“The object of a question is to obtain information that matters to us, and no one else.”
- Sean Connery as William Forrester in "Finding Forrester"

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Oscar Review: Forrest Gump (1994)

Our next entry on the list comes in at #71 on the list of the 100 greatest, settled between two other Best Picture winners - Ben-Hur (#72) and The French Connection (#70) - and spawned one of the most quoted lines from a modern movie: #40 - "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

Forrest Gump is story of a lovable southern boy who overcomes every challenge thrown at him and goes on to do amazing things. With his mother's (Sally Field) pearls of wisdom ever at the ready, Forrest (Tom Hanks) goes from a boy with braces on his legs to a high school and college football star to a Vietnam War hero to a rich shrimp boat captain.

In his fantastic journey, Forrest encounters many historical figures and makes his way into pop culture without realizing the significance of the events. He's the one who taught Elvis how to really move. He met with presidents. He's the one who reported the Watergate break-in. And it is Forrest who inspired the yellow smiley face t-shirts and the ever popular "Shit Happens" bumper sticker.

All his honors and wealth do not compare with finally marrying the love of his life, Jenny (Robin Wright Penn). His friends, though often harsh, are true and provide him with support and encouragement throughout all of his trials. Of particular note is his former superior officer Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) who is at first upset that Forrest wouldn't let him die but is then thankful for the life he has been able to lead.
Forrest Gump received 6 Oscars - for Best Picture, Actor (Hanks), Director (Robert Zemeckis), Editing, Visual Effects, and Adapted Screenplay - and another 7 nominations. It marked the first film for child star Haley Joel Osment. Though he only had a few minutes of screen time, Osment was immediately identified as a fresh talent leading to his current success as an actor.

While Forrest Gump is certainly an entertaining film, I wouldn't rank it as one of my all-time favorites or as one of the greats for its storyline. It is very inspirational in showing the capacity for greatness despite immense obstacles. And it is a testament to finding pleasure in the simple things in life and not letting fame or fortune get in the way of real happiness.

For me, one of the things that makes this movie worthy of Best Picture honors over the other nominees of the year is the advancements made in the art of filmmaking through chroma-keying (or "green/blue screens") and CG. Every scene where Forrest is meeting another president or when Lt. Dan appears with no legs, it is all thanks to keying and matching the actors with people who aren't even there. It is something we as an audience don't even think about anymore when we see live action and computer animations interacting with each other, but before Forrest Gump it had never been done quite so successfully. (Star Wars and others made use of blue screens but it wasn't as sophisticated as it was in Gump where you have Tom Hanks shaking hands with JFK.)

Though I don't find it as great as other films, Forrest Gump has certainly made a significant mark on American cinema and has become one of those films that you just have to see.