You may have missed it for the racket produced by the majority of movies currently going boom-boom — or, in the case of “The Lone Ranger,” bust-bust — at the multiplex. But with the arrival of Sundance Film Festival sensation “Fruitvale Station” in theaters, the opening bell for Oscar season has sounded, providing welcome news for moviegoers immune to the charms of unnecessary reboots and bloated tent-pole movies.
And though we’re still a long way from sending the tux to the dry cleaners to see what they can do about the stain left from Wolfgang Puck’s pork belly dumplings, it’s never too early to begin crafting an Oscar campaign.
Several recent best picture nominees — “The Tree of Life,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Inception,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Winter’s Bone” and, this year, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” — debuted theatrically by early July. The challenge, which “Fruitvale” must now meet, is to keep the movie and its talent in the conversation as the pages of the calendar (but not the leaves … this is L.A.) turn.
OSCARS 2013: Winners/nominees list | Highlights
“Fruitvale” dramatizes the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old ex-con detained and killed by transit policeman on a train platform in Oakland on New Year’s Day 2009. It won both the Sundance festival’s Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, as did Benh Zeitlin’s boisterous “Beasts” in 2012. Now, backed by the awards-season muscle of the Weinstein Co., the critically acclaimed “Fruitvale” will again try to match “Beasts,” which, after an early summer theatrical run, went on to garner four Oscar nominations: picture, director, lead actress and adapted screenplay.
“This will not be the last time you guys walk to a podium,” Sundance jury member Tom Rothman told “Fruitvale” writer-director Ryan Coogler in January. That may be true, though at 84 minutes, the powerful, immersive “Fruitvale” might appear a bit slight for some motion picture academy members who equate dramatic heft with running time.