American History X (1998)

american-history-x-1998Directed By: Tony Kaye

Written By: David McKenna

Starring: Edward Furlong and Edward Norton

Nominated for 1 Academy Award (Best Actor)

I apologize for my lack of posting. Finals are coming to an end, so things should be back to normal.

And you thought that racism was a thing of the past…

After losing their father to murder by an African American man, Derek Vinyard (Norton) decides to get involved in a neo-nazi skinheads in Venice, California. The skinheads essentially hate everyone that it is not white. After Derek is given 3 years in prison for a triple homicide of three black men, his brother, Danny (Furlong), attempts to continue his legacy and joins the skinheads himself. After thinking that his brother will come back proud of him, there is an obvious change of heart that his brother experienced in prison. He is suddenly not so supportive of the skinheads and their message. Danny’s principal, Bob Sweeney (Brooks) gets involved and the story turns into a thrilling mess.

The story written by producer David McKenna is flawless. With how fantastic the script is, it shocks me that McKenna has written no other major titles. This film was by far the biggest snub at the Oscars in 1998. The headline was Saving Private Ryan not winning, but when nominations were announced the headline was American X not getting nominated. This was disappointing, but not particularly surprising. A more recent Oscar-snub comparison for American History X is Drive. Just like American History X, Drive only received one nomination, which was just the Academy’s way of saying, “great movie, but we’re too conservative to encourage you.” Being a huge fan of the Academy, I hate having to say things like that, but when movies like American History X and Drive are not nominated, they leave me no choice. McKenna’s snub was perhaps the biggest one of all. The idea and execution were fantastic and he did not only deserve to be nominated, but to take home the golden trophy as well.

Edward Norton in American History X

Edward Norton in American History X

Edward Norton is very hit or miss with me. I can’t deny that I am mainly a fan of educated actors (i.e. Matt Damon, Will Smith) and not a fan of uneducated ones (i.e. most Hollywood actors). Knowing that Norton studied history at Yale automatically increased my interest in him. What I’ve found is that there are times that there is no denying his brilliance (i.e. Fight Club, The Illusionist), but at other times he is simply obnoxious (i.e. The Italian Job, The Incredible Hulk). With that being said, American History X is by far the best work of his. He drives the movie through every scene and the film would truly be different with out him. Aside from Norton, everyone, especially Furlong, is at their best. To make a film that will stick with you for hours after viewing, filmmakers need the best out of every actor involved, and that is what they got with American History X.

Maybe it makes the film even better that the director, Tony Kaye, has not worked on any major projects since American History X. He brings a style of direction that viewers are not used to seeing, and it only adds to the brilliance of the film.

Whether it be the capturing story, the world-class performances, or the fantastically original directing, American History X succeeds in tapping into viewers emotions, and spitting them out feeling different than they were when they entered.

IMDb: 8.6/10 (#33 on the top 250)

Rotten Tomatoes: 82/100

Metacritic: 62/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 90/100