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FILM CLIPS / A look inside Hollywood and the movies

ONLINE CHATTER : Forrest Gump, Meet Charles Foster Kane

July 31, 1994|ROBERT LEVINE

This summer, Gump not only happens, it happens online.

Director Robert Zemeckis' "Forrest Gump," a movie about a mentally slow man who unwittingly influences recent U.S. history, hasn't only attracted large numbers of summer moviegoers, it has also inspired a sometimes heated discussion in America Online's Hollywood Online area.

Computer-savvy film fans have long been able to discuss movies on online services by leaving messages on movie-oriented electronic message boards, but while messages about such movies as "Speed" tend to focus on rather one-note praise for the movie and its stars, the message board for "Forrest Gump" has some interesting messages--and some surprising questions.

"When Forrest Gump went to Vietnam, there is a joke about how they are always looking for 'Charlie' and everybody laughed?," said a message posted by an America Online writer using the name Meeska. "What does 'Charlie' mean. I have asked people and they don't really know either."

Meeska, who had asked who Abbie Hoffman was in another message, got a response the next day.

Gayle3R posted a message asking for help settling a question. Was the lyric John Lennon quoted during a scene where he appears with Gump on the Dick Cavett show from "Imagine" or "With a Little Help From My Friends"? The line was from "Imagine," of course, and the answer appeared promptly on the message board.

But the "Forrest Gump" board isn't just a place for apparently young moviegoers to brush up on the film's historical references. It's also a place where some of America's amateur film critics are taking great pains to analyze the movie--and arguing with one another.

Most messages praised the movie, calling it touching and funny, and there was even some talk of possible Oscars for Tom Hanks and Gary Sinise. Other online critics, however, were less than kind.

"IT WAS THE SPUIDEST MOVIE I EVER SAW," commented one user, whose movie-evaluating skills may be somewhat ahead of his or her spelling.

A more serious posting by a user called nativeson said "Forrest Gump" trivializes the political movements it portrays and "plays into our inability to learn nothing from the past but how to repackage it for profit."

Four days later, EMBASSYWAY posted a message responding to nativeson's lengthy criticism and saying nativeson was unable to enjoy the charming movie because of his "disease (of) analysis paralysis."

Another user said criticizing such an inspirational movie was like "kicking a dove because you don't like the song it sings."

"Forrest Gump" so far has generated more than 300 messages, on topics ranging from its soundtrack to its special effects. One user posted a message asking about the meaning of "stupid is as stupid does," one of Gump's trademark phrases, while others complained that the movie had a left-wing or right-wing political slant.

The amount of discussion is "a clear sign that 'Forrest Gump' is touching a large number of moviegoers," according to Stuart Halperin, executive vice president of Marketing for Hollywood Online, the Santa Monica company that runs film-oriented areas on several online services, including America Online.

Of course, it's touching different moviegoers in different ways.

MrRobert1 praised "Forrest Gump's" originality and called it "the best movie since 'Citizen Kane,' while ScorpLfty said it was " 'Citizen Cane' (sic) pared down for the masses and spruced up for an MTV generation."

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