Welcome to 90 from the ‘90s; the movie-related post in which I watch, discuss and debate a film from the 1990s – a film that I’ve NEVER SEEN. Posting on a semi-regular basis, I aim to work my way through 90 movies that I’ve previously missed/avoided, recording my thoughts along the way.

I’m going to watch good films, bad films, forgotten classics, Oscar winners and everything in between. Some of these films you’ll be surprised I’ve never seen, others you’ll completely understand why I’ve avoided them for 20+ years.

The rules are as follows:

  • The film must be from the 1990s (1990-1999)
  • The film must be a movie I’ve not watched before

Today’s unseen ‘90s movie is…

American History X (1998)

American History X has been recommended to me numerous times by numerous people. By all accounts (or at least according to the people who have recommended it) American History X is a compelling tale.

So, if the film has been recommended to me so many times and if it’s supposed to be THAT good, why have I never watched it?

Honestly? 

I’ve come close to watching American History X on a few occasions, but the content (the neo-Nazi movement) has always stopped me. I’ve always felt that I need to be in right frame of mind for this film because I know it will provoke a strong reaction from me.

I guess, over time, I’ve simply pushed American History X to the bottom of my ‘must-watch’ pile, because I’ve never been in the correct head space to tackle the subject matter. Today I’m ready.

As for what I know about this film? Well, I know it stars Edward Norton and Edward Furlong and as mentioned above, I understand that it tackles difficult subject matter. 

*Clicks the play button*

4mins – Initial observation: This film is going to be brutal. 

6mins 20secs – Elliott Gould and Avery Brooks are in this movie! I had no idea. Must resist the urge to make Friends & Star Trek gags. 

9mins – Taking into account the current political climate, sadly this film about hatred, intolerance and the rise in Nazism feels very much like a contemporary piece. Not bad for a story that is 20 years old.

15mins – Edward Norton is angry, racist and misguided. He feels that immigration has ruined America and this is the reason why the country has problems. I hate to say it, but did Trump watch this movie for inspiration?

20mins – Oh great, just what the world needs – a racist basketball game. Hard to watch but at the same time I can’t take my eyes off the screen. I’ve not been this invested in a basketball game since Space Jam (1996).

27mins 30secs – Hilary Clinton just got a name check. Seriously, was this movie made in 2016?

34mins – Immigration is the sticking point behind the racism in this narrative. 

35mins 45secs – “It’s happening right here.”

36mins – This is difficult to watch.

38mins – The racism here is born from the idea that immigration is making it harder for nationals to survive.

38mins 30secs – Edward Norton feels that he has been let down by the government and that people like him (poor white people) are being discarded. Although he acknowledges the government is failing to support him and people like him, he places the blame squarely at the door of people who are in a similar situation. Ugh. 

42mins 30secs – Edward Norton has just been likened to a member of the KKK. Norton thinks he’s nothing like the KKK. He shares the same core values but feels they are very different. Once again… ugh! 

45mins – A family dinner has just descended into chaos. Well, if you will talk racism over supper you should expect this kind of thing. Maybe next time just stick to religion as the topic of conversation. No, wait – avoid that subject too!

47mins – “Doris, you don’t know the world your children are living in.”

49mins – OK, so I’m roughly at the midway point of the movie and so far my comments have not really explained anything. So, for those who haven’t seen American History X, the film tells the story of a neo-Nazi and his family. The story appears to be being told in a non-linear fashion, with black and white flashback sequences filling in the past and colour sequences explaining the present. 

52mins – Another flashback sequence, this time explaining the events that lead to Norton going to prison. 

58mins – Back to the present and after spending three years in prison Norton no longer wants anything to do with the neo-Nazi movement. You see, prison does work! Or… it does in this scenario anyway.

1hr 22mins – Oh. Jeez. Incredibly brutal scenes, with Norton attacked and raped in prison by white inmates. I’m finding myself feeling sorry for him, but then having to remind myself of the reasons why he’s in prison. So many conflicting emotions. 

1hr 26mins – Norton is incredible in this movie. 

1hr 30mins – By spending time in prison, with his power stripped away, Norton is effectively on the same level as everyone else. He is now able to see he is no better than those of a different colour. 

1hr 43mins – American History X is starting to wrap up. I’m aware I’ve made very few comments during the course of this movie but that’s because this is brutal, it is hard to digest and at times it is scarily reflective of today. I’ve spent the majority of this film transfixed by what I’m watching. Horrified, but transfixed. 

1hr 48mins – A violent act to conclude the story.

1hr 49mins 45secs – “Hate is baggage. Life’s too short to be pissed off all the time. It’s just not worth it.”

*Clicks stop*

Well, that was a very emotive movie.

American History X is a very good film, which provokes a reaction – be that both a good thing or a bad thing. It wants you to feel something; it asks you to engage with the material; it demands that you comment; and it leaves you feeling determined not to let this situation continue to play out.

Over the past 50 odd posts I’ve watched some truly awful movies from the ’90s and I’ve ripped them apart accordingly. American History X is not one of these movies and instead it gets my respect.

Watching a film like this is the reason why I’m working my way this whole series of unseen movies – to find a gem. Now if only I could say the same thing about the next movie that I’ve got lined up…

Showgirls!

But I’ll talk about that in the next edition of 90 from the ’90s. You’ll want to come back for that one.

For past entries in the 90 from the ’90s series, check out: North (1994)Jack Frost (1998),  Psycho (1998)A League of Their Own (1992)Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)Patch Adams (1998)My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)You’ve Got Mail (1998)Sleepless in Seattle (1993)Graveyard Shift (1990)Johnny Mnemonic (1995)Striptease (1996) Indecent Proposal (1993)My Girl 2 (1994)The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)Poison Ivy (1996)Body of Evidence (1993)Turbulence (1997)Fatal Instinct (1993)True Romance (1993)Newsies (1992)Contact (1997)The Pelican Brief (1993)Natural Born Killers (1994)Shakespeare in Love (1998)A Perfect Murder (1998)Quigley Down Under (1990)Of Mice and Men (1992),Friday (1995)Mannequin on the Move (1991)She’s All That (1999)Double Dragon (1994)Stay Tuned (1992)Murder at 1600 (1997),Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993)My Own Private Idaho (1991)Wagons East (1994)In the Line of Fire (1993)Postcards from the Edge (1990)Universal Soldier (1992)Passenger 57 (1992)Mo’ Better Blues (1990)The Client (1994)Good Will Hunting (1997)Pump Up the Volume (1990)Mr. Nanny (1993) Fargo (1996)Hudson Hawk (1991)So I Married An Axe Murderer (1993) and Timecop (1994).