2014 Calvin Awards: Best Overlooked Film
By David Mumpower
February 12, 2014
Sure, anybody can heap praise upon movies like Gravity and Frozen. Those are massive blockbusters that gross hundreds of billions of dollars. What is harder is finding a largely ignored movie and then trying to turn it into a cult classic by talking all of the people we know into watching it.
We speak from experience on this subject because we have been attempting exactly this since the inception of The Calvins in 2002. Some titles we have nominated over the years include Punch-Drunk Love, Super Troopers, Whale Rider, Once, Bandslam, In the Loop, Pan’s Labyrinth, Shaun of the Dead and Primer. If you recommended that batch of movies to a complete stranger, you would make a friend for life. If you trust the staff at Box Office Prophets for nothing else, this is the category where we have treated you right over the past dozen years. As such, you should be breathless with anticipation at our list of the 10 Best Overlooked Films of the year.
A dramatic re-telling of a real life tragedy is our selection for Best Overlooked Film. Fruitvale Station explores the life of Oscar Grant III on what would prove to be his last day on Earth. Just after midnight on New Year’s Day 2009, Grant was subdued by police officers after engaging in an altercation on the Bay Area Rapid Transit train. While the exact events of the evening are a subject of contention among the police and innocent bystanders, what no one disputes is that a defenseless Grant was shot in the back by a police officer. The assailant in question was eventually found guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter for his crime, which he claimed was simply a matter of accidentally grabbing his gun instead of his taser.
First time director Ryan Coogler researched the life of Grant and then built a movie about the idealized version of Grant’s day. As the young man begins to recognize that he is in danger of becoming a failure, he attempts to affect positive change in his life. Alas, the world seems to be out to get him. Even an injured dog that Grant tries to nurture suffers from the experience. Grant is unable to reclaim the job from which he was fired, the mother of his child is dubious about his ability to care for his family and his long suffering mother is losing faith in Grant’s ability to establish himself as a man.
Attempting to blow off steam, all Grant wants to do is enjoy a New Year’s Eve out on the town with his girl when tragedy strikes. The recounting of the events at the train station are harrowing and potent to the point that people who do not watch Fruitvale Station are cheating themselves out of a crucial teaching moment about police interactions with minorities. In addition, Michael B. Jordan (you know, Vince from Friday Night Lights) delivers a star-making performance as Grant. Fruitvale Station is one of the most important movies of the year as well as the most engaging. It is our staff’s clear choice as Best Overlooked Film, easily winning by 21% over the next closest competitor.