#13: Forrest Gump (1994)

When and how did I watch this?

May 31st, 2017, on DVD.

Had I seen this film already?

I saw it for the first time in the late 90s on TV, and it became an instant personal favorite of mine.  I’m pretty sure I bought it on VHS from Amazon before it became its supermassive entity.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

My first tastes of the film began well before watching it.  My high school freshman English teacher had a movie poster on her wall featuring several Gump quotes, and it was a target spot when my eyes wandered and daydreaming commenced. A good friend of mine also remarked that I ran like Forrest Gump (and I do), and I acquired an endearing nickname during P.E. (by no means meant to be rude). After acquiring the copy, I’ve since watched it several times, but haven’t seen it in many years. The film has a place in my heart forever as a symbol of purity of motive — when one does something, it might be on purpose, or it might be unintentional or a whim, but one must deliver the action with great passion and with no boundary. Gary Sinise is now always Lieutenant Dan, and Robin Wright is either Jenny or Buttercup (Princess Bride). Tom Hanks is certainly not typecast, but this might be his best work.

What do I know about it now?

Since my last viewing of Forrest Gump, I’ve gotten older, married, and had two kids.  I’ve taken up running anew.  A good friend has died, my occupation has changed a couple of times, and a combination of personal circumstances and current events have shaped my worldview. Forrest Gump, while formerly amusing and occasionally inspiring, is a different film, but equally poignant.  As a child, Gump (the elder version: Hanks) is disadvantaged and retarded, but unhindered by these attributes. In a stunning (and still moving) scene, Gump, escaping bullies and hobbled by his leg braces, inspired by his best good friend little Jenny, shatters the mold and runs with impassioned vigor — and from that point on, he never stops running. “Now you wouldn’t believe it if I told you,” the storytelling version of Gump states while sitting at a bus stop — yet he continues, “But I can run like the wind blows.” He runs and gets a college scholarship; he runs and saves the lives of several Vietnam veterans; he runs and catches his momma in time to hear her dying words; he runs just because he felt like running. In a moment of sheer irony, Gump encounters his childhood doctor at his mother’s bedside: “We sure straightened you out, didn’t we, boy?” he states in a condescending fashion. Yet Gump refuses to be condescended to; he refuses to be restricted. It’s hard to define Forrest Gump the movie, but I believe this aspect says something about it: the film simply refuses to be put in a box. It’s complicated and addresses multiple sensitive social themes, but is incredibly simple in nature in the end.  We’re talking about love and life. On the production level, the effects are a little bit choppy now, but they still carry the proper effect. The cinematography is stunning, and the images alone got me teary eyed. I don’t think the acting needs further elaboration.

What are some themes in the film?

This might be the only time I “skip” this question, because it would require an entire blog just to cover it.

Did this affect me personally?

It did before, and it still does.  Now I understand his mother dying, and Bubba dying, and the relentless pursuit of Jenny. The biggest golf ball I had to swallow was when he saw his son.  Ugh, I’m losing it right now just thinking about it. When Gump is at Jenny’s grave, he resolves the Christian dilemma of predestination and free will with such innocent succinctness, I wonder if the man is the genius and if I’m actually the idiot.

Why is this ranked #13?

I don’t think it matters where you come from or how many films you’ve seen: this movie will inspire you. It’s a definitive movie, and the reason why we watch movies.  It’s It’s A Wonderful Life piled on top of Platoon and The Green Mile (ALSO featuring the great Tom Hanks) and Cinema Paradiso. How do people NOT give it 10 stars?  It’s pretty close.

Did my wife watch/like it?

Yep, the whole thing. She bought it for me, she says. I think there’s partiality here.

Would I watch it again?

Writing this blog is making me want to.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Those who think the film is about a retard stumbling through life and encountering tremendous luck are missing the point.  The film is worth watching because it’s really about you, and it’s about your life and what you’re doing with it.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

The only other Robert Zemeckis film on the IMDb Top 250 is Back to the Future (ranked #48 on my list), which has SOME whimsy, but it’s mostly action and humorous contextual moments.  I’m not sure what happened between the Back to the Future trilogy and this production, but he was certainly inspired, and frankly hasn’t done anything comparable since. But is that even possible? Forrest Gump is a film without comparison, worthy of its accolades and then some.  It is the best movie thus far on the countdown for a host of reasons, and will stand for all time as a landmark film in cinema.

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