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

clockwork_orange_barnbrook1_0.jpg

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 Original Score – 1971

Official Nominations: Summer Of 42. Mary Queen Of Scots. Nicholas And Alexandra. Shaft. Straw Dogs. Fiddler on The Roof. Bedknobs And Broomsticks. The Boy Friend. Tchaikovsky. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.

This year we had two categories for score – Best Original Score (Dramatic) and Best Original Song Score or Adaptation. The had no clue what they were doing in other words. We’ll stick them all in a single category. Summer Of ’42 was winner of the Dramatic Category. Michel Legrand’s classy central theme is a fine mixture of strings and smooth jazz which evokes an easy nostalgia without too much sentiment. The rest of the soundtrack largely follows a similar smooth style and features variants on the main theme. John Barry’s surprisingly tender score for Mary, Queen Of Scots features Vanessa Redgrave’s vocal talents and a softer approach than you may expect given the subject matter while Richard Rodney Barrett’s Nicholas And Alexandra has similarly tender moments but feels more grand.

Shaft is clearly the odd one out in the category, with nothing else sounding remotely like it. Issac Hayes fills the score with modern funk sounds while retaining an old world jazz feel. The final entry in the Dramatic division is Jerry Fielding’s Straw Dogs – a score which begins softly, almost idyllic, but builds with notes of tension and becomes increasingly pounding and violent, obviously echoing the film. Fiddler On The Roof, and most of the other soundtracks on the adaptation front don’t really deserve to be here as they are so populated by spoken parts or actual songs, but fine. John Williams won the Oscar for Fiddler – the music isn’t that great and most of the songs are standard musical fluff. Bedknobs And Broomsticks is not a film I have ever enjoyed, too cloying and sentimental and the music does nothing for me aside from making me want to leave the room if it’s on, while The Boy Friend is an odd Ken Russell adaptation with songs from the 1920s, an era which again does little for me. Tchaikovsky is weird too as it features music from the composer as filtered by Dimitri Tiomkin. My pick, and is there really any other choice, is Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory by Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley, and Walter Scharf. The songs and the music inspire such wonder in successive generations as few soundtracks ever have before or since, and remain timeless.

My Winner: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

won

My Nominations: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. Shaft. 200 Motels. A Clockwork Orange. A Fistful Of Dynamite. The French Connection. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song. THX 1138.

Only two make it to my list. A Clockwork Orange I understand not being included by many people, given that the majority of the soundtrack is existing work – if Tchaikovsky can get nominated, then so can this. There are some original pieces here, but few films have used music so dramatically and emphatically as this one. The French Connection features a lot of echo, repeated notes, spontaneous jazz, and near out of tune moments – there’s something ‘off’ about it, an unsettling tone which heightens the surrounding mystery. Morricone does it again in A Fistful Of Dynamite – a soundtrack with many obvious nods to the past spaghetti westerns, but plenty of moving moments of its own, with great use of whistling, strings, and operatic voices again. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song sees an unknown Earth, Wind, And Fire merged funk and jazz to craft a soundtrack which was released before the movie in a neat advertising stunt, while 200 Motels saw Frank Zappa and co freaking out in style. Lalo Schifrin’s score for THX 1138 is suitably creepy and futuristic – lots of voices mingled together with ultra low rumbling bass and piercing strings to give an epic operatic feel. Any of these are worthy winners.

My Winner: THX 1138

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Art Direction – 1971

Official Nominations: Nicholas And Alexandra. The Andromeda Strain. Bedknobs And Broomsticks. Fiddler On The Roof. Mary, Queen Of Scots.

Nicholas And Alexandra was the official winner this year, no surprises, but it’s a category filled with good choices. The Andromeda Strain is my choice as winner, something different from the typical costume epic and I tend to find these sorts of films more interesting from an aesthetic viewpoint, especially when they strive for a unique look. Bedknobs And Broomsticks, as much as I don’t like it, deserves it’s nomination here, as does Fiddler On The Roof, while Mary, Queen Of Scots is the second epic.

My Winner: The Andromeda Strain

The_Andromeda_Strain_movie_control-room

My Nominations: The Andromeda Strain. A Clockwork Orange. The Devils. McCabe And Mrs Miller. THX 1138. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.

Only my winner from the Official list makes it over to meet a few contenders who really should have been recognised. A Clockwork Orange is a glaring omission being one of the most uniquely visual films of the year while The Devils is unique all around. McCabe And Mrs Miller is a more rain drenched Western than what you may expect, its set growing as the story progresses yet feels downbeat and used rather than crisp and new. THX 1138 of course has a dystopian coldness while Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory is the polar opposite – vibrant, colourful, and brimming with energy and life.

willy-wonka-and-the-chocolate-factory-pure-imagination

My Winner: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

Let us know your winner in the comments!