Friday, May 1, 2020

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Adapted Screenplay 1967

The Contenders:

Cool Hand Luke
The Graduate
In Cold Blood
In the Heat of the Night (winner)

What’s Missing

The nominations here aren’t bad. I like three of them and am not at all surprised by the other two. The snubs from this year are honestly not that surprising in a lot of respects. While this was an award that did get foreign language nominations, they were still rare, and thus Belle de Jour wasn’t going to make it in. Animated movies didn’t have the same kind of support they do now, which will leave out The Jungle Book, which may not have been eligible because it was merely “inspired” by Kipling’s stories. The Whisperers earned a Best Actress nomination, but couldn’t swing one here, also true of Wait Until Dark, which I think was more deserving. The Dirty Dozen would have been an interesting pick. The one I really think is missing is Point Blank, which may have just not been “serious” enough for consideration.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. As with most of these movies, I have no idea if Ulysses is an accurate adaptation of the original book because I haven’t read the original book. I can tell you that, having seen the movie, I have no desire to read the book. It felt like a checkmark in a box to get through this. It was prurient for the sake of it, offering shock value and little more. I honestly wondered why I was watching it at one point. I’m not surprised it’s here, but I would have been happier with something else in this place so I didn’t have to watch this.

4. A lot of people really like The Graduate and I really don’t. I don’t like the characters and I really don’t like the story at all. These people are terrible and while I won’t disagree that it’s a well-made film, I don’t want anything to do with it. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the adaptation, so I can only speak to the story itself. I can’t recommend something win an Oscar when the story itself isn’t something I think is really worth seeing. Please tell me why I’m wrong in the comments, The Graduate fans (but for the record, I’m not wrong).

3. What I just said about The Graduate is going to bite me a little here, because I can’t say In Cold Blood is an entertaining story that I like, either. It is, however, fascinating, and that goes a long way. There isn’t really anything good that happens in this story, and seeing it from the perspective of the killers doesn’t make me like them more than I would otherwise. I can at least say that the adaptation is good. It’s not as good as it should be, though; the book is genuinely one of the great books of the previous century.

2. I don’t really hate the win for In the Heat of the Night. It’s not a surprising win because of the overall acclaim of the film for this year, and with it winning Best Picture, Best Actor, and several other Oscars, the win here is not a shock. I like how smart this movie is. It’s easy to remember all of the racism against Virgil Tibbs, but it’s not as easy to remember Tibbs’s racism. Without that, this is a movie that runs 35 minutes from start to credits. I’m okay with the win, but it really shouldn’t have won.

My Choice

1. Cool Hand Luke might be the best movie from the 1960s, and if it’s not, it’s somewhere on the podium. Admittedly, it is one of those films that has a near-perfect combination of screenplay, casting, and performances. Top to bottom, it’s a film that is packed. But all of that comes from the screenplay, or at least starts there. True, the screenplay can’t give us George Kennedy’s drawling growl or Paul Newman’s slight smile, but the screenplay created the reason for those things to exist. It should have won…well, just about everything.

Final Analysis


  1. Yeah, I'm kind of with you on The Graduate as that's a film that has gotten more overrated over the years for me. Everyone says it was great and such but I ended up falling out of love with it as I got older as I found the ending of the film to be very bleak.

    I'm totally with you on Cool Hand Luke while another film that I think should've been in consideration is Marketa Lazarova as it was adapted by a famed book from Czechoslovakia.

    1. I didn't love Marketa Lazarova, although I considered it for the list above.

      I think we're in the minority on The Graduate. My problem with it is how little I like literally everyone in it.

  2. I agree with you a little long way, but not in the order of your top 2. In the heat of the night is a very strong movie, one of the best from the sixties and most of that is from the screenplay. Cool Hand Luke is also great, but the greatness comes from direction, cinematography and acting, not in my opinion so much from screenplay. In this category I would go with In the Heat of the Night.

    1. I don't really hate that decision. This is a closer race for me than I probably let on.

      Like I said above, In the Heat of the Night is a much smarter movie than people remember.

  3. Cool Hand Luke absolutely wins for me, and great call on Point Blank. I love that movie and wish it would've landed a nom or two.

    1. For the movie, possibly the screenplay, and definitely for Lee Marvin. I agree--it deserved a lot more love.