Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Stupid is as Stupid Does

I hate Forrest Gump. Sure, I liked it when it first came out. But I was 14 years old.

What's your excuse?

Cause that movie is insane fascist propaganda. Seriously. I've made this case many times in my private life, and now I will frame the argument in brief for you, faithful Inertia reader.

At its heart, Forrest Gump is the story of a relationship, the love of a simple but kind man, Forrest, and his troubled neighbor and one-time sexual partner Jenny. Any simple comparison of these two characters and their story arcs will reveal the film's secret, and sinister, message.

Okay, so Forrest is a good boy. He does what he's told. He doesn't ask questions. He dutifully goes to war when asked, performs as a hero, and is celebrated by his president as a hero afterwards. He plays professional sports. He invests his money in big corporations like Apple. He designs funny, silly little T-shirts that make great gifts. And, of course, he starts up a small business that becomes a massive conglomerate, turning him overnight from a simpleton into a powerful millionaire.

In short, he's the ideal American if you're a CEO or a government official. He's represents mindless consumerism better than any fictional character I can think of - merely by doing what others tell him, he makes money, avoids trouble and leads a happy life free of care or worry.

Now, let's look at Forrest's counterpart, Jenny. She's a rebel. She's constantly questioning both herself and the world around her. She experiments with drugs, she explores her sexuality and she dabbles in political radicalism. She likes folk music and attends anti-war rallies. Oh, and she contemplates suicide, raises a child as a single mom and eventually dies of AIDS.

Do I have to draw you guys a picture? The producers of Forrest Gump are trying to tell you to turn off your brain, to stop thinking for yourself and just accept the corrupt world for what it is. Only then will you achieve any happiness. Those people intent on actually using their mind, well, they're doomed. They're all going to die of AIDS, didn't you know that?

And that's without even getting into the film's political and historical context. It wants to turn Nixon into a joke, Watergate into something light and cute from the past that we can all share a laugh about. And then the depiction of great liberal figures of the civil rights and anti-war movements...offensive caricatures every one of them. How did a film that represents the Black Panthers as a bunch of juvenile buffoons get the reputation as something clever or charming? How did a movie that reduces the entire youth revolt against Vietnam into a skit about screechy obnoxious self-involved hippies become so popular in a town full of ex-hippies?

I have no idea.

Anyway, I find the movie pretty deeply offensive, the kind of movie that I disagree with not just on an aesthetic level but on an emotional level. There's something about the whole idea of revisiting American history through the eyes of an uber-patriotic moron we're meant to admire that just strikes me as creepy and questionable to begin wtih.

I bring up The Gump because of AFI, those rotten bastards. They've just published the latest in their thoroughly useless and dull 100 Years lists, this one celebrating the Best Movie Quotes of the past 100 years. Check out Part 1 of Cinegeeks coverage of the list here. Most of them are pretty obvious, although some of them are oddly out of context.

For example, the line "Nobody's perfect" from Some Like It Hot is on the list, even though it's not funny without Jack Lemmon's line setting it up - "I'm a man!" Even with Lemmon's line, I don't think it's all that funny. To hear film critics talk about Some Like It Hot, "nobody's perfect" is the single most ingenious piece of movie dialogue ever constructred, a sublime gerund the likes of which Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy all working in tandem for 1000 years could not equal. I've always thought that movie was mildly amusing and nothing more.

To have that so high, out of context, and then not include a single quote from This is Spinal Tap, (which, though it features a fake English band, is clearly an American film) strikes me as ignorant in the extreme. Also, if I were writing this list, there would be a line more lines like this one from Scanners:

"We're gonna do this the Scanner way. I'm gonna suck your brain dry."

Not once on AFI's list does anyone threaten to suck anyone else's brain dry. Too bad.

Also, no quotes from Ghostbusters? Here are a few to choose from: "Someone blows their nose and you want to keep it?" "That's a big Twinkie." "Nobody steps on a church in my town!" "Ray, the next time someone asks you if you are a god, you say yes!" "I feel like the floor of a taxicab." "Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!"

And those are just off the top of my head, people!

But the one that pisses me off the absolute mostest?

Coming in at #40:

"Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." -

Ugh. 40? The 40th best movie quote ever? Let's look at some other quotes on the list that are below this line:

"Stella! Hey, Stella!" - A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

"You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" - DIRTY HARRY

"A boy's best friend is his mother." - PSYCHO

"Say 'hello' to my little friend!" - SCARFACE

"Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape." - PLANET OF THE APES

Let me pause here to say that Retard Tom Hanks blubbering about candy on a park bench beating Heston yelling abouty damned dirty apes on any movie list is total 100% bullshit in every way. You need photographic evidence of this point? Say no more!


How about that? That do anything for ya?

And, might I also just add, life is nothing fucking like a box of chocolates. Yes, sure, you bite into a chocolate from a box of candy, you don't know whether it will be a butter cream or a cherry cordial or whether it will have nuts or nouget or whatever. But you can rest assured it will be something at least somewhat delicious, unless you are appearing on Monty Python's famous "Crunchy Frog" sketch. I mean, even if you don't like raspberries and the confection you have tasted is filled with that raspberry liquer stuff, it's not exactly a tragic circumstance. You just spit that into a napkin, dump the napkin in the nearest potted plant and go get another piece of candy.

So how, exactly, is that like life? If you make a mistake in life, bite into what you thought was a metaphorical prailine turtle and instead find it's one of those metaphorical gross-out Russell Stover marshmallow monstrocities, you can't just spit it up and dump it. Your'e stuck with your decisions. That's not caramel you're tasting, it's a scorching case of herpes! Or homelessness! Or any one of the millions of horrible things that can happen to a person in the course of living a life.

So, might I suggest a replacement line, something not quite as cute or coffee-mug appropriate, but far more accurate:

"Life is like a box of chocolates. It's really good for a while, and then you kind of get sick of it, and before you know it, it's empty, and you throw it away and never think about it again, until eventually the paper itself is recycled into one-ply bathroom tissue for use in prisons and dorminatories."


SallyTeller said...

Speaking of great lines in a movie? Who can ever forget the following?
1. Frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn!
2. Listen Charlie, I coulda been somebody! I coulda been a contender!
3. Play it again Sam! (Although I believe that particular line is in dispute).
Enjoyed the assessment of Forrest Gump! Thought that you were right on the mark!

Cory said...

Ok, please revisit these films. Here are the lines, off the top of my head..

1. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. (Overrated line btw)"

2. "You don't understand, I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am." (Not sure if this line is on AFI's list but it better be)

3. Bogart never says "Play it again, Sam" in casablanca. Ingrid Bergman tells Sam to "Play it once, Sam," then after Bogart says "Play it!" after Sam refuses to play the song. I blame the title of the (incredibly great) Woody Allen play/film for this misconception.

Lons said...

My theory on the misquoting of lines is Looney Tunes. They always played fast and loose with the movie quotes, and I think some of their versions might have stuck.

For example, Looney Tune Cagney always says "You dirty rat, you shot my brother," which is a line that doesn't appear in any Cagney films but that is often referenced.

Also, I know they had a cartoon Humphrey Bogart misdoing his line from "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" - pardon me, mac, but could you help out an American who's down on his luck?

berns said...

"Gump" is a great mainsteam entertainment. You're barking at windmills here, Lonnie. The film has no political agenda, other than, as Ebert called it, "a dream of reconciliation between the two disparate streams of post-60s American culture"

Boyd McKendrick said...

I like this one from the Rodg to the Dodge: "I could tell you that what you think of as your personality is nothing but a collection of Vanity Fair articles. I could tell you your choice of sexual partners this evening was decided months ago by some account executive at Young & Rubicam. I could tell you that given a week to study your father and the ways in which he ignores you I could come up with a schtick you'd be helpless to resist. Helpless."
Gotta agree with you on the Ghostbusters comment. I haven't seen the list, but it would be a real tragedy not to have at least one Bill Murray quote on there. Groundhog Day, Stripes, Lost in Translation, Rushmore? Stupid AFI. Does that still stand for "A flame within"?