A film whose creators insisted was mostly improvised took the award for writing, something even credited scribe Ring Lardner, Jr., was surprised by:
The winner is the only one based on a work I've never been exposed to. The original MASH is a novel credited to Richard Hooker, the joint pen name of former military surgeon Dr. H. Richard Hormberger and journalist w.C. Heinz. The 1968 best-seller was followed by a series of sequels and inspired a stage play, a television series, and, of course, the movie. But I've never read it! I've read the play andf watched the show, but those are my only other MASH frames of reference.
The other nominees? I know them. I own copies of both Airport and Women in Love and read the original stage versions of I Never Sang for My Father and Lovers and Other Strangers in high school. Did the movies honor the source material? Who cares, it's cinema, they need to do their oWn thing. Did they accomplish that? Let's see!
adapted from the novel by Arthur Hailey
It's certainly an admirable transfer of a sprawling, clunky novel to real hubba-hubba cinema, but...man. Plot threads that go nowhere (why, exactly, do we care about the town near the airport?), characters mentioned then dropped then re-emerging (the customs agent's never-introduced niece), super-mechanic Joe Patroni turned into a sex symbol! A fun movie, but this nod is a bridge too far.
I Never Sang for My Father
adapted from his play
second and final nomination; WGA Awards winner for Best Adapted Drama
There's a lot of talk about past frustrations, but little that's actually compelling. I like that there's this distinct generational misunderstanding, even though the son is hardly more liberal than the father, and I like that there's some representation of frustrating parent/child relationships that aren't abusive, just unfulfilled. But I just...I just don't get everyone's deal. Nor do I care to see it.
Lovers and Other Strangers
Renee Taylor & Joseph Bologna & David Zelag Goodman
adapted from the play by Renee Taylor & Joseph Bologna
first and only nominations; WGA Awards nominee for Best Adapted Comedy
Cleverly restructures an evening of self-contained one-act plays to create an ensemble comedy full of real laughs and heart. Two separate storylines from the play become the film's central family; new material focusing on the father of the bride and his longtime mistress complicates our ideas of love and marriage; the long reception observes how nuptial ceremonies throw into stark relief our own relationships.
Ring Lardner, Jr.
adapted from the novel by Richard Hooker
second and final nomination, past winner; WGA Awards winner for Best Adapted Comedy; Golden Glove nominee for Best Screenplay
Despite both Ring Lardner and Robert Altman claiming that MASH threw out the script and was mostly improvised, there are entire sections that remain word-faithful to Lardner's screenplay...it's just that there's additional noise around it. Anyway, the idea of everything being improvised was always silly, considering the tight dialogue and both medical and military specifics. Lardner's established a sturdy foundation.
Women in Love
adapted from the novel by D.H. Lawrence
first and only nomination; BAFTA Awards nominee for Best Screenplay (1969)
From the start, a lesson in adaptation, establishing the Brangwen sisters' unique camaraderie, carrying the book's initial conversations about marriage from house to churchyard, establishing the detested mining town in between. Too, often, the writing categories focus on great lines, but sequences like Gudrun's cattle run, the men's wrestling, the Alpine dance, communicate more visually than they could verbally.
This, I admit, has been one of my toughest decisions, having to vote between two five-star screenplays. Both will, most likely, make it to my Hollmann Awards, but only one can receive my vote for the Oscars. And that one is:
Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Original Screenplay: Five Easy Pieces, Joe, Love Story, My Night at Maud's and Patton.