Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (winner)
The Wild Bunch
1969 is a very strange year for original screenplays, at least in terms of what I have seen. Virtually everything that I have seen from this year is based on an adapted screenplay. In fact, I have found only two movies that I have seen that are based on original screenplays, not already nominated, and that I think are good enough to include on this list. The first is The Italian Job, an entertaining romp with a huge cast. The second is the slow and cerebral My Night at Maud’s, where it’s the screenplay that really sells the film.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. Of the five nominations, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is the one that I genuinely didn’t like that much. While I’m sure this was very much “the thing” when it was new, shown today it looks like a bunch of self-indulgent ex-hippies decide that free love and hurting each other is spiritually the best thing they can do. All of these characters are either smarmy jerks or have spines made of gelatin. In any event, I disliked all four main characters here intensely, and since I’m supposed to like them, that’s a problem. It’s especially a problem for the screenplay that puts me in that position.
4. Truthfully, I would have probably liked The Damned a lot more when it was released than I do now. In 1969, the clichés that are very much a part of this movie are weren’t nearly as noticeable or as severe. The Damned relies a great deal on a sort of character cliché that it should be better than. There’s no reason to make the genuinely evil Nazi also a series of what in 1969 qualifies as perversions like being gay and a cross-dresser. It’s cartoonish, and while I understand the nomination, it’s not getting higher than this.
3. I rather like Easy Rider because I like the meaning behind the story. I like the attempt at a sort of ideology here. The problem is that there really isn’t a great deal of story here. The characters move from place to place on a sort of doomed quest of self and essentially don’t quite get there because they opt for physical experiences instead. It’s a valid storyline, but the film itself only has story kind of tangentially. I like this movie a great deal, but the screenplay is, to me, the weakest part of the film. This is about the message and what is behind the story, not the story itself.
1. But Oscar did right in selecting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This is a film where a lot of the pieces fell together in the right way. The chemistry between the two stars is undeniable, and that is a huge part of what makes the whole thing work, but the actual characters themselves, the relationship between them, and the situations they are in come from that screenplay. It’s a beloved classic for a reason, and much of that reason is the screenplay that gets us from start to finish. Oscar chose well.