10: Fruitvale Station & The Disaster Thinker Phenomenon

I’ve always been a little paranoid. Call it watching Home Alone as a child and having my older brother hide away to see how scared I’d get. Maybe it’s that I have an overactive imagination (there’s no maybe about it, I do have an overactive imagination), but I’m never truly comfortable unless all my loved ones are accounted for. As a kid, I wouldn’t be able to sleep unless both my siblings and my parents were in the house.

Yeah, I was real fun.

My neuroses have only been exacerbated by the tragedies that have hit our country in the last few years. One of the perks of having an overactive imagination is the sense of place it gives me. I remember exactly where I was when we learned about Columbine. About 9/11. Certainly Aurora, and the recent horrors of Newtown and the Boston Bombings. I only mention it, because I remember where I was when I heard about the Oscar Grant shooting, and I remember the feeling of being hollowed from the inside out. I couldn’t grasp the concept that a kid not too much younger than me had been shot and killed for no reason at all.

I have a long standing belief that the pictures in my head are only as good as what I can imagine. I like to be surprised. I’m never going to hate on a movie for not being as good or as vivid as the book, because the movie always fills in a gap for me that the book couldn’t. I wanted to see Fruitvale because I wanted to understand it. A month later, and I still don’t. I’ve listened to podcasts and read articles about it. I’ve had spirited debates with friends. I’ve woken up imagining the pierce of a gunshot wound and what it would be like to lose a lover or a friend like that.

If this were a real film criticism blog, maybe I’d be able to speak about the symbolism of the dog, and the blood on Oscar’s shirt. I’d delve into the cinematic choice of the fireworks and T asking her daddy whether he’d be safe. As it is, though, this movie was exactly what I needed it to be. The cast was exemplary. Octavia Spencer always wows, but the scenes between Jordan and Diaz were what caught and stayed in my attention. It’s somewhat of a cliche to talk about how real a performance was, but even with just this small glimpse — even with just a day in these characters lives, I believed it.

I believed in them, and in that moment, Oscar Grant was no longer a news story to me, if he ever had been. He wasn’t like one of those nameless soldiers whose entire existence, for strangers, gets distilled down to death toll statistics. There’s a certain transportative power that a really good movie can have. I’m not breaking new ground, but I think Fruitvale, for its faults, genuinely did.

“It takes thirty days to make a habit,” Oscar narrates as the film begins, and it’s a quote that I’ve thought almost every day since. I wonder if it’s true. I wonder what that time could have changed for him. I wonder what it will change in me.

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