the fact that it was NOT exactly Zodiac, Social Network, or Best Pic Oscar quality).

  12. julian the emperor

    Well, it hardly matters all that much whether Fruitvale Station is a frontrunner as of now (of the films that have been previewed I think Inside Llewyn Davis stand a better chance in the long run)?
    All the big movies are coming up at Telluride/Venice/Toronto (and some even later) and they will change everything. Moonrise Kingdom didn’t even get a bp nomination last year despite being in a comparable situation to FS.

    I champion films like FS to go as far as possible, though. The more indie films in the Oscar run the better.

  13. Bryce Forestieri

    Some people see those pix of that sexy and previously unknown young director and quickly fear their Sacred Cow’s film might miss on that 8th or 9th spot in the Best Picture line-up as a result of FRUITVALE STATION being nominated. These people haven’t seen their Sacred Cow’s film yet but they’re sure they will love it. Their fear turns into denial of whatever chance this film might have to make it to Best Pic, some even get angry and attack it before seeing it. I say to them don’t worry, if that other director’s movie is as good as you think it will be it might just make it too :)

    No need to fear this little movie just because the themes and characters of the two films are so very similar to the simple-minded AMPAS. Don’t go and subconsciously freak out but that [type of movie] slot was for him this year! Maybe they’ll surprise you and nominate both films. Imagine that.

  14. Eoin Daly

    I’m excited for the upcoming oscars because it looks like most of the frontrunners will be older then winners we usually get. Redford seems like the winner and if Bruce Dern goes supporting he wins. This is looking like a strong year for women and out first strong contender is Cate Blanchett playing a modern Blanche de Bois. I will not be seeing Fruitvale Station for some time but I cannot wait as I have been a fan of Jordan since his younger days on The Wire all the way up till today. Sasha I would be worried about Nebraska but so far this year it looks like Blue Jasmine and Fruitvale are the first two real contenders for major nominations while Before Midnight will end up with a screenplay nomination.

  15. steve50

    It’s one thing to argue in support of a film you love, but it’s another to project your own feelings toward a film onto everyone else.

    Honestly, I’ve re-read this a couple of times and I don’t know the difference between the two. Is it word choice? Position as blogger vs reader?

  16. “I said it at @SundanceFest and I’ll say it again: FRUITVALE STATION should win Best Picture next year. It opens today, go see it.” –Joseph Gordon-Levitt

    “I am speechless in a way that no film has made me. Please please please go see Fruitvale Station.” –Ellen Page

  17. Is that because we’re taught about film from a Eurocentric perspective?

  18. It’s a good year for indies.
    SHORT TERM 12 could be this year’s Little Miss Sunshine as well.
    Brie Larson will blow you away.

  19. I agree, but no one is perfect. Maybe that’s something he can improve upon in the future. He’s 26, the same age as Lohan.

  20. A-Fucking-Men, Paddy.

  21. rufussondheim

    I might be the only one saying it, but I don’t think Anna Kendrick should be overlooked for The Last Five Years (assuming it is released this year as planned.)

  22. I just got back from a screening of Fruitvale. Its a beautiful, humanizing film about a person, not a political lightning rod or a martyr/tragic figure. I wept. Fuck the Oscars. I met Oscar.

  23. Wait, Ellen Page loved it? This changes everything.

  24. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Believe it or not, Ellen Page loving it is a bigger deal than you mocking it.

  25. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I’m reminded of the time she or Ryan thought I was foolish for suggesting that Dragon Tattoo had a far worse chance of a Best Pic nom than Tree of Life.

    Tree of Life, nominated for 3 Oscars, winner of none.
    Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, nominated for 5 Oscars, winner of one.

    Dragon Tattoo received a PGA nomination. Stupidly, Tree of Life did not.
    Both Fincher and Malick received DGA nominations.

    I don’t remember trying to make you feel foolish, KMS — but if you’re trying to make me feel foolish for thinking Dragon Tattoo was Oscar-worthy then you’ve failed.

    Anyway, I always said The Tree of Life would be nominated for Best Picture and I can’t ever recall Sasha saying it wouldn’t be.

  26. Michael Jordan and Amanda Seyfried have come a long way from their days as teenage lovers on “All My Children” (my late mom’s favorite soap).

    I went to see “Fruitvale Station” today. My prediction: Michael Jordan as Best Actor is the only possible nomination for this film.

    The scope of this movie was so small — one day, plus a flashback — that it might have been better to put it on TV and campaign for Emmys. We have exactly one scene set in San Francisco. Were these two hours immediately preceding the unfortunate incident less important than earlier hours?

    At least one newspaper reviewer commented on the scene where the Oscar Grant tends to the dying dog, and said that was laying it on a little thick. I agree. I was reminded of Thelma Ritter’s charcter Birdie in “All About Eve”: “What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snappin’ at her rear end.”

  27. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    and her unbridled zeal for Nebraska seems out if step with the general Cannes buzz

    because Cannes is always such a fantastically accurate predictor of the Oscars?

    (did you forget that Bruce Dern won Best Actor at Cannes this year? What’s better? “buzz” or actual awards reality?)

  28. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    The scope of this movie was so small

    How does it compare to the vast scope of Lost in Translation? Do any of the Fruitvale characters spend less than 90 minutes trapped under a rock or is it another 127 Hours?

  29. I should note for non-Bay Area readers that it’s very poor planning to have your Bart train be at the (above ground) West Oakland station at 11:55 PM on New Year’s Eve, if your intention is to be at the fireworks in SF. The next stop is SF’s (two levels underground) Embarcadero station. It takes 7 minutes for the train to pull into that station.

  30. Um, both of those took place over the course of longer periods of time. (also note that Danny B. didn’t receive a Best Director nom.)

  31. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Zounds! Great point, Perry Mason. When you put it that way, the story sure sounds fishy. Because when have anyone’s New Year’s Eve plans have ever gone awry, right?

  32. I might be wrong, but wouldn’t the film’s director become the THIRD African American director nominated? I thought John Singleton was the first and Lee Daniels was the second. I might be wrong, though.

    Very excited for this film. Dunno how long it’ll be until I can see it, though.

  33. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Um, both of those took place over the course of longer periods of time.

    ok, so you’re saying Before Midnight is screwed too. Good to know. We’ll just stop writing about it. Thanks!

  34. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    !! We’ll fix the post to fit the facts, Andre. Thank you.

    [Edit: oh now I see the way Sasha worded it: "poised to make film and Oscar history becoming only the second black filmmaker to earn Best Director and Best Picture nominations" ... but we'll add a line about John Singleton too. ]

  35. Name calling; very mature. I will not stoop to conquer. (Btw, have you even seen the movie?)

    Shall I get into some of Oscar Grant’s bad decisions? OK. Oscar Grant didn’t spend the previous New Year’s Eve with his daughter, because he was in jail. Why not spend this one at home with her? (According to the opening of the movie, the child was having trouble sleeping at the time that 12/30 became 12/31. Yet another reason to have stayed home with her?) Oscar Grant had lost his job (due to instances of tardiness), and money was very tight. Yet another reason to stay home? Playing Candyland with your kid is free, after all.

  36. SallyinChicago

    @Kane — You missed one. Black producers & directors don’t have the BUDGET to make GOOD movies. They’re always scraping together funds and revenue …. Remember when Spike had to beg Oprah and Cosby to help him fund Malcolm X? The tide may be turning, but overall they just haven’t had the money to make the type of money they need to.

  37. Maybe. The BP category didn’t work out very well for “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset.”
    Sure, there are a few occasions when a single day isn’t a disqualifier, but “Fruivale Station” is no “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

  38. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Shall I get into some of Oscar Grant’s bad decisions? OK. Oscar Grant didn’t spend the previous New Year’s Eve with his daughter, because he was in jail. Why not spend this one at home with her?

    Gosh Tony. You’re making an excellent case for his execution. All the parents who ever spent New Year’s Eve away from their children should be shot.

    Now I wonder why didn’t Abraham Lincoln stay home with Todd the night he was killed. “Bad decision”!

    Oscar Grant was late for work and got fired so he pretty much got what he deserved that night? Your logic is airtight.

  39. Berry Gordy had plenty of money, but he decided to produce and direct … “Mahogany.”

    Sidney Poitier directed 9 movies between 1970 and 1990 — none of ‘em were good.

  40. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Sidney Poitier directed 9 movies between 1970 and 1990 — none of ‘em were good.

    You should spend the next 8 months going all over the internet reminding people of that fact in your effort to undermine and belittle Ryan Coogler’s achievement.

  41. Hey, I’m not saying that he deserved to be the victim of an accidental shooting; my point is that when you’ve been absent from your family (due to criminality, no less) and are in dire financial straits, going out to party isn’t the best idea.

    Shooting bad parents? Hmmmmm. No, maybe community service.

    (Who is this Abe Lincoln of whom you speak? Did he impregnate some girl when he was 17?)

    P.S. I still don’t know if you even saw this movie.

  42. Question: If the very talented Steve McQueen gets a BD nomination for “12 Years a Slave,” does he count fully toward the liberals’ quota as a black man, or does he only half-count, because he is an “African-Brit?”

  43. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    We get it Tony. You think the world is better off with one less New Year’s Eve partygoer. We get it. We see exactly where you’re coming from.

    I truly do encourage you to spread the word far and wide that Oscar Grant fathered a child when he was 17. I’m sure that fact will weigh heavily in the stern verdict of Oscar voters. I’m confident most of the filmmakers in Hollywood will be eager to align themselves with your gossipy attitude.

  44. I’m sorry that in my humble opinion Ryan Coogler didn’t achieve very much, whereas Michael B. Jordan did.

  45. I can distinguish between Michael B. Jordan and Oscar Grant. The former deserves to be lauded (including by AMPAS); the latter, not so much.

  46. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    my point is that when you’ve been absent from your family (due to criminality, no less) and are in dire financial straits, going out to party isn’t the best idea.

    You know what? You could write your own screenplay focusing on that aspect that bugs you so much. Of all the billions of people who have ever left the house to be with friends when they were unemployed, I’m sure you can find 5 or 10 more examples where that behavior resulted in getting shot by a cop.

    Do a whole series of films about that! Dude, you could be taking a different movie to Cannes every year for the next 10 years!

  47. John Olive

    Michael B. Jordan commands the screen in Fruitvale Station. For some, it might move too slowly, but what director Ryan Coogler is trying to do is paint 24 hours in the life of a young man who’s trying to get himself together for his family, but most importantly for himself before he’s snuffed out by an overzealous Bart officer. There are fine performances by Melonie Diaz as his girlfriend and mother of his child, and Octavia Spencer as his mother.
    There are moments of nostalgia, as with a birthday party for his mom, and there are chilling moments in a prison scene. I would say it’s a film where you should sit back and live through the last day of Oscar Grant III.

  48. Michelle Cartwright

    I’m calling it now. Awards aside, it’s the uniqueness of this film, that will continue to gain popularity. I don’t care if it’s set in the day of the life of or not. Michael’s performance is the meat of this tragic story.

  49. I cannot abide the term “dude.”

    You want me to make movies and take them to Cannes? Shouldn’t Cannes be boycotted as a backwards place? It is in a country that allows abortion on demand only through 14 weeks, after all.

  50. phantom

    Malick didn’t receive a DGA nod, The Tree of Life was basically shut out by the guilds, so expecting guild-fave (PGA-DGA-WGA) ‘Tattoo’ to receive BP/BD nominations instead of the fantastic Malick-film was completely understandable. I wish both could have made it.

  51. julian the emperor

    From Guy Lodge’s review at Incontention (C-):

    “He’s (Jordan’s character) an irresistible enough screen presence that I wished Coogler’s thinly episodic script would challenge our inevitable response to him a little more, instead of redundantly stacking the deck in his favor as he racks up the selfless brownie points. He calls his mom on her birthday! Repeatedly! He lends his hard-up sister money, despite being hard-up himself! Repeatedly! He helps out strangers in the supermarket with recipe suggestions!”

    This alone makes me very skeptic about this movie. Guy is usually an impeccable judge on stuff like this.

  52. Sally, while I wholeheartedly agree that non-white filmmakers in this country can have a tough time getting a good-sized budget, that should in no way deter someone from making a good film. Back then in the 80s and 90s when independent film wasn’t at its peak, yes it was much harder to make a good film on a minuscule budget. But these days that shouldn’t be a reason. Coogler made Fruitvale Station on a little budget and look at the reviews. High budget = good movie shouldn’t be the correlation. Coogler’s raw talent goes beyond the budget. If people worked for less money he’d have still made that same movie. Hell with the right people someone, black or not, could make a great feature for 10 grand.

  53. Agreed, DuVernay was as good enough as O. Russell. But was DuVernay as good as the other snubees? Like Bigelow?

  54. “There is a natural, easy sweetness to Oscar, but neither Mr. Coogler’s script nor Mr. Jordan’s performance sugarcoats his temperament. He is, for one thing, irresponsible and not always honest, unable to admit to Sophina or Wanda that he has been fired from his supermarket job for chronic lateness. Even after two stints in prison (one visited in the film’s only chronological digression), he is still selling drugs, and his vows to stop have the feel of New Year’s resolutions, inspiring more hope than confidence. ” A.O. Scott

    Well, I’m sorry, but this would make me question Guy Lodge’s review.

    “Guy is usually an impeccable judge on stuff like this.”

    What is stuff like this???

    How about you go see the film yourself and formulate your own opinion. Like I said before comments like these are prevalent among stuff like this.

  55. I mean, how many times are you going to continue being negative about a film you haven’t seen. It’s fine if you didn’t like it, but you haven’t even seen it. That is a major problem with stuff like this. You’ve already formed your biased opinion before seeing the film.

    I didn’t care for the Butler’s trailer, but I’m not going to constantly go to a thread about the Butler multiple times that it looks, cheesy and over the top. Point out a negative review from some blogger saying oh look here this confirms it. What’s your point??? Already prejudging it before watching it.

  56. The film does not portray Oscar as some kind of saint. That’s just patently false. There’s an uncomfortable feeling I get when I read reviews that criticize the movie in this way. Its almost as if they’re saying that Oscar Grant shouldn’t be portrayed in a positive light. What does he have to do, stab somebody, beat up a hooker and curse at his daughter so these writers could feel better about him dying at the end? So they could say he had it coming? The only other reason I could think of for their criticisms is that because Oscar’s case is politically and racially charged, the film can easily be accused of taking a side on a complicated issue. Instead, it should be concerned with being even handed and presenting things in a neutral fashion. The problem with that is that Fruitvale Station is NOT, I repeat, NOT a political film. We’re not watching this film to work through the complicated questions about race relations and the relationship between the police and minorities. The goal of the movie is to remind us that this was a person with feelings, dreams and goals. A young man who had people who cared about him and who felt devastated when he was taken from them. The political machine and the media cycle takes the victims of tragedies like this, chews them up and spits them out until they resemble a tool that public officials and “news” men can use to fashion an argument. Its dehumanizing and sickening. Movies like this allow the humanity back in, taking the tragedy away from politics and the media and handing it back to the people who were victimized.

    As far as portraying him in an overly positive light, I just don’t accept that argument. We’re talking about a person, and I don’t know about you, but in my book people are positive until proven negative. Human beings, like all other creatures, are beautiful. Complex, to be sure, but beautiful. The Oscar Grant I saw in this movie was complex, flawed even. But he was a beautiful creature, just as he should be.

  57. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    What does he have to do, stab somebody, beat up a hooker and curse at his daughter so these writers could feel better about him dying at the end? So they could say he had it coming?

    Not at all. According to people like Tony, Oscar Grant is already a dubious dog because he got fired for “tardiness” and failed to stay indoors with his daughter 24 hours a day. oh, and did you hear? He fathered a child when he was a teenager!!

    Someone today made a really wise observation about the slaying of Trayvon Martin: “Only in America can a dead black boy go on trial for his own murder.”

  58. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    “Guy is usually an impeccable judge on stuff like this.”

    None of Guy’s Top 10 films of 2012 were nominated for any Oscars. He was over the moon for Cher and Burlesque though.

  59. I just worry about this unique, worthy, STRONG film being released in the awards-unfriendly summer. Everyone keeps comparing to “Beast of the Southern Wild” and like “Beasts” it could end up with a bunch o’ nominations, and no wins.

    BUT it’s got Harvey behind it. And he’ll push and push and push it til he can push it no further. I guess he figures his PUSH is enough to keep it going until winter. He has a habit of keeping his Oscar-seeking movies in the theaters longer than any other studio of today.

    My best Oscar bet here would be Octavia Spenser, again for Supporting Actress, and she could win again, too. It’s a stupendous performance! They’ve already awarded her. She’s “in the club.” I would also argue that her work here is better than in the film she won for,”The Help” They know her. They like her. And this time she’s got Harvey.

    Michael A. Jordon is a stranger to them.His biggest problem is that he’s unknown. Now. But if Harvey has his way, He’ll be the new Denzel by Christmas.

  60. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Michael A. Jordon is a stranger to them.His biggest problem is that he’s unknown.

    Unknown to everybody who lived under a rock during his spectacular debut on The Wire.

    But sure, for the members of the Academy who don’t know what’s going on unless a performance is force-fed to them with free screeners, he’s no Alan Arkin.

    How is it that nearly every reader at Awards Daily has known Michael B. Jordan for over a decade but he’s still “unknown” to Oscar voters? That’s a sad sick despicable situation.

  61. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Michael A. Jordon is a stranger to them.
    I just worry about this unique, worthy, STRONG film being released in the awards-unfriendly summer.

    This is so much simplistic bullshit.

    La Vie en Rose was released in the US on June 8 2007 and Marion Cotillard was hardly a household name. But Stephen you never came around that summer wringing your hands with “worry.”

    Do you want to help, Stephen? You can start by getting Michael B. Jordan’s middle initial right.

  62. What, cos Brits can’t be black?

    Pfft.

  63. Dorian Banks

    HA @Ryan!

    It’s still very early. But anyone who is undermining this film’s award chances are questionable. Sure Oscar voters don’t know him yet. But, you can best believe Michael B will be forced fed to them like baby food throughout the next few months.

  64. Kevin Klawitter

    It’s not just black characters (although in this case, that DOES warrant closer attention)… some viewers are apparently allergic to the idea of a positive portrayal of the main character in a fact-based story. We saw that last year with “Lincoln”… according to some, not portraying him as a racist who couldn’t care less about freeing the slaves was “whitewashing”. You can also be damn sure people will, and have, said the same thing about “Saving Mr. Banks” because it doesn’t portray Walt Disney as an evil anti-Semite. It’s almost as if, given the choice, people would always prefer a hatchet-job to a human portrait.

    I shudder to think what those sorts of people will say when the Mr. Rogers biopic being made at Treehouse Pictures is released.

  65. julian the emperor

    I was not making a comment on the Oscar prospects of FS, which if Guy’s review is to be trusted, is substantially greater if it “sugarcoats” its main character’s personality traits.

    Guy is a great reviewer and a great commentator on film exactly because he has a cool attitude towards the Oscar race (as opposed to this site’s editor-in-chief, I should add that I enjoy both contributions, but the latter is the more frustrating) and because his favorite movies each and every year stray outside the obvious Oscar radar (AD could learn a lot in this regard, but Sasha cares exclusively about American movies, which is her loss).

    My point is exactly that FS looks like a trustworthy Oscar candidate (a la Precious) with reference to Guy’s review BECAUSE of its lack of artistic merit (script-wise).

    Had it been an outstanding indie film with a great script it probably wouldn’t stand a chance with Oscar. A film needs to compromise its singularity in order to appeal to Oscar. FS just might be the result of that kind of compromise (again, if Guy’s review is anything to go by).

  66. julian the emperor

    If Damian Bechir could be nominated, so can Michael B. Jordan. Taken at face value it looks like a bait-y role

  67. Kevin Klawitter

    Wait… now you’re saying recognition by the Oscars is an indication that a film LACKS artistic integrity?

  68. julian the emperor

    I can see your point, Nikki. That was a simplistic way to put it. I will admit as much.

    What I mean is, Guy Lodge is a reviewer impressively attuned to whatever makes a script or a performance contrived or calculated. He never lets emotional manipulation get the best of him (except if the manipulation is a part of the appeal of the work at hand).

    I’m inclined to trust him more than all the major reviewers at the big newspapers, who happily formulate what metacritic interprets as perfect 100 scores every time a possible Oscar contender is around.

  69. Ryan, while I agree that Jordan is no newcomer in the regular tradition, he is a newcomer to this type of leading performance where everything hinges on his shoulders. Lest you forget, The Wire (my top tv show of all time) isn’t going to be screened by academy members. They probably never watched seasons 4 & 5 of Friday Night Lights. They’re the Oscars, not the Emmys. I’m 26, engaged and with a slightly demanding full time job. My time spent watching movies is slowly dwindling. I can’t imagine how little time Oscar voters have with their schedule. Screeners might be the only way they see movies. It’s not as bad as when Ryan Gosling was being called a newcomer for Half Nelson but this is just how the world works. The fact that this little movie that could is getting such word of mouth is a victory.

  70. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Among Guy’s top 10 last year were
    Tabu
    In the House
    Berberian Sound Studio
    Sister
    Our Children
    Lore

    I saw them all and mentioned them whenever they won various international prizes. But it makes no sense to expect we’re going to rave about Lore when it didn’t even open in America until 15 days before Oscar night. It failed to make the cut for Best Foreign Language film.

    Likewise American news channels stopped covering Herman Cain as soon as Mitt Romney became the GOP candidate.

    I pushed pretty hard for another Australian film two years ago, Samson and Delilah — but nobody in America had seen it so everything I posted about that great movie was ignored — no comments. It’s no fun for most readers to read about a movie they have little chance of seeing during the window of opportunity when it matters to the news cycle the readers come here to follow.

    Here’s another insider look at how the site is run: It’s no fun for us to write about movies that most of the readers aren’t curious about, don’t care about, don’t ask about.

    “Sasha cares exclusively about American movies, which is her loss.”

    Several of Sasha’s favorite films at Cannes were not in English. But this is Awards Daily not Esoterica Daily. We cover dozens of foreign language films that we expect the awards groups will acknowledge — but from the Oscars to the National Board of Review and even the “international” “journalist” “experts” of the Golden Globes, nearly all the films in play during awards season are in English.

    “every year Guy strays outside the obvious Oscar radar (AD could learn a lot in this regard)”

    We look forward annually to the American Film Institute’s list of Top 10 American Films. Over the years I’ve given up wondering if the AFI will ever learn much from Guy Lodge. The AFI stubbornly refuses to learn a damn thing from Guy’s taste.

  71. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    “Lest you forget, The Wire (my top tv show of all time) isn’t going to be screened by academy members.”

    I do realize that. All the same, how is that we know more about the careers of promising actors than the actor’s branch of the Academy is expected to know?

    Nobody had to hold my hand and drag me to reluctantly watch The Wire 10 years ago.

  72. julian the emperor

    indeed, that’s what I’m saying, Is that a radical thought? Ryan’s been saying the same thing for years on end, for one…

    I mean, recent oscar winners include Crash, The King’s Speech, The Artist etc. Films that indeed compromised their potential singularity in order to stay relevant for as big a crowd as possible (or rather targeted at the right audience)

  73. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I can’t imagine how little time Oscar voters have with their schedule.

    I don’t even want to try to imagine what Ed Asner’s schedule looks like. So many prostate exams, so little time.

    (EDIT: oh I see Ed has an appearance on “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” this year. There’s a whole afternoon shot all to hell.)

  74. julian the emperor

    I don’t for a minute doubt that you have a broad and varied taste in film, Ryan. You have demonstrated that countless times. And yes, you do posts on smaller films (even exotic ones, i.e. foreign movies), and yes that doesn’t pay off with hundreds of comments. I can see the pragmatism at play here and you admit as much.

    But Sasha’s lists of the years’ best films are usually heavily slanted towards the obvious Oscar fare. And she just made a list of “all time best performances” that didn’t include one single foreign performance except for last years’ venerable Oscar darling, the fantastic Emmanuelle Riva. That was piss poor, if you will excuse me.

    But, ok, I see and acknowledge the dilemma: By making this site mostly about Oscar fare you secure a large and dedicated base of followers and commenters, if you turned it into something more along the lines of “Exotica Daily” you would in all probability lose the basis of your livelihood. That’s a dilemma!

    But there must be a way to come about it? (InContention seems to me to strike a pretty good balance: You don’t for a minute think that Tapley or Lodge would make a list of all time best perfs and omit all of the rich heritage of global cinema, do you?)

    I think I know where the problem lies: Sasha favors American movies. And that’s perfectly all right. It just inevitably invites annoyed responses and will alienate quite a few. AD can live with that, surely, but not without compromising something vital, imo.

    The comment’s section is what makes AD special.

  75. julian the emperor

    Plenty of people seem to be over the moon about FS before having seen it. I sure hope it can live up to the hype. I always like an indie to do good with Oscars, that’s basically my excuse to care about all this ridiculousness in the first place.

    But why can’t we discuss this (or any other movie) with regards to its possible failure to live up to the hype? That perspective to me is just as interesting (or, to be frank, possibly even more so).

  76. Kevin Klawitter

    @Julian

    “indeed, that’s what I’m saying, Is that a radical thought?”

    Not radical, but it leads to unwarranted assumptions: “This movie has Oscar buzz, so therefore it must have compromised its integrity somewhere along the line”.

  77. Casey Becker

    Cool down please, FRUITVALE STATION is a decent film but not that great and definitely not Oscar material for Best Picture and Best Director.

  78. Oscarcrazy

    And there you go, folks. Casey Becker made the proclamation, so it’s official.

  79. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Plenty of people seem to be over the moon about FS before having seen it.

    I don’t know if it’s possible to love an unseen movie. Do you think what you’re sensing might be “anticipation” or just plain “curiosity” about a movie that received a standing ovation in Cannes?

    But why can’t we discuss this (or any other movie) with regards to its possible failure to live up to the hype?

    I think there’s plenty of time to talk about any movie’s failures if and when it fails. As a rule we really try to avoid jinxing movies before they even premiere by speculating about hypothetical stumbles.

    In fact, I try to avoid writing about movies I don’t like. What’s the point? I know almost every critic, blogger and tweeter seems to derive a certain strange glee from pissing on a film that has fallen. I don’t get any pleasure out of that. I skip reviews that are written with catty giddy negativity.

  80. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    “And she just made a list of “all time best performances” that didn’t include one single foreign performance except for last years’ venerable Oscar darling, the fantastic Emmanuelle Riva. That was piss poor, if you will excuse me.”

    Thanks for bringing this up.

    Let’s look at the OBVIOUS CLUE uncovered here by julian the emperor.

    He rightly points out that the only foreign language performance named on Sasha’s list was “Oscar darling, Emmanuelle Riva.”

    Hey how about that. Does it occur to anyone that Sasha’s is listing her favorite OSCAR-NOMINATED PERFORMANCES?

    I know the headline doesn’t say so. A good Assistant Editor would have adjusted that headline right away to reflect what I know Sasha intended.

    But I was away from the desk all day long and by the time I got back home it was already too late to step in to prevent 100 stab wounds from readers with their knives out.

    Look at that list again. Virtually every name on it was an Oscar Nominee. Very few exceptions.

    I should have stepped up days ago to clarify that obvious fact — but actually the discussion was humming along just fine with all the pitchforks and flaring torches lighting up the night sky.

    ====

    “yes, you do posts on smaller films… and yes that doesn’t pay off with hundreds of comments.”

    Do you know another sure-fire way to kill the discussion? If we somehow manage to construct a post that is so airtight and comprehensive it leaves no room for anybody to argue or add anything.

    Whenever I build a list for a poll I usually just sketch in the basic framework. It’s far more fun for me and readers if we leave gaps in lists so that people are motivated to help us out.

    Sasha’s list of favorite performances was almost exclusively
    The Best Oscar Performances of All Time

    I would have expected somebody to see that sooner, and point it out in Sasha’s defense. But since nobody did, I’m doing it now.

    julian the emperor, Thanks for your assistance for the opening to do so.

    (Although the way you stumbled into it was “piss poor, if you’ll excuse me.”)
    :-)

  81. This alone makes me very skeptic about this movie. Guy is usually an impeccable judge on stuff like this.

    HA HA HA!

    Sorry, had to put that out there.

  82. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    By the way, is there any reader here on Twitter who I’m not following?

    Say hi to @filmystic so I can rectify that.

  83. superkk

    so who has actually seen this movie? because quite frankly thats the only opinion i care for right about now lol. octavia spencer? good? michael b jordan? movie itself? will someone whos seen it please comment

  84. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Here’s Sasha’s May 16 review of Fruitvale Station from Cannes.

  85. Its a moving film about a life cut tragically short. It dodges being an overtly political movie and focuses more on humanism, so if you were expecting an examination of race relations or the political ramifications of a young black man being shot by the cops, you may not like it as much as I did. I appreciated the impulse to treat Oscar Grant as a person and not an “issue”, and the director further exhibits a humanizing touch in the naturalistic, on-the-fly camera work that calls to mind the Dardennes. The performances are all top notch. Michael B. Jordan is a stellar actor with a bright future and Octavia Spencer may be better here than she was in The Help. The film also does a great job of evoking the notion of missed connections and missed opportunities; the idea that the slightest turn of events can alter a life forever. Life isn’t pre ordained. We have choices that take us down the road we ultimately travel. Oscar Grant made many bad choices over the course of his short life, but it is clear, not just from this film but in interviews with his friends and family, that he was struggling to pull himself out of the ditch he was digging himself. He sadly never got that opportunity, but the film serves as a fitting eulogy; a testament to his worth as a person and what he meant to those who loved him. Its one of the best movies of the year so far.

  86. superkk

    good to hear. thank you both!

  87. I certainly would rather look forward to a film, rather than look forward to its failures.

  88. whoops! I misread it, then. apologies for the unnecessary correction. hope I didn’t sound like a snob =)

  89. Casey Becker

    Thanks, Oscarcrazy :-)

  90. Lmfao! I nearly spit out my omelette!

    I know its strange that we know moreabout his career but people like us spend far more time on the internet, this excludes any film festivals/interviews we’d do

  91. This does bring up an interesting, if not yet entirely relevant point. So frequently we interchange black and African American when discussing stats, but a distinction will one day need to be made with the Sophie Okonedos and Idris Elbas of the world turning out Oscar recognized performances more frequently.

  92. Haggar

    He is a film director, not a public speaker!! So many talented people in this town – writers, directors, producers – are terrible with interviews.

  93. I mean, recent oscar winners include Crash, The King’s Speech, The Artist etc.

    Yes, movies that ranged from good to excellent. What’s the problem?

  94. @critickane

  95. Mark F.

    Review of Fruitvale Station: A decent effort, nothing special. The director leaves out the fact that several witnesses overheard the cop saying he was going to “taze” Grant before he shot him, lending credibility to the assertion that the shooting was just a stupid and tragic mistake. (Which was the conclusion the jury reached as well.)

  96. AdiaAmene

    “the cop said I’m going to taze him…” except Grant was already on the ground. Why the hell did he need to taze him if only to further punish and demean. With that mindset, killing him wasn’t that much of an accident.

  97. Out of The Furnace seems to be flying under the radar (I’m guessing no one has seen it yet). Christian Bale could get a nod for Best Actor as could Scott Cooper for Best Director. The trailer looks fantastic.

  98. unlikely hood

    Tony – As an East Bay native and resident I could give you about 20 other filmic examples like yours from the likes of Clint Eastwood, Chris Columbus, and Alfred Hitchcock. Leaving for the city at 11:55 is not HALF as bad as driving TO Berkeley on the *top* of the Bay Bridge – which is what Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) very, very clearly did in a film you may have heard of called The Graduate. Best Picture, Best Actor noms, Best Director win: I like where you’ve set the bar, Tony.

    Uh, and Ryan is right about that other stuff. Have a kid or two who sleeps well through the night, we’ll see how often you stay home on New Year’s Eve.

  99. unlikely hood

    Love this film. The “day in the life” aspect works so well, it’s amazing it’s not applied to more true stories, but instead relegated to minor masterpieces like Memento, Training Day, and some John Hughes films. It’s like Dog Day Afternoon if you knew the ending. Can’t think of higher praise

  100. unlikely hood

    @smithrowsey

    First time I’ve been here this season, saw this movie yesterday and for me, the conversation can now start :)

  101. So I guess “Fruitvale Station” is THE MOVIE THAT WILL BE CRAMMED DOWN this website’s followers, this year.

    Oh, the handwringing that will ensue on Nominations Day! I’ll certainly be trolling here!

  102. steve50

    Looking forward to it.

  103. Really, I know this is an Oscar website, but you’d think some of these guys would learn not to speculate in AUGUST. There is an onslaught of Oscar bait on the horizon. Most of it has not even been seen.

    When the songs “New York, New York” and “But The World Goes Round” weren’t even NOMINATED for Oscars back in 1977, I began to look at these awards (previously worshipped) as a bit askew.

    When “Crash” won Best Picture over “Brokeback Mountain” and even “Capote”, I pretty much gave up.

    I look at them now as aggrandizing on the one hand and somewhat pathetic on the other. They certainly don’t celebrate the best of what the industry offers 100% of the time, which should be their goal.

    “The Artist”. “Argo.” PUH-LEEZE.

  104. steve50

    I hear you – and agree with everything you just said, Fruity.

    And the world goes round….

    (just plz don’t troll Fruitvale – there are bigger, phonier balls to snap at out there)

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