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!

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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!

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 (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 (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 (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 (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!