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85. Forrest Gump (#12)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode thrown in.

This time, Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump.

Forrest Gump is an unremarkable man who has lived the most remarkable of lives, a feather caught in the breeze of history. From his childhood in Mississippi through the turbulence of the sixties and seventies, Forrest Gump lives a life that intersects repeatedly with the biggest moments of the twentieth century, having a profound and unspoken effect upon the course of history.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 12th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Irony, Thy Name Is Gump: “Forrest Gump” and the Art of Earnest Irony…

Forrest Gump is a movie that I’ve never quite been able to wrap my head around.

On one level, it’s an incredibly sacchrine and simplistic exploration of the first fifty years of the so-called “American Century”, the turbulent second half of the twentieth century as navigated by a dim-wit with nothing but good intentions to guide his way. The eponymous character floats on the winds of history like a feather, a metaphor that bookends the film in a manner that is incredibly cloying. There is something undeniably condescending and overly simplistic in the notion of history in Forrest Gump, as a force that sweeps up men and nations without any rhyme or reason.

As such, it’s easy to be wary of Forrest Gump and its approach to history. Forrest Gump presents a very clean and sanitised accounting of the second half of the twentieth century, one in which there is absolutely nothing happening beneath the surface of American life, and in which there is no point even attempting to comprehend the myriad of forces at work on the country and its inhabitants. In this way, Forrest Gump plays as a trite moral fable. There is no point in even trying to understand the chaos that is the modern world. It is enough to be decent and oblivious, and things will work out fine.

At the same time, there has always been something lurking at the edge of the frame in Forrest Gump, beneath all the folksy trappings and the simplistic history lessons. It is too much to suggest that Forrest Gump has an edge, but it certainly has a point. Forrest Gump in many ways presents an avatar of the final fifty years of the twentieth century in its central character. The eponymous character is an embodiment of a certain American ideal, a personification of the American public that has been bewildered and confused by the speed and pace with which history seemed to move in that turbulent half-century.

With that in mind, there is something vaguely self-aware in Forrest Gump, something that perhaps simmers beneath the surface of the film. Gump is a likable and charming protagnonist, brilliantly brought to life by Tom Hanks in a performance that (deservedly) won him his second Best Actor Oscar. However, there has always been something uncanny in the film’s presentation of Gump as the character most ideally suited to the twentieth century, in contrast to supporting characters like Lieutenant Dan or Jennie. Forrest Gump is a movie that argues the only way to survive the twentieth century is as a fool and an idiot.

There’s always seemed something very wry and very cynical in that idea, buried beneath the film’s cotton-candy exterior.

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Non-Review Review: Sully – Miracle on the Hudson

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson has a certain Frank Capra quality to it.

To be fair, a lot of that comes from the casting of Tom Hanks in the title role. Hanks radiates a certain ineffable integrity, a “Hanksian Decency” that informs his performances in films as diverse as Bridge of Spies and Inferno. It is tempting to think of him as “America’s Dad”, particularly given the grey hair and the moustache that he donned for the title role here. However, it is also tempting to think of him as a latter-day Jimmy Stewart, the embodiment of a certain type of fundamental American decency that lends itself to this sort of narrative.

Hanks for the memories.

Hanks for the memories.

Similarly, director Clint Eastwood has a similar philosophy. Eastwood’s films tend to be organised around strong moral principles. Often those principles are articulated in terms of personal responsibility, particularly the responsibility that individuals have for others whether in a professional capacity (J. Edgar) or a personal capacity (Million Dollar Baby) or simply by virtue of being there (Gran Torino). Eastwood’s recurring fascination with individual responsibility makes him a quintessentially American director.

This combination is ideally suited to Sully, which is constructed as something akin to a modern-day American fairytale.

"Mr. Sullenberger goes to the NTSB Debriefing."

“Mr. Sullenberger goes to the NTSB Debriefing.”

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My 12 for ’13: Cloud Atlas & Sheer Ambition

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 1…

cloudatlas1

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Non-Review Review: Saving Mr. Banks

“I’m tired of remembering it that way,” Walt Disney admits of his childhood at the climax of Saving Mr. Banks, in a rare moment of personal candour. There are moments when Saving Mr. Banks seems to come very close to working – exploring the link that exists between memory and imagination. In a way, that’s very much what Walt Disney was all about, adapting and renovating classic stories in such a way that they seemed to be more the stories that we wanted to hear than the stories that we remember.

Unfortunately, for too much of its runtime, Saving Mr. Banks serves more of an example of the process of “imagineering” that an exploration of it.

savingmrbanks1

It’s not quite tell-all-vision…

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The X-Files – Gender Bender (Review)

Gender Bender is weird. As an atmospheric moody piece of television, it’s pretty phenomenal – the script manages to tap into a whole bunch of basic nineties fears and uncertainties, while director Rob Bowman layers on the sense that something is not quite right here. On the other hand, as a narrative, the episode comes up short. From the cop-out ending to the laziness of putting Scully in peril twice, the story for Gender Bender is nowhere near as tight as it needs to be.

And yet, despite that, there’s a pervading sense of dread and unease that makes it far more compelling than it should be.

In the woods...

In the woods…

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Non-Review Review: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is the tensest thriller of the year, no small accomplishment when you consider that director Paul Greengrass and writer Billy Ray are working from a high-profile true story that unfolded across media less than a decade ago. “This story is getting a play here,” a naval negotiator is advised a little over half-way into the film, and it’s hard to imagine that anybody going to see the film isn’t loosely familiar with the events (and outcome) of this Somali pirate attack.

Despite this, Greengrass manages to ratchet up the tension on Captain Phillips, turning it into a high-stakes thriller. Even knowing the inevitable outcome, Greengrass pushes the audience to the edge of their seats, refusing to allow the movie to throttle down from the moment that two unidentified blips appear on the trawler’s sonar screen.

Movie piracy really is bad...

Movie piracy really is bad…

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