Any film can have its hand in decades of culture when it robs and hoodwinks the talent of others and plants its lead in the moving changes of modern America. Forrest Gump does just that. The happenstance encounters of the eponymous character, played by Tom Hanks, is likeable enough to sit through but not remarkable enough to convince audiences of a man who holds shares in Apple, owns a shrimping company, served in Vietnam, inspired hundreds of popular men and women yet also did it with a kind heart and an almost unknowing impact on those around him. Robert Zemeckis is a guide through this tour of well-meaning moments, but little more than that.
Well played, Nora Ephron. You couldn’t get people in their seats for This is My Life so you employed Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan to yank at the heartstrings so hard wallets fall into the abyss beneath the cinema seat. Sleepless in Seattle lays it on thick in the opening moments. A brief flash of funeral misery and then a despondent Hanks wanders around looking for some solace or lease of life. He will never be happy again. Not unless audiences stick around through the meeting of grieving architect Sam Baldwin (Hanks) and a journalist with no better story to follow than a father losing his wife, Annie Reed (Meg Ryan). What a pairing for romance.
Cold War-infused drama is right at the core of American blockbusters. It allows creatives who are trusted by studios to paint a picture of American heroism and tie it to some vaguely known story that is now riddled with holes because of a prime-time adaptation. At least these names are seeing the light of day, and those few that are prompted to read more and discover the history behind Bridge of Spies will no doubt be fascinated by the characters portrayed in this Steven Spielberg feature. They are not portrayed poorly, that is impossible when Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance play the key parts, but something is amiss in this Americanised tale, one that rings rather sickly in a time of political blacklisting and self-proclaimed heroism of a war they joined late.
Washed in fear and produced by a stroke of genius in a pressure-fuelled time, the heroic actions of pilot Chelsey Sullenberger are just the right story for a biopic. An act of genuine selflessness and confidence knocked down ever so briefly as a disgraceful and dangerous act, soon redeemed by a legal body. Sullenberger saved hundreds of lives, that much should always be remembered. Clint Eastwood immortalises these actions in Sully but inflicts the idea that it is his American patriotism that gave him the gall to take such a risk. Maybe so, but as an outsider looking in, it is a tough pill to swallow and a tougher one to agree with when it is explained so abruptly.
Impossible it may be to separate my personal feelings of nostalgia and love for Toy Story from the cultural impact, technical merits and core themes, there is a part of me that looks at this piece of film from Pixar and believes it to be a miracle. They were a daring bunch those few that gave this animated feature the love, time and care necessary to flourish. Sparks flew when Tom Hanks and Tim Allen were dragged aboard of this project, something that, at the time, should have been doomed to fail. CGI was in a primitive state, and making a whole animated feature with that technology must have been an uphill struggle. I find it difficult enough to wake up in the morning, let alone navigating the future of animation. Still, that is why I am a writer, not an animator. Toy Story is in good hands.
Unavoidable consequences were directly caused by The Simpsons Movie. False hope was presented to those out there who believe the television show has taken a dip in quality. For me, The Simpsons is solid background noise, twenty minutes of effective, considerably funny comedy. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less. While the glory days are far behind us, ending before I had graced this Earth, it is still reassuring to see a programme older than you still set in place on the channel schedules. Re-runs in the morning, new episodes in the evening, that seems to be the British way, but even the lack of general brilliance can be forgiven after witnessing The Simpsons Movie. A brief glimmer of hope for those hoping for the return of the glory days.
One thing you can be sure of in life is that Tom Hanks will always turn in a solid effort. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the piece is, he’s always a solid draw for an otherwise underwhelming project. Catch Me If You Can certainly isn’t such a piece, but his inclusion certainly helps alongside the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Sheen, and Christopher Walken. Such a cast can only come together under the watchful eye of a big-name titan, someone so reliable that, regardless of quality, audiences would lap the film up without a care in the world. I suppose that’s why they brought Steven Spielberg into the mix, he spun garbage with Ready Player One, his name is one of the all-time biggest box office draws, but it’s not needed for this rather comfortable, predictable drama.
I was savouring the final few pages of The Green Mile, my first and favourite Stephen King book, for a few days before I plunged into the Tom Hanks led adaptation. It wasn’t that I didn’t have faith in the work of Frank Darabont, who had done a fine job of adapting The Shawshank Redemption, but because I knew immediately that whatever the film looked to achieve, it could come nowhere close to the power and exceptional perfection the book had offered me. Still, it was an inevitable moment, to sit down and power through The Green Mile, a film that released the same year I was born, and considered to be one of the finest movies of its generation.
A key comparison to make between the output of The Coen Brothers around this period is that mediocrity reigns supreme. Between Intolerable Cruelty, their later efforts in Burn After Reading, and The Ladykillers, all the spots are there, but nothing comes to fruition for me in the way our narrative comes together. With this being the very first remake Joel and Ethan Coen took on, it’s somewhat understandable to see their style take the backseat in the hopes of divulging a faithful adaptation of the Alec Guinness led 50s feature of the same name. It doesn’t work quite as expected, but still has its moments of experience amongst a rather formidable cast, something the Coen’s always manage to bring together with relative ease.