Annie Hall (winner)
The Goodbye Girl
The Late Show
The Turning Point
My first thought of a massive miss here was Saturday Night Fever; imagine my surprise to discover that it’s actually based on a non-fiction article. Beyond that, the movies I’d be most likely to want to add are the type that don’t get nominated. The head of that list is The Hills Have Eyes, which certainly isn’t an Oscar movie. Neither is Suspiria, which, honestly, doesn’t really excel in the script department. Eraserhead was almost certainly too weird for the Academy, something almost certainly true of Wizards as well. The two that I think are the most likely to be considered snubs are The Last Wave and, most especially Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Seriously, if I could add one, it would be that one in a heartbeat.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I don’t like The Goodbye Girl at all. I don’t like the story and I really don’t like the characters. In fact, this movie might be solely responsible for the reason I’ve never really taken to Marsha Mason as an actress. Like it or not, the characters that we are presented with are a massive part of the screenplay and the responsibility of the writers. Such unpleasant characters are entirely the fault of the script. How this got here over Close Encounters is beyond my ability to understand.
4. The Late Show is one of those films that I liked well enough, but that fails for me entirely because of tonal problems. It really wants to be a modern film noir and it’s partially successful in that. It also really wants to be a parody of the style. The two things it wants to be come into conflict, though. It’s possible to do both (The Big Lebowski did it), but it simply doesn’t work in this case. I liked it well enough, but it’s certainly not a better screenplay than Close Encounters.
3. I was completely surprised by The Turning Point, which is one of those movies that is a little more forgotten than it should be. It’s also one of those rare films that was nominated for a boatload of Oscars and didn’t win any. Where it succeeds is that rather than being a movie about ballet dancers, it’s a movie that is about people who happen to be ballet dancers. That’s a subtle but important distinction, and it’s one that The Turning Point plays to its full advantage. It may not be a great movie, but it’s a good one and it has good, fully realized characters.
2. There’s no question that the child in me votes for Star Wars here and for pretty much every other award for which it was nominated. The adult in me can’t quite get there, though. It’s completely inventive and fun, creating an entirely new mythology. Except that it kind of doesn’t. In very real ways, Star Wars is a classic Western poured into science fiction clothing. That doesn’t stop it from being a great movie, or an influential and seminal one in just about every way possible. But let’s be serious here, Lucas tends to have problems with his dialogue.
1. No, Oscar got this one right. Annie Hall isn’t my favorite Woody Allen movie and not my favorite of his screenplays (that would be Radio Days), but it’s clearly one of his best and most interesting. Star Wars is a pivotal movie in a lot of ways, but so is Annie Hall, and it still has lasting effects on the industry. In an open field, I’d put Close Encounters in second place with Star Wars in a very close third, but Annie Hall would still be my winner.