Tag Archive: Forrest Gump

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Following up on The Toys That Made Us (previously reviewed here at borg), Netflix’s surprise hit documentary series leaning on viewers’ nostalgia with a look behind toys of the past, in 2019 the streaming service added a new series based on the same formula, The Movies That Made Us.  The series took a new look at four movies in four hour-long episodes in its first season, including Die Hard, Ghostbusters, Home Alone, and Dirty Dancing, followed by two holiday episodes featuring Elf and A Nightmare Before Christmas.  The Movies That Made Us isn’t really about the movies and their impact so much as what strange stories lie behind how the movies were created, from idea to release, including production foibles and hurdles.  The show is trying to appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers, and it’s done it again with four new installments for its second season, featuring Back to the Future, Pretty Woman, Jurassic Park, and Forrest GumpAnd new episodes are on their way featuring Aliens, Coming to America, and RoboCop, and October staples A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th,and Halloween.

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How I Married Your Mother finale

It always pays to be wary of grandiose statements and definitive pronouncements.  When I first watched Forrest Gump in the theater, one-third of the way through the movie it occurred to me I might be watching the greatest production of all time, and walking out of the theater I carried that thought with me.  But time changes things.  Now I see it as a fun film, but it’s not at the top of any of my “best of” lists.  Professor Schofield advised that you can’t really objectively analyze something, an art movement, a political figure, a fad–anything worth analyzing–unless several years had transpired and you could have the value of time and distance, contemplation and reflection, to look back with.

So it is with a bit of reservation that I am asserting that the series finale to How I Met Your Mother that aired Monday night should top any list of great finales.  The writers, producers, and actors simply got it just right.  Exactly right.  Airing the first episode of season one just before the finale aired really showcased how this ending was exactly what viewers deserved after nine seasons of sticking with the show.  Consider all the series finales that were promoted over the years, and despite the biggest of viewing audiences, you might find that most last hoorahs miss the mark, try too hard, or just do something that didn’t reflect the best of the series.

Trek TNG All Good Things

The granddaddy of all finales was the 1983 M*A*S*H extended episode “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”  Although some elements were right, like a bounty of typical and appropriate sad goodbyes, Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, (one of the best characters of all time) after more than a decade of using laughter to beat the odds and help his unit survive the Korean War, cracks at the very end.  NBC’s comedy spy series Chuck made a similar mistake, wiping the memory of Chuck’s hard-earned love interest Sarah after we cheered him on all those years, requiring the story to basically start over from scratch in some far off place after the series wrapped.  Another less than satisfying but at least appropriate-to-the-series finale was the end of the monumental 20th year of the original Law & Order.  We basically got to see a fairly typical episode of the series, which certainly fit the seriousness of the show’s drama.  But we also got a goodbye scene and were left on a positive note with “Lieut’s” good news about her hard-fought illness.

Before that, you might have seen the last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Nick at Nite or other classic rerun network if you weren’t old enough to catch it in its initial run.  The TV network that was the subject of the series fires everyone including Mary at the end, except Ted Knight’s character Ted Baxter.  The annoying guy that we loved for being annoying gets to stay.  A funny series with a funny end, as well as the requisite bittersweet goodbye scene.  A similarly funny sitcom, Psych, wrapped its eighth and final season last month, tying up all its remaining loose ends.  Psych took a different path, taking its angst-inducing character, Detective-then-Chief Lassiter, and with a redemption of sorts, switched up his role in the last two seasons to become a guy viewers could cheer on.

Newhart finale

Another comedy, Newhart, gave us a completely bizarre ending for an otherwise enjoyable comedy series.  Yet it was saved literally in the last two minutes by a brilliantly concocted stunt–bring back Bob’s wife from his original series, The Bob Newhart Show, the lovely Suzanne Pleshette, revealing the whole series was just a dream.  It’s a gimmick that didn’t work for a series like the original Dallas (recall Bobby Ewing died then came back to life with a “poof”), but for a comedy wrap-up, it couldn’t have been better timed.

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Let me tell you about this really great idea I have for an independent movie.  It opens with a six-year-old kid becoming an orphan because his parents die when they stand up to the local drug cartel after his father breeds a strain of coca plants that have poppy flowers.  Then, as he reaches the age of 17, he starts to rebel against the father that raised him and that father dies in the lawless streets of his hometown.  Then, lost and bereft of any father figures in his life, he listens to his girlfriend’s father for advice and instead of trying to get back at the drug cartels and innumerable criminals, he tries to protect the innocent, and in the middle of protecting people his girlfriend’s father ends up dying.  Lastly, he looks to his birth father’s botanist colleague for approval and the colleague tries to kill the boy and the rest of the city when he gets high on his new drug, herocaine.  I set it around Halloween in Mexico and call it “Dia de Los Muertos de Los Padres.”

But, you’ve probably already seen it in its American incarnation as The Amazing Spider-man and I think all those deaths are the reasons that led to me noticing the music in this film.  It is also the first time I remember thinking, “Why is there so much music and why do I hate it?” (I felt that during Katy Perry: Part of Me as well because that title didn’t tell me that all I would see was the bad parts.)*

* Before you think less of me, I didn’t really see that movie. I will probably never see it.  If it was called Katy Perry: All of Me Covered in Whipped Cream, well, I’d be tempted a little bit.

By the time that Peter Parker becomes Spider-man there’s already been the death of two fathers.  In a two-hour movie, I’d call that routine.  To make us feel the betrayal that Peter feels as Dr. Curt Connors becomes The Lizard and to make us feel sad when Gwen Stacy’s dad dies, the movie has to rely on music.  The music keeps building and soaring and popping up at every single moment possible and it finally got to the point that I just longed for a touching moment of silence.  I even started rooting for prayers.** Unfortunately I didn’t get either wish.

** Think of me as an atheist and then you see how strange that sentence would be.

Whenever I think of movie music, I think of my favorite movie quote, “Bah, bum, bah bum.  Babum babum babum.”  I think it’s one of the most memorable movie quotes of all time and brings to mind immediately what is happening on the screen in Jaws. (I have reread this a few times as I edit it, and I can’t help but mouth a few bars of that piece of music.)  There’s also the best use of a single note as played by a four-year-old on a piano in Eyes Wide Shut.  Then there’s the music as a summation of character history in Once Upon a Time in the West.  All add to the story, but aren’t the only thing.  There’s “You’re going to need a bigger boat,” and crazy masked sex parties and the childhood images that go with the music of Harmonica.  The music is just an interesting part of those movies and my remembrances are how the music added to the story, not because it stuck out more than a severed human limb in Pixar’s Cars.

Music can also create a feeling of era.***  Though it sometimes feels like a shortcut, it can work if used correctly.  Hey, there’s A Flock of Seagulls and we’re in the 80s.  Hey, there’s Elvis Presley, we’re in the 50s.  (Maybe the 60s, but the 60s usually means a Beatles song.)  If you want a primer on this type of shortcut, just watch Forrest Gump.  I don’t mind it because the car and the car radio has been a part of my life and so many other people’s lives that those songs do evoke images and nostalgia in us easier than any line in a movie like, “You know what Donnie, I love the 80s” as a guy flicks out the hair in his mullet. In an independent movie the line would be, “You know what Brecklin Sarpord, I hate the 80s because of White Lion.  They caused my parents to divorce and I’ve been sarcastic toward hair metal ever since” as Jenny Kolt puts on a black shirt before Brecklin’s wide eyes at seeing his first bra on a girl.  In both cases, I would expect a chuckle from the intended audience.

*** As far as I know, this is not a score, but as I say later, I don’t know much about movie music.

I really wanted to love The Amazing Spider-man and instead I merely liked it.  Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone had amazing chemistry.****  I could have watched those two interact instead of most of the music-swelling action scenes.  (Really?  Cranes?  Can’t the writer just have Spider-man be closer to the Oscorp building?)

**** Feel free to boo me for that one.

I don’t like doing traditional reviews because the act of creating is a very personal act and just getting something creative finished is a major accomplishment.  I prefer reflecting on things that the movie inspires me to write about.  I wish I knew more about music scores so that I could just write about those some more as I’ve exhausted what I know in just two paragraphs.  I guess The Amazing Spider-man will just have to serve as my first major negative lesson on scores.  I learn from both good and bad and this will just have been one more movie lesson.

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you ever had an inkling to go to film school, if you are going to film school or if you teach film courses, Richard Rickitt’s Special Effects: The History and Technique should be required reading.  Not only is it a comprehensive work about the history and craft of special effects, it is a detailed account of the history and progress of film, and could serve as a college textbook to a master class in film technique.  And it is also a history of science and technology in its own right.

Rickitt’s Special Effects is a well-reviewed work, which is why it was purchased for me as a gift.  It is used as a college text in film schools and for good reason.  It has seen several printings since its first printing in Great Britain in 2006, including a reprint as recently as 2011, and it is as current as a nearly 400-page volume can be, including new effects technologies employed as recently as the Lord of the Rings films and X-Men 3.

Because of its price, Special Effects may not be for the casual movie enthusiast–but only because of price–as it can cost $40 for older editions and up to $230 for the most current edition.  Yet if you are really interested in behind-the-scenes cinema, it is probably worth saving for, and if you’re a college student, just slip it into your current semester’s $800 book purchase (at least that’s what I spent on each of my last few semesters for books and I can’t imagine prices have dropped–plus this book is actually a fun read you’ll hold on to).  It’s breadth is enormous, with both general and detailed coverage of landmark people and technologies from George Melies to Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen to Industrial Light & Magic to Pixar and Weta.  Although it purports to cover merely Special Effects, in truth it covers the beginning of film and every technology that was created since, building upon each discovery and new invention to bring us to the complex CGI technologies of today.

This is far from a quick read, and will likely serve as a reference work or one you pull off the shelf from time to time when you need something exciting to read of the non-fiction variety.  I mentioned college text–Rickitt is a good teacher, clearly explaining in terms anyone can understand not just the “what” but the “why” and “how” of benchmarks in film with visuals and diagrams, including explanations of the role and use of technologies like the zoetrope, the parts and functions of the modern movie camera, the history and types of film recording materials, matte film, blue-screens, film printing, optical and digital compositing, the A to Z of film projection, post-production techniques like image interpolation, the use of mirrors, forced perspective and miniaturization, pyrotechnics, cloud tanks, models, motion-control photography, digital and procedural modelling, texture mapping, special effects animation, rotoscoping, 3D technologies, motion blur, digital skin, performance capture, particle systems, high dynamic range images, match moving, rendering, the A to Z of matte painting, props, make-up, prosthetics, animatronics, sculpting, inner mechanisms, performance systems, digital make-up, atmospheric effects, breakaway effects, sound recording, sound effects mixing, foleying, dialogue replacement, and the future of film technologies.

A diagram from Rickitt’s Special Effects: The History and Technique

The author uses hundreds of photographs and provides real-use examples from movies to explain techniques.  Detailed analysis is used for movie benchmarks Rickitt has identified, including The Abyss (1989), The Birds (1963), Aliens (1986), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Blade Runner (1982), Citizen Kane (1941), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), Destination Moon (1950), Earthquake (1974), The Exorcist (1973), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Forbidden Planet (1956), Forrest Gump (1994), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Jurassic Park (1993), King Kong (1933), King Kong (2005), The Last Starfighter (1984), The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), The Lost World (1925), The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003), Metropolis (1926), Mighty Joe Young (1949), 1941 (1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), all six Star Wars films (1977-2005), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), The Thief of Baghdad (1940), Things to Come (1936), Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Tron (1982), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The War of the Worlds (1953), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Willow (1988), and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985).

You’ll learn about ambient occlusion, beam splitters, cannon cars, color separation, depth of field, diffuse reflection, dissolves, dubbing, edge detection, emulsion, extrusion, fluid dynamics, go-motion, introvision, the Lydecker technique, morphing, NURBs, plates, ray tracing, squibs, time-lapse and time slice photography, wipes, zooms and zoptics.

An early edition of Rickitt’s book–note that earlier versions will not have the most up-to-date coverage of current technologies. The version shown at the top of this review is the most recent edition.

And along with the “what”  and “why” Rickitt profiles a “who’s who” of landmark film creators, including Georges Melies, Mack Sennett, D.W. Griffith, James Whale, Alfred Hitchcock, George Pal, Roger Corman, Irwin Allen, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, Peter Jackson, Dennis Muren, John P. Fulton, Linwood Dunn, Richard Edlund, Dennis and Robert Skotak, Arnold Gillespie, Theodore and Howard Lydecker, Gordon Jennings, John Dykstra, Steve Gawley, Lorne Peterson, Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, Phil Tippett, John Lasseter, Norman O. Dawn, Albert Whitlock, Peter Ellenshaw, Lon Chaney, Jack Pierce, Stan Winston, Rick Baker, Ken Ralston, Cliff Richardson, Michael Lantieri, Jack Foley, Ben Burtt, Gary Rydstrom, and the Carboulds.

But you don’t need to look at Special Effects: The History and Technique as a dense book of facts.  Pick it up now and then and enjoy reading the book in 4-5 page stints and you’ll become an expert in film in no time, or just be amazed at how the magic of film works.

Special Effects: The History and Technique has a forward by Ray Harryhausen and an appendix, including a glossary of film terms and awards.

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