Release Date: 2013
Director: Ryan Coogler
Why I picked this: Early “Best Picture” buzz
Following the last 24 hours of police shooting victim Oscar Grant, this film is one about the joy of living life, the little moments every day, and the road to redemption. Grant is played by Michael B. Jordan with much charisma; despite Grant’s troubled past and occasional outburst, Jordan plays him with much warmness and friendliness; his scenes especially with his daughter Tatiana, are truly touching. As stated, I felt that this film showcases that it is really the little things in life that we must appreciate. This could have been the result of knowing that this was Grant’s last day of living, but many little moments in this film stuck out to me. One had Grant’s mother, played by Octavia Spencer, asking him if he was talking on the phone while driving, leading him to stick his cellphone into his hat. Another had Grant buy a “white people” birthday card for his mother despite his sister telling him explicitly not to. Another had Grant brush his teeth alongside his daughter using his finger. One of my favorite scenes had Grant, his girlfriend Sophina, played by Melonie Diaz, and their friends in a train before the New Year’s countdown. In a film with scenes with implied racial profiling from characters, I was expecting to see the same during this scene; instead what occurred were delightful interactions between these characters and complete strangers; they flirt with the women, drink with the people next to them, and dance and celebrate, even continuing so when the train unexpectedly stops. One of my favorite exchanges had Oscar Grant talking to a man married for eight years; Grant has contemplated marriage with Sophina, but is reluctant to as they have little money; however, this stranger inspires him to think differently. It is conversations like this throughout the film that sound natural and genuine, as if though you were really watching this day. This is helped with the visual style of the film, as the film is shot with handheld cameras. As well as rethinking marriage, it is on this day that he begins to rethink the direction of his life, being involved in criminal activities such as drug dealing. The lone scene that does not take place on New Year’s 2009 is a flashback to the year before, where Grant is in jail and speaking to his visting mother; it is this memory that has him realize his responsibility to his girlfriend and his daughter. With all of these developments in his life on this single day, and with such an enjoyable night out with his friends in progress, one has to ask, how did this night go wrong? The resulting scenes which depict the detainment of Grant and his friends are intense, brutal, and especially quick; it was very effective, helped by a performance from Kevin Durand as one of the police officers. The rest of the film is sweet and sad, with the last few seconds being emotionally painful just to watch.
With a great performance from Michael B. Jordan, organic dialogue exchanges, and universal themes, this is a film where really anyone who sees it should get something out of it.