Monday, February 13, 2017

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The Bicentennial Adapted Screenplay

I've always been partial to this category, even over Original Screenplay. It's fascinating to know what works have inspired others to create, or how someone else's story or characters can plant a seed that morphs into something new and exciting. Think the Socialist novel Oil! focusing in on the father instead of the son to become There Will Be Blood; think the Jane Austen classic Emma becoming the modern comedy of manners Clueless; think the impossibility of JFK working as well it does, coming from two books and mountains of speculative reports, pamphlets, and rumors.

And so in 1976, cinema is made out of a non-fiction account of a recent crime, a singer's autobiography, an erotic memoir, fan fiction, and a non-fiction account of a past crime. The recent crime won:

The nominees, after the jump.

My mother once again abstained from this category altogether. 

All the President's Men
William Goldman
adapted from the book by Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward

There's a lot of information to parse, a lot of names, with the main crimes being investigated - the Watergate break-in, its coverup, and the other subsequent peccadilloes connected to it - completely undramatized. But every detail is clear, the suspense is genuine, and each character vividly realized. Precise and perfect.

Bound for Glory
Robert Getchell
adapted from the autobiography of Woody Guthrie

Straightforward telling of the early days of the protest singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, taking its time to set up both the man and his milieu, focusing in on the conditions of the Dust Bowl and the Hoovervilles, on the people affected by the Depression. And yet there's some vagueness in the personal story, some lingering questions I what's the timeframe? How old are those damn kids?

Fellini's Casanova
Federico Fellini / Bernardino Zapponi
adapted from Histoire de ma vie by Giacomo Casanova

Cynical, overlong, somewhat unfocused; I loved every moment. This Casanova is no romantic, but a selfish, dirty man, a faux asshole, a rapist, a desperate, pathetic, loveless tool. But goddam, give it this: it's funny!

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
Nicholas Meyer
adapted from his novel, inspired by characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Surprised by this interpretation of the Holmes legend, wherein the Great Detective is taken to Sigmund Freud to detox from his cocaine addiction - and there's still a game a-foot! Is the mystery that deep? No. Is the "final solution" really so provocative? It starts to be, but then it goes somewhere that's a little less interesting, I think. But it's genuinely funny and surprisingly human.

Voyage of the Damned
David Butler / Steve Shagan
adapted from the book by Max Morgan-Witts & Gordon Thomas

Everything about this disaster movie is a - well, you know. It's a large cast, complicated politics and diplomatic issues - and a romance! - and none of it is communicated very well. The main conflicts are confusing, the side plots are dull, the characters are vague.


My rankings:
5. Voyage of the Damned
4. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
3. Bound for Glory
2. Fellini's Casanova
1. All the President's Men

As my mother bowed out on this one, it seems i must agree with the Academy's ruling, as the Silver Screening Room vote goes to....


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