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Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump  

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  1. 1. Does "Forrest Gump" belong on the AFI list?

    • The AFI and Forrest goes together like peas and carrots
      2
    • JEN-NO!
      11

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  • Poll closed on 11/15/19 at 10:59 PM

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Paul & Amy run through 1994’s satirical American history tour Forrest Gump! They learn the nutty plot of the sequel book Gump & Co, listen to a bit of the Lt. Dan Band, and ask how John Candy would have played the Forrest role. Plus: We take your calls and hear why this film has resonated with so many movie fans.

What do you think The Best Years Of Our Lives is about? Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your answer! Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.com  and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Photo credit: Kim Troxall

 

Hi everyone!

I find this episode fascinating in regards to the reception of the movie! Especially the apparent difference between the reaction of Americans and Non-Americans. I mean I was shocked when I first heard that people see this as a sweet, wholesome movie!

It’s of course only anecdotal but most Europeans I talked to seem to think of Forrest Gump as a rather scathing deconstruction of America and the American Dream. With Forrest’s story being a parable showing that the American system is unjust and destructive and the only person who can succeed in this environment is someone who ”ignores” reality and blindly does what the system expects them to do ("following orders"), while everyone else who dares to question the dream gets punished HARD (like Jenny). Success in this movie is based on a combination of luck and a lack of critical thinking.

Maybe it’s because there’s already a widespread skepticism regarding what America is and symbolizes and this movie only confirms an already existing negative bias? I don’t know…

In any case a truly fascinating episode for me that makes me question how much you yourself bring to the table when looking at a piece of art...

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Hey, you started the topic, but we need a poll. Does it stay on the list, yes or no?

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21 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Hey, you started the topic, but we need a poll. Does it stay on the list, yes or no?

Did I correct this correctly? 😉

 

Edit: I am also open to closing this thread and letting someone who knows what they are doing open the real one... I just felt complled to share my thoughts this time and got overexcited 😉

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16 minutes ago, JJ95 said:

Did I correct this correctly? 😉

 

Edit: I am also open to closing this thread and letting someone who knows what they are doing open the real one... I just felt complled to share my thoughts this time and got overexcited 😉

Looks good!

No problem, we start our own threads all the time.

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So earlier this year at one point in here, I mentioned how I'm definitely doing my best to come at every movie totally fresh, whether I'd seen it before or not. I also mentioned that there was one film on the list that this would be very difficult for me, because I think it's one star trash.

Well, we finally got to it this week, because that movie is Forrest Gump.

I still think I came at it fresh because it had been so long, but I still don't like it. My disdain for it is too strong. It is against everything I stand for and like in art.

(I wrote a lot on Letterboxd about it, probably too much; I won't repeat myself too much here.)

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I agree with most of P&A's take on Forrest Gump, but something struck me while listening to the episode. This movie has a lot in common with one of my all-time favorites - Being There.

Both films follow "slow" characters who stumble into situations they can't really comprehend. 

IMO, Being There is a much more focused and better satire.

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I think it's very well-made and well-acted pap, but ultimately it's pap. Doesn't really have much to say about anything, and in terms of story it has some really good sequences that have little to do with one another. Whenever it threatens to do some actual satirizing, there's a sentimental sequence right around the corner to disabuse you of that notion.

I did read the book after seeing the movie and was surprised to find a much more sardonic and caustic tone, one that makes it much clearer to the reader that Forrest is more idiot than savant and that his success is an indictment of society. The book is definitely a satire of American culture and history. The movie is mixed messages all the way through. I didn't mind watching it again, but it's not listworthy.

The acting is probably the most praiseworthy thing. I think all of the principals are quite good, but Robin Wright and Gary Sinise should be singled out for recognition (Sinise was nominated, Wright was not).

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I'm glad Paul ranted about how much the movie stretches credulity in all the events it depicts. Forrest is:

1. An All-American football star at Alabama.
2. A war hero who mooned the President during a medal ceremony with cameras everywhere.
3. A star ping-pong player who went to China and got sponsorship deals and went on Dick Cavett.
4. A millionaire shrimp company owner who also invested in Apple Computers.
5. A guy who ran across the country multiple times and garnered thousands of followers and constant media attention.

And yet, everyone he talks to on that bench seems totally baffled about the stories he tells. None of the above broke through to them? And every time he gains more nationwide success, the news stories still just talk about him as some unknown guy we're just now learning about. Really, none of them looked any of this up?

I get that this is supposed to be a fable about Americana or whatever, but it also involves real historical events so the discordance between that and the world of the film is jarring. If that's supposed to be some kind of satirical commentary on Americans and their short memories, then I don't think the film's tone carries that off well enough.

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My view of the film seemed to align pretty directly with Paul's, in that I have so much disdain for this film, and yet it works.  Unlike Paul, I have no qualms about kicking this off the list, though I agree with his assessment of how ingrained in popular knowledge it is.  If I had to make a food analogy, I would say my feelings for this film basically parallel my feelings about eating shrimp, which are that I enjoyed it a lot more when I was younger, before I realized they're just underwater insects and it's sort of weird how many people fucking love it.  On this rewatch, I can't say those metaphorical shrimp weren't tasty, but I still couldn't get past the thought of the beady black eyes, the long antennae, the exoskeletons, and those super weird mouthparts.

I liked the episode of the podcast though, and I also appreciated the mentions of Being There and Zelig, which are the two superior films that seem like natural antecedents of Forrest Gump.  I was glad Amy mentioned the politics a little, about how all the people doing things associated with liberalism (protesters, hippies, Black Panthers) are all judged to be bad.  Amy and Paul probably could have gone even further into this (I'm 80% sure that Forrest Gump would have voted for Trump, but I'm 100% sure he would have worn a MAGA hat), but perhaps didn't want to alienate the callers who do like this movie.

9 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I did read the book after seeing the movie and was surprised to find a much more sardonic and caustic tone, one that makes it much clearer to the reader that Forrest is more idiot than savant and that his success is an indictment of society. The book is definitely a satire of American culture and history.

I didn't read the book, but when I read the wikipedia page about the differences, I found the bit about Forrest's college career interesting.  Apparently in the book, he flunked out of University of Alabama after his first semester, whereas in the film, he graduates in five years.  (I have so many questions, but the first thing I need to know is what Forrest majored in.)  In this case, the latter is the bigger indictment of society.  But to your point, it's another case in which the film seems to be driving towards making a statement, then steers away in time to avoid taking a stance.

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I've never seen John Candy do a "threatening" role. John Goodman has done that for the Coen brothers though.

I saw this as a kid and didn't care for it, although it is more of a real movie than the pure Boomer nostalgia of American Graffiti. Just not necessarily a very good movie.

I voted against this movie's inclusion, but I disagree that it presents an idealized vision of America in which everything is good. It's full of ugly parts of American history, even if Forrest himself is too dumb to understand them. I'm also less bothered by Jenny getting AIDS as a result of "participating in the culture" since that included using heroin. Perhaps Lieutenant Dan could have gotten it instead. Even today, opioid deaths seem to be particularly high for that generation.

I suppose "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" will have to be our closest substitute for Gilliam's take on Boomer history.

Is the minty flavor in the chocolate candy that Paul is gesturing toward toothpaste? And yes, I stole this joke from Jim Gaffigan.

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7 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

So earlier this year at one point in here, I mentioned how I'm definitely doing my best to come at every movie totally fresh, whether I'd seen it before or not. I also mentioned that there was one film on the list that this would be very difficult for me, because I think it's one star trash.

Well, we finally got to it this week, because that movie is Forrest Gump.

I still think I came at it fresh because it had been so long, but I still don't like it. My disdain for it is too strong. It is against everything I stand for and like in art.

(I wrote a lot on Letterboxd about it, probably too much; I won't repeat myself too much here.)

I seem to remember a time when I thought I'd listen to all the podcasts and have a letterbox list to follow along.  And I remember posting that I'd try to re-watch the movies, except for Forrest Gump because that would be too big a punishment.  I largely gave up on the podcast, but I listened to this episode in hopes that they would trash the movie.  This is the first time I was really on Paul's side during a podcast, until the very end when he messed up by leaving Gump in because it was so popular.

I saw this movie in a theater during it's initial run and I hated it at the time.   After years of being fairly interested in some parts of the Oscar show, this was they year that I completely lost faith.  

I can't remember whether Amy or Paul mentioned that this came out around the time W was emerging as a politician and that was an apt comment.  Like this movie is similar to liking a bologna sandwich.  I try not to be judge-y about pure movie taste but this movie is trash.  Sorry.  But i'm glad I got that off my chest.

(I'm going to try and come back next week in hopes of hearing about a good movie.  The Best Years of Our Lives is not perfect, but it's a time capsule movie, in a good way, not like Gump.  And with Myrna Loy!)

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8 hours ago, bleary said:

If I had to make a food analogy, I would say my feelings for this film basically parallel my feelings about eating shrimp, which are that I enjoyed it a lot more when I was younger, before I realized they're just underwater insects and it's sort of weird how many people fucking love it.

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I’ve been calling them sea spiders for years!

As for Forrest Gump...I’m so neutral on it that I’m going to abstain from voting. On the one hand, I personally prefer FG to a lot of the other movies on the list, but I don’t necessarily agree that it’s such a well-made movie that it deserves inclusion. Also, as I’ve gotten older and have had children (one of whom is on the spectrum), everything Sally Field is doing tears my heart out. It’s tough to watch Forrest being excluded because he’s different, which is a fear I have for my own kids that literally keeps me awake at night, but it’s heartening to see Forrest not only survive but thrive. How the things that set him apart are the same qualities that allow him to succeed.

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8 hours ago, bleary said:

I was glad Amy mentioned the politics a little, about how all the people doing things associated with liberalism (protesters, hippies, Black Panthers) are all judged to be bad.

I haven’t listened to the episode yet, but I don’t know that this is entirely fair. I don’t think any of those groups are actually shown to be “bad.” How exactly are the protestors or the Black Panthers bad? And the only hippie to be shown in a negative light is her abusive boyfriend which I saw as just pointing out the hypocrisy of *some* hippies and not an indictment of the counterculture as a whole. 

In the DC protest scene, with the military guy ripping out the microphone jacks, the movie shows is speaking out more against conservatives than liberals. The movie also heavily frowns heavily, and repeatedly, upon segregation. And when it comes to Vietnam, the movie only ever celebrates the soldiers, not the war or the military. I also think it’s telling that the movie touches on six assassinations or assassination attempts, (Wallace, JFK, RFK, Lennon, Ford, and Reagan), but the only ones Gump discusses with any personal emotion are JFK, RFK, and Lennon. Of the others, the only one he even comments on at all is Wallace’s. I mean, I guess with the conservative figures, those were all just “attempts” and not successful assassinations, and maybe that makes a difference, but the movie definitely feels more sympathetic toward those with a liberal philosophy. However, it’s not above pointing out hypocrisy wherever it sees it.

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5 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

I don’t think any of those groups are actually shown to be “bad.” How exactly are the protestors or the Black Panthers bad? And the only hippie to be shown in a negative light is her abusive boyfriend which I saw as just pointing out the hypocrisy of *some* hippies and not an indictment of the counterculture as a whole. 

You're right, and I definitely didn't choose my words properly here.  What I was really thinking about was all of these so-called counter-culture things in relation specifically to Jenny's arc.  The surface level reading of the film's depiction is that Jenny's life kept getting worse and worse the more she delved into these parts of society, and she only found happiness when she took the more conservative woman's role of mother and wife.  Now, I completely understand that this is just surface level and it's ignoring the context, which is that Jenny's life keeps getting worse because of her own self-destructive behavior stemming from her past as a victim of abuse, and doesn't actually have much to do with the individual aspects of counter-culture (besides maybe the drug use).  But on the surface, it seems to suggest that the things Jenny did were a gateway to sadness.

As far as the conservative aspects of the movie, right or wrong, I'm not the only one talking about it.  Eric Kohn at IndieWire lambasted the film for its conservatism on its 25th anniversary: https://www.indiewire.com/2019/07/forrest-gump-bad-movie-25-anniversary-1202154214/ while the National Review celebrated the film as the 4th best conservative movie of all-time: https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2009/02/23/best-conservative-movies/

My personal feeling is that the film plays it pretty straight down the middle, which then comes off as slightly conservative to me.  In the particular case of the DC protest, I do disagree with the idea that the film is speaking out more against conservatives than liberals.  The military guy seems to be the only one with a plan, while the protesters are totally bumbling.  So while I see the military guy's action as childish and petty, I could easily imagine someone watching that scene and gleefully enjoying how the military guy was able to so easily troll the libs.

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@bleary Caveated first with, I'm not going to bother to revisit this movie because... Why?

But hearing the split down the middle politics you two are arguing about doesn't sound out of place with the general shift of politics of boomers as they aged in the 90s. When they all realized they had lots of money and became more conservative - which would explain judgment of the folly of the redicalization of youth, but still feeling nostalgic for certain things that are still "cool" (JFK, RFK, Lennon assassinations).

 

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Hearing Paul pivot to why it was okay for the movie to stay on the list was a reminder of, "ubiquous, cultural familiarity and being liked by a lot of people" really shouldn't be confused with being good - but there are enough duds on this list for me that it doesn't seem out of place on the list.

/cynical

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6 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

@bleary Caveated first with, I'm not going to bother to revisit this movie because... Why?

But hearing the split down the middle politics you two are arguing about doesn't sound out of place with the general shift of politics of boomers as they aged in the 90s. When they all realized they had lots of money and became more conservative - which would explain judgment of the folly of the redicalization of youth, but still feeling nostalgic for certain things that are still "cool" (JFK, RFK, Lennon assassinations).

 

Historically the Boomer generation was always a pretty even split between liberal and conservative, with the older half of it leaning liberal and the younger half conservative (Vietnam protesters and flower children are the most visible examples, but just as many were fighting in the war or becoming born-again Christians). Boomer infighting is pretty much what has defined the country ever since they took political power starting with Clinton.

So yeah, I think you're right here. I don't find the movie specifically liberal or conservative, I find it trying to play itself down the middle in a kind of unsatisfying way.

But on the other hand, I also find it very entertaining and watchable in a moment-to-moment sense, so it's not really "terrible" either. It's like 3.5/5 stars for me.

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10 hours ago, bleary said:

You're right, and I definitely didn't choose my words properly here.  What I was really thinking about was all of these so-called counter-culture things in relation specifically to Jenny's arc.  The surface level reading of the film's depiction is that Jenny's life kept getting worse and worse the more she delved into these parts of society, and she only found happiness when she took the more conservative woman's role of mother and wife.  Now, I completely understand that this is just surface level and it's ignoring the context, which is that Jenny's life keeps getting worse because of her own self-destructive behavior stemming from her past as a victim of abuse, and doesn't actually have much to do with the individual aspects of counter-culture (besides maybe the drug use).  But on the surface, it seems to suggest that the things Jenny did were a gateway to sadness.

As far as the conservative aspects of the movie, right or wrong, I'm not the only one talking about it.  Eric Kohn at IndieWire lambasted the film for its conservatism on its 25th anniversary: https://www.indiewire.com/2019/07/forrest-gump-bad-movie-25-anniversary-1202154214/ while the National Review celebrated the film as the 4th best conservative movie of all-time: https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2009/02/23/best-conservative-movies/

My personal feeling is that the film plays it pretty straight down the middle, which then comes off as slightly conservative to me.  In the particular case of the DC protest, I do disagree with the idea that the film is speaking out more against conservatives than liberals.  The military guy seems to be the only one with a plan, while the protesters are totally bumbling.  So while I see the military guy's action as childish and petty, I could easily imagine someone watching that scene and gleefully enjoying how the military guy was able to so easily troll the libs.

I agree with you, and everyone else, that it’s pretty straight down the middle. The only way I see it as a conservative film is in the fact that it’s not overtly anti-conservative. The thing with Forrest is that he’s essentially a tabla rasa - rarely commenting on the events themselves and leaving the viewer to interpret the things around him through the prism of their their own experiences. Like how you see the hippies as bumbling and the military guy as having a plan. I do feel like the hippies are a motley bunch, but I don’t see them as being particularly incompetent or anything. And I don’t see it as a conservative bias because in that moment, in my mind anyway, the movie is clearly casting the military guy as the person with ill intent and the protestors as well-meaning, albeit maybe out of their depth. Pretty much your standard establishment vs anti-establishment scenario. However, like you said, I can 100% see a pro-military conservative interpreting that scene oppositely. And I guess that’s a part of the general apathy regarding the movie. The movie doesn’t take sides because Forrest doesn’t take sides and this can make it feel kind of toothless. Everything is kind of presented without judgement. The military/government isn’t all evil. The hippies/protestors aren’t all good. They just kind of are. And if the movie doesn’t take a stand one way or the other, it can leave the viewer with a kind malaise of, “Okay, what’s the point?” It’s hard to be passionate when the Art presented is inherently passionless. 

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4 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

It’s hard to be passionate when the Art presented is inherently passionless. 

This is an issue I've had with a lot of Robert Zemeckis' work.

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4 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

This is an issue I've had with a lot of Robert Zemeckis' work.

I have no idea what you mean...

the_polar_express_photo_31-1257397441.jp

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8 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

The only way I see it as a strictly conservative film is in the fact that it’s not overtly anti-conservative.

I think there is a conservative streak though, stepping back. Conservatism is basically the idea of staying the same, anti-progress, don't move forward. That's Forrest Gump. That's why Bob Dole was quoted in the episode, praising the film as some sort of ideal. As Paul said, the guy never takes any lesson or movement from anything. The status quo as a lovable guy who made something of himself. A better conservative symbol could not be found.

The movie may not be specifically all that political, but I think that it has had an effect on politics. 

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1 hour ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I think there is a conservative streak though, stepping back. Conservatism is basically the idea of staying the same, anti-progress, don't move forward. That's Forrest Gump. That's why Bob Dole was quoted in the episode, praising the film as some sort of ideal. As Paul said, the guy never takes any lesson or movement from anything. The status quo as a lovable guy who made something of himself. A better conservative symbol could not be found.

The movie may not be specifically all that political, but I think that it has had an effect on politics. 

Yes, but at the same time, he’s socially liberal, and while I wouldn’t say he’s expressly anti-capitalist, he’s certainly not plutocratic or anything. He makes money, but it’s more incidental and doesn’t really affect him. 

So, yeah, I think there’s some pro-conservative messaging. I think Lt Dan is a prime example of that. But I also think that there’s just as much pro-liberal messaging. Enough so that the whole thing comes out as a, perhaps unsatisfying, wash. If anything, I think Forrest Gump is a paean to moderation.

I’m also not so sure that Forrest doesn’t take movement from anything. For example, Bubba’s death, and the emotional fallout, leads him to make a decision to become a shrimp boat captain. That’s not something that’s thrust upon him. He makes a conscious decision that that’s what he’s going to do and he makes deliberate plans to carry it out. And the lessons he learns are gleaned through all of his experiences - ultimately culminating with him coming to the conclusion that life is like a feather on the wind: partially guided by our external experiences, and partially directed by our intrinsic nature. No, he doesn’t cap each story with what specific lesson he learned in that moment, but it’s clear he’s learning as he moves forward. It’s just cumulative. 

That being said, if you don’t subscribe to that particular argument, in a movie so reliant on a person’s (at least) partial destiny, it would be counter to its thesis of life being like a box of chocolates for him to employ too much agency. If Forrest Gump were about him taking independent movement, then he should be saying something like, ”I specifically bought a king-sized bag of Peanut M&M’s because they’re my favorite.” Forrest Gump is the anti-Greek tragedy. Instead of hubris compelling him to reject his destiny, and thereby resulting in divine punishment, his humility and willingness to “go with the flow” results in him being rewarded.

At least that’s how I see it.

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1 hour ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

This is an issue I've had with a lot of Robert Zemeckis' work.

I had this thought too, but really, outside of his uncanny valley trilogy (Polar ExpressBeowulf, and Christmas Carol) and a couple other stinkers, his filmography contains a bunch of movies I really love.  I'll ride and die for both Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Contact, and Back to the Future is great.  I don't love the BTTF sequels, but I respect them.  And while I'm not super enthusiastic about Cast Away or Flight, I'm not sure I'd call them passionless.  

I think it's fair to say that Zemeckis seems to choose projects based on the technological hurdles he can overcome rather than what he can bring to the story or characters.  But I have a difficult time coming down hard against him, because I do think he makes as many good movies as bad movies.

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2 hours ago, bleary said:

I had this thought too, but really, outside of his uncanny valley trilogy (Polar ExpressBeowulf, and Christmas Carol) and a couple other stinkers, his filmography contains a bunch of movies I really love.  I'll ride and die for both Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Contact, and Back to the Future is great.  I don't love the BTTF sequels, but I respect them.  And while I'm not super enthusiastic about Cast Away or Flight, I'm not sure I'd call them passionless.  

I think it's fair to say that Zemeckis seems to choose projects based on the technological hurdles he can overcome rather than what he can bring to the story or characters.  But I have a difficult time coming down hard against him, because I do think he makes as many good movies as bad movies.

Yeah, that's why I say "a lot" of his work, but not everything. Back To the Future definitely has a lot of heart. Over the years I do notice an increasing focus on technical wizardry over anything else, though.

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