Friday, November 22, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Adapted Screenplay 1972

The Contenders:

The Emigrants
The Godfather (winner)
Pete ‘n’ Tillie

What’s Missing

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like there’d be a great deal of competition for this Oscar. There’s a 500-lb. gorilla and a bunch of also-rans. Look a little deeper, though, and there’s a great deal more in terms of eligible films, both in the nominations and those left out. The Other would be an interesting nomination, and it’s one I like more than at least one nomination, but it’s not a serious choice from me. Some might want to see Frenzy here, but I don’t include myself in that group. Images starts to get us into the territory of potential nominations, and Deliverance gets us even closer. We have a foreign language film here, but if we need to include a non-English film, I’d suggest Solyaris. For me, the biggest clear miss is Sleuth.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. There are times when I dislike one or more nomination but can see why a particular movie was nominated. That is not the case with Pete ‘n’ Tillie. I found this to be completely misdirected, a film that wanted to portray itself as a comedy and a romance, but is actually a tragedy. It’s very much a function of its era, and the deep well of misogyny that it seems to come from might have been socially acceptable when the film came out, but would probably keep it from being made today. I try to watch in the lens of the time, but sometimes I just can’t.

4. My biggest problem with The Emigrants is or is not related to the screenplay: the film is too damn long for the story it tells. There’s a great deal of beauty in this film, but that beauty comes more from the filming itself and the scenery than it does the story being told. In fact, the story is very simple (people come to America and settle), but for some reason we need more than three hours to tell that story. It’s fine, but if we’re honestly going to throw a bone to the non-English speaking film world and we want something this long, Solyaris is the choice.

3. Sounder is a good movie, and I like the story. It got more in the way of Oscar nominations than it probably should have, and given the chance to create my own list of five nominations, it probably just misses the list. This isn’t really the fault of the movie or the story…except that it kind of is. I just like the other stories on offer a lot more than I like this one. Truthfully, it’s Cicely Tyson’s performance that is the heart of this movie and she is absolutely the most interesting and best part of the film.

2. The fact that I like Cabaret is kind of interesting. I’m going to be a harder sell on musicals in general and I genuinely dislike Sally Bowles as a character (even as I find her compelling), but I can’t deny that this is a really good screenplay that could absolutely compete for this Oscar in a lot of years. The story is a good one, and the adaptation is about as good as you’re going to find. In a lot of years in this decade, Cabaret would be an easy choice. Too bad it came out in 1972.

My Choice

1. Look, it’s hard to do epics well, so when they are done really well, it’s noteworthy. The Godfather is one of the best examples of doing a film right. This is a hell of a good year for adapted screenplays, and while there’s a lot I would love to do to make a much better contest, I’m not sure there’s a way to honestly stump hard for another one. This is a year that has a lot of potential winners in a lot of other years, but the 500-lb. gorilla is what it is. It was the obvious choice, but it was obvious because it was clearly right.

Final Analysis


  1. I have no problem with The Godfather winning Best Adapted Screenplay. After all, it has too many quotes that people remember. "Leave the gun, take the canolis". I do like The Emigrants though I often think of it as part of a big story with The New Land. Cabaret is awesome while Deliverance was unfairly snubbed as was Solaris.

    1. Deliverance, Solyaris, and Sleuth would be my three additions. My ultimate winner would be the same, but it was at least be a much closer race.

  2. Even though I am not an ardent fan of The Godfather I can recognize that it is an awesome achievement across the board of all the categories it would be eligible for including this one and it would be hard for anyone to propose a reason for it not to win.

    However if Deliverance and, to a lesser extent, Sleuth had been nominated I would feel that the film had more competition. In that case the margin of its win would be much slimmer though Godfather would always be the victor that makes the most sense.

    1. That's similar to my opinion on The Godfather. One of my brothers and my brother-in-law are huge fans. I recognize that it's a great movie (as is the sequel), but I can't think of a time when I had the conscious thought, "I'd really like to watch The Godfather."