|Cate Blanchett, a fallen and disgraced socialite, holds her Birkin bag like a shield in Blue Jasmine|
Fruitvale Station tells the story of the last 24 hours of the life of 22-year old Oscar Grant who was shot to death by a police officer at Oakland's Fruitvale BART station in the early hours of January 1, 2009 (just a couple of miles from where we live). It should have been nominated for Best Film, Best Actor (Michael B. Jordan) and Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer). Also I'm amazed that Blue Jasmine Woody Allen's tale of a rich Manhattan's socialite fall to poverty starring Cate Blanchett wasn't nominated for Best Picture.
Fruitvale Station is one of the best films I've seen in years; it's a beautiful simple study of Oscar Grant showing him as flawed but human; someone who has done time but who is also a loving son, father, partner and friend. The scenes of him and his daughter are radiant and heartbreaking.
|Michael B. Jordan with Tatiana Neal as his daughter in Fruitvale Station|
The tragedy is that he was just beginning to turn his life around when he was killed. He's never made out to be a saint: there is one flashback to a scene in prison where his mother (played by Octavia Spencer) refuses to visit him again because he's become so angry and aggressive; another scene where his girlfriend alludes to his cheating; and another incredibly uncomfortable scene with his former boss. The script, written when Ryan Coogler was just 23 years old (his first feature film!) is real conversation with no grandstanding monologues that you wouldn't hear in real life.
What is a good actor? Michael B. Jordan illuminates every scene whether he's likeable or not. (Anyone who's seen The Wire will remember him as 16-year-old Wallace, a star is born moment.) The final scene where he is shot is one of the most distressing you'll ever see.
Blue Jasmine is set in San Francisco, just across the Bay Bridge from us. This movie doesn't have a happy ending either but the main character, the narcissistic Chanel-wearing ex-wife of a Bernie Madoff character, is unremittingly unlikeable. (I wonder if the Best Picture oversight was because of the Vanity Fair article on Mia Farrow- what she and her daughter say about Woody Allen is so very disturbing.)
One false step is the two working class Italian characters who are very Brooklyn, not San Francisco. Another thing didn't ring true: Jasmine wear labels like an armour (see Vogue article for this) Chanel jackets, Missoni cardigans, Hermes belts. At the party in Tiburon she would have looked very strange and different and that should have been made clear... the Marin wealthy are more boutique hippy with expensively highlighted bed hair.
Neither film let the audience off the hook. But it's more than not having a happy ending. With Blue Jasmine you’re just waiting for that moment where there is a hint that she gets it, and she’s going to change, and start to turn it around. But no, that never happens – so you don’t leave the cinema feeling good, but you’re definitely feeling. The last scene with her on the park bench was incredible, because if you were just someone walking past, you’d see a crazy homeless woman talking to herself. And we all see that every day. Yet the movie is telling us there is a whole story behind that person and, I suppose, saying that it could very easily be you.
Maybe both films got left out because they are “un-American” in the sense they don’t give the audience the hope that it will work out okay for the main characters, or - in the case of Oscar Grant - that there was some purpose to what happened to him.
Which pictures do you think should have been nominated?