Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Character Analysis: Lieutenant Dan Taylor

Character Analysis: Lieutenant Dan Taylor
By: Brian Cotnoir
    “Forrest Gump”; just hearing the title of this Award Winning film immediately makes you think of many different quotes like “Mama, always said life is like a box of chocolates” and “Run Forrest! Run!”.  So many memorable lines, and scenes, and characters make this 1994 and instant classic.  I actually had quite a difficult time trying to pick a character to write this week’s Analysis on.  I didn’t want to write one about Forrest because I thought that would take me weeks to write, so I put it to a vote again, and by an overwhelming response, the people have requested that I write one on Lieutenant Dan Taylor.

CHARACTER: Lieutenant Dan Taylor from “Forrest Gump” (1994)

Lt. Dan Taylor from "Forrest Gump" (1994)
We aren’t introduced to Lt. Dan until way into the film.  We first meet him in Vietnam where he is the Lieutenant to Forrest and Bubba’s platoon.  According to Forrest, one person in Lt. Dan’s family has fought and died in every major American war.  Lt. Dan believes he has a destiny to die on the battlefield with his men, just like his ancestors. This could imply that Lt. Dan possibly is a superstitious person.  Despite the fact, that he is ready and willing to die in combat, he is very protectant over all of his men.  After his platoon is ambushed by the Vietcong, Lt. Dan is badly injured, and calls for a massive airstrike to wipe out the Vietcong.  Lt. Dan is completely aware that for him this means that he will be killed by friendly fire.  Against his commands (and wishes) Lt. Dan is rescued by Forrest, and is taken to an Army Medical Center where he has both of his legs amputated. Lt. Dan becomes very resentful towards Forrest, for “cheating him out of his destiny” and also blames Forrest for turning him into a “crippled freak”.  Lt. Dan is later discharged from the army.             
Lt. Dan after he loses his legs
    The next time we see Lt. Dan is outside of a television studio in New York City.  He confronts Forrest who has become a minor celebrity, and even received a Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery on the battlefield in Vietnam.  Lt. Dan is just as resentful as ever.  Since his discharge from the Army, he has yet to find stable employment and is living off the Government (because he is disabled).  He is now an alcoholic, and may be using it numb away possible Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Lt. Dan later ends up defending Forrest after a prostitute (that he was acquainted with) asks if Forrest is stupid.  He kicks out both prostitutes cursing their names.                         After that we don’t see Lt. Dan until after Forrest becomes a shrimp boat captain back in Alabama.  He promised Forrest that if he ever became a shrimp boat captain then he would become his first mate.  Lt. Dan proves he is a man of his word, but ultimately ends up giving more orders and running the entire operation over Forrest.  Forrest and Lt. Dan survive a Hurricane while out at sea and end up being the only shrimp boat in southern Alabama.  After that the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company becomes highly successful.


Actor Gary Sinise
Lt. Dan is played by actor Gary Sinise.  Sinise did a phenomenal job with the role.  When you think of all the characters in the film Sinise is the only actor who has to play their role with a variety of different ranges.  When you look at all the characters: Forrest is always sweet & simple, Mama is always kindhearted & loving, but Lt. Dan starts off caring & humble, becomes cold & bitter and then eventually comes full circle.  That’s a lot of changes for one character to go through in just one film.  Not to mention he had to play a Veteran of Foreign war who became physically disabled.  That was probably the most challenging aspect of the role for Sinise.  And since appearing in “Forrest Gump” has been on multiple USO Tours and puts on charity events to raise money for veterans who are disabled.


Off the top of my head I can’t think of any characters that Lt. Dan is similar too.  If I really wanted to stretch it, I suppose I could say that he is similar to Willem Defoe’s character Sgt. Elias Grodin in Oliver Stone’s 1986 film “Platoon” their similarities are they both soldiers in Vietnam, and both are badly injured in combat.  Their major differences—besides rank—is that Sgt. Grodin dies on the battlefield while Lt. Dan survives.


Lt. Dan ends up investing money from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in Apple Computers, and ends up making he and Forrest millionaires.  The last time we see Lt. Dan in the film is at Forrest and Jenny’s wedding.  He is walking up right, and has new legs made out of titanium alloy.  He is also engaged to a woman named Susan, and he properly thanks Forrest for saving his life on the battlefield years earlier. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Character Analysis: Beni Gabor

Character Analysis: Beni Gabor
By: Brian Cotnoir

When I started off my career in education, I was an aspiring History teacher.  Every day when I subbed at the High School I would hope and wish that one of the History teachers would have called out so I could cover for their class and get some valuable experience teaching in their classrooms.  I can recall on more than one occasion covering for a History teacher whose class was learning about Ancient Egypt, and the only instructions they’d have left for me was “Play this DVD for All Classes”.  So my job that day was to sit in the classroom and watch “The Mummy” remake 4-5 times.  The film wasn’t all that educational and taught very little of Ancient Egyptial culture, but it always amazed me was how much the students got into the film.  I never understood why; the CGI is crude by today’s standards, the action is minimal, the acting ranges from monotone and underdeveloped to campy and over the top, but the students all seemed to enjoy watching it.  So I decided that I would do a Character Analysis on a character from “The Mummy”, and I could think of no better secondary character in the film than that neurotic, money driven little twerp, Beni Gabor.

CHARACTER: Beni Gabor from “The Mummy” (1999)

Beni Gabor from "The Mummy" (1999)
We first see Beni in the film in the city of Hamunaptra in Egypt in the early 1920’s where he is a member of the French Foreign Legion serving alongside Rick O’Connell, an American.  Although, it’s never mentioned in the film Beni is not French, he is a Hungarian...what an American and a Hungarian are doing serving in the French Foreign Legion, I have no clue.  While in the French Foreign Legion they come under attack by a group of Taureg Nomads.  Beni initially tells O’Connell that he will heroically fight beside him until the end before retreating and hiding himself in an ancient crypt in the city, leaving O’Connell and others to be massacred.  Beni and O’Connell end up being the only survivors of the siege.  The next time we see Beni it is a few years later, he on a riverboat cruising down the Nile River when he runs into Rick O’Connell.  Beni offers a half-hearted apology to O’Connell for abandoning him years ago in Hamunaptra.  He lets O’Connell and the others know that he is on the boat trying to take another group of explorers to Hamunaptra so they all might reap the riches of the Ancient Egyptian tombs.  After the boat is ambushed by members of the Mejia, Beni quickly returns to his cowardice ways and abandons all others in hopes of saving his own life.  He makes it to safety, with his group and all of the horses that were on the boat, but is informed by O’Connell that he is on the wrong side of the river.                                        This scene paints a reoccurring image of Beni that we see throughout the film. Beni is not only a coward, but is also very greedy and incredibly selfish. He thinks only of himself, and his only motivation in life is acquire vast riches. Beni eventually leads his group to Hamunaptra—where he meets up once again with Rick O’Connell and his group—and the two groups explore and plunder the ancient tombs and take the tombs treasure as their bounty.  After, Evelyn’s reading of The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead causes the resurrection of Imhotep, an Ancient Egyptian priest.    
Beni prays for his life
        Imhotep begins picking off members of Beni’s group one-by-one, and Beni comes face to face with the half-resurrected Corpse of Imhotep while hiding out in the tomb.  Fearing for his life once again, Beni brandishes various religious artifacts that he where’s around his neck and recites short prayers hoping that one of the prayers will ward off Imhotep.  It is only when he holds up a Star of David and starts reciting a prayer in Hebrew that Imhotep decides not to kill Beni because he speaks “the language of the slaves”.  Imhotep makes a deal with Beni; in return for helping him find the canopic jars with his organs and helping him complete his resurrection, he will spare Beni’s life and promises him gold and other riches.  Beni is happy to oblige.  From that short scene between the two we can deduce that Beni is most likely a very superstitious person.  His superstitions probably derive from the fact that he is fully aware that he is a lying, deceitful, greedy, traitorous thief, and he hopes that by keeping these religious trinkets close to him, he will be always be safe. After Imhotep’s resurrection is completed he takes Beni back to Hamunaptra where he releases him from his duties and allows him to take whatever he wants from the treasure room.


Beni is played by actor Kevin J. O’Connor.  O’Connor has made a pretty decent career playing secondary characters in many Big-Budget and Box Office Hits.  O’Connor is known to do many collaborations with writer/director Stephen Sommers.  It should come as no surprise that O’Connor would be cast in “The Mummy” since it was written & directed by Stephen Somers.  Kevin J. O’Connor did a great job with this role and when you take a moment in think about it, he’s an Irish-American actor playing a Hungarian character who is a member of the French Foreign Legion stationed in Egypt.  That’s a mind blowing amount of multicultural references.

Actor Kevin J. O'Connor plays Beni Gabor in "The Mummy"


Dijon from "Ducktales the Movie" 
From the first time I saw Beni in the film all I could think of was that he was a Human version of Dijon from “Ducktales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp”.  Both Dijon and Beni are deceitful thieves who mislead groups of people they initially promised to help, but in all actuality they are working for an evil supernatural being and are motivated only by their own greed and/or fear of being killed by the supernatural beings if they do not help them.  If you watch clips of the two of them you’ll see they even dress similar.  I definitely think O’Connor used some of Dijon’s character traits in his portrayal of Beni Gabor.         

I’ve also been told by some people that Beni is (possibly) meant to represent a negative & stereotypical portrayal of Jewish people.  The evidence behind their reasons was that 1.) Beni can speak Hebrew 2.) The Stereotype that Jewish people are only motivated by gold and/or money 3.) His last name is Gabor, and that is a Jewish name.  I did a quick search on-line and I saw websites that said Gabor was just a Hungarian name and I saw other websites that said it was a Hebrew name.  According to one website “Gabor means God is my Strength in Hebrew”.  I’m afraid I don’t know enough about Jewish culture or the Hebrew language to confirm or deny these claims, and I apologize if the information I’m presenting is incorrect or inappropriate, it was not my intention to anger or offend anyone. I was just merely trying to present an alternative view.  


Beni’s greed leads to eventual downfall in the film.  After being told multiple times throughout the film by O’Connell that he would get what he rightly has coming to him someday, Beni finally gets a heavy dose of a karma towards the end of the film.  While leaving the treasure room for the second time with bags of gold and other priceless treasures, Beni takes a rest and exactly triggers an ancient booby trap in the tomb.  The tomb causes the walls to seal shut and fill all the passage ways with sand.  While O’Connell and his group make it out, Beni is not so lucky.  He becomes trapped in the tomb surrounded by all the Golden treasures he could ever want in life.  Unfortunately, for him he has no way of escaping the tomb with all the treasures, and just when it looks like it couldn’t get any worst for him, a swarm of scarab beetles appears and eats Beni alive, killing him in one of the most brutal ways I can ever imagine a person being killed off in a film.