Best Writing (Adapted) – 1979

Official Nominations: Kramer Vs Kramer. Apocalypse Now. La Cage Aux Folles. A Little Romance. Norma Rae.

Kramer Vs Kramer continues its winning streak by picking up the Adapted Screenplay Award. I’m not much of a fan of films which spend a considerable amount of their running time in Court, but the intensity, integrity, and emotion of the performances keeps things interesting. Time has passed so the legal stuff is hit and miss and the dialogue is plain rather than quotable. Apocalypse Now is the very definition of quotable, with a number of speeches and one-liners becoming iconic, definitive moments of Cinema, turning yet another school-kid-hated-text into something monumental. La Cage Aux Folles is a funny enough story but it seems strange it was ever nominated here given some of the ‘crass’ material. Norma Rae is a much more credible nomination – The Academy loves a heart-warming underdog story, and if it’s a biography – all the better. Finally, A Little Romance is a little seen film with a terrific cast which almost never works, a saccharine script which probably only works on a specific person at a specific place in their life.

My Winner: Apocalypse Now

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Critical Essay | by GoPeer | GoPeer | Medium

My Nominations: Apocalypse Now. Escape From Alcatraz. Nosferatu The Vampyre. Quadrophenia. Scum. The Warriors.

Only my choice of winner makes it over to my own nominations where I add five films which never stood a chance of picking up a genuine nomination. Quadrophenia may be the most interesting of these seeing as the film is adapted from the album of the same name. I generally enjoy when bands are so overblown that they decide to branch into film – it almost never works well, and it works even less when it’s the story of an album rather than some standalone story which just happens to feature the band. Quadrophenia works so well because it is a time-honoured tale of adolescence, a coming of age story set against the Mods vs The Rockers and featuring music from The Who’s best album. The dialogue, while trenched in the era and place, is not a barrier to modern or foreign viewers and features the gritty realism you would expect from British cinema but as a whole it is less kitchen sink drama and more an energetic quest of rebellion and purpose.

Escape From Alcatraz is one of the finest prison break movies, dispensing with such tired devices such as love interests and exhaustive dialogue, and instead doubles down on the bare essentials – clever inmate decides to escape from inescapable prison. An odd choice for this category then, but the screenplay takes the core details from the true life story and transforms it into a taut and streamlined action thriller. Keeping on the topic of streamlining – the original novel of The Warriors deals more heavily in the main characters’ motivations while also exploring modern notions of family, sexuality, machismo, and the very nature of the gangs themselves. Hill and Shaber’s film is more minimalist in theme and plot and instead succeeds as a quotable proto-Western, a road movie on foot, a cross-country chase from one end of a city to another, and the fantasy of a possible future of laws based on codes of honour rather than ticker tape, bureaucracy, and entrenched white ideals.

Scum doesn’t make for pleasant viewing, but that’s precisely the point. It’s as hard hitting as it needs to be, with a gavel thud of violence and language which raises the bar over the original BBC version. Nosferatu adds precious dialogue and characterisation over the original and while the general outline of the Dracula story should be familiar to all viewers, there are enough changes to satisfy experienced fans of that story, from the portrayal of the lead characters, to their respective conclusions.

My Winner: Apocalypse Now

Let us know your winner in the comments!

One thought on “Best Writing (Adapted) – 1979

  1. John Charet March 1, 2021 / 4:06 am

    Great post 🙂 A lot of wonderful choices, but I too would choose Apocalypse Now as well 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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