Out of Africa


Movie: Out of Africa

Release Date: December 18, 1985

Director: Sydney Pollack

Starring: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Klaus Maria Brandauer

Personal History: Watched Before

Rating: 6 Oscars out of 10

I can’t ever talk about ‘Out of Africa’ without talking about ‘The Color Purple.’ In my humble opinion, I should be watching that Steven Spielberg classic instead of this Sydney Pollack so-called classic. However, art is subjective and awards are trivial, right? So why should I care all that much about them. Yet I do.

The best answer as to why I do care can be summed up quite nicely on what I wrote about ‘The Color Purple’ back in 2020. You see, ‘The Color Purple’ made my 365 Day Movie Challenge and is ranked my seventh favorite movie of all time. Subsequently, ‘Out of Africa’ is not on that list.

Here are some excerpts from A Movie a Day Keeps the Doctor Away December 25, 2020 (click here for the full read):

‘The Color Purple’ was released in December of 1985. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Whoopi Goldberg, the film received critical praise and was also a commercial success in the box office. It eventually became the fourth highest grossing film of 1985, receiving eleven Academy Award nominations, winning zero. That snub catapulted my love and interest for the Oscars, something I was already a fan of thanks to my mom.

As mentioned many times before on this blog, my mom was a huge fan of movies, Hollywood and the Oscars. Her favorite time of year was Academy Award season. That night she propped herself in front of the television from the pre-Barbara Walters interview show right through until the end. She was not one to usually stay up late at night, but that changed on Oscar night. No matter how long the show lasted, she made it through the entire telecast. She loved the fashion and rooted for her favorite actors and actresses to take home the gold. I was right along side of her from the beginning, although after 1985, I became obsessed.

At fourteen, I was already a fan of both Steven Spielberg and Whoopi Goldberg. I loved all of his movies and thought Whoopi was a hoot and loved her stand-up comedy special that played incessantly on HBO. So when I was asked to go to the movies to see ‘The Color Purple’ over the holiday season that year by friends and their parents, I most certainly said yes. The theater was jammed pack and we were not all able to sit together. The mom and dad found two seats and the four remaining, their two kids, me and a friend were able to squeeze into a row together. I really didn’t know what to expect from the film but I was sure to be entertained. Boy, was I.

‘The Color Purple’ was a stunning dramatic story that absolutely took my breath away. It was probably the most serious film I had ever seen in a theater up to that point. I was completely riveted by the story and the characters and was so impressed with Whoopi Goldberg. This was not how I was used to seeing her and she was so good. Although there were parts that made me smile and laugh, it was far from her usual comedic form. In fact, for the first time ever in a movie theater, I cried. It was probably the first time I ever remember crying during a movie. It was a bit embarrassing as I was with three male friends, but I just couldn’t help it. As soon as the young sisters were separated towards the beginning of the film, the tears started rolling. By the time they were reunited at the end, I was full on bawling. It was quite an emotional journey and I loved every second of it.

On March 24, 1986, two days before my fifteenth birthday, I sat down with my mom to watch the 58th Academy Award telecast. As previously mentioned, ‘The Color Purple’ was nominated for eleven awards and I was rooting for it wholeheartedly. Even though I was already a little upset that Steven Spielberg was left out of the Best Director category, I was certain that this glorious film was going to take home at least an award or two. I was completely wrong. It lost all eleven awards and I was devastated, outraged and downright pissed. Because of the obvious racist snubs, I dove deep into my Oscar obsession. I researched, studied and observed all things Academy Awards. It became my life. Since then, I have been an Oscar junkie and have always taken these awards serious. That night has become my Super Bowl and I love every second of them.

Despite not winning any Academy Awards, ‘The Color Purple’ has remained one of my favorite movies of all time. It was a stunning dramatic adaptation of the Alice Walker novel, of which I eventually read in college. Many people think the book is far superior to the movie. I think both are superior in their own respective medium. I love them both. The film was one that I watched over and over again on VHS and eventually DVD, of which I own the special collector’s edition. ‘The Color Purple’ was one of those movies that gets referenced and quoted many, many times by me. “Miss Celie I feels like singing.” It was a movie that touched my heart, enflamed my passion for awards and stayed in my top ten movie of all time for decades.

Now if you haven’t guessed it already, ‘Out of Africa’ was the film that “beat” ‘The Color Purple’ at that year’s Oscar Awards. A commercial and critical success in its own right, the film wasn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse of genres to run out and see. And after the award outcome, I had boycotted the movie for decades. It wasn’t until within the last seven years did I sit down and watch it for the very first time with my husband.

Now after watching it from beginning to end for only the second time, I can see why ‘Out of Africa’ was nominated for eleven Academy Awards (same as ‘The Color Purple’) and won seven (seven more than ‘The Color Purple’). It is the kind of film that the Academy loves. It is a sweeping epic romantic drama, and a well crafted one at that. It is not by any means a “bad” movie. The direction, cinematography and acting are all top-notch. Robert Redford and Meryl Streep are both stunning in both appearance and performance. It is just, in my opinion, a very long, pretentious story set at a very glacial pace. It is no “The Color Purple.’


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