The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
"Fruitvale Station" is about what we can imagine when we cast our gaze across the longstanding divides in this persistently, cancerously segregated American society. Like Paul Haggis' "Crash," it is an ambitious do-gooder project aimed at penetrating hardened hearts. Unlike "Crash," it has one solid, irrefutable piece of reality on which to anchor its fable-like teachable moments: The protagonist, Oscar Grant (the brilliant Michael B. Jordan), was a real 22-year-old man. The first thing we see in "Fruitvale" is the fatal moment that will lead to Oscar's death. Camera phone footage of Bay Area Rapid Transit cops beating Oscar and his friends on a subway platform ends with a gunshot.
The rest of the film dramatizes what Oscar was up to the day before he was killed, New Year's Eve 2009. I must paraphrase "The Elephant Man" to explain what it all amounts to: Oscar was not an animal. He was a human being. He had dreams and feelings. He cared for many people, and many people cared for him. His death left a giant crater in several lives.
For those of you who understand that young black men are humans, not beasts, it might sound like a silly project to undertake. But consider what pop culture gives us to go on. For every complicated, vulnerable, flawed but basically decent black male character or celebrity there are a hundred loud, imbecilic thugs. Ho'wood spent six decades emasculating and lobotomizing black male characters, then traded on some cheap, crime-based empowerment narratives via blaxploitation.
The past three decades were about depicting the refurbished, physically potent and powerful black man as a moral and intellectual weakling. When we did get a glimpse of black male intelligence, it tended to be the psychopathic "street smart" variety. The pop icons among rap artists, the ones who dine with the corporate elite, promote prison culture, ruthless self-interest and jewelry.