Wednesday, April 10, 2019

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Day Seven: Best Adapted Screenplay, 1961

If the 1961 Oscars were looked at then as we do it now, Best Adapted Screenplay would be considered anyone's game. All five honorees received nominations from other bodies; four of them won. What's more, of the six writers, there was one previous winner, two previous nominees, and one who would return soon after. These are the big guns, Oscar-wise.

The nominees, after the jump.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
George Axelrod
from the novella by Truman Capote
first and only nomination; WGA Award Winner for Best Written American Comedy

Briefly Put: A kept man (trying to write) and a party girl (trying to live) form a bond.

Once again, what they do to Mr. Yunioshi is juvenile, and especially surprising considering the careful way in which Axelrod crafts a very adult love story between two lost people, the (sometimes unspoken) ways in which they save each other, and the fully-realized, very welcome addition of 2-E.

The Guns of Navarone
Carl Foreman
from the novel by Alistair MacLean
fifth of six nominations, past winner; BAFTA Award Nominee for Best British Screenplay

Briefly Put: A crack team of operatives must bring down an unstoppable Nazi force in Greece.

Blood feuds that don't matter! Family connections that barely lead anywhere! Characters quickly dispensed with! Ah, but great anti-war speechifying! Women as capable fighters and assassins, not mere love interests! Complex reasons for betrayals! Uneven, to say the least.

The Hustler
Sidney Carroll and Robert Rossen
from the novel by Walter S. Tevis
Carroll's first and only nomination, Rossen's second of two; WGA Award Winner for Best Written American Drama

Briefly Put: A pool player tries to make a name for himself.

One hundred percent, I buy the men in this story, these preening, chest-thumping reprobates. The entire Derby Day sequence is delicious. And I love the character of Sarah Packard - which is why I feel betrayed by what happens with her. I don't fully buy it. It's not who I've come to know.

Judgment at Nuremberg
Abby Mann
from his teleplay for "Playhouse 90"
first of two nominations; NYFCC Winner for Best Screenplay; WGA Award Nominee for Best Written American Drama

Briefly Put: Dramatization of the Judges' Trial, on the culpability of non-SS personnel in Nazi Germany's crimes against humanity.

I think one of the great challenges in dialogue-heavy dramas, especially courtroom ones, is to make sure that every character is so distinguishable in the rhythm of their words that you know who's speaking just by reading a single line. The challenge is well met here, and then some: Mann even writes within the silences.

West Side Story
Ernest Lehman
from the play - book by Arthur Laurents, conceived by Jerome Robbins, inspired by Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
third of four nominations; WGA Award Winner for Best Written American Musical

Briefly Put: Amidst a gang rivalry between their friends and family, love blooms between a white boy and a Puerto Rican girl.

Knows just when and where to switch around a musical number for cinematic impact, what to trim, how to enlarge the scope without forcing everyone outside. Honestly? I'm happiest with the addition of Madam Lucia and the trimming of "Somewhere".

Also in the conversation:
  • Babes in Toyland (WGA Award Nominee for Best Written American Musical) - I guess! **
  • Fanny (WGA Award Nominee for Best Written American Drama)  - I think it works quite well, considering it's condensed three films into one! ***
  • Flower Drum Song (WGA Award Nominee for Best Written American Musical) - Rearranges numbers thoughtfully, makes a coherent narrative out of an episodic book, a fine job with Mei Li and Linda Low. ****
  • The Innocents (WGA Award Nominee for Best Written American Drama) - Genuinely unnerving. ****
  • The League of Gentlemen (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best British Screenplay) - Terrific heist, witty comedy of manners, bitter skewering of post-War Britain. *****
  • A Majority of One (WGA Award Nominee for Best Written American Comedy) - Well-intentioned, thoughtful - beautiful ending! Still don't get the houseboy subplot, though. ***
  • The Millionairess (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best British Screenplay) - Some laughs, but overall... **
  • One, Two, Three (NYFCC Runner-Up for Best Screenplay, WGA Award Nominee for Best American Comedy) - On the nose, but great fun. ***
  • The Parent Trap (WGA Award Nominee for Best Written American Comedy) - Gets away with its loopy premise through heart and hilarity. *****
  • A Raisin in the Sun (WGA Award Nominee for Best Written American Drama) - Leans into its stage origins, emphasizing the inescapability of its setting; opens up seamlessly when necessary. *****
  • Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best British Screenplay) - Executes seriocomic tone with both feet in reality; a believable neighborhood of friends, family, and pains-in-the-butt. *****
  • Snow White and the Three Stooges (WGA Award Nominee for Best Written American Musical) - Same old story. A poor showcase for the Three Stooges' talents. *

The voters went for Judgment at Nuremberg:

And I go for:


Yes, the same!

Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Original Song: Bachelor in Paradise ("Bachelor in Paradise"), Breakfast at Tiffany's ("Moon River"), El Cid ("The Falcon and the Dove"), Pocketful of Miracles ("Pocketful of Miracles") and Town Without Pity ("Town Without Pity").

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