Monday, December 17, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Adapted Screenplay 1986

The Contenders:

Children of a Lesser God
The Color of Money
Crimes of the Heart
A Room with a View (winner)
Stand by Me

What’s Missing

I dislike years like this one and awards like this one because I dislike the majority of the nominations. In this case, I don’t like three of the movies and I really dislike two of them intensely. The movies that I’d typically want to nominate are generally the type that don’t get nominations and, if they do, they don’t win anything. We can start with Little Shop of Horrors, Aliens, and The Fly, all of which I think I could argue successfully in terms of the screenplay. Manhunter is ironically a film that didn’t get any Oscar love. I say there’s some irony here because I think in some ways it’s better than The Silence of the Lambs, which became an Oscar darling half a decade later. The biggest misses are the twin releases Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring. It might be argued that there was no real way to distinguish the two, but in reality, that’s not much of an excuse.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I hated Crimes of the Heart and I am not ashamed for anyone to know that. This is a miserable piece of film that wants desperately to be spoken of in the same sentence with Terms of Endearment. I didn’t like that one, either, but it’s goddam Shakespeare compared with this whiny glurgefest. I knew it was going to be trouble when the “A” in the last name of each of the three stars turned into little hearts during the opening credits. It did not get any better from there.

4. As much as I hated Crimes of the Heart, it was a close thing putting it last. I was very close to putting Children of a Lesser God in the bottom spot instead. This is not a film that I simply found boring or unpleasantly maudlin; this is a film that found offensive, even if I didn’t know why until later. It was pointed out to me that our aggressively deaf main character speaks through the entire film in sign, and is translated for us by her love interest. The film doesn’t subtitle a character who is fighting for her voice, instead letting the male character speak for her. I wanted to kill this with fire.

3. The Color of Money is the first of these films that I kind of like. I’m never going to say that I love it, but I think it’s slightly better than a not-that-great sequel of a great movie. This is one that is much more about the performances, particularly that of Tom Cruise. On the other hand, it a sequel to The Hustler and features many of the same people. This is all about the Paul Newman performance for me. Catching up on the character after many years is interesting. The story is okay, but Newman’s performance sells the whole thing.

2. I didn’t like A Room with a View, but I’m capable of recognizing that it’s a very good and well-made film. It’s just not one that interests me that much. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Merchant/Ivory type of film, but it’s not difficult to draw a clear line between films I don’t like despite their quality and performances (like this) and films that I don’t like because they are terrible (the first two movies on this countdown). I can even kind of understand the win. It’s far too slow and timid for me, but again, it’s just not my taste.

My Choice

1. If you put a gun to my head, Aliens is my favorite movie of this year, but it’s not specifically my favorite screenplay. That distinction goes to Stand By Me. This is a case where I think the award was the nomination, this being based on a Stephen King novella, after all. It’s a damn shame that it wasn’t given more consideration than that. It’s a hell of a good story and has complete and detailed characters. It’s also accurate as hell to the original story. Is it the ending that did it? That’s gotta be it, right?

Final Analysis


  1. I didn't think "Aliens" was an adaptation of anything. I know there was an Alan Dean Foster novelization of the movie, but that was post hoc, if I'm not mistaken. Wikipedia says Cameron wrote the script for "Aliens" after getting word that people liked his script for "The Terminator" (here). You sure this was an adapted screenplay? Maybe I'm missing something.

  2. Ignore the first comment. I just saw another section of Wikipedia that explains that all sequels are considered adaptations. Interesting.

  3. I'm happy with A Room with a View's win but then I love the film however I wouldn't have been disappointed had Stand by Me won. It's a beautifully constructed film with amazing performances.

    I also hated Children of a Lesser God and was completely baffled by the praise it garnered. I didn't love Crimes of the Heart but I didn't hate it either. I certainly enjoyed it more than Children.

    I like the suggestion for Aliens but both Stand by Me and A Room with a View would rank higher for me.

    1. Aliens would probably come in second for me. It's a damn good screenplay.