"A crooked childhood it's what the way I am,
It's got me in the state where I don't give a damn,
Somebody helped me but now they don't hear me,
I guess I be another victim of the ghetto
So I guess I gotta do what so I ain't finished
I grew up to be a streiht up menace, geah."
-"Streiht Up Menace" by MC Eiht
The song lyrics above are from the soundtrack of the film Menace II Society and correspond directly to the hardships that people are given when growing up in the ghetto and when surrounded by a life of violence. Because they know nothing other than this aggressive and brutal way of life, they continue this violent cycle and rarely break away to begin a new way of life. Twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes direct the film. The Hughes began making movies at age 12, but their formal film education began their freshman year of high school when Allen took a TV production class. They soon made a short film entitled How To Be A Burglar and people began to take notice. Their next work, Uncensored Videos, was broadcast on cable, introducing them to a wider audience. After high school, Albert began taking classes at the Los Angeles Community College Film School. Two short films established the twins' reputation as innovative filmmakers and allowed them to direct Menace II Society (1993), which made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and grossed nearly 10 times as much as its $3 million budget. After following up with Dead Presidents (1995) they directed the feature-length documentary American Pimp (1999). From the very first scene, detailing Caine and O-Dog's fatal armed robbery of a Korean market, violence is cruelly graphic. "In this instance, the film succeeds in painting a disturbing picture of violence, one in which the characters' lack of remorse, rather than stylistic convention, shapes and colors the horror of the image." Although most of the violence is filmed realistically and unfolds in real time, the Hughes can't seem to resist stylizing some of the more important narrative events. Thus, while the robbery introduces violence, O-Dog's shooting of the Korean market owner is shown directly only further into the story, when black and white images of the store's stolen surveillance video are played and replayed for the entertainment of Caine, O-Dog, and their friends. While an innovative means of conveying action, the video becomes nothing more than a diversion. While it builds tension and a false sense of foreboding, nothing comes of it; the video never connects directly to the film's later events. The next scenes are of the Watts riots in 1965. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a new age in race relations appeared to begin. But the states acted quickly to circumvent the new federal law. California reacted with Proposition 14, which moved to block the fair housing components of the Civil Rights Act. This, and other acts, created a feeling of injustice and despair in the inner cities. On August 11, 1965, a routine traffic stop in South Central Los Angeles provided the spark that lit the fire of those incensed feelings. The riots lasted for six days, leaving 34 dead, over a thousand people injured, nearly 4,000 arrested, and hundreds of buildings destroyed. The Watts riots are extremely important in this film and are shown to illustrate and symbolize the oppression of the African American race, which was taken to an extreme during the Civil Rights Movement of this era. The directors use these clips from the Watts riots to stimulate the audience and to make them think more deeply about not only the scenes and occurrences of the film, but of all films and all instances relating to colonization and the oppression of the African American race as a whole. Menace II Society is a coming of age film detailing the summer after its protagonist, Caine, graduates from high school. This is Caine's story, made literal through the film's use of voice-over narration to convey his point of view. In...
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