81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Out of Africa

October 16th, 2009 · No Comments · 1985, Adaptation, Color, Composer: John Barry, Drama, John Barry, Meryl Streep, Out of Africa, Robert Redford, Sydney Pollack, Universal Pictures

Out of Africa This is an odd movie.

Part National Geographic Explorer, part Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, part The Bridges of Madison County, part Australia, Out of Africa is a long (very long) movie about, well, I’ll let the plot summary from the Internet Movie Database explain it:

The Plot
Karen Blixen, a Danish woman, marries a friend for the title of Baroness and they move to Africa and start a coffee plantation. Things unfold when her husband begins cheating on her and is away on business often, so she’s at home alone, working on the farm and bonding with two men she met in her first day in Africa. She eventually falls in love with the one, Denys Finch-Hatton and goes on safari and whatnot with him. Later, she begins to want more from him than the simple friendship/relationship they have and pushes marriage, but Denys still wants his freedom. By the end, she’s gained a much better understanding and respect for the African culture than when she came. (Written by KKaliforniApril22i for IMDB.)

The movie opens with what seems like a long narration supplied by Streep. It’s clunky narration with one of Streep’s patented accents. So it’s a bit off-putting.

The rest of the film’s nearly three hours is taken up with one calamity after another befalling Karen Blixen. Her husband is a philanderer, she gets syphilis, her coffee crop burns up in a fire, she loses her farm, her lover (Redford) dies in a plane crash…

The woman simply cannot get a break.

I suppose I liked the movie, although I couldn’t say for sure. For some reason, I wasn’t particularly moved by the film. The scenery didn’t impress me. It was beautiful, sure. The animals were swell. The colors and the expanse of the landscape were amazing. But I was interested in it only in an academic sense. Robert Redford played Robert Redford. Meryl Streep played a woman with an accent. Lions played Lions. Africa played Africa.

As Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes would say, “Yada, yada, yada.”

Out of Africa is impressive. But what I’d really like to see is a Best Picture Oscar winner that isn’t three hours in length and heavy as the dickens.

Where are you, Marty, when I need you?

The Cast
Meryl Streep (1949- )……………………………..Karen Blixen
Robert Redford (1936- )………………………….Denys Finch Hatton
Klaus Maria Brandauer (1943- )………………..Bror Blixen / Hans Blixen
Michael Kitchen (1948- )…………………………Berkeley Cole
Malick Bowens (?-?)………………………………..Farah
Joseph Thiaka (?-?)…………………………………Kamante
Stephen Kinyanjui (?-?)……………………………Kinanjui
Michael Gough (1913- )………………………….Lord Delamere
Suzanna Hamilton (1960- )……………………..Felicity

Directed By
Sydney Pollack (1934-2008)

Writing Credits
Karen Blixen, 1885-1932 (books “Out of Africa”, “Shadows on the Grass” and “Letters from Africa”)

Judith Thurman (book “Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller”)

Errol Trzebinski (book “Silence Will Speak”)

Kurt Luedtke, 1939- (born in Grand Rapids, Michigan! Woo-hoo!) (screenplay)

Music By
John Barry (1933- )

Out of Africa was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and won seven: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Director (Sydney Pollack), Best Music, Orignal Score (John Barry), Best Picture, Best Sound, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Kurt Luedtke).

Many of the reviews on IMDB and Amazon make special note of John Barry’s score, with some people saying it’s the best score of all time. While I admit the score for Out of Africa is lush and emotional, I think Barry’s best work is the 1980 film Somewhere In Time, a tremendously emotional movie for me.

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