Best Writing (Original) – 1983

Official Nominations: Tender Mercies. The Big Chill. Fanny & Alexander. Silkwood. WarGames.

Not the most exciting list of films this year, but lets always applaud originality where we can. Tender Mercies picked up the win this year, the tale of an alcoholic cowboy turning his life around thanks to the love of a good woman. It’s more nuanced than the standard sort of fare you expect from the simple synopsis. The Big Chill is this year’s hangout movie, following on from Diner. It’s another of those ‘ensemble old friends get together after years apart’ movies, but it’s one of the best. Fanny & Alexander is 1982 and can be ignored, Silkwood probably shouldn’t be here either given that it’s essentially an adaptation of the Silkwood book, while WarGames may be the only truly original screenplay here predicting the role technology and computers would play in warfare in the decades to come.

My Winner: The Big Chill.

How Lawrence Kasdan Truly Feels About The Idea Of A Big Chill Sequel

My Nominations: The Big Chill. WarGames. Return Of The Jedi. Brainstorm. The Man With Two Brains. Trading Places. Videodrome.

Two make it over to my list to join a variety of comedies and Sci-fi films. Return Of The Jedi is that rare beast – a satisfying end to a trilogy. Even as it ties off all our loose ends and answers all our questions, it still introduces new characters, worlds, and ideas to enrich the universe and gives us some more iconic pieces of dialogue. Brainstorm gets another nomination for me for its creativity and ideas, while The Man With Two Brains is a fun idea making fun of other tropes and cliches which have existed in Cinema for many decades. Trading Places was one of those movies which could only be made in the 80s – the environment of Reagan politics, greed, and Capitalism becoming the real American Dream was set up for a story like this, and you had a cast who could authentically pull the humour off. Finally, if it’s creativity and originality you’re looking for in a screenplay, looks no further than Videodrome. It may border on incomprehensible, but its strokes are broad enough that we are pulled in on a first watch and enticed to uncover additional hidden delights on subsequent viewings.

My Winner: Videodrome.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Best Writing (Original) – 1983

  1. March 15, 2023 / 11:13 pm

    I think “Trading Places” is a classic, very clever comedy, and I like how the plot bounces back and forth.

    It is also the ultimate revenge movie, with the lead finally getting even with his viciously outrageous capitalistic relatives who have no heart or morals whatsoever and have no problem in screwing him over and making his emotional torture into a joke. In that case, the film is very “current” with today’s political climate and resonates better than most comedies of the ‘80s. I also think Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykrod are perfectly cast – giving really good performances.

    The movie also contains recent Oscar winner Jamie Lee Curtis in one of her best roles. It was the first movie she was in where I took notice of her good acting, and it was a shame the Academy didn’t recognize her that year. I loved her in this “hooker with a heart of gold” role, especially the train scene where she plays a Swedish tourist with a laugh-out-loud accent. “Trading Places” would get my vote for that year. I’ve probably seen it four or five times, and it never fails to entertain me with witty dialogue, smart performances, and most of all, a cleverly constructed plot.

    I’m surprised AMPAS did not list “Silkwood” in the Adapted Screenplay category instead that year. Perhaps the screenwriter had to supply a statement or affidavit stating that the screenwriter had not read the book at the time of writing the screenplay in order to qualify. Just a guess.

    • carlosnightman March 23, 2023 / 4:30 pm

      Apologies for not replying earlier. I agree with everything you wrote, especially the film’s continued relevance even though it is drenched in 80s culture.
      I was very happy to see Jamie Lee Curtis get her win as she has been one of my favourite performers for as long as I can remember. Even as a fan, she has never been someone who immediately pops into my head when any discussion on ‘Great Actors’ comes up, but I’ve loved her in so much – from the Carpenter movies, to True Lies, to My Girl, and to her TV work in Scream Queens.

      • March 23, 2023 / 8:11 pm

        I saw Jamie Lee Curtis in a television interview years ago (on “Donahue” I think? ? ?) and she said that “Love Letters” – a seldom seen romance in which she co-starred – was her favorite movie. Of course, this was before her Oscar win. I also agree with you that upon hearing her name you don’t immediately think “oh – great actress”, even though she’s enjoyable in so many films. Maybe EEAAO and future films of a higher caliber will change all that. I also loved her very funny performance in “Knives Out” a couple years ago. Her reaction to discovering her disinheritance was comic gold – I laughed out loud.

  2. John Charet March 26, 2023 / 9:47 pm

    Great post 🙂 Sorry for the long absence – so busy 🙂 Videodrome is a perfect choice, I would have also nominated Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero 🙂

    • carlosnightman March 26, 2023 / 10:05 pm

      No worries, I’ve been getting through these Oscars posts slowly 🙂

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