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 Foreign Film – 1969

Official Nominations: Z. Adalen 31. The Battle Of Neretva. The Brothers Karamazov. My Night At Maud’s.

Another interesting selection, with one clear winner from my perspective. Bo Widerberg’s Adalen 31 is a retelling of true events in Sweden when five small town workers were killed during a protest. It’s exactly the sort of film The Academy loves but they tend to focus too on whatever the issue is with too heavy a hand; fortunately this is watchable and remains prescient. The Battle Of Neretva is an impressive and entertaining war film which is memorable for starring a number of familiar faces (Orson Welles, Yul Brynner), The Brothers Karamazov is yet another version of the book, while My Night At Maud’s feels very much like a play, minimalist and only concerned with dialogue and discussion – interesting, but it doesn’t stand a chance alongside Z.

My Winner: Z

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My Nominations: Z. Burn! The Damned. Eros + Massacre. Fellini Satyricon. The Italian Job.

Costa-Gavras’s Z is the only copy and paste this time around, joining a host of controversial and entertaining entries. The Damned still has the power to unnerve and worry the viewer now, while The Italian Job is more fun than most comedies today. Burn! is essentially a forgotten movie, odd given that it features Brando as a man trying to serve Britain’s colonial ends by exploiting a slave uprising – it’s weird, but good. Over to Japan then for the beautiful and sometimes surreal loose biopic of Sakae Osugi, an anarchist during the later 19th and early 20th century. Yoshishige Yoshida’s film deserves to put him alongside more known directors like Kurosawa and Oshima, but it is one which has never found an audience in the West. Finally Fellini Satyricon would see the director get nominated at the following year’s Academy Awards, a bizarre and dazzling work.

My Winner: The Italian Job

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Let us know in the comments which Foreign Film of 1969 gets your vote!