When Tom Hanks won his first Oscar for Philadelphia in 1993 the film received a total of five nominations. His second Oscar for Forrest Gump came in a film that received more than double that in nominations and awards. If Forrest Gump did nothing else it solidified Hanks's credentials as a serious actor. He would never be doing imitations of his Bosom Buddies character in films again.
It also among other awards also won for Best Picture and Best director for Robert Zemeckis, richly deserved. The film is Huckleberry Finn like in its canny observations coming from the man who had an IQ we are told of 75. But as Forrest also tells us, "stupid is as stupid does". And Forrest with the hand of an unseen providence comes out a lot better than some of the clever people he meets in life.
Watching the film once again it occurred to me that Mark Twain if he couldn't have written this himself would have loved the way Zemeckis handled the character of Forrest Gump. The beauty of Huckleberry Finn and the secret of its success is that Twain got into the mind of a child who recorded all the events around him, a child without too much education. What Zemeckis did was get Hanks into a child like mind who sees things with amazing clarity stripped of any veneer of pretense. Which Hanks observes in the people around him and in the events that shape America and himself from Eisenhower to Reagan.
There are two prominent female parts in Forrest Gump. One is for Robin Wright who plays the abused child Julie as an adult. She is Forrest's love and best friend and she takes a different path of life one she chose with more deliberation than Hanks. Their fates though eventually entwined are radically different.
The second major female role is for another two time Oscar winner Sally Field who now is playing matronly parts, a far cry from Gidget and the Flying Nun. She gives Forrest the maxims he lives by and in a crisis they turn out to be more than sound bite clichés.
Another award that Forrest Gump won is for Special Effects and an award it didn't win was for Gary Sinise in the role of Lieutenant Dan Taylor, Forrest's commanding officer in Vietnam. That's something that does not compute because the special effects were to show Gary Sinise as a double amputee with both legs lost in Vietnam.
It's some amazing bit of work no doubt about it, but to honor it without Sinise whose performance really brings it off is ridiculous. Sinise is the educated one who curses the fate that happened to him, but in the end by just going with the flow he does prosper in the end. Sinise lost that year in Best Supporting Actor category to Martin Landau for Ed Wood, but I think Sinise's performance has had a more lasting impact.
To those Americans who serve our country it certainly has. Gary Sinise has devoted a great deal of his life and earned treasure to bring entertainment to our overseas troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, wherever, becoming a successor to Bob Hope in that regard. He's gone further than that though, setting up foundations to help civilians in both countries and contributing to numerous charities dealing with war and its aftermath. Doing that in my humble opinion Gary Sinise has become one of the great Americans of our brand new millenia, a lot more than just an actor. He's forever now known as Lieutenant Dan.
In the end though the film belongs to Tom Hanks who joined with Spencer Tracy as the only two male actors to win back to back Oscars for Best Actor. Hanks fascinates us and guides us through this film and when we're done we've seen something very special.
If you don't believe me about how good Forrest Gump is, then watch it for a few minutes and see if you're not sucked in. Like Forrest's mama says, the film's like life which is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get until you open it."
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