Beverly Hills Cop
Broadway Danny Rose
Places in the Heart (winner)
There are going to be a lot of movies for me to go through for 1984. This is pretty much a formative year for me—the first half of ’84 is the end of my junior year in high school and the second half is the start of my senior year. So yeah, there’s going to be a lot to get through, the bulk of which are going to be the sorts of movies that don’t get nominated. That said, since both Splash and Beverly Hills Cop are on the list, we might have a little more freedom. I love Night of the Comet, but even in a more flexible year, it’s not getting a nomination. Stop Making Sense didn’t really have a screenplay, which probably makes it ineligible. From what I understand, a great deal of This is Spinal Tap was ad libbed, which probably makes it ineligible as well. What else would never get nominated? The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and Repo Man for starters. Probably Gremlins as well. Both The Terminator and A Nightmare on Elm Street are pretty great in the screenplay area, even if they’re not typically the sort of films that get nominations in this category. The same is true of Starman, although Jeff Bridges might beg to differ. The three I think really belong here are Stranger than Paradise, but Jarmusch never gets Oscar love; Blood Simple, but the Coens were brand new to the business; and Ghostbusters. I honestly have no good reason for Ghostbusters not to be nominated.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. Broadway Danny Rose isn’t a bad film, but I didn’t find it to be a memorable one. I remember enjoying it while I watched it and I’m sure I gave it a positive review overall. In fact, I gave it a more positive review than several of the other films here on the list. It’s the fact that the film seems to have made no real impact on me that bothers me more than anything, and is the reason I’m putting it in fifth. I’d rather see Ghostbusters here, and I’d rather see Blood Simple, with all its flaws, since it is a film that continues to resonate.
4. With Splash, I think it might simply be that it’s just too odd for me to ultimately take that seriously. Don’t get me wrong--Splash is a lot of fun and it helps to solidify my hypothesis that Daryl Hannah is at her best when she’s playing something close to but not quite human. I’m putting it here mostly because I like the other screenplays better, and because it’s again a film where I look at that first paragraph and see plenty of movies I’d much rather see on the list of nominations.
3. Places in the Heart is one of the two “serious” movies that was nominated for this award, and it’s not a huge surprise that it won, at least in part, because of it. It is a very good movie all the way through, and one that I liked a hell of a lot more than I expected to. It is a bit too predictable. Both the ultimate conclusion and the sorts of racism and suppression that our characters are going to face on the way there are pretty par for the course. We’re going to get that triumph at the end, and we fully expect that we will. That it follows a standard pattern is what keeps it off the top for me.
2. I watched El Norte in the first month of this blog running reviews, and it has stuck with me the whole time. It is the definition of a wrist-slitter, the sort of movie where nothing good happens to anyone ever. It is also a powerful and brilliant film, and while it was actually released in 1983, I love the fact that it earned a nomination eventually. If we’re going to stick with serious movies only for this award, it’s my choice. We don’t have to, though, and it’s not the movie that I think got everything right.
1. Putting Beverly Hills Cop on the top of this list might seem like a strange choice. The truth, though, is that it works all the way through. Yes, we know that Detective Axel Foley isn’t going to die at the end of the movie. We know that the bad guys are going to lose and the good guys are going to get away with everything. It doesn’t matter. It’s consistently funny and still manages to be a pretty good action movie at the same time. It’s also a reminder that once upon a time, Eddie Murphy was a force to be reckoned with and that he was incredibly easy to root for when he was on camera. It’s my choice for these five films and I love the nomination, but it’s not my winner.
Bluntly, I think the two best original screenplays for 1984 are, in some order, Ghostbusters and This is Spinal Tap. I’ve seen both of them probably a dozen times and both of them are still ridiculously funny. As I said at the top, I’m not 100% sure that Spinal Tap would even be eligible, but I think it would be. It would be my choice, because it is the template for parody documentaries, spoofing its topic with love, great humor, and pure genius. Honestly, though, Ghostbusters would be just as good a choice. I could live with either, and both of them should be here.