Monday, February 3, 2020

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 1994

The Contenders:

Bullets Over Broadway
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Heavenly Creatures
Pulp Fiction (winner)
Three Colors: Red

What’s Missing

1994 is such a good screenplay year, both for adapted and originals, but especially originals. I’d love to see a nomination for The Last Seduction, but the stupid Oscar rules prevented it from being in contention. Films like Clerks, Stargate, Shallow Grave and Speed would never be on Oscar’s radar. The Hudsucker Proxy is charming, but was box office poison, so it never had a chance. Hollywood has been pro-gay for some time, but I’m guessing The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was just too much. Foreign films like Chungking Express and Through the Olive Trees have a hard time in screenplay categories, especially with Red representing. I’d have loved to have seen Muriel’s Wedding in the mix. As for Leon: The Professional, the theater cut was terrible.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. There’s a moment in Bullets Over Broadway where one of the characters opines that artists create their own moral universe. Under that view, essentially anything an artist does can be massaged into being a moral act. It’s a reprehensible statement coming out of the mouth of a terrible character, but when it’s been written and directed by Woody Allen, I have to question whether or not this is something he sees as a rationalization for his own behavior. In any case, I’m firmly “No, thanks” on this screenplay.

4. And now it gets tough. There’s not a film left here that I think deserves to be lower than second place, and I think I could argue for all of them in the top position. I’m going to put Four Weddings and a Funeral in fourth only because, despite how good it is (and it really, really is), it doesn’t manage to avoid all of the clich├ęs of its genre. It could be argued that that’s how we know what genre it’s in, I suppose. Then again, there’s hair’s breadths between all of these top four spots. Talk to me in a week and they might all be different.

3. I’m going to put Three Colors: Red in third place only because I’m not sure I entirely buy the ending. Of the trilogy, it’s Blue that I will always consider the best of them, and while I do like this film, it does seem to not quite stick the landing. That very well may just be me—it felt like a lot was done to get the ending shot that was wanted, and that’s always going to feel at least a little bit like a cheat to me. That being said, it’s a film absolutely worth tracking down and seeing for yourself—true of the whole trilogy, really.

My Choices

2. Is it my personal bias against Quentin Tarantino that prevents me from putting the almost unanimous choice of Pulp Fiction first? I suppose that’s possible and perhaps even likely. I do like this movie quite a bit, though—it’s one that I loved the first time I saw it, but it’s also one that hasn’t held up for me as much as I would like it to. I still think it’s a fine film, and one that is absolutely worth this nomination, and I’m not convinced it shouldn’t have won. It’s not my pick, but it’s a good one, and I’m not going to give Oscar any grief for it.

1. While I give Oscar no grief for its choice, my vote would go to Heavenly Creatures. This is such a disturbing film on so many levels, not the least of which because there are so many fantasy elements to it that should make it light and airy. Its reality is different, though, and that’s entirely the thing that makes it work. There’s a reality here that is so dark underneath the fantasy, and the interplay of those two things is what makes this film what it is. I completely understand any other choices here, but this one, by a razor-thin margin, is mine.

Final Analysis


  1. I always felt Pulp Fiction winning the Oscar that year was a consolation prize knowing that wasn't going to beat Forrest Gump. I love that film but I think Chungking Express should've won although WKW never actually writes a script. What about Exotica by Atom Egoyan or Eat Drink Man Woman? I also would've put In the Mouth of Madness by writer Michael DeLuca for consideration as I think it's the last great movie John Carpenter has ever made.

    1. Eat Drink Man Woman is a gaping hole in my viewing history. In the Mouth of Madness is an interesting addition here.

      I'd love to see Chungking Express in the mix. I'd also want Muriel's Wedding there, and I'm not sure what I'd cut after Bullets Over Broadway.