Monday, February 7, 2011

30 Days of Oscar: Day 11 - The Color Purple

Movie: The Color Purple
Year: 1986
Nominations: 11 in total, Best Picture, Best Actress (Whoopi Goldberg), Supporting Actress (Margaret Avery), Supporting Actress (Oprah Winfrey), Art Direction, Cinematography, Costumes, Make-up, Original Score, Original Song ("Miss Celie's Blues), and Adapted Screenplay
Wins:  Out of Africa took home a lot of the non-acting awards that year, and since it's one of my all-time favorites, I have no problem with it.  William Hurt, Geraldine Page, Don Ameche, and Angelica Huston took home the acting awards from four different movies. And Lionel Richie's "Say you, say me" won the song.  Sadly, The Color Purple didn't take any home, but giving its last impact, I think it did okay. 

Based on the book by Alice Walker, and an early Steven Spielberg film, The Color Purple brought us Whoopi Goldberg's introduction to film and Oprah an Oscar nomination.  An almost entirely African-American cast, it's disturbing in its brutality - all the women, many of the kids, and most of the men eventually get a beating - and amazing in its courage and love.  Told on farms in the South, the story is really about survival, surviving loss, violence, and your life in order to be loved.  Celie (Whoopi) is forced to marry Albert (Danny Glover) and is separated from her sister Nettie (Akosua Busia - who is now an actual African princess).  Albert is really in love with the singer, Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) and eventually so is Celie because Shug's only the second person to show her kindness.  One of Albert's sons, Harpo (Willard E. Pugh) marries Sofia (Oprah) who won't let him beat her and eventually leaves him.  Sofia gets in an altercation in town with a white couple and gets severely beaten and put in jail (her spirit is nearly broken).  Eventually, everyone's spirit is nearly broken due to their hard lives, but you see them rise up and claw for their own piece of happiness eventually. 

Terrific acting and sweeping visuals, this movie is a pleasure to watch every single time.  Since I'm rewatching it this time with Oscars in mind, it's kind of surprising that Spielberg didn't get a directing nomination for his work.  The way he looks across a field of flowers or a planted field of tobacco, you feel like the characters do have reason for the good things they find in their lives.  Shug says, "I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it" and I think that sums up the feeling the movie tries to give you.  The film is paced well, with life starting out really hard for Celie, but settling into a pattern you could live with (if not enjoy) and then ultimately Celie finding her own path.  Whoopi did a great job showing the evolution of Celie - she learns to read, finds her smile, and eventually her own path in life. 

4 comments:

The Mad Hatter said...

It's interesting looking back on THE COLOR PURPLE in its Oscar context. At the time, many believed it was Steven Spielberg turning a corner. After all, this is a guy who was nominated for more genre-driven films like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, RADIERS OF THE LOST ARK, and ET. Now he gets nominated for a film much more mature - slam dunk that he picks up awards, right?

Enter the Redford Express.

I know there were criticisms of the film at the time (likely problems with the adaptation)...but I believe on the whole it has aged well, so awards or no, it should be proud to at least have been in the conversation.

MrJeffery said...

i love this movie. 'out of africa' is so epic (the photography and score are amazing), i guess i can see why it won what it did. but i prefer 'the color purple.' i also think winfrey and avery were better than huston.

Jess said...

Hatter - I agree, it was a change in direction for Spielberg, but unlike other directors who do something totally out of their wheelhouse, he did a terrific job with it. It has held up remarkably well given that it's been 25 years since they filmed it.

cinemasights said...

A pleasure to watch? We must have seen a different film. This was a hard watch. That being said, I thrive on hard watches.

I liked this one a lot, easily one of the better Spielberg films I've seen. Great cast, great story and a great ending.