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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump was an incredibly successful movie. It earned a massive amount of money, more than $650 million on a budget of $55 million. Additionally, it pretty much cleaned up on the Oscars (and many other awards as well). The Oscars it won were some of the most prestigious ones, namely the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor:
# Won - Best Actor (Tom Hanks)
# Won - Best Director (Robert Zemeckis)
# Won - Best Film Editing (Arthur Schmidt)
# Won - Best Picture (Wendy Finerman, Steve Starkey, Steve Tisch)
# Won - Best Visual Effects (Ken Ralston, George Murphy, Stephen Rosenbaum, Allen Hall)
# Won - Best Adapted Screenplay (Eric Roth)
It picked up a total of 13 nominations. Forrest Gump also won the important trio at the Golden Globe awards (Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor).
The Best Actor award did a lot of put Tom Hanks right at the top of the heap in terms of money-grossing abilities and excellent performances. Just the previous year, Tom Hanks had won the Best Oscar for Philadelphia and has also given a superb romantic role for the movie 'Sleepless in Seattle'. The two consecutive Oscars for Best Actor also made Tom Hanks the first Actor after Spencer Tracy in 1937-38 to win the Award for 2 consecutive years).

Forrest Gump (1994)

The name 'Forrest' itself has the potential to be very controversial. The name and the character are related to a famous General Nathan Bedford Forrest, very famous for being a great cavalry leader for the Confederate Side and also infamous for being reputed as the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacist hate organization. And of course the movie itself during very tumultuous periods of American history, with the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War and its massive protests, the rise to fame of Elvis Presley as a legend, the Watergate scandal, and the emergence of AIDS as a modern killer disease.
The hero of the movie is unlike most heroes; he has a low IQ of 75, a level that can classify him as dim-witted, but at the same time, there is an inner strength that keeps him going through his life. It's this that keeps him going as he plays an unintended part in many huge events of American history. The movie also played an important part in the use of technology in movies; the scenes where Forrest Gump is inserted into many historical events were very well received and discussed, especially the meeting with Kennedy in the White House.
The movie starts from Alabama, where Forrest is shown sitting at a bus stop, telling his life's story to fellow passengers who are waiting for the bus. This is the way that the story of the movie is told, and the movie also ends at the bus stop as Forrest escorts his son to the school bus. The movie is essentially a flashback, the story of the country told through the character of Forrest Gump. From the beginning, he was very inspired by his mother, particularly 2 sayings that she used to have: "Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get" and "Stupid is as stupid does." (Incidentally, as the movie became successful, these sayings came into much more wider usage).
Given that he was slow-witted and also had leg braces, Forrest used to come in for a lot of jibbing from other boys, and at one point, to escape them, he discovers that he can run and run (in the scene where he first discovers this, you can see his ability freeing him from the leg braces as they drop off). This running ability is on display frequently through the film; from the time when he impresses the coach and eventually makes the All American, to rescuing his fellow soldier in Vietnam, to finally meeting his love Jenny (played by Robin Wright) and his son.
His experiences are varied, and given that the movie actually exults in these experiences, it is almost necessary to mention them. Gump is supposed to have inspired the dance gyrations of Elvis Presley after Elvis sees him trying to dance while wearing leg braces. Due to Forrest making the All American team, he meets President Kennedy in the White House, but having drunk so many bottle of Dr. Pepper, he can only mention wanting to go to the loo when he actually meets the President (I really like this scene). He later meets President Johnson after getting the Medal of Honor for saving his fellow soldiers, and later still, after playing some great ping pong with China as part of ping pong diplomacy, he meets President Nixon. Nixon gets him moved to the Watergate Hotel (a better hotel than the current hotel that he was saying at) and Forrest causes the arrest of the burglars that eventually brings down Nixon.
There are some poignant scenes in the movie. All his life, he has been in love with his childhood friend Jenny Curran, but Jenny always had a much wilder life. She refuses every time, once leading him to do a 3.5 years across the country where he becomes a celebrity although no one is able to figure out why exactly he is doing this running. It is only after decades of knowing each other that they finally get married, but she dies shortly after of a Virus (speculated to be AIDS). And the movie ends with him dropping his son off to the school bus.
It is hard to pinpoint why people really liked the movie; there are some great performances by Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, and Mykelti Williamson. But the main reason is that people liked the story of a simple but honest man, and the movie captures a period of history in the United States that was very emotional and controversial. It universally acknowledged that the period from the 50's, from the Civil Rights movement and the Supreme Court ordered desegregation, from Kennedy's election (the rise of Camelot) and his assassination, the Vietnam War and mass anti-war protests, Watergate and the eventual forcing out of a President, all these were times of great change.
Watch this movie if you have not, and I am sure that you will have a reaction; you may like or hate the movie, but you will most certainly have a reaction.

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