5/31/12: Forrest Gump
“You can barbecue shrimp, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dahr’s…uh… shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. Pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp & pataytuhs, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. Dat’s ‘bout it.”
Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump stands tall as one of the finest works in metaphorical celluloid in the short history of the art form. When it came out in the summer of ’94, it made a huge splash. In the fall that year, The Shawshank Redemption, another fine film was released. At the 67th Academy Awards, Gump was nominated for 13 & won 6 Oscars, including 4 of the Big 7 to which it applied (Zemeckis, Tom Hanks as Forrest, Picture, and Eric Roth’s Adapted Screenplay). Shawshank was nominated for 7 Oscars including Best Picture, Actor (Morgan Freeman) and Adapted Screenplay, but won none. The immediate reaction from the realists was a unified outcry of disdain. Amongst them was my oldest brother. But rather than ask if Julie Andrews deserved her Best Actress Award for Mary Poppins, I decided to let greatness be measured over time. And while both films have passed that ultimate test, the voices of outrage have been squelched and Gump got its redemption.
Forrest Gump marks Zemeckis’ only Oscar recognition as a director. He was also nominated for Original Screenplay for Back to the Future in ’86. Hanks’ Best Actor Oscar as Forrest was his second successive, having won the year before for Philadelphia. The film is Forrest’s narrative tale of his life as he sits awaiting a bus in Savannah to take him to see the love of his life – his Jenny, Robin Wright’s best performance amongst many fine roles including Moll Flanders two years later. Forrest is forever seeking & protecting his Jenny in what can only be described Beatrician devotion, but every time they’re together for any length of time, “just like that, she[’s] gone”. Forrest is intellectually disabled & ubiquitous: His life is a charmed series of significant second half of the 20th century events – and this quality is what caused the outcries against it. Through incredible luck & skill: He becomes an All-American under Coach Bear Bryant; reports the Watergate break-in; meets two Presidents; volunteers for the Army & gets sent to Vietnam where he wins the Congressional Medal of Honor; plays for the U.S. Ping Pong Team in China; ushers in the 80’s running craze; becomes a “gazillionaire”; and so on. While in ‘Nam, he meets his two best friends – Bubba and Lieutenant Dan. Mykelti Williamson is great in his small but important role as Bubba. Gary Sinise was nominated for his only Oscar as Lieutenant Dan but unfortunately lost to Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. The last important character in the cast is Forrest’s loving & protective Mama, played by two-time Best Actress Oscar Winner, Sally Field (Norma Rae and Places in the Heart in ’80 & ’85 respectively). She makes sure that Forrest is treated no differently than anyone else and teaches him everything he needs to know in ways that he can understand.
In 2007, the American Film Institute voted Forrest Gump the #76 Greatest Movie of All Time. And although I stated that the voices of outrage have been largely silenced, in the same year, Premiere Magazine ranked it the 11th Most Overrated Film of All Time, just ahead of Gone With the Wind. And just to totally dismiss the credibility of that ridiculous listing of fantastic films: Tops on that list is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 – A Space Odyssey. “And that’s all I have to say about that.”