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Hammerle on ... 'Fruitvale Station' and 'The Conjuring'

Robert Hammerle
August 14, 2013
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bob hammerle movie reviewsFruitvale Station

“Fruitvale Station” tells a complex, conflicting and powerful story that most of us don’t want to hear, much less see. But in light of the recent verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, it will help to explain why the African-American community is so brutally appalled.

Here, writer/director Ryan Coogler brings to the big screen a true story that tells the tragic tale of the death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant at the hands of white Oakland security officers in 2009. Returning home on New Year’s Eve morning with friends, he is sucked into a confrontation with Hispanic gang members that results in his death at the hands of the police. In the process, his mother mourns, a fiancée collapses, and his 5-year old daughter is left with no father.

There were immediate mass protests in the Oakland area following Oscar’s death. Police officers were fired and one was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, eventually serving approximately 10 months in prison.

Mr. Coogler has brought us a gem of a film that bears a bit of resemblance to last year’s “The Beast of the Southern Wild.” Both films bring us an inside look at the underbelly of our modern society where young black men turn to drugs, booze and gangs when life continually leaves them on the outside looking in.

Newcomer Michael B. Jordan is wonderful as Oscar, a young man trying to outrun his pent-up rage. He loves both his daughter and mother, but he lives in a constant state of frustration and disappointment given that he lacks fundamental access to meaningful employment.

hammerleWhile Melonie Diaz is excellent as the caring mother of Oscar’s young child, Octavia Spencer is the queen of this film, here playing a mother who fights as hard as she can for a son caught in no-man’s land. Ms. Spencer won an Oscar for her tremendous role in “The Help” (2011), and she brings unashamed strength to a mother who will always love her son regardless of his weaknesses.

Let me be clear that Oscar Grant is certainly no hero. Nonetheless, “Fruitvale Station” is a reminder that we should all shed a tear when we read that a new black kid has been found dead in the street. Sure, we have a black president, but try to tell me that race is not playing a powerful role in opposing all of his proposals when Jackie Robinson only desegregated baseball in 1947; Brown v. Board of Education only ended government-sponsored segregation in 1954; interracial marriage was permitted only in 1967, and Rosa Parks was only able to gain African-Americans access to any seat on the bus at about the same time.

It’s time that we all join hands and dedicate ourselves to building a better future for our children.

The Conjuring

This is a disturbingly entertaining film that will cause many of you to feel that your blood has been frozen in place. Using strengths from such classic chilling films like “The Exorcist” (1973), “The Omen” (1976) and “Poltergeist” (1982), I feel that it ranks right with them.

Based on an outlandish true story where you see actual pictures of the participants at the end of the film, you follow the efforts of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren as they try to help a family and their four small daughters in a newly purchased farmhouse in Rhode Island. To use the title from the old 1983 Jason Robards’ nightmarish film adventure – “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

First, the Perron family’s dog suddenly dies after their arrival, and then a hidden cellar is discovered during renovation. At 3:07 a.m. every morning, the children start to smell uncomfortable vapors, and then one suddenly feels like she is being pulled from her bed. Thereafter, Mrs. Perron starts to suffer large bruises on her body, after which she is mysteriously hurled down the steps into the cellar.

The Perron family is left to ask for the help of the Warrens, and they set up video observation posts in the stricken home that is very similar to what occurred in “Poltergeist.” But while the Warrens can see what is going on, they can’t prevent it. What occurs is as terrifying as what happened to Linda Blair in her room in director William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist.”

hammerleBut what proves to be strangely enchanting are the powerful performances of all of the actors. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play the Warrens, and their repeated travels into other’s private torments has taken a personal toll. Yet when asked to help people in need, they don’t turn away for any reason, and you end up both liking and admiring them.

The Perrons are played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor, and their agony becomes yours. While they want to protect their young girls and leave, they are stuck financially. In the process, Ms. Taylor becomes an adult Linda Blair. The quest of the Warrens is to rescue her before the dark side claims her and her youngest daughter.

If you recall, the great Gregory Peck and Lee Remick suffered mightily in “The Omen” at the hands of Satan as they tried to save what they thought was their son. Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams danced on the edge of oblivion in “Poltergeist” as they tried to retrieve their daughter from inside that old jammed TV. The Warrens role here was exactly like Max VonSydow in “The Exorcist,” namely to bravely enter a possessed house in order to save the occupants.

So if you are one of those twisted souls who doesn’t mind being pinned to your seat by the functional equivalent of a cinematic black widow spider, buy a ticket. But if you wake up the next morning at 3:07 a.m., for God’s sake stay in bed!•

__________

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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