Best Writing (Original) – 1974

Official Nominations: Chinatown. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Day For Night. Harry And Tonto. The Conversation.

Coppola was a busy boy this year, with The Conversation and The Godfather Part II. He also wrote the screenplay for The Great Gatsby. While his entry here could have won another year, it’s up against Chinatown – one of the greatest screenplays ever written. Day For Night gets the vote for trying, successfully, something different, while Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is one of the great examples of the new feminist movement. Harry And Tonto is charming enough, but not on par with the others.

My Winner: Chinatown

My Nominations: Chinatown. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Day For Night. The Conversation. Blazing Saddles. Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia. Dark Star. A Woman Under The Influence. Thunderbolt And Lightfoot.

We only drop Harry And Tonto and add Blazing Saddles in its place for planting 1970 US speak into the Old West and being filled with the lewd, the satirical, the juvenile, and more. Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia is a violent and often confused mystery peppered with a variety of grim characters while Dark Star makes a mockery of 2001. A Woman Under The Influence is a gritt, almost overwhelming character study, while Thunderbolt And Lightfoot is a shining example of a genre which would quickly be lampooned as the decade drew to a close and beyond.

My Winner: Chinatown

Let us know which film you pick as winner!

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Best Writing (Original) – 1973

Official Nominations: The Sting. American Graffiti. Cries And Whispers. Save The Tigers. A Touch Of Class.

The Sting was the deserving and expected winner this year, even though the story was heavily inspired by real life events which had been previously documented. Nonetheless, it’s the nuances of the script, the dialogue, and the rapport between Gondorff and Hooker which helped the film become such a hit – you feel that even with lesser names than Newman and Redford the movie still would have been acclaimed, if not as financially successful. American Graffiti deserves a nomination more for its loose, near improvised feel which would go on to inspire many future directors, writers, and the slacker film movement. The script is both nostalgic and innocent, yet eternally prescient – the cars, the moves, the style, the lingo may have changed, but we grow, we explore, and we seek friendship, a mate, and the desire for freedom in an exciting and uncertain future.

Cries And Whispers doesn’t need to be here given that it was released in 1972, suffice it to say, it’s another dense exploration by Bergman, dealing with family, sexuality, life, and death. Save The Tiger is kept afloat by Jack Lemmon’s performance and in many ways it’s the perfect dramatic script for him, the everyman drowning in a world passing him by with the script highlighting his isolation and inability to stay relevant. Finally, A Touch Of Class feels like a film which would have had a greater impact in the 60s, with its depiction of marriage, affairs, sex etc. Its characters are finely drawn, though thoroughly unlikable even with the witticisms  on display.

My Winner: The Sting

My Nominations: The Sting. American Graffiti. Badlands. Day For Night. High Plains Drifter. The Holy Mountain. Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid.

Only two make it over to my list. Joining them is Terence Malik’s screenplay for Badlands – one of the finest examples of being sparse yet dense at the same time; when the characters aren’t talking, the pictures do the rest. Nevertheless, his two central characters and their dispute with the world is both universal, timeless, and symbolic of the USA in the early 1970s. Spacek’s narration feels innocent and alarming, while Sheen’s infrequent outbursts and speeches feel like they deserve iconic status. There aren’t many great films about making movies, or the love of movies, but Day For Night experiments with both of these themes playfully and cynically. Fresh off his work on The French Connection, Ernest Tidyman makes one of the great new US Westerns – new as in being influence by Leone, a story which throws out most notions of the glorious Wild West where enterprising individuals built North America. The Holy Mountain… well, I’ve got to nominate it for something. Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid is a Peckinpah film which is only now getting reevaluated after an initial critical mute response – a film with a torrid production, not least between writer and director with Peckinpah rewriting Wurlitzer’s script – a harsh, downbeat story.

My Winner: The Sting

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Writing (Original) – 1972

Official Nominations: The Candidate. The Discreet Charm Of The Borgeouisie. Lady Sings The Blues. Murmur Of The Heart. Young Winston.

So this year they continued the official title of ‘Best Screenplay based on Factual Material or Material not Previously Produced or Published’ or in other words ‘We don’t have a clue what we’re doing’. Anyhoo, The Candidate won this year, Jeremy Larner’s script one of the more detailed and accurate portrayals of American politics whose irony is lost on many a misguided viewer. Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm Of The Borgeouisie was probably his most loved film due in great part to a biting script which is quotable as well as being dense with the merging of dreams, reality, and the usual Bunuel oddities. Lady Sings The Blues wouldn’t normally be here but of course they made that garbled mouthful of a category name. It’s mostly based on Billie Holiday’s autobiography but goes all the way to the end of her life and of course is fairly gritty.

Murmur Of The Heart is one of the more bizarre entries selected by The Academy – aside from being a 1971 release, it’s a film about underage sex, more sex, and incest. It’s good, but incredibly odd that The Academy nominated it. Finally, Young Winston is another based on an Autobiography – this time focusing on Churchill’s early days… some people are into that sort of thing.

Official Winner: The Candidate

My Nominations: The Candidate. The Discreet Charm Of The Borgeouisie. Images. The King Of Marvin Gardens. Last Tango In Paris. The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean.

Only two of the official nominees make it to my list, leaving plenty of room for personal favourites. Images delivers some strong work by Susannah York and Robert Altman, but it’s the writing (also by Altman and York) which makes this more than a mere Repulsion clone. Bertolucci and Franco Arcalli crafted the daring, boorish Last Tango In Paris and while some of the more controversial pieces were improvised or loosely written and several pieces of dialogue retain high impact. My final two choices continue the theme of unnecessarily long movie titles, with The King Of Marvin Gardens seeing Brackman and Rafelson construct an almost soap-opera like assortment of characters and problems, while in The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean John Milius crafts an unlikable, yet enviable character who was nevertheless transformed into something more palatable for the screen, yet there are enough snippets of deadpan dialogue to remind us what a visionary force Milius was.

My Winner: The Candidate

Best Writing (Original) – 1971

Official Nominations: The Hospital. Investigation of A Citizen Above Suspicion. Klute. Summer Of ’42. Sunday Bloody Sunday.

At least two films which seem like obvious choices, with Klute being the one most people remember today and getting my vote. The official winner was The Hospital, all but forgotten now, saw Paddy Cheyevsky getting his second Oscar. It moves between hilarity, insanity, frustration, merging dark topics with both realism, lightness, and farce. Investigation of A Citizen Above Suspicion is a great movie and just as satirical as The Hospital though with the more unlikely story of a cop killing a woman and leading the investigation by planting evidence and leading everyone else a merry dance for his own amusement. Summer Of 42 is the sort of nostalgic movie which always goes down well with critics and audiences – ironically the book adaptation was released before the movie and became a huge hit too. Finally, Sunday Bloody Sunday is the Academy further accepting more fringe works, with Penelope Gilliatt’s script an honest portrayal of sexuality without being infatuated, obsessive, or pandering.

My Winner: Klute

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My Nominations: The Hospital. Investigation of A Citizen Above Suspicion. Klute. Summer Of ’42. Sunday Bloody Sunday. Dirty Harry. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. THX 1138. Vanishing Point.

Oddly, I’m happy with all of the official choices – they’re all good and all deserve a nomination. They all pale (from a quotable perspective) in comparison to Dirty Harry – a film which would continue to influence the dialogue in action movies and thrillers up to today. Not quite as influential and with dialogue not as absorbed into the public consciousness is Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, though it’s on a similar level. Vanishing Point has an iconic speech and further quotable lines but is a lesser seen movie now, while THX 1138 gets credit for creating an interesting vision of the future, though does borrow from previous works of a similar vein.

My Winner: Dirty Harry

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Best Writing (Original) – 1970

Official Nominations: Patton. Five Easy Pieces. Joe. Love Story. My Night At Maud’s.

Patton was a deserving winner this year thought it doesn’t sit so nicely with me given that it’s a biopic – biopics to me, especially those which strive to be as close to reality as possible, never feel original. You have Patton’s entire life to pull from – his own speeches, witness testaments etc etc, so this isn’t something which was simply pulled from nowhere. Hell, it was even based on a couple of biographies. Obviously it was well written, but I don’t know if it belongs here. Carole Eastman on the other hand crafted her original Screenplay for Five Easy Pieces the more traditional way. It’s not one which is famously quotable, but I put that down to fewer people having seen it over the years. Everyone knows Love Story, but it’s really only here for a couple of soppy one-liners that don’t really make sense. My Night At Maud’s is a film all about the script and dialogue given that the action is largely replaced with text. As a foreign film it’s a strange nomination as it never stood a chance at winning and was probably seen by a small circle outside of the critics. It’s a good screenplay though but not one I would choose over some of the other films. Joe is the final nomination and it gets my win. It’s interesting because it is both dated and yet mirrors much of what is happening in North America and across the world today. Norman Wexler’s scripts were always of their time and never shied away from delving into the grittier points of subculture – the Academy would never pick it, I’m still surprised it was even nominated, but it gets my vote.

My Winner: Joe

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My Nominations: Five Easy Pieces. Joe. The Aristocats. Brewster McCloud.

I add three to my list – The Aristocats probably shouldn’t be here as it’s not even that interesting a movie but it’s fairly unique for Disney. Brewster McCloud is just funny, will make you laugh guaranteed, and is a precursor to a lot of movies which would come in a few years time. Any pick is fine, but when humour works, go with humour.

My Winner: Brewster McCloud

Let us know in the comments which film gets your vote for Best Original Screenplay of 1970!

Best Writing (Original) – 1969

Official Nominations: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. The Damned. Easy Rider. The Wild Bunch.

William Goldman’s screenplay for BCATSD picked up the official win this year, and it’s difficult to argue against the win. The easy dialogue couple with the charm of the actors ensures that the film is quotable and doesn’t feel dated. BACATAA has a name too long to type repeatedly, but Mazursky peppers his frank script with a lot of modern humour which was a revelation for audiences at the time. Even more shocking, for the handful who saw it, was The Damned with its explicit sex and discussions on power, corruption, and politics. Easy Rider too was a revelation, with Fonda, Hopper, and Southern’s script striking a chord with America’s youth like no movie before or since with much of the dialogue being ad-libbed on the spot.

My Winner: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

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My Nominations: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Easy Rider. The Italian Job. Medium Cool. Take The Money And Run. The Wild Bunch.

I add a few notable films to my list – The Italian Job is of course extremely quotable, Medium Cool is a timely piece and relevant today as the quest for morality and integrity within journalism rages on. Take The Money And Run is one of Woody Allen’s earliest hits, more manic than what he would later produce.

My Winner: The Italian Job

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1969 do you think has the Best Original Screenplay.

Best Original Screenplay – 1968

Official Nominations: The Producers. Faces. 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Battle of Algiers. Hot Millions.

Some strong entries this year, with 2001 being packed with some classic movie dialogue which people recognize even if they haven’t seen the movie. I’m not 100% comfortable picking it in this category given that it was still loosely based on an Arthur C Clarke short story. The Producers features one of the all time best first screenplays by a writer, with Mel Brooks peppering the script with belly laughs, subtle laughs, songs, and satire. The three remaining nominations are largely forgotten films – 1966’s The Battle Of Algiers showcasing the reality and horror of war like few others, Faces takes an equally honest and bleak view of marriage, while Hot Millions was one of the first movies to consider the possibility of computers in crime but seems dated and not particularly funny these days.

My Winner: The Producers

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My Nominations: The Producers. Night Of The Living Dead. If… The Night Of The Following Day. Once Upon A Time In The West. Yellow Submarine. Death By Hanging.

Only one movie makes it over to my list, as I try to add a variety of other strong screenplays. Night Of The Living Dead has some of the horror genre’s most famous dialogue, while If… is an unflinching and violent tale free of movie glamour and embellishment. The Night Of The Following Day is a forgotten Brando movie featuring a now cliche twist, Yellow Submarine is completely buck nuts, while my final two nominations highlight the best from the rest of the world. Once Upon A Time In The West ironically became one of the finest Westerns ever with its screenplay looking to borrow as many Western cliches as possible, while Death By Hanging is an absurd and often astonishing look at crime, punishment, and justice with a lot of humorous dialogue managing to tow the line between laughs and serious discussion.

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My Winner: The Producers

Which movie of 1968 do you think deserves the Best Original Screenplay Oscar? Let us know in the comments!

Best Writing (Original) – 1967

Official Nominations: William Rose (Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner), David Newman, Robert Benton (Bonnie And Clyde), Robert Kaufman, Norman Lear (Divorce, America Style), Jorge Semprun (The War Is Over), Frederic Raphael (Two For The Road).

William Rose was the official winner this year, his screenplay for Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner showing a lighter comedic touch than his previous offerings. Altogether less subtle and light is Kaufman and Lear’s Divorce American Style which offers strong satire but feels dated now. Jorge Semprum’s nomination seems like an unusual choice – decent script but a film which few will recall now, and Raphael’s work on Two For The Road is a bold choice but deserved giving the ingenuity of the storytelling on offer. My winner though goes to Newman and Benton’s riproaring Bonnie And Clyde, one of the finest examples of twisting the truth to tell a new tale.

My Winner: Bonnie And Clyde.

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My Nominations: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. Bonnie And Clyde. Two For The Road. The Fearless Vampire Killers. The Firemen’s Ball. Le Samourai. The Shooting.

I have added a selection of four movies to my personal nominations, a mixture of satire, farce, crime, and existential drama, with my winning vote going to Polanski and Gerard Brach’s The Fearless Vampire Killers.

My Winner: The Fearless Vampire Killers

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Which movie of 1967 do you think has the Best Original Screenplay? Let us know in the comments!

Best Writing – Original – 1966

Official Nominations: A Man And A Woman. Blow Up. The Fortune Cookie. Khartoum. The Naked Prey.

A rare winner from France this year, with Claude Lelouch and Pierre Uytterhoeven’s A Man And A Woman earning the victory. Although the film is more revered for its visuals and soundtrack, the script still resonates universally today. Antonioni and Guerra’s script for Blow Up (with English translation by Edward Bond) is the near perfect story for Counter-culture audiences with both the story itself and the impact it had highlighting the rapid, necessary changes the world was going through, and the widest generational gap there has arguably ever been. Billy Wilder’s (along with I.A.L Diamond) Fortune Cookie proves that even though the world was changing, there was still room for the upstarts of previous decades while Robert Ardrey’s script for Khartoum is a fine, fairly plain, old school affairwhich doesn’t do much to re-invent the historical epic. The Naked Prey is an excellent underrated film, packed with action and suspense (though with questionable Imperialism) and its script by Clint Johnson and Don Peters has sparse dialogue, instead letting the escape, chase, and violence lead the plot. An unusual, but deserving nomination.

My Winner: Blow Up

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My Nominations: A Man And A Woman. Blow Up. The Naked Prey. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. How To Steal A Million. The Shooting.

Adding to the trio of Official Nominations come Leone’s The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, a film whose most famous lines are still quotable today, Carole Eastman’s existential The Shooting, and Harry Kurnitz and George Bradshaw’s quick witted How To Steal A Million.

My Winner: Blow Up

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What is your choice for the best Original Screenplay of 1966? Let us know in the comments below!

Best Writing (Original): 1965

Official Nominations: Darling. Cassanova 70. The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg. The Train. Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines.

This was an interesting year for original writing, with the daring Darling deservedly picking up the win. It deals with a host of taboo subjects in a frank and often shocking manner. In another year The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg may have won thanks to the unique…lyricial style of the screenplay. The other entries are bizarre, but justified in their own weirdness, with Cassanova 70 dealing with sex and death fetish in a typically Italian comedic style, while Magnificent sees a host of British comedians hamming it up and providing a variety of humourous, energetic japes. The Train is a solemn, cynical affair, and while the film is action packed, the whole plot about stealing priceless art echoes the absurdity of war when we see that no-one even cares about the art and it is discarded.

My Winner: Darling.

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My Nominations: Darling. The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg. Alphaville. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Help!, Repulsion

Darling and Cherbourg make the transition to my nominaitons, and are aided and abetted by a quartet of newbs which echo the bizarre real world nominations. Polanski, Brach, and Stone’s screenplay for Repulsion is almost the antithesis of Darling with a much colder, stilted approach to relationships and existence as a whole. On the other side of the extreme is Meyer’s exhuberant, ridiculous Faster, Pussycat! which contains more pulpy one-liners than drunken stand-up comedian with a gun to his head. Help! is The Beatles take on Bond, and it is filled with strange asides, improvisation, and timeless nonsense, while Alphaville is Godard’s semi-original take on the character of Lemmy Caution, completely twisting the character and throwing him into a futuristic setting.

My Winner: Repulsion.

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Which film do you think has the best original screenplay of 1965? Let us know in the comments!