November 7, 1999

American History X

The day started out somewhat inauspiciously: Sabs brought me tea again, but I spilt it all over the bed in a sleepy daze. Shara and Pearl were extremely hostile and pissy-hissy at each other all day when we let Pearl out to try to further the make peace between cats effort we've been slowly putting into place.

It picked up steam though when I finally hauled myseld out of bed and set to work on a site for my Dad. It's an embryonic e-finance type of site, no formal lasting yet, but if it flies then Dad wants me to come consult on it and come up with some better concepts than the test-run that they already had.

I spent a good 5-6 hours coming up with test graphics and layouts and then toddled out into the kitchen to be domestic. I wanted to make chocolate chip cookies and apple pie, but discovered half way through making the cookie dough that we didn't have enough brown sugar so we would need to go out to the store for some more.

I came last to the computer room and tweaked some more graphics after I told Sabs that we needed to go to the store. I didn't think we'd need to be gone for more than 15 minutes or so, but of course, it didn't turn out that way.

We eventually made it last to Fresh Fields and grabbed milk and brown sugar quickly. But then we started to wander the aisles. Sabs wanted some easy-to-make things for quick spot meals and I got distracted by the cheese bin and a refrigerated aisle that had escaped my notice before but contained all of the fresh pastas that Sabs likes to make on occasion, including tri-color tortellini.

We went int to get two things. We came out with $70 worth of groceries, including some yummy smelling baguette and a couple of slices of exquisite looking cheese.

At home, after snacking on cheese, bread, and fried sausage in Sabs' case, we settled down to watch American History X.

I'd heard a lot of good things about the film and had been wanting to see it for a while, but was always worried about the intensity of the content.

For the second time this weekend, I was in tears at the end of a film, only this time, I was speechless too. It's almost impossible to describe the welter of feelings and the swirl of thoughts that the film evoked.

It's got a very strong anti-hatred message to it, though in some cases, I think it walked a very fine line between showing people as bad or good guys. It's shocking in many places because it depicts extremely violent acts in a surreal fashion that is both more effective and yet detached at the same time: most of the violence is shown in black and white, evoking a look and feel that is similar Schindler's List, without copying Spielberg's film in the slightest.

There is a lot of shock value in the film as a whole, but at the same time it's dealing with some very important issues and very deep ideas about how hatred works, how to and how not to heal the wounds caused by hatred. It's also an unflinching look at the rise of violence in American society and the attitudes that have made that rise possible.

In essence, this film has no easy answers for anything. It takes a difficult subject and presents several views that ring with a sickening truth that many of us don't want to face. In the end the film is both tragically hopeful and serenely depressing.

I just don't understand why this kind of filmmaking wasn't winning any awards on Oscar night, because controversial material aside, the film was very well made, with interesting camera work and use of film techniques that flow seamlessly into the narrative. The film sucks you right in and doesn't let go until it is ready to do so, leaving the viewer wrung out, moved, dazed, shocked or whatever the gut reaction is.

After that, it was something of a relief to watch Felicity, where the problems the characters face are so much simpler by comparison.

But the imagery, the juxtapositions, triumphs and tragedies of American History X are still with me, rolling around in my head and my heart.

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