This week we’re watching two, gripping dramas, in MAKING A MURDERER and FRUITVALE STATION, both of which depict crimes in ways we have rarely seen them before, causing us to question the legal system where justice is (supposed) to be met. They may make you angry, but neither of them will leave you unentertained.
FRUITVALE STATION – Dir. Ryan Coogler (2013) IMDb
Following the life of 22 year old, Oscar Grant III on New Year’s Eve 2008, FRUITVALE STATION captures a uniquely human tale of what it means to be a convicted felon, living in a world that doesn’t want you to get on the right track. Michael B. Jordan of THE FANTASTIC FOUR, CHRONICLE, and CREED (also directed by Coogler) stars as Oscar, a real man who was shot by a police officer, early on New Year’s Day 2009 at Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland California. The film shows him encountering friends and enemies, family and strangers, right and wrong during a single day in his life. We see him pleading for his job, caring for his daughter, making decisions that will impact the remainder of his life as well as a glimpse into his grim past. All of this culminates on the tracks of Fruitvale Station.
Ryan Coogler’s debut feature was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 earning the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize as well as a slew of other awards in various competitions for the director and lead actor. It’s success allowed Coogler the opportunity to direct 2015’s Rocky spin-off CREED and 2018’s Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-in BLACK PANTHER. Fruitvale was simply an emotional masterpiece. Whether you are familiar with the story and cultural significance of Oscar Grant or not, the film is bound to absorb you in it’s characters and situations to make you care for them and feel the pain they experience. It’s a story that still holds significance to this day. Not to mention, it’s under an hour and a half long. Pretty impressive for such a moving tale.
MAKING A MURDERER – One Season (2015) IMDb
In 2003, Steven Avery was released from prison after being wrongly convicted of attempted murder 18 years prior. Two years later in 2005, he’s facing trial again for another crime he claims he had nothing to do with. MAKING A MURDERER is a Netflix Original Documentary Series filmed over the course of 10 years, following the trial(s) and conviction(s) of Wisconsin native, Steven Avery. Since 2005, the crew of Making a Murderer has been following the case, interviewing family, friends, and legal counselors, and crafting an original thriller that is grounded in reality. It’s difficult to discuss too much about the show without giving anything away, but it’s simply something you have to experience for yourself.
It’s clear from the beginning that the filmmakers believe Avery has been wrongly convicted for a second time in his life and they shape their story in such a way that presents the evidence of his innocence above all else. This isn’t necessarily a critique of the series, because it’s difficult to disagree with a single point they bring up. However, it does appear that the show is somewhat biased in favor of Avery. We get interviews from Steven’s defense but very few from his prosecutors. Nonetheless, it’s a gripping narrative that feels like something from a Stieg Larson or Gillian Flynn novel. I have a difficult time believing the amount of torture this man has been put through in his life, but I also refuse to do any research on the subject before I finish the series. It’s really that good.