Tuesday, June 10, 2014

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Story and Screenplay, 1953

The Story and Screenplay category -- five contenders, and not a single one a Best Picture nominee! And boy they run the gamut: a movie I still haven't seen; a MUSICAL (how often do those get nods anymore?); a British war drama; a western with a small ensemble; and Titanic, accomplishing what the later 1997 film could not: get credit for the writing.

Shall we?

The Band Wagon, story and screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

Aging Hollywood performer returns to Broadway; falls in hate, then love, with his proposed leading lady; exchanges quips with a husband-wife songwriting team and a high-falutin' but good-hearted director. Throw in some numbers and your happy Hollywood ending, bada-bing, bada-boom, you've made a movie. It's simple, but Comden and Green are among my favorite writers (hey there, Applause!) -- mostly because their witty dialogue seems to flow forth naturally. Cute.

The Desert Rats, story and screenplay by Richard Murphy

According to IMDb, Burton felt "every line of dialogue sounded as though it had been taken directly from an army training manual." Well, goodness, what an exciting manual! I thought that the various characters and situations were vividly portrayed, from our handsome young hero to the enlisted Aussies who'd like to take a shot at him. It is most certainly not an embarrassment -- though I feel like there was an odd lack of imagination with the Rommel scenes. Were they even necessary?

The Naked Spur, story and screenplay by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom

Well, this was unexpected! A man goes bounty-hunting for an outlaw; a disgraced, devil-may-care soldier and a gold-huntin' old-timer join him; and there's a woman, too. The story begins with the outlaw's capture: the rest of the film is a tense drama, with all five leads packed together, the specter of fortune hanging over all of them. Greed brought them together, and greed shall be their undoing. A concise, thrilling, thoughtful tale.

Take the High Ground, story and screenplay by Millard Kaufman

Lord knows I tried!

Titanic, story and screenplay by Charles Brackett & Walter Reisch and Richard L. Breen

Genuinely surprised at some of the choices here -- from centering the story on a couple about to divorce, with little chance for reconciliation, to the ultimate decisions of who lives and who dies. I love that they wrote a quiet scene for the Captain, watching the youths as they sing together, late into the night; I love the revelations Barbara Stanwyck gets to unleash on Clifton Webb; I love "Nearer My God to Thee." Grace and beauty.


The Academy of 1953 was far wiser than the Academy of 1997. '97 failed to nominate this title; '53 gave it the win; and I, too, award my vote to....


Tomorrow: Best Original Score! I'm talking Above and BeyondFrom Here to Eternity, Julius Caesar, Lili and This is Cinerama!

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