Friday, October 6, 2017

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 1970

The Contenders:

Five Easy Pieces
Love Story
My Night at Maud’s
Patton (winner)

What’s Missing

Well, as often happens, there are a couple of movies I don’t like that much in our list of nominees this week. I think that there are improvements to be made in 1970s list of original screenplays up for the award. A film like Performance may have simply been too strange for Oscar to consider, but I think there’s something there. The same could be said of El Topo and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. I’d love to have both Deep End and The Ballad of Cable Hogue in the mix here, and I love Kelly’s Heroes probably more than it deserves. I haven’t seen Claire’s Knee, but it has a great reputation, so I’m going to mention it.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I really dislike Love Story a lot. I know that it was very much a beloved movie in 1970, and I can’t for the life of me understand why. Two asshole characters find each other and are assholes to everyone else until one of them dies. I only wish that whatever killed Ali MacGraw’s character had been contagious so that they would have both died. I understand why it was nominated and I would not be surprised if it got a lot of votes, but it would be a very nippy day in hell before I’d even want it nominated.

4. I struggled to like Joe. Unfortunately, it’s a film that seems more relevant today than it would have been even a couple of years ago. Sadly, part of its relevance seems to be that it can easily be interpreted as justifying and verifying the worst of racist views that have become more and more prevalent. Recent events have made a film like Joe ideologically suspect since the philosophy it espouses can so easily be taken as validation for some truly terrible acts and beliefs. It’s not a story I enjoyed a great deal.

3. Five Easy Pieces is a film that seems to be filled with a different kind of rage. There is a sense of defiant impotence running through this movie, of wanting to rebel against a system and not really knowing how to do it aside from not participating in it. It’s problem in terms of this award is that it doesn’t actually contain a great deal of plot. It’s a character study more than anything else. It’s a hell of a good character study, but set against other films, it comes up short in terms of a story.

2. My Night at Maud’s has a screenplay that I could see a lot of people putting last and a lot of other people putting first. I think it’s one that either speaks to its audience or fails completely. It’s slow and contemplative and deals with large, existential issues without really coming to any solid conclusions. In that respect, it’s a film that can be seen as frustrating and not really going anywhere, but it’s also a movie that seems to believe that just taking the journey is worth the effort. I love the nomination.

My Choice

1. For what it’s worth, I think Oscar got this one right. Patton, much like Five Easy Pieces, is a character study, but there’s a lot more here to it than that. It’s a film that begins with one of the truly great monologues in cinematic history and the rest of the movie does its damnedest to maintain that level of power and intensity. Patton shows the man in the context of his time and of history, something not easy to do, and it does it well. Given the choices, it’s the right pick, and it’s also where I’d go in an open field.

Final Analysis

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