Monday, September 30, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 1992

The Contenders:

The Crying Game (winner)
Husbands and Wives
Lorenzo’s Oil
Passion Fish

What’s Missing

As tends to be the case, the movies available to be nominated for this award and year are better than the actual nominations we’ve been given. Sure, some of these aren’t going to ever be nominated, but that’s the fault of the Academy, not the movies or their genres. Seriously, though, I’m not sure what sort of world we’d need to live in to get a nomination for something like Dead Alive or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Oscar being a lover of neither horror nor comedy. The fact that The Hand that Rocks the Cradle hits only one of those genres didn’t increase its chances. As always, foreign language films are less likely to be tapped here, which leaves out Man Bites Dog. Eventual Academy darling Quentin Tarantino was too new to the business to get any love for Reservoir Dogs. Comedies not getting their due leaves out films like Sneakers and My Cousin Vinny despite the latter’s nomination and win elsewhere. I’d have loved to have seen something here for my beloved Strictly Ballroom. Finally, A League of Their Own is a huge miss, especially considering some of the actual nominations.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I realize that Lorenzo’s Oil was based on a true story, and I’d love to have that be something that improves my opinion of it. It’s not, thought, and there are so many things that make me hate this movie that I’m not entirely sure where to start. The biggest thing, though, is that the plot of Lorenzo’s Oil essentially gives fuel to the anti-science bullshit of anti-vaccine people and similar medical industry conspiracy theorists. I’m so sick of science being treated as the bad guy and doctors being shown as evil in movies like this. It can kiss my entire ass.

4. Had I seen Husbands and Wives 10 years ago, I’d have probably liked it more than I do, but it’s really hard to watch a 57-year-old Woody Allen try to romance a 21-year-old Juliette Lewis without being intensely creeped out. While this doesn’t go as far as some of Allen’s films do in terms of consummation of said relationship, it’s no less creepy and skeevy. Allen never balked at writing something that made his wrinkly pervert ass the object of desire for a woman a third of his age. It’s just…ick. I mean, c’mon.

3. I was surprised as hell by Passion Fish, a movie I waited for far too long to watch. The biggest problem with it is that it unfolds very slowly and deliberately, and it’s going to put probably a third of its audience to sleep before a lot really happens. Of these nominations, it’s the first one I can at least kind of get behind. The truth, though, is that Alfre Woodard and Mary McDonnell are so good in this that they’d make even a weak screenplay worth watching. This isn’t a knock on the screenplay; it’s an observation that McDonnell and Woodard are perfect.

2. When you write something that has a twist, you run a really big risk. You risk people guessing it, or the twist not working for a start. The bigger risk in many ways is rewatchability. There are plenty of movies worth seeing twice—once to experience the twist and once to see all of the missed clues. To write a twisty movie worth seeing more than that takes real skill. The Crying Game is that sort of movie. It’s smart and engaging, and even if you know the twist going in, the movie still works perfectly. I don’t hate it winning, but it’s not my choice.

My Choice

1. I’m going to go with Unforgiven for a few reasons. The first is that, while it didn’t so much revitalize the genre (Dances with Wolves really has to be credited with that), it made the genre interesting and gutsy again. Westerns with antiheroes had been around for years, of course, but perhaps none had really delved this far into the moral quandaries that could live at the heart of them Unforgiven went to some dark places, but never gave up on being human. That's not an easy thing, and to do it this well is worth celebrating...and awarding.

Final Analysis


  1. Based on my list of the best films of 1992. I'm inclined to agree with you on Unforgiven as I love that film as it's also a film that my father loved. As much as I love what QT and Peter Jackson did with their own scripts, the script for Unforgiven is phenomenal as I also think the race would've been more interesting with the inclusion of A League of Their Own (one of the few films my parents loved to watch together), My Cousin Vinny, and Bad Lieutenant.

    1. I completely missed Bad Lieutenant for this, and it's a real miss.

      Left entirely to me, I think A League of Their Own is a strong and close second place.

  2. I didn't love Unforgiven, it was fine and well made but nothing special. I'd lean towards Passion Fish out of this lot, though I agree a great deal of its power comes from the two women's performances.

    In an open field though my vote would go to A League of Their Own no contest.

    1. I can't really call it a wrong choice. It's a hell of a fine screenplay. That's true of both Passion Fish and A League of Their Own.