Before the awards are given out tonight at Sundance 2013, I’ve got three of my own to bestow, to movies that have stayed in my mind in the days since I traded the relatively balmy cold mountain air of Park City, Utah, for the frigid wilds of the Northeast.
The first award, for The Best Drama Most Likely to Break Your Heart, goes to Fruitvale — which, I’ll wager, will win other, more official awards later today too. This vivid, fast-moving, fired-up story propels forward with truth in its engine: In the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009, a young Bay Area African-American man named Oscar Grant was killed by a white cop’s bullet at the Fruitvale train station. Grant wasn’t a saint, but he wasn’t a sinner, either — just a guy with a live-in girlfriend and a young daughter, trying to figure out how to do right and stay away from doing wrong.
The high achievement of Fruitvale, by first-time filmmaker Ryan Coogler (an African-American son of the Bay area himself ) lies in the way Coogler shapes his story, dramatizing the last day of Grant’s life as a means of conveying character; in the energy and immediacy of the no-nonsense visual style; and in the fine cast he put together. Michael B. Jordan earns his movie-star stripes as Grant; the magnificent Octavia Spencer commands her part of the story as Grant’s mother; Melonie Diaz brings Grant’s girlfriend to full life. I hope Coogler has more stories he feels he needs to tell as urgently as he tells this one. READ FULL STORY