The Films of 2013: Fruitvale Station

It’s not exactly a spoiler to say that Ryan Coogler’s new film Fruitvale Station takes place on the last day in the life of its main character, Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed during an altercation with a subway security guard in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 2009.  In his death, Grant—who was twenty-two, black, and struggling to get back on his feet after a prison term for dealing drugs—has, like Rodney King before him, become a symbol for black victimization at the hands of a police force felt by many to be motivated by racism and blood lust.  The film opens on the morning of December 31, 2008, as Grant drops his daughter off at pre-school and picks up food for his mother’s birthday party that evening.  It ends in a hospital waiting room the following morning, as doctors deliver the news of his death to his mother and girlfriend.


The Films of 2013: Berberian Sound Studio

In Berberian Sound Studio, set at an Italian film studio in the 1970s, the Italian horror aesthetic—gory, excessive, outlandish—is made to clash hilariously with the English sensibility as embodied by the mild-mannered, buttoned-up Toby Jones.  Jones plays Gilderoy, a sound mixer hired to work on a film about Italian schoolgirls who stumble upon a coven of witches (think Suspiria), the production of which is presided over by a mysterious and autocratic director known as Santini.  Gilderoy’s previous experience has been working on cozy travel documentaries of the kind that air on public television.  His arrival on the set of the horror film, peopled by screaming actresses and foley artists hacking away at melons, is as traumatic as that of a giallo heroine who discovers her boarding school is run by Satanists.