Sunday, September 16, 2012

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1994

Spoken from one of the most famous lines in movie history, "My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get'."

Those lines from Forrest Gump, the best picture winner of 1994, have rattled out of everyone's mouth (just admit it), I'm sure there are t-shirts, and somewhere even promotional boxes of chocolate.

Not just the quotes, but the entire movie permeated our culture and, as can happen following such strong admiration, eighteen years later it is a movie more people mock rather than admit enjoying. Specifically, Premier Magazine and others, have even noted it as one of the most overrated movies of all time.

It sure would be a lot cooler to joke about Tom Hanks in his Oscar winning performance or criticize the "cheesy" story and call it overly fuzzy, but since I'm not cool I tend to love all those elements people hate and find Forrest Gump to be the quintessential modern American movie. Seriously, what's not to love?

Backlashes are typical for extremely successful movies, but for this flick, it tends to make me mystified. Not only does it have one of the most wildly creative and entertaining stories, but it also revolutionized filming technology.

One boy, living simple days in Alabama, ends up with the most miraculous life where he plays a part in historic moments that happened in this country and around the world. Just to name a few; Forrest teaches Elvis his moves, meets three different presidents, becomes a war hero, and eventually becomes a millionaire. No ones destiny is certain.

This life isn't so remarkable because it is unlikely, it is because it all happens to an underdog character that is loveable. We all continually root for Forrest on each crazy turn, including the eventual shrimping empire and running across the country just to run, where in the end it all just seems to fit. 

As a young kid, in the years following its release, I remember the astonishment people had over all the movie magic the filmmakers used to physically put Tom Hanks into historical footage. We see him actually talking to John Lennon and standing with Kennedy at the White House! They could have even put Forrest on the moon and it wouldn't have been too far off course.

No movie had utilized that technology before, and it was essential to making the story play out as big on the screen as it was written on paper. Still today these scenes make the movie that more lovely and hilarious.

       [Spoiler alert: For anyone who needs convincing, this sums it up.]

Just so we don't get too comfortable, thinking the world is great without turmoil, the tragic foil to the life of Mr. Gump is that of 'peas and carrots' fame, his Jenny. As everything good happens to Forrest, the world of his first friend is perpetually spinning out of control. Jenny is abused as a child and then runs away and lives through every phase of life a woman in the 60's/70's could have gone through; from nice college girl to hippie to coked out disco queen.

Through the years of Forrest and Jenny spiraling off in different directions and then finding each other again, Americas history, music, and cultural events are so deeply included that each becomes a character all on their own. Every scene is perfectly matched with a hit song from the era; Jenny strums a guitar as she sings Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater takes Bubba and Forrest to Vietnam, and Bob Seger leads Forrest and his followers through the desert on the last leg of his continual cross country run. The historical information is so detailed that even if we weren't alive for this time in American history, it feels like we could have been.

The extraordinary story tends to soak up most of the attention when discussing this movie, but it is also quite visually stunning. As seen in the clip above, those scenic shots on Forrest's run or him and Jenny in their tree watching the sunset place this film among the great visual epics in Best Picture history. Others have captured the deserts of Africa or the palaces of China, but this film is a spectacle of the everyday beauty this country has to offer.

Forrest loved Jenny, Bubba, Lt. Dan, this country, and don't forget, his mama. So, in the end, a great soundtrack, with memorable characters, and a sweeping epic story, boils down to one thing; love. Yes, I'm getting sentimental, but I'm a romantic, and this is what happens.

On that theme, and since we began with a quote for a film littered with quotable's, it only seems appropriate to wrap things up with another one; "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is."

I know Forrest, we love you too.

Next Up: Mel Gibson before he became that Mel Gibson, in Braveheart.

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