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

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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!

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 (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!