Best Writing (Original) – 1978

Official Nominations: Coming Home. Autumn Sonata. The Deer Hunter. Interiors. An Unmarried Woman.

A couple of expected nominations from the Best Picture list, a Woody Allen, a Bergman, and a random. Mazursky’s An Unmarried Woman edges feminist or female led narratives out of the dark ages and into the more liberal modern age, his script brought to life by Jill Clayburgh’s performance. Autumn Sonata is a latter day Bergman drama, again dealing with the relationship between women – this time dealing with a mother and daughter rekindling after years apart. His usual ponderings on life and death are simmering here, but there’s little said that he hadn’t already covered. Interiors sees Allen largely leaving comedy behind and trying his hand at Bergman, but the writing feels a little flat and lacking in Allen’s voice. Coming Home was a fine winner this year, being unique at the time as it viewed the Vietnam war and its aftermath through the eyes of the women who waited for their husbands to come home. Edging it for me, unsurprisingly, is The Deer Hunter, dealing with the before, during, and after of three men and their relationships with others and each other – the differing impacts all shades of the same tragedy.

My Winner: The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter - Wikipedia

My Nominations: The Deer Hunter. Coming Home. Big Wednesday. Dawn Of The Dead. The Driver. Eyes Of Laura Mars. Girlfriends. Halloween. Animal House.

I take the two Vietnam movies over to my list, and add the forgotten one from the loose trilogy – Big Wednesday doesn’t have the big ideas of the other two, instead based on Milius and Aaberg’s youth in Malibu as war abroad loomed large. While it does race through several staples of war movies – the innocent beginnings, the recruiting, the scenes of war – it does so with a less po-faced approach with a lot of humorous one-liners, and feels more authentic at times with War being this nuisance or distraction to the ultimate goal of hitting that ideal wave. Dawn Of The Dead, in the midst of its satirical leanings, manages to throw out some classic horror dialogue, from the classic ‘when there’s no more room in hell’ line, to the more straightforward arguments between scientists and journalists as everyone falls apart. Halloween proves that 1978 had more than one horror movie pumping out dialogue still quoted daily today, usually coming from the mouth of Loomis with his ‘Death has come to your little town’, and ‘what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil’. More than a series of quotes, Halloween is a fine example of a screenplay finely honed to produce maximum scares and atmosphere, in turn almost single-handedly creating/perfecting a genre.

John Carpenter was already on a roll by 1978, his script for The Eyes Of Laura Mars one of the finest Giallo examples – certainly one of the finest US examples. The central idea of a woman, one used to exploiting or at the very least using carnage and violence for her own gains, who ‘gains the power’ of witnessing real life murders through her own eyes is one which has been used notably since, while The Driver plays a similar trick with the noir genre – a genre which had been dead for a couple of decades by this point. The script dispenses with exposition and dialogue and padding, and instead is as streamlined as you can get – refusing to even name its characters – meaning the plot is a series of fraught exchanges which upend noir character tropes while moving the plot along. My final two nominations are at different ends of the comedy scale – Animal House the uproarious and anarchic vehicle of future stars and Girlfriends the precursor for much of the offbeat Indie comedy the US began producing in the 90s, which then spilled into the free-form Apatow style blockbusters of today.

My Winner: Dawn Of The Dead

Let us know your winner in the comments!

One thought on “Best Writing (Original) – 1978

  1. John Charet July 23, 2020 / 3:06 am

    I too would choose Dawn of the Dead 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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