Friday, January 17, 2014

The Oscars: But Where Is Fruitvale Station?

The Oscar nominations have two glaring omissions: both films set right here in the Bay Area, funnily enough. The first omission is Fruitvale Station for three awards and the second is Blue Jasmine for Best Picture.

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?


37 comments:

  1. Oh the fruitvale movie hasn't been shown here so I guess I need to netflix it?
    But I can not believe blue jasmine didn't get best director and movie!! plus I can't believe there wasn't a best supporting actor! I thought the mechanic was brilliant. But the academy is full of actual people with their prejudices etc so in a way I am sure the VF article was lobbying from the other camp. While I don't agree with what Woody Allen does in his private life I do think it is so important to separate art and the artist. Both actresses hopefully will win!

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    1. If you read the VF article, it doesn't come across as lobbying. Woody played very dirty to impede the investigation and the then 7yo old victim has endured quite a lot and deeply regrets not testifying against him.

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    2. Disturbing too from that article...initially when daughter told Mia F. Mia did not act as quickly or strongly as she might have...the commentary was she was trying to protect Woody Allen. What a mess.

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    3. No I haven't read the article - cancelled subscription to VF over the summer. Can't take the magazine seriously. Then it was confirmed I made right decision when it was scared to publish an article about GPaltrow.

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    4. Naomi, I know what you mean about VF... they have some rubbish but also some bizarre pleasures...you should def read the article about the gay mafia in the Vatican and the Bishops' fashion shows featuring their home-made cassocks

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  2. And how did Gravity get nominated? Must have been that American 'happy ending'.

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  3. Oscars do seem to have a stigma about un-american films. But they are a bunch of hoopla anyway, bunch of old stick up their bum types picking what they deem worthy. pfft.

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  4. Oh it is all very political and I do think Fruitvale was not nominated simply because it came out a bit too early. Sorry, not a Woody fan at all and will not support his movies. The honor at the Golden Globes was pathetic. I did enjoy American Hustle but Oscar worthy? What happened to Llewyn Davis?

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    1. I think you might be right there...what a shame

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    2. Really enjoyed Llewyn Davis, must say Oscars have always puzzled me.

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    3. When Fargo got best picture - was it last year? - I pretty much gave up. It was good enough, but not great, completely emotionless movie, a weird sort of doco recreation about Hollywood triumphing over the Middle East. Apparently the Kiwis were really annoyed with Ben Affleck (!) because there was not mention of their (large) role in getting the Americans to the airport

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  5. I heard Fruitvale Station was amazing (alas-- it hasn't been available here in Singapore). Unfortunately the Oscars seem to become more and more popularity contest (what is "cool" to like) than about the talent... it is prom for the film industry! Fortunately prom still means gorgeous dresses, so I am looking forward to that aspect :)

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    1. You know, the disturbing thing in the movie is how vunerable you feel he is just walking around. There is that senses of dread throughout that never goes away.

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  6. This is upsetting about Fruitvale Station. I also am upset about The Butler which I thought was so good and amazing acting. Really touched me. No nominations for Mr Banks either and Emma Thompson was so good. Seems like something strange is going on.. I mean why Her for best pic? Also Gravity? Good, but not better than Fruitvale..Agree it's the cool films and the crap about happy endings...

    I do think Woody Allen is now getting a lot of bad publicity from Mia Farrow. Who knows how and what is true... All I know is he makes wonderful movies and I love them all.
    xx


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  7. I do remember him from The Wire!! What a great show. And you most definitely have me intrigued - I want to see both of these movies :)

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  8. I saw Blue Jasmine and thought it was both dreary and predictable. On the other hand, I've never been a fan of Woody Allen. However, I am also unwilling to blithely separate 'art and the artist' in the light of the molestation accusations relating to Mr Allen. I just think 'what if that had been my 7 year old?' Would I have just told her to 'shut up' because hey, he makes great movies? There's a hell of a lot more going on behind the scenes at these awards that involves more than your peers simply casting a vote. I wouldn't be surprised if next year they give an award to that other wonderful film-maker Roman Polanski. He only drugged, raped and sodomized a 13 year old.....but aren't his movies just wonderful?

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    1. Did you see all the articles last year about Roman Polanski and about how many top artists in France said - let him in, hasn't he suffered enough? - beggars belief!

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  9. Ooh you are good at reviews - I've got a very clear idea of each of these now. I'm way behind on movies generally which is a real pity. Must change that.

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  10. Haven't heard of Fruitvale but will keep an eye out for it. Must admit I missed Blue Jasmine but am hoping it hits Netflix soon. They both sound great.

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  11. Haven't heard of Fruitvale Station but maybe it will come hear later..... love love love going to the movies especially in the winter!!

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  12. Saw both films and loved them- do you watch David and Margaret's online reviews from the movie show/at the movies on abc online (Australia) ?? I trust them implicitly xxx

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  13. Never heard of these ones, great reviews though. The movies you want to be nominated never are, America wouldn't know a good film half the time if it bit them & I can say that as an American. I've seen more amazing movies not living there, than when I did. These sounded really interesting as well, shame!! x

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    1. The Wolf of Wall Street beggars belief as an Oscar nominee. We left feeling drained of all feeling, maybe that's what he intended

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  14. Thank you for bringing both these films to my attention, I will put them on my Too See list.
    Plus Cate Blanchett is usually superb in anything.
    Sx

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    1. I'll say. I saw her in a play in London - set in WW2 and she was stunning

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  15. I'm always interested in anything Cate Blanchett does. I still can't make up my mind about Mia Farrow but agree with your first commenter.
    If one judged art in general taking account of the artist's character and behaviour genius would be thin on the ground.
    You've given me another reason for seeing The Wire. Thank you:)

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    1. Only thing about The Wire is you start talking about re-upping your stash on the East, side feel me? (A'ight (sorry I can't stop)

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  16. Oops, I got carried away reading that Vanity Fair article just now--such a crazy story...I loved Blue Jasmine (and the clothes weren't too bad either). Have been dying to see Fruitvale, just not sure where to track it down.
    xo Mary Jo

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  17. YO, JO JO!!! <3

    I missed your blog so much, I have had hardly no time down here in Kiwiland... Summer has been so intensely busy for me with my jewelry work that I have had no time other than playing with gemstones and taking pictures.

    I missed reading your articles. You are so hilarious - and I recommend you to all my friends. I explained the story of "old gold" to a friend of mine and it took me about 1 hour to explain the entire thing before she got the picture lol... (Actually, re-read that post because it was so adorable and hilarious)

    Next time you're in NZ please txt/call me or email me :) My digits are 021 261 5763, would LOVE to have coffee with you and take some selfies together, lol the latter was to make you laugh hun.

    Wishing you all the best and a bright and beautiful new year. xoxoxoxoxoxox

    p.s Oh god, I just read your post about the penis dress. And I almost died laughing. xo xo xo

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    1. Heey Dakota. How the heck are you? Mos Def will call you when he head back to NZ next Christmas! Old Gold is still lounging in the back of my wardrobe ready to step out for the next ocasion, though these days the old girl needs the addition of some Spanx action

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  18. Fantastic reviews. I really need to see more movies. Arrrgghhh. Small children... xx

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    1. I know, I sympathise. I remember we got babysitter two nights a week in London otherwise meltdown (from me)

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  19. I can hardly wait to catch up on some movies and both of these are top of my list Jody. It's fun to hear your take on the fashion that one would wear if really attending a party in Marin. Fab article you wrote on that home at the beach-wow! xx

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