I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Out of Africa, 1985










Rated PG

This film is based on the memoirs of Karen Blixen, a woman storyteller who took on the masculine nom de plume "Isak Dinesen" in order to publish her books. Specifically, this movie chronicles two decades of her life spent in Africa overseeing a coffee plantation. She marries for convenience in order to become a Baroness (from Denmark). The man she marries is only interested in her money really, although they’re good friends.

Karen is played by Meryl Streep. Her husband goes on frequent hunting expeditions that keep him away a rather long time. She discovers that he is unfaithful and as a result, she contracts syphilis during one of his brief stays at home. The only hope for a cure is to return to her homeland and undergo arsenic treatments (which sounds barbaric). But before that, she befriends Denys (Robert Redford), another hunter, and comes to appreciate the quality time and conversations they share while her cheating husband is away. This film is well over two hours, so believe me, I didn’t give away the whole story. I will say I think it’s a little slow-moving at times.

Like "The English Patient", an affair becomes the main romantic storyline, which I don’t particularly like. (And for that reason, I think it should be rated PG-13.) The difference in this film though is that her husband was the first to leave her for other women (she’s not sneaking around). Divorce was scandalous at that time (1913) and one had to accuse the other of something, which naturally resulted in a tarnished reputation. Because of that, it was much "easier" and perhaps wiser to stay in a marriage for society's sake, and so they did. Karen and Denys’ relationship progresses but she can’t have him all to herself either. The story’s ending is not a happy one and it is understandable that the real Karen never returned to Africa.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I picked up on during the film was the varying views of marriage, romance, and commitment. Karen needs someone and needs to be needed in return. Denys demands to be free, not in order to cheat, but in order to feel independent and not tied down to anything (person or place). The ex-husband is her friend and their marriage is for safety and money; the latter he proves again when wanting a divorce in order to marry some other woman who has more money.

I’m not familiar with the history of the British colonization in parts of Africa, but I obviously can't help but feel sorry for the native Masai who had to succumb to the intruders. The British took away their weapons, condemning them because they could not comprehend a different lifestyle from their own. Granted, good things came out of it: education, medical help, job opportunities, but I can’t help but think of our world’s sad history of forceful invasion.

This film was up against "The Color Purple" (with Oprah), "The Kiss of the Spider Woman", "Witness", and "Prizzi's Honor" (the last three I haven't heard of). It was up for an amazing eleven awards with wins in seven categories, interestingly, none of them were for the actors. "The Color Purple" was also up for an impressive eleven awards but walked away completely empty-handed! One of my favorite all-time films came out this year: "Back to the Future". Although the Academy often overlooks fun films like this, I know that pop culture has solidified its standing as an unforgettable film of the '80s. That’s my Best Picture of the year.

FAVORITE SCENE:

It’s nothing really, but I laughed out loud… Riding into her husband’s hunting camp, after a few days’ journey, she looks like this:
And her husband asks, “Are you doing something different with your hair?”

LESSONS LEARNED:

Go to Africa. The sweeping scenes of the African plains and hills were breathtaking. Seeing animals in their natural habitat was intimidating as well as awe-inspiring… something that I felt wasn’t quite there in Disney World's Animal Kingdom, even though they tried.

When you go to Africa and go on a safari, go with a guide who has a gun. Just in case.

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