Watching Forest Gump with my entire family (cousins too) was one of the most surreal movie going experiences of my teenage years. I remember walking out and thinking it was one of the cheesiest, poorly plotted and contrived "feel good" films I had ever seen. Unfortunately, my family couldn't stop talking about how amazing it was. I don't think any of them have watched that movie again since that time, though I'm pretty sure they all bought the soundtrack.
Castaway was a fantastic ad for Fed-Ex with lots of wonderfully pitiful and oddly placed CG. What Lies Beneath had CG sequences so hilariously inappropriate that I think I would honestly watch it again just for laughs. The only thing more funny than that movie was Zemeckis' statements about how that was the film Hitchcock would have made had the technology been available. Whatever, dude...
Since the thread is also sort of becoming a Zemeckis retrospective thread I'll add my impressions. I have the same attitude to Zemeckis as I did to the Spice Girls or Rownan Keating in pop music - if I hear the music for the first time or while distracted and having forgotten who it is I find myself dancing along, yet when I suddenly realise to whose tune I've been dancing, when a piece of score I recognise or a particular trait shows itself in one of Zemeckis's films (the type of stuff that if I loved the particular artist would have me excited over thematic consistency of his work etc) I suddenly feel guilty and ashamed of myself for being taken in!
However he is probably the leading conservative in attidue filmmaker working simply because many of his best films are engaging. Romancing The Stone and The Jewel In The Nile are extremely exciting but are basically 'westerners under threat from dangerous foreigners' films; Back To The Future is perfectly made but works as an example of how wonderful everything was in the past (apart from some mild references to the role of black people and of women, but they are only small problems that are worked through once Marty gets his mother through her girlish infatuation stage by being the first love himself rather than leaving Lorraine to go doe eyed over his father, and once Marty gives Chuck Berry his famous song!)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit manages to have its cake an eat it by suggesting a real person is responsible for the state of the real world/cartoon murders but instead shows the evil-doer is an other, one of them
rather than like us (while it gets close to the colonialist attitude that some cartoons are funny, goofish and likeable but they are also fundamentally different and hold different values) - it also conveniently allows cartoonish violence to the main villain without that horrible feeling of guilt that comes with real pain to real people.
Back To The Future II and III are just riffs on the successful formula of the first, which just go further to prove that the 1950s were the only decent place to live. The future is full of over the top gadgetery and movie theatres full of sequels using the latest over hyped gimmick to promote their films (hey, wait a minute!) and the past is too harsh a place for tender hearted people to live, unless they are able to bring some of their future technology with them to ease the burden.
Forrest Gump is probably the most contrived film ever made and all the more reprehensible for having seeming touched the hearts of a nation. Just the idea of a mentally retarded man-child being conveniently around at every single moment of importance of the twentieth century is a horrendous oversimplification and patronising to all members of the audience in the extreme! So you are a Vietnam vet? Well Forrest was too, did more heroic deeds than any soldier and yet was still able to come home without bitterness and feelings of anger or blame on the government and
managed to make something of his life in the future. Then there is the subplot about Forrest's sweetheart being a liberal and managing to go through lots of different liberal causes because she of course is misguided and unsure of what it is that she wants while Forrest is almost saintly in simple assurance of his goals.
What kind of lesson is being imparted by this film? That it is best not to campaign or care too deeply about things as you will only be destroyed? (not only in the case of Jenny, but also in the way Forrest loses all those he loves) That the best tactics in business are the 'simple' ones? (I don't know if business people would be upset that their work is portrayed as so simple Forrest Gump could do it or if they would be happy that their trade secrets were being kept safe by a film making light of the business world?). Many of Zemeckis's films are muddled by wanting to hold conflicting views simultaneously and Forrest Gump is the prime example of wanting to ally itself with the excitement and activism of the liberal left during the 60s yet also wanting to show how great the modern capitalist, commodified world is - and the only way they could do it is through a character who doesn't understand the wider implications of the events he is involved in, while those who do are variously tormented, disabled and destroyed by their knowledge.
At the same time, Forrest Gump seems to be the perfect answer to the question of where all the 60s activists have gone - either ignored or co-opted once it became apparent that nothing in particular was going to change through their actions.
I quite like Contact but again it spends a hilariously huge amount of time debating the science vs God question, which makes me feel that this is another quasi-liberal seeming film which is trying to explain science to believers, with Jodie Foster as the almost emotionless scientist (but with a tragic emotion-filled past of loss) whose heart is warmed by the saintly McConaughey, who questions her about her devotion to science and never really understands why she is doing what she is doing but lets her go her own way and is the only person there for her after her epiphany.
In another attempt to have his cake and eat it Zemeckis tries to explain the love of rationality and science to believers and makes it OK for them to like the film because eventually science and rationality comes around to the believers point of view. To make a religious audience feel more sympathy for Jodie Foster's character she has to be contrasted to Tom Skerritt's prestige and media driven career scientist, who expresses every conservative's fear of vain and egocentric science gleefully destroying the order of things for spurious motives. It therefore makes sense that he is removed from the picture by that most religious of devices, the suicide bomber (used in a way that would be impossible now! An event that is supposed to be shocking but which it also seems that the audience is supposed to be glad for as it frees up Ellie for the next mission. It also adds some action and spectacle at that point)
CastAway is just an extended FedEx ad, showing how commerce actually manages to save Chuck's life and how miserable our lives would be without all the stuff that the commodified world provides us with (while coveniently glossing over the point that it was Chuck's job that tore him away from his family at Christmas and put him on the plane that crashed in the first place)
What Lies Beneath is particularly annoying (and this was another film in which Zemeckis annoyingly said he was doing a film that Hitchcock could never have conceived of with his primitive filmmaking techniques). It seems in its first act to be making a point of how supposed liberals, with the husband working in an academic profession and the use of psychiatrists to talk their problems through, are always meddling in other people's business and being nosy neighbours. The whole first section of the film is less a McGuffin than a cul-de-sac as Pfeiffer becomes obsessed with her neighbours' actions while conveniently forgetting to make sure her own house is in order before meddling with others - but I guess we are supposed to identify with her (hey! she plays Solitaire on her computer just like us!), while her husband proves to have dark secrets that only an imbecile could have been unaware of their partner having - and it needed a ghostly presence to wake Pfeiffer up to it? No wonder the film is two hours long if it takes her so long to cotton on to what is occuring!
Add to that the most convoluted way of trying to kill someone since James Bond was attached to that laser device and we are left with an utterly confused film, trying to pretend its contrivances occur naturally.
After that I didn't bother with The Polar Express!