Best Writing (Adapted) – 1976

Official Nominations: All The President’s Men. Bound For Glory. Fellini’s Cassanova. The Seven Percent Solution. Voyage Of The Damned.

An obvious front-runner and inevitable winner this year. All The President’s Men – even without a huge number of iconic one-liners or memorable dialogue it’s one of the most famous screenplays of its era – William Goldman adapting Bernstein and Woodward’s game changer. Goldman’s own game-changer in defining how cinematic the film should be, was removing most of the second half of the source material, focusing on the the initial investigation rather than the downfall. Bound For Glory is an engaging enough adaptation of Woody Guthrie’s pseudo-biography while The Seven Percent Solution is a star-studded Sherlock Holmes story based on a book not written by Doyle.

Voyage Of The Damned feels like a ‘we have to nominate this because the book was important’ nomination while Cassanova is Fellini’s adaptation of Cassanova’s autobiography, twisting the character into a more self-obsessed character with tragic traits.

My Winner: All The President’s Men

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My Nominations: All The President’s Men. Family Plot. The Last Tycoon. Marathon Man.

Only the official winner follows the money over to my list. Family Plot – it’s not the best Hitchcock movie but it’s still a worthy, and funny, thriller – it wasn’t the best year for adaptations so when I couple that with the fact that this was Hitchock’s final movie, it seems fitting to see one last nomination. The Last Tycoon takes the brave approach of adapting an unfinished F Scott Fitzgerald novel, using the non-ending as an opportunity to convey a disjointed plot. Goldman gets a second nomination, this time adapting his own novel Marathon Man with terrifying results.

My Winner:All The President’s Men

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Writing (Original) – 1976

Official Nominations: Network. Cousin Cousine. The Front. Rocky. Seven Beauties.

Two big hitters, two foreign oddities, and a Woody Allen movie that he didn’t write or direct make up the list this year. Paddy Chayefsky won his third Writing Oscar this year (an unbeaten record) for Network, a film known for its impassioned speeches and angry one-liners. More than that, the script is replete with social satire which has only become more prescient over time. Rocky is famously the script that everyone wanted to buy, but Stallone wasn’t selling unless he could star. The gamble paid off and Stallone created one of the most famous, enduring heroes of Hollywood. The story borrows heavily from notions of The American Dream and from early rags to riches stories, but updates it to modern day and does so with such charm that it’s impossible to not love.

It’s not often that foreign movies get nominated in this category, but we got two this year – a sign that the daring indie movement of Hollywood was being mirrored elsewhere. Cousin Cousine has a knack for understanding and representing forbidden and budding romance while Seven Beauties is a dark, long spanned tale of one despicable character living through an even more despicable landscape which both shapes and nurtures him. Finally, The Front is a movie about the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1950s made by people who were blacklisted – while good, while funny, and while an interesting subject, it feels like an apologetic nomination.

My Winner: Network

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My Nominations: Network. Rocky. Seven Beauties. Murder By Death. The Omen. Silent Movie. Taxi Driver.

Three Official choices make my list, joining a couple of spoofs, a horror classic, and a hefty snub. If we start with the snub, it seems unusual in retrospect that Taxi Driver was not nominated, given the reverence it has received over the years. I think that it deserves a nod over one of the foreign movies, definitely over The Front. It’s an incisive look into a character’s moral viewpoint of a dirty world and quotable dialogue is scattered from page to screen. Murder By Death is that rare Neil Simon comedy that I fully enjoy, riffing on those mansion mysteries of old while I find that Silent Movie is one of the more clever comedy screenplays of the era despite the fact that only a single word is spoken. Finally, The Omen’s impact on film and on popular culture should not be underestimated, providing successive generations who vaguely preach ignorance from behind the pulpit with misinformation they purport as truth, and fans with a succession of lines to quote at each other.

My Winner: The Omen

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1975

Official Nominations: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Barry Lyndon. The Man Who Would Be King. Profumo di donna. The Sunshine Boys.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest continued its clean sweep of the big boys with an official win here. While Kesey was originally going to work on the screenplay, he later pulled out and refused to ever see the film. The film does contain some minor and significant changes to the story, having less of an emphasis on Chief’s role, but it retains the spirit of the novel and is peppered with great one-liners and speeches. Similarly, Kubrick’s screenplay for Barry Lyndon makes a major narrative change in having an omniscient narrator, as well has having little obvious comedy which made for an initially cold experience and reception.

The Man Who Would Be King is a film and story of adventure and glory, and one of the few non-horror films that ends with a severed head in a box. Spoiler alert, I guess? There isn’t much difference from the original story aside from the usual cinematic concessions, but there are plenty of speeches peppered throughout, with the odd bit of sarcastic patriotism. The Italian original of Scent Of A Woman is another weird one – it’s ostensibly a comedy, a film about two injured soldiers returning home to kill themselves, one of whom is blind and therefore accompanied by a younger army aide. While the days tick down he decides to meet as many hot women as he can, getting the boy to spot for him but eventually deciding to, literally, smell them out himself. I never got on well with the remake, and this gives me similar feelings, though plus marks for the unusual story. Finally, The Sunshine Boys, is Neil Simon adapting his own play so if you know his work you know what you’re going to get. It has some great comic talent so no matter what the material is you know they’re going to make it crackle – luckily they have a writer at the top of his game to play off – again plus points for showing something generally unorthodox on screen – old guys bickering rather than teens – but I guess they still did things differently in the 70s.

My Winner: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

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My Nominations: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Barry Lyndon. Jaws. Picnic At Hanging Rock. Tommy.

The two big names make my list, joining two big name snubs. Jaws has many quotable one-liners and pieces of dialogue which have long since entered the public conscience – my personal favourite always being the Indianapolis speech penned by Robert Shaw, Howard Sackler, and the great John Milius. In fact, the film as a whole features a number of writers and contributions even though Benchley and Carl Gottlieb get the main credits. Picnic At Hanging Rock is an ambiguous novel and the film takes that ambiguity to the next level by instilling a dreamlike tone to the narrative. Finally, Tommy sees Ken Russell (no stranger to stories concerning music and musicians) somehow concoct a somewhat straight film from The Who’s scattered rock opera, expanding loose threads and minor lyrics into a fully formed screenplay.

My Winner: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Writing (Original) – 1975

Official Nominations: Dog Day Afternoon. Amarcord. And Now My Love. Lies My Father Told Me. Shampoo

I’m surprised they didn’t pick Shampoo as the winner here, but Dog Day Afternoon is the correct choice. Making criminals look like what they actually are… humans. Flawed humans. That was revolutionary in the 70s and in today’s ludicrous black and white culture it would be ludicrous now. Dog Day Afternoon depicts the chaotic botched robbery of a bank and spends most of its time showing the crooks in a sympathetic light. Maybe sympathetic is not the right term, but we spend so much time with them and thanks to a tight script and great performances you can’t help but either take or understand their side. Even though it was an Original script, it was based off real life events and the guys it was inspired by were given some of the royalties of the film. The banter between the bad guys and their hostages was apparently true to life, and many of the film’s best quotes were improvised – that shouldn’t stop the screenplay from winning the award – it’s certainly more memorable than anything else nominated.

Amarcord is funny, weird and funny, and while it’s autobiographical, Italian, and farcical, there’s enough wisdom in the screenplay to make any audience understand what it’s all about. If Amarcord was an odd choice for The Academy, then And Now My Love goes even further, seeming almost like The Academy was overcompensating for years of ignoring foreign films. The film as a whole is good, an epic of sorts, but its the editing which makes the screenplay standout. I’m not convinced Lies My Father Told Me should really be here, given that it was designed decades earlier in a different form, eventually becoming a film – either way it’s a fine story of childhood but one with an inherent distance from me as it features the growing pains of a Canadian Jewish Boy. Shampoo is the runner up here, smart, funny, and preoccupied with the freewheeling sexual politics of the time.

My Winner: Dog Day Afternoon

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My Nominations: Dog Day Afternoon. Shampoo. The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. Nashville. Night Moves.

In hindsight it’s not surprising The Academy officially nominated so many foreign films this year – there’s little else to choose from. Most of the notable entries were adapted from another source. The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother is touch and go given that it’s based off an existing literary character, sort of. It’s a long forgotten Gene Wilder film, very much in the vein of the stuff he was doing with Mel Brooks at the time – if you like those, you’ll like this. Nashville missed out on getting a nomination here which always seemed odd, while Night Moves is a cool neo-noir with a good lead performance from Gene Hackman. The film eschews much of the power and characteristics of the old school detectives – they’re still macho, but rendered powerless, impotent, and with an even more skewed moral compass.

My Winner: Dog Day Afternoon

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1974

Official Nominations: The Godfather Part II. The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravtiz. Lenny. Murder On The Orient Express. Young Frankenstein.

The Godfather Part II wins this one easily enough, though I would love to have seen Young Frankenstein getting it too. Lenny is an interesting one – the need to balance the on stage material with the off stage reality is handled well, while Murder On The Orient Express is always told well in any adaptation. The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravtiz is the offbeat choice this year, a film with an unfortunate name which I imagine would turn away most potential viewers nowadays. It’s a fun coming of age story though, with a great lead from Richard Dreyfuss, and it has its share of funny moments.

My Winner: The Godfather Part II

My Nominations: The Godfather Part II. Young Frankenstein.

There’s absolutely nothing I want to add this year – there are a number of possibilities but nothing as strong as my two picks above, so what’s the point?

My Winner: The Godfather Part II

Which film gets your vote – let us know in the comments!

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!

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 (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