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 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 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 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 (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!

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 – Adapted – 1966

Official Nominations: A Man For All Seasons. Alfie. The Professionals. The Russians Are Coming. Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf?

The usual assortment of stage adaptations take the lead this year, with Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf? deservedly picking up the win. The ridiculously popular A Man For All Seasons is a fairly straight adaptation, as is Bill Naughton’s own Alfie. The Professionals is a more loose retelling of Frank O’Rourke’s novel, as is The Russians Are Coming.

My Winner:  Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf?

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My Nominations: Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf? Born Free. The Sword Of Doom. Hunger. Farenheit 451.

Only two of the official nominations make it over to my choices, and I add a trio of foreign hits to the list. Henning Carlsen and Peter Seeberg adapt Kunt Hamsun’s Hunger in an equally stark and unflinhing depiction of the desperation we suffer when fighting through poverty and hunger. Truffault’s take on Bradbury’s dystopian future may not be as powerful and imaginative as the novel and makes several noteworthy changes, but it admirably translates much of the paranoia and tyranny from the pages to the screen. Originally planned as a trilogy (leading to much confusion at the film’s end) Shinobu Hashimoto’s adaption of ‘the longest novel ever’ is a triumph due to condensing so much into a single work. Obviously there was more to be said, but the planned future films never happened. The script twists much of what audiences usually encountered in Jideigeki films by making the protagonist an antagonist, and watching his descent into insanity.

My Winner: Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf?

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What is your pick for the Best Adapted Screenplay of 1966? Let us know in the comments!