Monday, November 5, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Adapted Screenplay 1982

The Contenders:

Das Boot
Missing (winner)
Sophie’s Choice
The Verdict

What’s Missing

This will be interesting, because this is at least an interesting collection of films. As often happens to be the case, most of my suggestions are the sort that wouldn’t normally trip the Academy members to nominate or vote, at least in 1982. The trio of adapted science fiction screenplays from June of 1982 are cases in point. It was evidently all the Academy could do to nominate E.T. the Extra-terrestrial for Original Screenplay. This left Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, and The Thing out in the cold. In all honesty, based on theatrical releases, Blade Runner didn’t deserve a nomination. I’d have loved to have seen a nomination for the bizarre The Wall, a movie based on a concept double-album from Pink Floyd, but really, that’s not going to happen, either. The big miss for me is the lack of a nomination for The Year of Living Dangerously, a film that won an Oscar for Linda Hunt in a supporting role the same year.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I didn’t hate The Verdict, but the problems that I have with it are essentially problems with the screenplay. This is a movie that has the sort of ending that should have gone out of fashion in the 1940s. We’re supposed to feel somehow vindicated by the ending of The Verdict, that the system is somehow working the way it should because of the valor and determination of people in the system, but it’s pretty much garbage. There’s no way the third act of this movie makes any kind of real-world sense.

4. There’s a part of me that is a little surprised that Sophie’s Choice didn’t win this Oscar based on the way that Academy members seem to vote. There’s a great deal of self-congratulatory behavior in the Academy, award things that are important. There’s no getting around the fact that this is an important movie. There’s also no getting around the fact that it very much goes in the direction the plot demands rather than the characters guide. It’s a movie I respect more than like, and it’s one I’m unlikely to watch again.

3. I like Victor/Victoria evidently a lot more than most people do, at least based on the feedback I’ve gotten regarding my opinion on this film. The biggest problem with Victor/Victoria is that there’s no way anyone would seriously buy Julie Andrews as a man. But that’s nothing to do with the screenplay, which is pretty dynamite. I love where this goes, and I love the path it takes with the James Garner character who acts specifically in ways to prove things to himself rather than to define himself to the audience.

2. Missing is not an easy film to watch, and not one to come to lightly. It’s a contender for me for best picture for 1982 at the very least because of just how devastatingly it handles a terrible subject without flinching. Both Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek offer masterclasses in acting in this film as well. All of this rides on a screenplay that creates a terrible reality that is nonetheless believable and real. Missing works not because of the exceptional situation, but because of how easy it is to see ourselves in it. I get why it won, and it’s not a terrible choice. It’s just not my winner.

My Choice

1. Based on the number of times I have put Das Boot on these lists at the top, it shouldn’t be a shock that I’m giving it the win for the nomination it actually got. This is such a good film, so brilliantly done in every aspect. Certainly much of what makes it work is how it was filmed and the inherent claustrophobia in the situation. But much of what makes it work comes from the characters and from the way that they are presented to us. Remember that this is a German film taking place during World War II on a German submarine. And despite this, we are convinced to care deeply about these men. That is exceptional, and it’s why Das Boot should have won.

Final Analysis


  1. Part of me wants to punch out Wolfgang Petersen for making me sympathize with Nazis. Another part of me wants to shake his hand for the same reason. I'll also cast my vote for Das Boot.

    1. The only time I've ever rooted for WWII-era Germans in a movie are Das Boot and The Sound of Music.

    2. I see what you did there . . .

  2. Das Boot is a marvelous film and worthy of all the praise heaped on it but my vote goes to Missing which in my eyes is a masterpiece on pretty much every level. Of these five films it's the only one I revisit with any regularity (how I HATE The Verdict!!!).

    I'm equally surprised that The Year of Living Dangerously didn't receive a nomination, perhaps with it's background story of political upheaval many felt they had already covered that with Missing. Two others that won't get my vote but were decent adaptations, The World According to Garp and Deathtrap.

    1. As I said above, I get entirely why Missing won, and I don't hate it as a winner at all. That said, I think Das Boot is just about perfect.

      I always forget about how much I like The Year of Living Dangerously until I see it again.

  3. What a great year for Sci-Fi. One of the absolute best.

    1. June of 1982 was the single-best horror/science fiction month in history. E.T. the Extra-terrestrial, Star Trek II, Blade Runner, Poltergeist, and The Thing were all released within three weeks of each other.