Friday, March 10, 2017

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 1986

The Contenders:

Crocodile Dundee
Hannah and Her Sisters (winner)
My Beautiful Laundrette

What’s Missing

We have a surprisingly good list of films for Original Screenplay in 1986, but as is almost always the case, there are ways that it could be changed to improve it. The biggest surprise miss is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, even if it’s not a film I would want on the list; I think it’s one that a lot of people would not only nominate, but award. I think a lot of people have the same sort of nostalgia vision for Labyrinth, which I also wouldn’t nominate but would understand if other people did. Ditto for Three Amigos. I could, honestly, put together a list of five movies that I think could have potentially been nominated that would be almost as good as the five we got starting with Blue Velvet, Down By Law, and The Mission, the biggest miss in my opinion. Tampopo is a personal favorite of mine, and I’d love to see it nominated. The fifth is a long shot for me: Running Scared, a movie that has been all but forgotten and still manages to be funny. As a final outside shot, She’s Gotta Have It.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I’m less likely to be attuned to Oliver Stone these days than I used to be. Stone is clearly capable of making a good movie, and Platoon isn’t a bad one, but I don’t love the screenplay. My main issue with it is the issue I have with a lot of Stone’s films: symbolism. When he’s got his hackles up, Stone applies his symbolism with a sledgehammer, and I don’t know if he’s ever done it more egregiously than he did here. It’s just too much, and there are a lot of films I’d rather have here than this one.

4. There’s a part of me that loves the fact that a goofy little romantic comedy like Crocodile Dundee managed to swing a nomination. It’s a movie I like pretty well because it has its heart in the right place. It’s almost sweet in spite of itself, because it’s also terribly predictable. Even if you’ve never seen it before, you can figure out pretty much what is going to happen frame by frame. It doesn’t really belong here even if it manages to hit every cliché in a way that seems fresh by playing it completely straight. It takes itself more seriously than it should and that makes it work. But it still doesn’t belong here.

3. With Salvador, I might be accusing the movie of something it doesn’t deserve. This is Oliver Stone’s second screenplay under consideration here, and my problem with Salvador might be that I suspect that Stone has decided to pour his own conspiracy theories into a story that probably didn’t need them. More damning is the fact that Salvador frequently loses the human stories in favor of political intrigue, and the human stories are a lot more interesting and worth more of both our time and the film’s. It’s a bit misguided in that respect.

2. In a world where Moonlight wins Best Picture and many thousands believe Brokeback Mountain was robbed of the same, My Beautiful Laundrette doesn’t seem nearly as daring as it was in 1986. What I like the most about it is that the ending is incredibly satisfying because it manages to get to the ending that the audience wants and it does it honestly. In an open field, I think there’s a good chance it would still get a nomination from me. It’s right on the edge in what has turned out to be a very strong year.

My Choice

1. I can complain with the best of them when it comes to snubs in one category or another, but there are times when Oscar manages to restore my faith in the system. Awarding Hannah and Her Sisters is one of those moments. In an open field, I’d bring in films like Blue Velvet and I’d fight for Tampopo, but Hannah and Her Sisters is a fully realized film. It’s messy in the way that real life is messy, and even the minor characters are three-dimensional. It’s a wonderful thing to behold when all of the pieces fall perfectly. A better list of nominations would make a tighter race, but my gut tells me this would still come out on top.

Final Analysis


  1. No contest for me. I love Hannah and Her Sisters. Just the perfect combination of romantic and cynical.

    1. What makes it work for me is that it all seems real. There's no unnecessary building things up to make it cinematic. It's cinematic because it's reflective of real life, and that's pretty rare.

  2. There are some good films here, and I got a chuckle that the flyaway Crocodile Dundee scored a nod, but there could never be another winner even with an entirely different list of competitors than Hannah and Her Sisters. It's one of the best written, most fully realized screenplays ever. Without question Woody Allen's best.

    1. For a variety of reasons, Radio Days is my favorite Allen script. I love the nostalgia of it. That said, I don't disagree that this is his best, and was the clear winner in a walk.

    2. I love Radio Days as well, it's loaded with many charms. A pity it really doesn't get mentioned nearly enough when his work is discussed. Hannah would still come out on top for me though.

    3. I don't know why Radio Days is so underknown. It love how rose-colored it is. The sweetness of it just makes me happy.

  3. I'm a fan of Platoon, but understand your problem with Stone and his incessant symbolism. Glad to see some love for She's Gotta Have It and Running Scared. I'd possibly nominate the former, but not the latter, though it was a good movie. I am one of those people who would award Ferris Bueller, though. Not sure what that says about me, but I think it's a fantastic piece of writing.

    1. I'm very much in the minority on Ferris Bueller, and I've learned to live with that. I can't get over the fact that Ferris is kind of a douchecanoe.

      Spike Lee has reguarly been slapped by the Academy, and I'm not sure why.

    2. Ferris is definitely a "douchecanoe." That's a brand new term for me, by the way. Still, I tend to view it more as Cameron's coming of age story. The action focuses on Ferris, but it's Cameron who is doing all the growing, and who's story really has an arc. This sleight of hand is the film's best trick.

      Don't get me started on Spike vs. the Academy.

    3. I won't get you started on Spike vs. the Academy. I'll just say that in 1989, Driving Miss Daisy was the safe racism movie and Do the Right Thing was the one that's still relevant.