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Raanan vs the CLASSICS (pt. 6 of 6) – FORREST GUMP

FORREST GUMP is your winner, for THE #1 heartwarming movie that my irascible cousin can’t stand – and I freakin’ agree!

One of the most beloved movies about America ever made, FG (I refuse to utter its name) looks at our world through the eyes of one of the most remarkable and offensive characters ever conceived – a mentally retarded, indestructible superman. And as is the case with so many mawkish movies that treat their audience like drooling morons who want to be spoon fed empty platitudes without having to critically consider their cerebral intake, something remarkable happened – the audience turned around and thanked the filmmakers for the drivel they left in their eye-holes. I believe this is how bad relationships are perpetuated.

“Overrated Movie #1- FORREST GUMP

Life is like a box of chocolates indeed: most pieces have that really nasty filling inside – but none quite so foul as Forrest Gump. Robert Zemeckis’ 1994 Oscar-sweeper is considered the feel-good movie of the decade. But of course what “feel-good” actually means is that when the lights in the theater start to dim, our painful awareness of the hardships of day-to-day life quickly get drowned out by the sweet sound of sentimental claptrap. “Feel good” movies typically preach messages such as “If you try your hardest, you will succeed” and “the love you get is equal to the love you give” and other notions that simply aren’t true. At the beginning of the movie, Forrest’s mom (played by Sally Field) reminds him that he’s “no different or worse than any other person.” If those other people of whom she’s speaking were borderline retarded, then I’d have to agree, but this movie seems to forget an important point: that recognizing the mentally handicapped have been dealt a worse hand than you does not equal being unsympathetic towards them. Forrest Gump wants us to pretend otherwise – that we’ve all been given an equal share of hardships. Some of us think at a slower rate than others, while others can’t grow any chest hair – everyone has problems. While it’s true that we all have crosses to bear, it’s also true that some crosses are heavier than others, which I’d say is a more important – and more complicated – truth. But not only does the movie ignore this reality, it goes a step further – saying that not only is mental retardation no worse than other problems people have, but it’s in fact an enviable trait in this complicated world of ours. For you see, Gump’s slow brain has allowed him to transcend the pretty judging and racism in which everyone else is constantly engaged (a cherished tradition in Hollywood – placing a condescending halo on the head of the mentally and physically handicapped, while amping up the evil of us common folk). Zemeckis has managed to make the first crowd-pleaser that views intelligence as a negative attribute. John Keats said a similar thing in his Ode to a Nightingale, but at least he seemed disturbed by the idea – Forrest Gump’s quirky tone is disturbingly incongruous with its message, like listening to a campfire sing-along of Kumbaya and noticing the lyrics have been replaced with passages from Becket. If people love this movie and actually take its message to heart, then it follows they should prove it by running out and getting a Lobotomy – a sure-fire way to rid yourself of all the sins your big old brain has burdened you with. And albeit it’s just a schmaltzy, bogus Hollywood movie, Forrest Gump taps into the dogmatic sentiment of Christianity – People love Jesus for the same reason they love Forrest – in that they both lack all the imperfections and shortcomings that make real people so hard to like. But liking real people is the great challenge, both in movies and in real life, and Forrest Gump (and the other movies on my list) miss this point, reducing people to cardboard cut-outs that serve the narrative and nothing else.

So there you have it, my list of most overrated movies. Looking back, I see they all share a common trait: they feature characters that embody traits we imperfect beings enjoy fantasizing that we possess – The untainted individualism of the Easy Riders, the stoic self-assurance of Juno, the effortless genius of Will Hunting, the Christ-like innocence of Dufresne and Gump. That we indulge in the fantasies offered by these movies and are moved by characters fleshed out with such complete disregard for reality must reveal a deep-seated bitterness we have towards life. These movies do not offer optimism, but a nihilistic escape from the constant uproar, sorrow, and personal shortcomings we share. As for me, cynic that I am so constantly accused of being, I love life. Not in spite of its flaws, but because of them. In fact, you could say I love life so much, I want to see it captured more accurately on film.”

And with that ends our experiment with negative reviews and the dark side. It was a fun foray, but often unsettling – these movies are the movies people love, and they’re so simple-minded and wrong!!! If you think about FG‘s message, then listen to the rhetoric of George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and “apple-pie, gut-feeling” politics, you’ll see how dangerous the “opiate of the masses” can be. When the media ceases to air stories with “complex issues” in favor of “simple straight talk,” when target=”_blank”>Bill O’Reilly and target=”_blank”>Rick Sanchez can flourish despite having no discernible intelligence, that’s the residue of feel-good message movies such as FG. And if you think I’m blowing the danger of simple messages out of proportion, you simply haven’t read your Walter Benjamin.

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