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Old February 14 2011, 05:01 AM   #176
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Location: Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Re: Movies Seen in 2011

10. Black Swan (B+)
11. Made in Dagenham (B)
12. Gentleman's Agreement (A-)
13. Barney's Version (A-)
14. Out of Africa (B)

Best Picture of 1985, it was a bit hard to decide how to rate this. On the one hand, despite being nearly three hours long, I found it quite easy to watch; but all the same, it's pretty inert from a dramatic perspective, and the central romance is understated to the point of lacking any real passion.

Director Sydney Pollack is clearly understudying for Sir David Lean's epic style, but compared to Doctor Zhivago or, say, James Cameron's Titanic, there's not really anything going on here apart from the romance. The movie covers almost 30 years, but apart from the beginning and end of World War I there are no real reference points, and the events don't matter much. There are a few stabs at evaluating the affects of British rule in Kenya, but not much else. Titanic was about Jack and Rose, but it was also about class, and had a wider story about the ship sinking that served as a climax; it was a straightforward melodrama, but that really worked. It's also remarkable, for a movie almost three hours long, how few characters there really are; it's basically about two people. There's never anything at stake apart from the lead character's happiness, and the romance isn't passionate enough to make us believe she'll never do without him. While on one level it's admirable that the film more or less hinges solely on the emotional ups and downs of its lead characters, this leaves the plot feeling quite arbitrary. There are some other people hanging around the periphery, but none of them really amount to anything, which makes some final scenes that hang on Streep bidding goodbye to her African servants unaffecting, because her relationships with them never amounted to a great deal.

And having written all that, I will say again that the movie never bored me while watching it, in spite of all that, so I can't rate it too lowly. It features a great lead performance from Meryl Streep, once again affecting a flawless accent. Robert Redford starts out as kind of a cipher, but his character gets a bit better defined as the film goes on. And, of course, there are two technical aspects of the film that probably stick with audiences more than anything else: the cinematography, which is truly incredible; and the score by the recently-deceased John Barry, which deservedly won the Oscar (Barry's death prompted me to finally see this).
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