Monday, September 17, 2012

Forrest Gump vs. Sling Blade: Steel Cage Match

Two mentally challenged and good-hearted Oscar-nominated protagonists enter the ring. Only one can emerge victorious. Smart money is on the dude with the big ass knife, but let's let them play it out, shall we?

Plot: Forrest Gump (1994) follows Tom Hanks's Forrest as he overcomes leg braces, Vietnam, and heartbreak to PARTICIPATE IN EVERY MAJOR EVENT OF THE MID TO LATE TWENTIETH CENTURY. It's like Zelig, except with a slow-witted Southerner. Sling Blade (1996) centers on Karl, an Arkansan who tries to reintegrate into small-town society after being released from the state mental institution for murdering his mother and her lover when he was twelve. It's like The Omen, except with a slow-witted Southerner.

What would Kirk Lazarus say? This match would not be complete without referencing Robert Downey Jr.'s immortal quote from Tropic Thunder: "Never go full retard." Forrest's below average intelligence and promiscuous affection (along with quite remarkable athletic ability) leads him to football stardom, war- and peace-time heroism, and what looks to me like leadership in a running cult. Karl mainly just scares the hell out of everyone.

Would you like sugar in your coffee? Despite some pretty heavy stuff--the death of Forrest's mother, Lt. Dan's debilitating war wound, and, you know, losing the love of his life to AIDS--Forrest Gump is light in tone and happy in ending with a nostalgalicious soundtrack. Sling Blade, on the other hand, is dark as pitch. Karl's attempts to emotionally connect with a new young friend only lead him to kill again (though one could argue drunken and abusive asshole Dwight Yoakam had it coming), and be re-institutionalized at the film's conclusion. Of course this is after we learn he was forced to murder his premature infant brother at the age of six.

Potent Quotables: "Life is like a box of chocolates" in a cloying Southern accent or "Some folks call it a sling blade, I call it a kaiser blade mmmhmmmm" in a gravelly monotone Southern accent?

May I have the envelope please?: Both films were critical darlings, with FG netting Best Actor, Director and Picture, and Sling Blade scoring Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.

The Winner is . . .  Sling Blade, because I'm still bitter that Gump's best picture nod ROBBED the actual best picture of 1994 which was Pulp Fiction. It wasn't even runner up. That would be The Shawshank Redemption.

*Thanks to Jonathan Alexandratos for a) suggesting a match-up, and b) picking two movies I had not only heard of but actually seen.

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