Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pin It


True Story: Adapted Screenplay, 1982

I used to have an Oscar Season Reading List, made up of books whose upcoming adaptations had some buzz surrounding them. This was during college, 2007 - 2010, and it forced me to jump ship from my usual pulps and whodunnits and explore other genres, forms, and writers. Nominated titles included Atonement, No Country for Old Men, Oil! (There Will Be Blood), "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" (Away from Her), "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", Doubt, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Push (Precious), Up in the Air, The Accidental Billionaires (The Social Network), True Grit, Winter's Bone and The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Hugo). Unnominated titles included Public Enemies and Revolutionary Road.

Eventually I became frustrated with bringing expectations from my readings to the movies, and so I've more or less stopped that. Still, it's worth trying again, especially when it comes to a year like this one - or indeed, a year like 1982. Because you never know just where the inspiration for an awards-worthy screenplay can come from....

Like a novel, preferably a best-seller - after all, if people want to read a story, other people probably want to watch it. In 1982, The Verdict is one of those courtroom thrillers that would sell at any airport; Sophie's Choice is a doorstop of a novel about a post-War love story and secrets of World War II Europe. In 2017, Call Me By Your Name is a gay-themed novel about memory; Mudbound is an epic about the post-war South.

Truth is stranger than fiction - thus, the non-fiction book. Missing, based on The Execution of Charles Horman, relates the story of the disappearance and murder of Charles Horman in Chile, and the implication of our own American government in its subsequent coverup. And if you want to count autobiographical fiction, Das Boot, about the exploits of a German U-boat, is based on a novel written by a war correspondent who went aboard U-96 in 1941. 2017 offers two true tales of its own: The Disaster Artist, about the making of cult hit The Room, and Molly's Game, which is terrible.

They don't even have to come from books - they could be other films! Victor/Victoria is based on the 1933 German film Viktor und Viktoria; actually, it's the fourth version of that story, following the 1935 British film First a Girl and the 1957 German remake. Logan is inspired by the X-Men comics, yes, but it's mostly our understanding of Hugh Jackman's performance in 8 films over 17 years that informs the film.

In 1982, truth took the prize:

And what will happen in 2017? No idea, we'll talk about that next week. For now, a closer look at the nominees of 1982...

Das Boot
Wolfgang Petersen
based on the novel by Lothar G. Buchheim

I always admire a war film that presents a realistic number of men in a platoon (or, in this case, u-boat) and can write every single one distinctly and sympathetically. As a script, though, it truly shines in the measured words of above-the-surface sequences: fathoms below, the men are honest; above, they smile and drink and joke while awaiting to tell you of your doom. Solid.

Costa-Gavras & Donald Stewart
based on the book The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice by Thomas Hauser

Packs an incredible amount of information, emotion, and multiple arcs into a short amount of time. Dialogue is clear, concise - complex, but never complicated. Avoids easy pitfalls, like mustache-twirling villains, oily polticial types, or opportunistic journalists - even it's most obvious storyline, the arc for Jack Lemmon's character, is realistic, written without underlining the point. It respects your intelligence.

Sophie's Choice
Alan J. Pakula
based on the novel by William Styron

There is a lot of plot to cover here, a lot of conversations about Nazi-era complicity, mental illness, World War II Poland, post-War New York, young love. None of it gels together. It's a matter of which horribly dull film you want to watch: the one about the throuple, or the one about the concentration camp. Sophie's daughter got off easy!

The Verdict
David Mamet
based on the novel by Barry Reed

Tight, tight, tight. Frank Galvin is fully-realized on the page; the scenes in the judge's chambers are delicious in content and rhythm; Dr. Thompson is one of the most surprising characters in frankness and effectiveness. A little over-plotted. Too many twists to completely suspend disbelief for. Underdeveloped, unmotivated side characters. The movie's great, just don't look too closely at the script.

Blake Edwards
based on the 1933 screenplay for Viktor und Viktoria by Reinhold Schünzel

Frank, funny, and most importantly, out and proud. A musical-comedy about a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman is zany in concept, yes, and there are no issues there, but to then add in a romantic plot between Victoria as Victor and a heterosexual nightclub owner and pull it off with equal parts hilarity, sensitivity, and va-va-voom fireworks? It's just aces!


Oscar voted for Missing, a terrific choice. And my personal vote...doesn't quite go that way...


(And as for the 2017 lineup....
Mudbound - *****
Logan - ****
Call Me By Your Name - ***
The Disaster Artist - **
Molly's Game - **)

Tomorrow: Best Supporting Actor, with the 1982 lineup of Charles Durning (The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman), John Lithgow (The World According to Garp), James Mason (The Verdict) and Robert Preston (Victor/Victoria).

You May Also Enjoy:

Like us on Facebook

No comments: