Tuesday, July 2, 2019

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Day Two: Original Screenplay, 1968

The idea of an Original Screenplay sounds straightforward enough - indeed, in 1968, the category's official name was Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (emphasis mine). Yet...

Do we discount 2001: A Space Odyssey because it is suggested by, and an expansion of, a number of Arthur C. Clarke stories from the 1950s? Is The Battle of Algiers any less original because the writers used Saadi Yacef's memoir Souvenirs de la Bataille d'Alger as a jumping-off point? What about Faces, scripted but with input and improvisations from the actors? And why no love for WGA Award nominees The Brotherhood, Buona Sera, Mrs. CampbellI Love You, Alice B. Toklas, or Star!?

Original, somewhat original, original enough...whatever the case, these are the nominees Oscar voters designated as The Best, after the jump.

2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke

The Jupiter Mission is a suspenseful sequence - artificial intelligence, technology run amok. The sequence right before is intriguing enough with its businesslike approach to space discovery. Imaginative all around. I also have to admit I don't really get it.

The Battle of Algiers
Franco Solinas
story by Franco Solinas and Gillo Pontecorvo

Embeds us within both camps - the revolutionaries and the authorities - without fully becoming a "both sides" appeasement nor a whitewash of the devastating violence. It's thoroughly on the side of the freedom fighters, but oh, the cost! Intimacy without melodrama - clear-eyed, personal, passionate.

John Cassavetes

Love the idea of power dynamics between men and women, of the transactional nature of sex, of the ways we avoid meaningful and productive conversations in favor of sweet nothings. But every scene feels at least ten minutes too long - self-indulgent is the word.

Hot Millions
Ira Wallach and Peter Ustinov

Slight conman caper that feels both sketched and stretched. No pretensions about itself - it's here to make the adults have a chuckle, and at that it mostly succeeds. A fun time overall...but is it really nomination worthy?

The Producers
Mel Brooks

Not every joke has aged well, which can be expected when much of the humor is designed for shock value. Mostly still relevant, though, as it eviscerates every aspect of show business: the creatives who believe their own bullshit, the grifting businessmen, and the audiences who play at self-righteousness only to lap up digestible trash.


Fun thing I always forget but is nice to remember: the Oscar went to (still-living!) comedy legend Mel Brooks! Actually makes the Don Rickles bit preceding the win kind of appropriate:

And honestly, my own vote goes to...


Yes, I co-sign the Academy's choice!

Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Original Song - Chitty Chitty Bang BangFor Love of Ivy, Funny Girl, Star!, and The Thomas Crown Affair - and the nominees for Best Musical Score - Finian's RainbowFunny Girl, Oliver!Star!, and The Young Girls of Rochefort.

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