Get a First Look at the Sundance Award-Winning ‘Fruitvale’ With Two Clips

Winning both the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival Closing Awards, Ryan Cooper’s Fruitvale has had a serious effect on viewers and proved a career-launching first feature from writer and director Ryan Coogler. Based on real-life muder of Oscar Grant, the film follows the 22-year old Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, family, enemies, and strangers on the last day of 2008. The stunning debut "that’s the sort of material you might more readily except in be covered in a documentary" stars Chad Michael Murray, Octavia Spencer, Michael B. Jordan, and Kevin Durand—produced by Forrest Whitaker.

Last week, The Weinstein Company acquired distribution rights to the much-lauded film, and thus far, critics have been claiming:

Coogler stages the chaos with a breath-shortening combination of frenzy and ambiguity, with the latter providing enough legal wiggle room for the cop to eventually get off with a light sentence, furthering the sense of injustice. It’s an awful tale, fraught with political, social and moral weight symbolic of numerous contemporary ills, and one with an unshown ugly aftermath of violent protests that further sullied Oakland’s reputation. As Oscar, Jordan at moments gives off vibes of a very young Denzel Washington in the way he combines gentleness and toughness; he effortlessly draws the viewer in toward him. Diaz is vibrant as his patient and loyal girlfriend, while Spencer brings her gravitas to the proceeding. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Ryan Coogler’s confident debut feature, "Fruitvale," gets significant mileage from Michael B. Jordan’s star turn. Yet even if every word of Coogler’s account of the last day in Grant’s life held up under close scrutiny, the film would still ring false in its relentlessly positive portrayal of its subject. Best viewed as an ode to victim’s rights, "Fruitvale" forgoes nuanced drama for heart-tugging, head-shaking and rabble-rousing. (Variety)

Check out a first look from the film, with two clips featuring Spencer and Jordan, courtesy of Democracy Now.  The video also includes an interview with Coogler and others as well proceeding the film segment.

‘Fruitvale’ Takes Sundance Grand Jury Prize

Fruitvale, a drama based on a 2009 shooting in Oakland, California, took home the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival last night. 

Produced by Forest Whitaker, Fruitvale is written and directed by newcomer Ryan Coogler and follows 22-year-old Oscar Grant’s last day alive before he is shot and kileld by BART transit police, becoming a poster child for racial tensions in Oakland. The film, which was developed in the Sundance Institute’s Filmmakers Labs program, stars Michael B. Jordan from Friday Night Lights, Chad Michael Murray from One Tree Hill, and Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer.

Entertainment Weekly reports it’s the first flick to win both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Film since Precious in 2009.  Harvey Weinstein had picked up the film for distribution earlier in the week. 

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

The Bright Side: The Real Winners of Oscar Night

The general consensus is that the 84th annual Academy Awards were a giant mushroom cloud of boring, unfunny failure, dropped from the broken-down Enola Gay that is Billy Crystal. You know it’s going to be bad when there’s blackface in the first five minutes. In a Midnight In Paris send-up. With Justin Bieber. The song parodies were painful. (If creepy middle-aged dude is the vibe the Oscars want in a host, let’s make it someone likeable next year: Jeff Goldblum for Oscars host!)

That being said, the evening wasn’t a total loss. Here were the real winners of Oscar Night (sorry, Hugo). 
 
Chris Rock
As we mentioned in our morning links, he told the only truly funny joke of the entire evening. While talking about his career animation, Rock told the crowd: "If you’re a white man, you can play an Arabian prince. And if you’re a black man, you can play a donkey or a zebra!" If only he had called Billy Crystal out on his B.S. while he was up there, too. 
 
Asghar Farhadi
"I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment," Farhadi told the crowd. Of all the victories at this sad, sad awards show, Farhadi’s was the most important. A Separation was the first Iranian film to ever take home the golden statuette, and one for which he faced detraction in his home country. A reminder that film can be subversive and teach us things and inspire nations without ham-fistedness or celluloid gloss. 
 
Poop as a Plot Device
In the Best Supporting Actress category, it was in a pie (The Help) vs. in a sink (Bridesmaids) by Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy, respectively. Pie won. 
 
Octavia Spencer
Regardless of what you thought of The Help, it’s hard not to root for Octavia Spencer. She looked stunning, for starters. And she was genuinely excited—none of that Taylor Swift "Really? Me?" false modesty nonsense. And her speech was a real, wonderful, genuine Oscar moment – until she got cut off by some jerks. (Losers: Whoever Decided to Cut Off Octavia Spencer)
 
Bret McKenzie
We’re sad we didn’t get to see "Man Or Muppet?" performed, but one half of Flight of the Conchords took home a statuette for it and gave an adorable speech. It’s enough to make you hope he does another TV show, just so he can get one step closer to an EGOT. 
 
Team Christopher Guest
Although The Wizard of Oz thing was weird and sort of out of nowhere, you can’t really go wrong with Fred Willard, Christopher Guest, Jennifer Coolidge, and the whole Guffman gang. To come: who-is-christopher-guest.tumblr.com. 
 
Winner: Javier Bardem
In Alexander Payne’s acceptance speech for The Descendants, he said he dedicated the award to his mother because she insisted he do it after Javier Bardem dedicated an award to his mother. So, way to make Javier Bardem look like the the greatest son ever, Alexander Payne’s mom. 
 
Christopher Plummer
His speech and Octavia Spencer’s were the only true "Oscar moments" of the night. After he accepted his first Academy Award ever for Beginners (meaning, as the Internet pointed out, he has exactly as many Oscars as Three Six Mafia), he was whisked off into the Alps with his family by a cabal of friendly nuns. 
 
A.R. Rahman
His cameo in the all-star celebrity orchestra was a nice surprise. 
 
Ellen DeGeneres
Sorry, weird, bigoted parents group that tried to boycott JC Penney. You lost this round. And we, the viewers at home, got an ad campaign that was actually more entertaining than the awards themselves. 
 
Meryl Streep
Sure, everyone expected Viola Davis to win, and she probably should have won. But Meryl’s "whatever" was a breath of fresh air in a night full of ego-stroking and false modesty. She was even dressed like an Oscar. Haters gonna hate.
 
Uggie
The dog from Hugo didn’t get to go onstage after the Best Picture announcement. The most celebrated Jack Russell Terrier since Eddie on Frasier may also be the most overexposed thespian dog in recent years, but come on. There was a dog in a bowtie on stage at the Oscars. If "funny" and "entertaining" are nowhere in sight, at least give us something cute. 
 
People Who Love Hearing Celebrities Talk About How Much They Love Movies
So, uh, no one. 

2011 Oscar Nominations Go More or Less as Expected

With the speed of a lumbering engine powered by critical hubris and self-importance, the 84th Academy Awards nominations dropped into our newsfeeds this morning with predictable result. Did you know that people liked The Descendants this year, The Artist as well? Brad Pitt and George Clooney scored the requisite Hollywood heartthrob acting votes (they will lose to the no-name French guy who doesn’t talk), while Meryl Streep got her due for sticking around. Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese were also nominated, just like they always are. It’s another Oscar ceremony, y’all!

But not to sound cynical or anything. It’s somewhat surprising, though definitely nice, to see Terrence Malick get official recognition for The Tree of Life, even if there’s almost no way the hype-happy Academy will give their highest awards to a movie with more than a handful of inscrutably artsy scenes. Equally surprising on the other end is the inclusion of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a movie that no one seemed to like but not for any inscrutably artsy reasons, simply because it’s kind of schmaltzy and not very good. Why not give the spot to something innocuous like Bridesmaids or even the last Harry Potter movie, if they’re trying to go commercial? Madness, it’s all madness. (I won’t even get started on Albert Brooks’ snub for Drive.) You can look at the important nominees below, or go to the Academy’s website for the full list.

Best Picture
The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Actor in a Leading Role
Demian Bichir – A Better Life, George Clooney – The Descendants, Jean Dujardian – The Artist, Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brad Pitt – Moneyball

Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis – The Help, Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn

Directing
Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist, Alexander Payne – The Descendants, Martin Scorsese – Hugo, Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris, Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branaugh – My Week with Marilyn, Jonah Hill – Moneyball, Nick Nolte – Warrior, Christopher Plummer – Beginners, Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Actress in a Supporting Role
Berenice Bejo – The Artist, Jessica Chastain – The Help, Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs, Octavia Spencer – The Help