Best Writing (Adapted) – 1973

Official Nominations: The Exorcist. The Last Detail. The Paper Chase. Paper Moon. Serpico.

Here’s a true story; I read The Exorcist before I saw the movie. The movie you see, was effectively banned in the UK after the Video Nasties scare until around 1999. I first saw it in 2001 I believe, but by that point I was already familiar with many of the movie’s most famous shots. The book I read around 1994 or 95. Part of me would like to say that I was too young to appreciate it, but in truth I don’t think that’s the case – I hated it. The book was as boring as a visit to your cousins on Christmas Day, and twice as frustrating. I recall nothing of interest happening until, almost literally, the last eight pages or so. Time may have spoiled my memories, but I remember clearly discussing it in school and me saying as much. Maybe if I read it now I may feel differently, but I have no desire to do so. Why would I, when the film is so good? Any team who can turn a book I hated into a film I love deserves the vote.

My Winner: The Exorcist.

My Nominations: The Exorcist. Serpico. Don’t Look Now. Soylent Green. Turkish Delight.

Only the winner, and the gritting and honest retelling of Frank Serpico’s adventures make it over to my list. Added to my nominations is another in the long list of successful adaptations of Daphne Du Maurier works – you’re almost guaranteed a classic when you make a film based on one of her stories if history is anything to go by. It’s a faithful enough adaptation of the short story, downplaying the perceived Psychic powers of Donald Sutherland’s characters. Soylent Green has been parodied so many times now that everyone knows what it is long before they see it – it’s seen as a movie based around a twist, except that everyone knows the twist before watching. It still holds up as a decent slice of 70s Sci-Fi and the screenplay takes the original’s central idea of how to cope with over-population and does its own thing. Turkish Delight is… pretty messed up, just like its source material Turks Fruit. The film follows the book faithfully, but it’s startling and tragic seeing it on the screen so it gets my nomination.

My Winner: The Exorcist.

Let us know in the comments which film gets your vote!

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Best Writing (Adapted) – 1972

Official Nominations: The Godfather. Cabaret. The Emigrants. Pete ‘n’ Tillie. Sounder.

As much as you would have expected The Godfather to sweep the board, this was one of the few awards it actually won, Coppola and Puzo completely transforming and bringing to life Puzo’s saga. Cabaret isn’t a film I typically think of having a memorable screenplay, based on a musical which was based on a novel which was probably based on a comic etc etc. The Emigrants is 1971 so shouldn’t be here, Pete ‘n’ Tillie is a fairly dark and sad comedy based on two novels, while Sounder is an emotive, less violent retelling of the source.

Official Winner: The Godfather

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My Nominations: The Godfather. Sounder. Deliverance. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex. Fritz The Cat. The Getaway. Jeremiah Johnson. The Poseidon Adventure. Sleuth.

Two from the official list join a large batch of others, including Woody Allen’s one of a kind adaptation of Doctor Reuben’s book. Elsewhere, Walter Hill gives The Getaway a modern and streamlined, action-packed treatment and James Dickey adapts his own Deliverance yet the writer of its most famous line remains disputed. Fritz The Cat has controversy in almost every department – its screenplay taking elements and actual parts from the comics as well as delivering brand new stories – all the while retaining an anarchic satirical sense. John Milius was beginning to make a name for himself (in more ways than one) and his screenplay for Jeremiah Johnson shows his flair for dialogue coming to fruition. Sleuth is one of the most well-written films ever but it’s not all that different from the source material, while The Poseidon Adventure gets rid of much of the sex and controversy to make a purely enjoyable disaster romp.

My Winner: The Godfather

Let us know your pick for the Best Adapted Screenplay of 1972!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1971

Don’t worry, I’m not dead! I think. I’ve been renovating my garage and internet has been off the grid for a while, but I’m back!

Official Nominations: The French Connection. A Clockwork Orange. The Conformist. The Garden Of The Finzi Continis. The Last Picture Show.

Two foreign movies unexpectedly make the grade – I’ve discussed them before and as they are both 1970 movies they won’t be in my category this year. The French Connection won this year, fictionalizing a non-fiction work by Robin Moore. The Last Picture Show is the story of any number of American youths over any number of years – an adaptation of the sort of biography by Larry McMurty. My win though goes to Kubrick’s retelling of A Clockwork Orange – enough similarities to the source material to follow the central plot and characters and dialogue, but with enough changes to make it stand on its own without harming the novel.

My Winner: A Clockwork Orange

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My Nominations: The French Connection. A Clockwork Orange. The Last Picture Show. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. Straw Dogs. The Devils. Get Carter. Johnny Got His Gun.

Three official choices make it over and join five others. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory gets rid of much of the frumptious dialogue of Dahl’s novel but keeps the spirit of wonder while allowing Gene Wilder free reign. Dahl wrote the main script but David Seltzer made many changes to it – adding songs, developing Slugworth – so much so that Dahl disowned the film. Straw Dogs is a very loose adaptation of an earlier novel, keeping some basic ideas and character names but streamlining into a tale of breakdown and revenge while The Devils takes a book which many would have deemed unfilmable and makes a movie which is now almost unwatchable due to availability. Get Carter is a mostly faithful retelling of Jack’s Return Home with plenty of hardass English gangster speak that actually makes sense (unlike that recent Cockney muck), while Johnny Got His Gun sees Dalton Trumbo re-write and film his own novel with the stark visuals heightening the anti-war sentiment and peppered with one-liners you’ll see quoted on many a comments sections today.

My Winner: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1970

Official Nominations: MASH. Airport. Lovers And Other Strangers. I Never Sang For My Father. Women In Love.

There are a few films I’m surprised to see missing out this year, especially when they are exactly what typically get nominated. Larry Kramer and Ken Russell crafted the script for Women In Love, a largely faithful adaptation which balances theme presented via dialogue with performance and visuals. I Never Sang For My Father is a little film which says a lot, again the screenplay allows room for performance rather than relying entirely on obtuse or emotive outbursts while Lovers And Other Strangers is just the sort of light distraction some people desired in 1970. Airport and MASH were always going to be the forerunners, and MASH is the more deserving winner.

My Winner: MASH

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My Nominations: MASH. Airport. Women In Love. Little Big Man. Patton. The Boys In The Band. Cromwell. The Magic Christian. Dodesukaden. The Conformist.

Yeah, I’m putting Patton here – it’s where it should be. I add two offbeat choices in Kurosawa’s Dodesukaden, perhaps the strangest film he ever directed (about people who live in a dump/junk yard) and The Magic Christian which brings together one of the oddest casts ever seen on film to make an episodic skit-show adaptation. Cromwell probably deserved a nomination but by this point audiences were not so interested in historical epics, The Boys In The Band would have been a bold nomination, and Little Big Man was a bit of a snub. Finally – The Conformist – a film as dense in theme as it is beautiful.

My Winner: MASH

Let us know in the comments which film you would award the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for 1970!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1969

Official Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. Anne Of The Thousand Days. Goodbye Columbus. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. Z.

As the turbulent 1960s drew to a close, filmmakers were continuing to trawl through recent and distant history’s literary works for something they could transform into a cinematic experience which modern audiences would want to see. Waldo Salt’s adaptation of Midnight Cowboy stays roughly in touch with the source material by James Leo Herlihy – keeping the tone of outsiders finding companionship where they could – it proved to be a hit with critics and movie-goers, picking up the official win. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They is a more absurd and existential take on American culture, with James Poe and Robert Thompson’s script taking the key ideas and themes of McCoy’s original but allowing room for the actors to transform the characters and for Pollack to accentuate the mania. Based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos, Costa Gavras and Jorge Semprun’s adaptation is just as unflinching in its rage and realism, merging dark humour with prescient political debate. Philip Roth isn’t the first name you think of when it comes to romantic comedies, but his novella Goodbye, Columbus is naturally more of a satire on the wealthy – with Arnold Schulman loosely adapting one particular facet of that collection for the screen. Finally, Anne Of The Thousand Days is adapted from Maxwell Anderson’s earlier play into an overlong and not interesting enough film by Bridget Boland, John Hale, and Richard Sokolove.

My Winner: Z

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My Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. Z. The Assassination Bureau. Army Of Shadows. Castle Keep.

Michael Relph and Wolf Mankowitz adapt Jack London’s (and Robert Fish’s) unfinished novel The Assassination Bureau, Ltd for the screen, moving the action to Europe and giving it a slightly more humourous tone. Joseph Kessel’s semi-fictional Army Of Shadows is an uncompromising and unsentimental view of the French Resistance, with Melville’s movie presenting events in a matter of fact way. My final personal nomination is for Castle Keep – another Sydney Pollack movie with a screenplay by Daniel Taradash and David Rayfiel. Based off William Eastlake’s novel, the film is an entertaining, thought-provoking, and ultimately surreal siege movie featuring a ragtag group of soldiers defending a castle filled with priceless art in WWII.

My Winner: Z

Let us know in the comments what your pick is for the Best Adapted Screenplay of 1969!

Best Adapted Screenplay – 1968

Official Nominations: The Lion In Winter. Oliver! Rosemary’s Baby. The Odd Couple. Rachel Rachel.

A strong group this year with a varied array of genres – costume drama, musical, horror, comedy. The most notable aspect this year is how rigidly each movie sticks to its subject material. Rachel Rachel, the adaptation of Margaret Lawrence’s novel, is the obvious weak link here – a poignant drama with some good dialogue but it can’t stand up against the other nominees. The Lion In Winter was the official winner, though I can’t honestly select here given that it is essentially the same as the stage play from which it was adapted, and one which doesn’t particularly grab me. Oliver! is a much more impressive choice even though it basically follows suit from the stage play. The Odd Couple is another stage adaptation, once again following the script from the play, but is the most entertaining of the nominations. My winner though has to be Rosemary’s Baby – with Polanski adapting Ira Levin’s terrifying novel. In all honesty, we have five strong films here with strong screenplays, although much credit should go to the original writers given that the adaptations rarely vary.

My Winner: Rosemary’s Baby

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My Nominations: Oliver! Rosemary’s Baby. The Odd Couple. Rachel Rachel. Bullitt. The Planet Of The Apes. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Almost all the official nominations make it over to my list, joining Planet Of The Apes, Bullitt, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Each of those movies features some quotable dialogue and smart writing, but my winner remains the same.

My Winner: Rosemary’s Baby

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Which film of 1968 do you think deserves the Best Adapted Screenplay award? Let us know in the comments!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1967

Official Nominations: In The Heat Of The Night. Cool Hand Luke. The Graduate. In Cold Blood. Ulysses.

Stirling Silliphant picked up the win this year for his adaptation of John Ball’s novel, including a number of lines and scenes which would be seen as important for the Civil Right’s Movement in the 60s. Featuring its own famous one-liner’s is Donn Pierce and Frank R Pierson’s adaptation of Pierce’s own novel Cool Hand Luke. Throw in the obvious Christian imagery with Luke being beaten down and sacrificing himself, as well as a surprising amount of realistic violence and anti-authoritarian statements and we have another strong entry. Keeping close to the source material is Calder Willingham and Buck Henry’s take on The Graduate, by Charles Webb, and although there are plenty of humorous lines and moments the power of the film is in its performances. It takes a brave person to tackle Joyce’s Ulysses, but Joseph Strick and Fred Haines give it their best shot using predominant dialogue from the novel, but the film isn’t particularly memorable. Capote’s tale of theft and murder In Cold Blood is brought to the big screen by Richard Brooks who, unlike the other nominees this year, makes several important changes from the source which pay off successfully.

My Winner: Cool Hand Luke

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My Nominations: Cool Hand Luke. In Cold Blood. In The Heat Of The Night. The Jungle Book. The Dirty Dozen. You Only Live Twice.

I add three movies to my list – Nunnally Johnson and Lukas Heller adapted E M Nathanson’s successful novel, making several key changes and splitting the movie into more clearly defined acts, while Roald Dahl essentially abandoned most of Flemming’s original novel and crafted a unique Bond tale in You Only Live Twice. Finally, a host of writers came together to cut down Kipling’s set of stories into a simple story of man and animal, though keeping plenty of the darker tone in place.

My Winner: Cool Hand Luke.

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Let us know in the comments which movie you think has the best Adapted Screenplay of 1967!