Continuing our daily series that looks ahead to the key movies of the 2014 awards season. Next up: Fruitvale StationTrue crime with heart? Michael B Jordan and Ariana Neal in Fruitvale Station
This year's …
It was the Sundance hit that went to Cannes. It features a feisty little girl, trigger-happy authorities and an imperiled African American underclass. It's this year's Beasts of the Southern Wild, with more facts and fewer aurochs.
What's it all about?
Fruitvale Station gives us the last 24 hours in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old resident of the San Francisco Bay area, who was shot dead by a transport cop in the early hours of 2009. Michael B Jordan (formerly of The Wire) plays Oscar as a hot-headed young charmer who adores his mum, dotes on his daughter and tries, after a fashion, to stay true to his daughter. Octavia Spencer co-stars as his redoubtable mother, ordering Oscar to "calm down!" and fixing him with a steely, unblinking gaze.
How did it happen?
Director Ryan Coogler read the reports of Oscar Grant's killing while still a student at the University of Southern California, and set about developing the project. His debut feature, originally titled Fruitvale, was mentored by Forest Whitaker's production company, with funding from the Sundance festival's Feature Film Program and the San Francisco Film Society. The Weinstein Company snapped up distribution rights and helped promote the picture by commissioning a trio of murals in San Francisco, New York and LA.
Nominations it wants
Acting honours for its two principal stars. In a perfect world, the film might trouble the writing and directing categories, too.
What it might win
Jordan gives a limber, combustible turn as loose cannon Oscar Grant. For all that, the Academy are more likely to gravitate to Spencer's bullish matriarch in the best supporting actress category. One, because she gives a fine performance displaying grace under fire and two, becauseshe won this same award for The Help back in 2012. Academy voters generally like what they know.
Reasons to fall for it
Every awards season needs a little roughage; the occasional missive from the front line to keep the Academy relevant and strike a balance with the stardust and the tinsel, the Valentinos and the Miu Mius. Significantly, Fruitvale Station opened in the US the same weekend thatGeorge Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in the Trayvon Martin case. If Oscars night wants to deliver a verdict of its own, Coogler's film could wind up as a convenient messenger.
Reasons it might fail
Topical release … Michael B Jordan (second from left) in a scene from Fruitvale Station. Photograph: Ron Koeberer/AP
Memories fade, anger dissipates and one alleged miscarriage of justice is overtaken by others. By the time the nominations are announced, Fruitvale Station may well be long forgotten. It's a sharp, earthy, convincing film about a true-life case; a heartfelt memorial to the man at its centre. But does it have the populist punch of a Crash? Or, say, the sheer novelty value of Beasts of the Southern Wild?
When can we see it
Fruitvale Station opened in the US on 12 July and is set to appear in Europe next January. A UK release date has yet to be nailed down.
In five words
Slow train on branch line.
SourceWho has seen the movie? What were your overall thoughts on the acting, direction, and script?