I could not spend a whole year talking about 1994 and calling it “the most important year of the Nineties” if I didn’t take the time to talk about the film from 1994 that would go on to win best picture: Forrest Gump. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it is the story of a simple-minded man (the un-PC term would be “mentally retarded”) who winds up living an extraordinary life. Told through mostly flashbacks, the story concerns Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), who is sitting on a bus stop bench in 1982 on his way to see Jenny, who as we learn over the course of the movie, is the love of his life. He tells his life story to anyone who happens to be sitting next to him (as well as the audience): born in Alabama, Forrest has a low I.Q. and had to wear braces on his legs as a kid until one day he learned how to run. This served him well more than once, as he played for the University of Alabama football team, served in Vietnam, played diplomatic ping pong, opened a shrimping company, and started a running craze. Along the way, we also see the life of his girl, Jenny (Robin Wright), who had a life that directly contrasts Hanks’s characcter: she was abused as a child, became a hippie, and spent much of her formative years in a drug- and alcohol-induced haze until finally coming home to Alabama and living with Forrest before leaving (which prompts Forrest to start running and the creation of his running craze). When Forrest and Jenny meet up after he’s done telling his story, she tells him that she is dying and that she has a son named Forrest, who is the result of the one night that the two of them slept together. By the end of the film Jenny has passed away and Forrest is now raising his son in his childhood home in Alabama.
That’s a gross simplification of the movie’s plot (after all, I didn’t mention Bubba or Lt. Dan), but most of the people reading this post are probably at least familiar enough with the film to follow along (and if you’re not, the film is available for streaming via Netflix). Or you can check out the trailer:
So, with the plot out of the way, I thought I’d get to what I wanted to say about this movie, which has not been one of my favorites; in fact, I’ve long contended that with both The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction nominated for best picture that year, I can’t understand how this won best picture. Okay, I can see why it was a popular choice for best picture, what with its sentimentality and emotional impact; I can’t understand how the Academy thought that this was more worthy of that particular honor than those two films, the latter of which had a major influence on filmmaking for at least the better part of the rest of the decade (and possibly beyond).
You know, never mind that I saw this three times in the theater, bought the soundtrack, and own a copy on VHS (although for the life of me I have no idea where that copy is). In fact, I liked the movie when it came out. It was beautifully shot, was pretty funny, and the music was great. But it did not age well, especially after I saw Pulp Fiction and read Winston Groom’s novel upon which the film is based. The novel turned me against the film in a big way, as Groom’s Forrest is a lot less likable than the buffoon with a heart of gold that Hanks plays on screen (and for which he won Best Actor). Prior to writing this post, I hadn’t watched the film since 1996 and decided to give it a fair shake. I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would, although I still think it wasn’t worth the Best Picture honor (and I still maintain that it’s right up there with the oft-derided Ordinary People’s victory as Oscar larceny). So what I did was do what any
lazy good blogger does, and that’s made a list. So here are the top five things I liked and the top five things I hated about Forrest Gump. (more…)