Fruitvale Station, the story of Oscar Grant, whose fate at the hands of Bay Area transit police set off a firestorm of protest, is moving due to impeccable writing.
In a summer of bloated action pictures, it is stunning how a film novice – writer and director Ryan Coogler, 27 – has told so much story, in such a moving and honest fashion, in just 90 minutes.
And he does not do so by making a martyr out of his subject. Actor Michael B. Jordan lends sweetness and menace to Oscar, a man-boy trying to figure out how to grow up and master his responsibilities.
Nor does Coogler transform the transit cops into rank villains. There is heartbreak here, but the film drums up a little sympathy too for the perpetrators. Fruitvale Station is a lesson for anyone who's ever wondered how any situation can spiral so far out of control so fast and how those left behind live with the consequences.
Woody Allen, 77, is Coogler's opposite in experience. He's been directing for nearly 50 years now and Blue Jasmine, the tale of a woman suffering a huge reversal, roots an American classic in the rubble of the Great Recession.
Which American classic? We won't tell you, but one of the most celebrated actors ever made himself famous playing one of its signature roles on stage and screen. (Spoiler: If you want to know, let Moviefone tell you).
It's a slight film, not up to Allen's top work, but Cate Blanchett hasn't carried a film in a while and the Oscar winner tears into her role as Jasmine, an unstable socialite doing battle with herself, while her sister and a potential paramour suffer the fallout. She makes you laugh, but queasily, for Jasmine, a bucketful of narcissism, offers you little with which to sympathize.