Friday, April 13, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 1991

The Contenders:

Boyz n the Hood
The Fisher King
Grand Canyon
Thelma & Louise (winner)

What’s Missing

As tends to be the case, I like some of the nominations for Original Screenplay in 1991 and there are others that I think could easily be replaced. We’re in an era where a foreign language film was not necessarily a rarity for this category, and there are two that might well be considered. The first is The Double Life of Veronique, which is a fine and beautiful film. The second is Delicatessen, a film that I probably like more than I should. On the in-English front, My Own Private Idaho is the film that probably has the most credibility as an Oscar nominee. My preference, though, would be a nomination for L.A. Story, which is regularly better than I think it is. Even more than that, though, I’d want to see Dead Again nominated. I could mention Barton Fink here as well, but it’s one of the few Coen films I still haven’t seen. I’m guessing City Slickers might get some love here as well.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. The biggest problem I have with Grand Canyon is in the screenplay. Put bluntly, this is a movie that has pretensions of having a lot to say and ultimately doesn’t say all that much. What it really seems to want to say is that the world is filled with two types of problem. The first type are white people problems; the second are problems that can only be solved by white people. And, ultimately, all of the problems can be solved with by getting some perspective by seeing the title geographical location. I felt pandered to with this, and that’s not a nice feeling.

4. Bugsy is at least a decent movie. I’m not convinced that it’s a great one, though. A ig part of that is the fact that the second half of the film is a letdown when compared with the first half. It’s far too long of a film, and despite this length, is only the part of a bunch of different movies. It’s sort of a biopic, sort of a gangster film, kind of a romance, and really none of them all at the same time. I’m not sure it’s worth a second viewing.

3. The only reason I have The Fisher King ahead of Bugsy is that I like the fact that it’s a lot more fanciful than the other film. For as fanciful as it is, though, it ends up walking down some roads that I absolutely expected it to take. It’s sad when a film is this odd and original in its inception and ends up following the tropes of its genres in lockstep. I wanted to like The Fisher King a lot more than I ended up liking it. Sadly, the screenplay takes a few short cuts and cuts a few corners.

2. I like Thelma and Louise a lot, and in a different year, I wouldn’t have a huge problem with it winning the Oscar. As a matter of fact, I don’t really have a huge problem with it winning this Oscar, even if I think there is a clear and better choice. It felt like a risk in 1991 to have something like an action movie crossed with a caper film crossed with a road movie headed by two women, but it shouldn’t have been. It works really well in no small part because of our two leads. It’s a fine film, and a lot of the reason is the fine screenplay. It’s just not my choice.

My Choice

1. When you think you’ve had a hard day or a hard life, Boyz n the Hood is a bucket of ice water dumped over your head. There are plenty of movies I’ve watched that have left me feeling very white, but few that made me feel so sheltered. It also takes a road that might be a little too obvious at one point, but everything here is done so well and the screenplay is so tightly wound that I barely noticed while the film was playing. This is a movie that has a yard of guts, and that starts with a screenplay that puts a terrifying reality on the screen. It’s the clear winner in my book.

Final Analysis


  1. Not sure I dare comment on a post from Fri 13?! Double Life of V is my winner. I can't argue with Delicatessen and Boyz N the Hood (one of the best films with a mainly black cast).
    The Fisher King starts well but on rewatch I found the second half too sappy. I prefer Silence of the Lambs and Slacker(R Linklater) for the writing.

  2. Just remembered Lambs is in adapted(sorry)

    1. Yeah--it's the continual issue with the screenplay awards that I hvae to carefully check each one to verify which category it goes in.

      I wouldn't strenuously object to a win for The Double Life of Veronique. It would make my shortlist, but Boyz n the Hood is really ballsy and seems to have come out of nowhere.