The Candidate (winner)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Lady Sings the Blues
Murmur of the Heart
I am so disappointed in most of the nominees for Best Original Screenplay for 1972. I feel like I almost want to dispose of all of them and start fresh—something I won’t quite do because I do like a couple of the nominees here. I’m also disappointed that I can’t nominate The Stone Tape due to it’s being made for British television. As often seems to be the case, my other suggestions fall into two categories. There are those that would never be nominated because of genre and those that are unlikely because they aren’t in English, when non-English screenplays are already represented. In the first category fall Silent Running and Super Fly, and I think I can make a case for the first. This also describes The Last House on the Left, a screenplay I probably wouldn’t nominate despite not being able to deny its influence. In the second category we have two giants from the early ‘70s. The first is Bergman’s Cries & Whispers, which the Academy nominated the following year, so it gets a pass. The second is Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God. How this managed to be missed I will never understand.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I hate Murmur of the Heart so much that I almost don’t want to talk about it. I’m so angry about the fact that this is a film that is regularly touted as being whimsical and innocent despite ending with incest. I do not understand why it has the reputation it does or why so many people seem to have fond memories of it. In fact, I’m so angry that this was nominated that I’m having trouble thinking of anything else to say here. I’m blinded by how much this pisses me off.
4. The problem with Young Winston isn’t that it’s offensive in any way, but that it’s really, really boring. There’s a bit of excitement at one or two points, but it’s a really long way to go to get anything worth watching. Winston Churchill was one of the towering figures of the 20th century; he certainly could do with a film that wasn’t dull. Perhaps it’s less the subject of the man himself and more the subject of the man at this point in his life. If you never find or see this film…you’re not going to be missing much.
3. There is a lot to like about Lady Sings the Blues, but if I’m completely honest, the screenplay doesn’t really make the short list. This is all about Diana Ross for me, and beyond that, it has a number of problems. Admittedly, the problems that it has come from the direction in my opinion and not the screenplay. But, that’s faint praise. And, if the problems like the weird montage sequences do come from the screenplay, then there’s no reason this movie should have been nominated at all.
2. Political dramas are sort of their own thing. As political dramas go, The Candidate isn’t bad. In fact, it’s a pretty smart film with a great supporting role for Peter Boyle, who was sadly overlooked for a nomination. What is interesting here is how prescient this film has turned out to be. Much like Network did for news, it takes a farcical and extreme view of the political process that, by today’s standards, seems tame. It’s a movie that doesn’t assume that the audience is dumb, and for that, it gets some high marks.
1. Given the nominations, my choice is The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Luis Bunuel is the sort of filmmaker who can be tremendous or tremendously irritating depending on the film. The genius of this movie is that over time, it becomes impossible to tell if we are looking at reality or a dream at any given moment. This is one of Bunuel’s more fully realized ideas, and there’s not much about it I don’t like. I love that it was nominated, and given the five, it should have won. But truthfully, something else deserved it more.
In a completely open field, I’m going with Aguirre: The Wrath of God, a completely bonkers film from Werner Herzog with an equally bonkers performance from Klaus Kinski. This movie is a fever dream made of celluloid, and the sort of thing that probably shouldn’t exist and never will exist again. I can’t imagine why it wasn’t nominated when straight garbage like Murmurs of the Heart was. Stupid Academy.