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Road Trip, day ten
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There was something magical about 1994. Take a look at some of the movies released that year that werenít even considered for the best picture Oscar. Hoop Dreams, which somehow wasnít even nominated for best documentary, Leon (sometimes called The Professional) which marked Natalie Portmanís debut, The Madness of King George which showed Britain struggling with a mentally ill monarch in the years after 13 of her colonies decided they didnít need any monarch at all, the last two entries in Krzysztof Kieslowskiís Trois Couleurs trilogy, Rouge and Bialy, the latter being the best movie to watch it you share my opinions on the evil of women, and Clerks which made independent movies viable.
The five nominees were an impressive list too. Shawshank Redemption is one of the best movies ever based on a Stephen King novel, though thankfully it omits a lot of the rape, Four Weddings and a Funeral is one of the best romantic comedies of the decade and marked the rise to fame of Hugh Grant, Quiz Show had the best collection of actors and a script more than worth their efforts, and then there were the big two, Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump.
Forrest Gump ended up winning. Tom Hanks plays a man with an extremely low IQ who has a hand in major historical events, kinda like George W. Bush, except Forrest actually means well. (Come to think of it, Forrest may actually be smarter than Bush. Forrest knows that Vietnam is "this whole other country," while Bush thinks Africa is a country.) The point of the movie isnít really to see the world through the eyes of someone who is totally innocent and naive. Itís more to let baby boomers reminisce about historical events that they place added weight to because it happened in their lifetime, kind of like Billy Joelís "We Didnít Start the Fire." If my generation ever waxes poetic about Nirvana, Napster, and the 1996 Princeton- UCLA game, you have my permission to take appropriate vengeance. Oh wait, I guess with the imminent death of social security my generation will suffer enough as is. Never mind.
Over the course of his life, Forrest teaches Elvis how to dance, plays football for Bear Bryant, which earns him a spot on the All-American team, which leads to him meeting President Kennedy, then he witnesses the integration of the University of Alabama, goes to Vietnam, where it is decorated, allowing him to meet President Lyndon Johnson, and attend a peace rally in Washington and meet the Black Panthers. Then he becomes part of Ping-Pong diplomacy, which leads to him meeting, and then taking down President Nixon and helping John Lennon write "Imagine" before heading off to survive Hurricane Carmen, invest in Apple Computers, start the running craze, and come up with "Shit Happens" bumper stickers and "Have a Nice Day" t-shirts. I would compliment the way the filmmakers inserted Forrest into archive footage, but this is accomplished better in both Woody Allenís Zelig (which beat Forrest Gump to the punch by over a decade) and the Bert is Evil movement.
There are a couple things that trouble me about this movie. Nixon suggests Forrest stay at the Watergate Hotel on the very night his minions break into the place. Seems like Tricky Dicky would have avoided any risk of getting caught. Then when Forrest is running back and forth across the continent he is refereed to in the news as an Alabama gardener, as opposed to say, former Crimson Tide kick returner or Bubba Gump Shrimp founder. Do some research guys.
Then we have the whole Jenny situation. She comes crawling back to Forrest once sheís done whoring it up all over the country. Is the moral of this story that only a stupid man would take the skank back? Jenny seems to be a fairly typical woman of course. Haunted by the demons of sexual abuse, she strips, racks up one of history's higher magic numbers, dates the head of the UC Berkeley chapter of the SDS who evidently feels that a philosophy of nonviolence should not apply to relationships, only coming back to the one guy who was nice to her when sheís hit rock bottom. If Forrest were smart he would have pulled a Rhett Butler on her, but as he himself admits, heís not a smart man.
Some of the special effects are very impressive, especially the helicopters when Forrest and Bubba arrive in Vietnam, and the effect to make Lt. Dan appear to be a double amputee. The soundtrack is also excellent, and also ties in to the boomer nostalgia trip, being essentially a super sounds of the 60ís and 70ís album.
Much of the acting is good, especially Gary Sinise as Lt. Dan and Mykelti Williamson as Bubba. Hanks did win an Oscar for his role, but in my opinion his work in Philadelphia and Apollo 13 surpasses this one.
But however good this movie is, and it is quite good, there was a movie in 1994 that stands out above it. When I got to college a couple years later I started out as a Film major, and everyone in my 100 level Film class was inspired by one movie over any other, Quentin Tarantinoís ground breaking masterpiece, Pulp Fiction. As good as Forrest Gump is, there is little lasting impact, and once you walk out of the theater, how much of it are you really going to remember. And when I sat in that Film class, none of my classmates wanted to emulate Forrest Gump someday. Pulp Fiction may have been too different for the Academy, but it is also close to flawless. Too bad the Academy didnít see it that way.