Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Movie on the Mind: American History X

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe: Monday Movie on the Mind. I’ll be kicking off each week with a clip or trailer from a film that happens to be on my mind, designed as a retrospective look at some well-known, forgotten, or underappreciated classic from movie history, be it antique or current. Chime in with your thoughts about the film or any other movies that you might be thinking of this week!

American History X
Directed by Tony Kaye
Released October 30, 1998

This iconic film is one of the best of the 1990s, and also one of the most disturbing. Fortunately, the two most horrifying clips were not embeddable, which is probably for the best since they don’t need to be seen here, though they do serve an important purpose in the film. The story of neo-Nazi high schooler Danny Vinyard (Edward Furlong) is told through black and white flashbacks to the influence of his brother Derek (Edward Norton) while Danny is given an assignment to write an essay on tolerance by one of his teachers. After he commits a violent murder, Derek begins to rehabilitate as he sees things differently in prison just as his brother heads down exactly the same path he did. Norton received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his astonishing performance, and the film barely received any other accolades, save for a standing in the thirties in the top 250 rankings on IMDB. It’s an extraordinarily moving and upsetting story, and there are a few clips embedded below that capture the essence of this film. A simple basketball game becomes an epic racial territorial battle, complete with a sweeping score and overhead cinematography. In a discussion about Rodney King, Derek so freely spews hate as a horrified Murray (Elliott Gould) tries, with no luck, to get him to back down as Danny feeds right into it. In a later flashback, the root of the brothers’ hatred is revealed as their father Dennis (William Russ) teaches them hate with a smile on his face. From towards the end of the film (stop reading if you haven’t seen it), the dismounting of the symbols is a powerful scene, and there’s nothing quite as heartbreaking as the final moments of the film. If you haven’t seen it, watch it soon, but beware of some immensely disturbing content.

Basketball Game

Discussion about Rodney King

Derek and Danny’s Father

Taking Down the Symbols

Ending Scene

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