Best Screenplay 1965

1927/28 through 1997

What were the best original and adapted screenplays of 1965?

Casanova 70 (Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Mario Monicelli, Tonino Guerra, Giorgio Salvioni, and Suso Cecchi d'Amico
0
No votes
Darling (Frederic Raphael)
5
17%
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (Jack Davies and Ken Annakin)
0
No votes
The Train (Franklin Coen and Frank Davis)
1
3%
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy)
8
28%
Cat Ballou (Walter Newman and Frank Pierson)
0
No votes
The Collector (Stanley Mann and John Kohn)
9
31%
Doctor Zhivago (Robert Bolt)
6
21%
Ship of Fools (Abby Mann)
0
No votes
A Thousand Clowns (Herb Gardner)
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 29

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Apr 15, 2017 2:30 pm

Having just watched The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for the first time in decades, I have to say it is now my favorite of the nominated screenplays.

What cinched it for me was the 2008 documentary on the Criterion Blu-ray. There was no spoken dialogue in the film, but all those lyrics were written as dialogue, which was then put to music by Michel Legrand. It took six months of work before Legrand's music fell into sync with the words. "I will wait for you", indeed.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Aug 03, 2016 12:11 am

This is yet another year that shows when voters don't have that many options under Original, you get nominees that are all over the creative spectrum. I guess Repulsion would be a worthy alternate, though that movie gets most of its terror out of Polanski's directorial vision rather than its plot.

I thought Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines was pretty lame, and really a stretch as a writing nominee. Seen today, the hijinx-ridden set pieces that comprise most of the movie really strain for humor. And even from a structural standpoint, the script is kind of a shambles -- a big chunk of the narrative revolves around the love triangle, which then utterly dribbles away with barely a satisfying resolution at the movie's finale. Pretty far from a writing triumph in my book.

I'm glad Italiano put the nomination of Casanova '70 into context, because despite finding the movie a perfectly amiable thing, it looks pretty slight when placed alongside the bevy of Italian movies nominated in this category in the '61-'64 stretch. The premise is kind of silly -- a man can only become aroused when his life is in danger -- and though the script is not without laughs, a number of sequences are tough to take seriously. (The climax, for instance, is totally ridiculous.) And this might well be the most episodic movie I've ever seen -- it practically feels like the plot restarts every five or ten minutes. Not a bad nominee, but I don't consider it for the win.

The Train is an effective thriller, with a solid plot, some well-crafted suspense sequences, and emotional resonance. And both central characters are pretty well-drawn -- Scofield's character, in particular, is a compelling portrait of a man so unwilling to admit his side's defeat that he goes to maniacal lengths to hold on to what little control he has over anything, even something as minor as paintings. I think the remaining nominees are more inventive pieces of writing, but this has definite merit.

It's a bit tricky to evaluate The Umbrellas of Cherbourg here. It's probably the movie I like the best on this list, and I don't think it should be faulted for being a sung-through musical -- those lyrics were all written for the film, so it's still got a screenplay, albeit one set to song. The trouble for me is, those lyrics aren't exactly Cole Porter -- I think the movie gets a lot farther on the romantic sweep of its score, the infectious energy of its candy-colored images, and the power of its bittersweet finale than than any clever language. And so, despite the fact that I find this one of the stronger movies of a weak year, this just isn't quite the right category for it to win.

I don't think Darling is a GREAT screenplay -- its story is probably the movie's weakest element, and time has certainly dated aspects that might have seemed more bracing five decades ago. But it has its strengths as well, from the energetic and detailed portrait of a time and place, to the sharp dialogue ("Everything would be different, wouldn't it, with three sexes?" / "Haven't we got enough problems with two?"). And above all it has the character of Diana, a vibrant creation, groundbreaking for the time yet complicated and affecting today. I'd say Oscar voters made the right call in this category.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Apr 23, 2016 2:49 am

FYI, Casanova '70 (with English subtitles) has been added to Amazon Instant Watch, available to rent for $2.99.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Aug 02, 2015 9:38 pm

Another year with pretty slim pickings in the Adapted Screenplay race. I think Woman in the Dunes is superior to any of the actual nominees. I also think Bunny Lake is Missing -- which actually manages to pull off a pretty neat plot twist -- merited attention. (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is curiously unavailable on Netflix, so I haven't managed to cross that one off my list yet.)

Not sure which of the nominees is the weakest, but to start somewhere, I'll say that over the years, I've been exposed to a number of western spoofs (from The Paleface to True Grit to City Slickers), and none of them have done that much for me. (Perhaps Mel Brooks succeeded the best with Blazing Saddles simply by understanding the need to go into full-blown parody.) This is all to say, I just don't think Cat Ballou is that funny. All right, that's maybe not totally fair -- Lee Marvin's dual characters are at least entertaining. But that just makes the rest of the movie feel so wan whenever he's not on-screen. This is really lightweight stuff, and not worth considering.

A Thousand Clowns is a filmed play -- and in this case, not a very well filmed play at all -- but even beyond that, it too is pretty lightweight. I understand the argument that it's not fair to judge the material's milquetoast anti-establishment attitudes by the standards of films that would come in the years just ahead...but even by the standards of this year, there's Darling sitting right there with quite a bit of bite to it in its attitudes toward societal conformity. I just find A Thousand Clowns so tame, like the watered down version of a '60's rant against authority.

Ship of Fools is clunky in a lot of ways, from the way too obvious dialogue ("There are one million Jews in Germany. Are they going to kill us ALL?") to the collection of narrative threads that lay on the soap quite a bit. If the movie has a saving grace, it's that it at least manages to put on screen a collection of fairly compelling characters (most of all those portrayed by the three nominated actors, plus Vivien Leigh), so it isn't completely lacking in interesting moments. But on the whole, the lack of subtlety in its attempt to impart such obvious MESSAGES is just too obvious a flaw to ignore.

Given the available options, it's hard to get too outraged over Doctor Zhivago as the winner, though you definitely get the sense that because the Best Picture victor was a musical, and those don't win screenplay awards, voters just went to their next favorite film and awarded it a consolation prize. But the screenplay is probably the movie's least distinguished element. I don't think it gets into the psychology of the Zhivago/Lara romance in any real interesting way, and it certainly doesn't integrate the historical backdrop with the lives of the protagonists in a manner that feels cohesive. And it's just so LONG -- even David Lean's typically gorgeous visuals can't hide the shapelessness of the second half of the movie.

That leaves The Collector, which I think is pretty clearly the best script on the ballot. It's not what you'd call a major movie -- it's limited in scope to essentially a two-hander, and I wouldn't say there's a ton of plot invention or thematic richness to it. But the Stamp-Eggar relationship is compelling and complicated, the narrative is pretty gripping throughout, and it's unsettling in ways that give it a lot more lasting impact than its competitors. Not a banner choice, but it's the only one that really makes sense as a winner in this category for me.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby ITALIANO » Fri Jul 24, 2015 5:35 am

Big Magilla wrote: Maybe that's what the Oscar voters mostly appreciated.


It's certainly more accessible than other Italian comedies of the same period. And there's another aspect I forgot to mention, and which could have played a role: it's a very sexy movie. Not just the storyline - it's full of the most attractive women working in Italian movies at the time. Absolutely gorgeous to look at. And, I mean, writers may be intellectual - but they have eyes, too.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby Big Magilla » Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:26 am

The Original BJ wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:Well, I'll never do that again, judge a film by watching it in a language I don't understand.


With the greatest respect meant, did you think you would get much enjoyment out of watching a film in a language you don't understand? That sounds like a colossal endurance test to me.

Well, when in the service in Germany (1966-67) I did occasionally watch TV in German and got the gist of things. More recently I watched The Baker's Wife in French without subtitles and still found it enjoyable, but then I knew the story. The problem with Casanova '70, as Italiano alludes to, is the frenetic camera movements and the too jaunty period score. It is, however, the clever dialogue that makes it charming. When a character lifts his or her eyebrow, it is not because of an action performed but because of the bon mot being hurled.

There is an interview with Monicelli on the Criterion Blu-ray of The Organizer made when he was 90 (he lived to be 95) in which he talks about the history of Italian comedy which for many years was considered low brow or even low class because it wasn't understood outside of Italy. The main beef was that Italian comedies didn't have the sophisticated dialogue of French films or the neatly tied up happy endings of American films. Eventually audiences outside of Italy came to appreciate them as simply being different. Casanova '70 has, if not a completely happy ending, a contented one. Maybe that's what the Oscar voters mostly appreciated. In any case it's available on a Kino Lorber Blu-ray and standard DVD from 2011. It shouldn't be that difficult to find.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby ITALIANO » Fri Jul 24, 2015 3:25 am

I am obviously a fan of the golden period of the commedia all'italiana - which Casanova 70 officially belongs to. Those movies were often pitiless satires of our local conventions, habits, laws, fake myths - almost clinical dissections of a society which, like all societies, was and is far from perfect. Unlike in most not only American comedies, but, say, French ones, there was no final absolution, no softness, no sentimental aspect which could make the critical side more easily digestible for the viewers - the cynicism was total, uncompromising; we used to laugh (these movies were very funny) - but we were actually laughing at ourselves and at our flaws. These movies were also extremely well-written. Too few were Oscar-nominated (though one even won) - so one might wonder, why Casanova 70 and not, say, Il Sorpasso? The Scientific Cardplayer? Bread and Chocolate? Seen today, Casanova 70 is definitely pleasant - with all those typically Italian locations and typically 60s-pop-culture look. And its target - Italian machismo - is a correct one. Some of the episodes - it is, essentially, an episodic movie - are even funny. Yet as a whole the movie isn't as biting as others of this kind, and the central idea (a virile man is actually impotent and can make love only in situations of danger) gets soon repetitive. There are probably two reasons why it got such a prestigious nod. One is, of course, Marcello Mastroianni, THE Italian actor par excellence - had the role been played by, say, Nino Manfredi, or Ugo Tognazzi, or Alberto Sordi the movie probably wouldnt have been shown and seen in the US. But most importantly, this is a movie produced by Carlo Ponti, and Carlo Ponti was VERY well connected with the American film industry - he knew how to sell his products there. It's ok - some of the writers of Casanova 70 are true Italian masters of this kind of cinema; they just arent at their best here.
So which one did I pick? It's not easy - there's no stand-out in this category. I toyed with the idea of voting for Cherbourg - a sort of modern equivalent of an opera libretto - naive on the surface, but quite expertly conceived, and very effective. The Train is also a very good example of its genre. But in the end I went with Darling, dated maybe, but a still interesting portrayal of an era, a way of living, a time, a place.

Adapted? The Collector, easily. There are individual good scenes in Ship of Fools, Cat Ballou, even in that massive Zhivago (A Thousand Clowns may have been one of the most respected and successful American plays of its time - I have never read it - but in this movie version the literal, ostentatiously "smart" dialogue and characters are really irritating). But The Collector, while not perfect either, is the most globally successful script of these five.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby ITALIANO » Fri Jul 24, 2015 2:04 am

Big Magilla wrote:Well, I'll never do that again, judge a film by watching it in a language I don't understand.


:D

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Jul 23, 2015 10:16 pm

Big Magilla wrote:Well, I'll never do that again, judge a film by watching it in a language I don't understand.


With the greatest respect meant, did you think you would get much enjoyment out of watching a film in a language you don't understand? That sounds like a colossal endurance test to me.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Jul 23, 2015 5:13 pm

Well, I'll never do that again, judge a film by watching it in a language I don't understand.

Watching Casanova '70 in Italian with English subtitles instead of in German with no subtitles puts a completely different spin on it. This film is actually quite witty and often hilarious. I'm eating my words and changing my vote. Casanova '70 is the best original screenplay of 1965!

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Jul 18, 2015 2:19 pm

Greg wrote:I just read something interesting about Doctor Zhivago. It was turned into a musical that had an ill-fated run on Broadway this year.

Here's the New York Times review of the short-lived musical ( 4/21-5/10/15):
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/22/theat ... .html?_r=0

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby Greg » Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:19 pm

I just read something interesting about Doctor Zhivago. It was turned into a musical that had an ill-fated run on Broadway this year.
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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:29 am

I actually read Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools cover to cover before seeing the film, having already been familiar with her short stories, most notably Noon Wine and Pale Horse, Pale Rider, but that was fifty years ago when I was an avid reader. I don't recall any of the specifics as to the difference between the book and the film but I do remember thinking when I first saw it that they only filmed the highlights of the novel with the most interesting characters, those played by Vivien Leigh, Simone Signoret, Oskar Werner, Michael Dunn and Heinz Ruehmann the stand-outs.

Boccaccio 70, which is superior in every way to Casanvoa 70, has been out on DVD for some time. The mere mention of it brings a smile to my face. It was the first Legion of Decency condemned film I saw in my late teens. I thought I was going to be struck dead for staring at Romy Schneider's breasts. When nothing happened I made a point of seeing as many Legion of Decency condemned films as I could find.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:45 pm

I’ve noted here before that, while 1965 seems in retrospect the nadir of the 60s (only close competitor: 1966), it was the year I fell permanently/hopelessly in love with the Oscars. I’d been devoted to the show since getting my first glimpse in 1962, but it was from 1965 on that it became a 365-day-a-year obsession. This resulted, ironically, from my enthusiasm for The Sound of Music and Lee Marvin taking home prizes – two choices from which my mature self largely recoils. (I guess this is in line with Sabin’s enthusiasm being ignited by the Braveheart win, a win he’d hardly endorse today) Anyway, it’s weird for me to look back on this near-pitiful year and realize it was the source of much of my movie-mania.

The screenplay categories are especially painful to consider. In one of the categories, I can’t work up enthusiasm for a single one of the contenders. In the other, where I can at least semi-enthusiastically make a choice, missing an entrant prevents my voting.

Start with the I-can’t-vote slate: the only version of Casanova 70 I can locate anywhere is the German-language dubbed version Magilla mentions; without subtitles, it’s useless to me. (From a quick glance, though, I realize that, all these years, I’ve had the film mixed up with Boccaccio ’70, an anthology film from the era I’ve also never seen.) And I, like others here, am disinclined to “sign up” at a site to watch. If they didn’t plan on doing something with my info, they wouldn’t be asking for it.

I loved-loved Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines when I saw it at the DeMille theatre on Broadway; let me quickly qualify, I was 13 at the time. I haven’t seen the film in all the years since (though I could probably still sing the damn theme song from memory), and I’m curious if it comes off leaden today in the way so many 60s comedies do. It’s worth noting, though, that the film not only got this nomination, it finished third (behind Darling and The Pawnbroker) in the NY Critics’ best picture vote that year. So, it was critically admired.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg of course barely qualifies as a screenplay, given its sung-through format, and I’d also question how it qualifies as original, when it plainly ripped off the entire story sequence from the Fanny movies. I like the movie well enough (apparently more than Magilla does), but it doesn’t contend for my vote.

I think, had I been a more mature filmgoer in the mid-60s, John Frankenheimer might have stood alongside Stanley Kubrick as my favorite director. To have made The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May and The Train in the same stretch (with Birdman of Alcatraz a not-bad secondary credit) made him one of the most consistent filmmakers of the era (later films like Seconds and The Fixer were solid achievements, as well). The Train is another of those movies that makes one lament how badly the adventure/thriller genre has devolved into the “action” films of this era – it used to be possible for essentially action-oriented movies to be made with intelligence and credible characters, rather than resting on one-liners, explosions and CGI. The Train is a solid example of the ilk, a very enjoyable film (and leagues better than The Monuments Men’s dealing with roughly the same topic).

I, though, will stick (or would, if I were voting) with the Academy’s choice of Darling. This isn’t as wonderful a film as Schlesinger’s later Midnight Cowboy, but in its day it was piercing, and it still has enough contemporary bite to outshine the rest of the pack. You do have to overlook some groovy then/heavy-handed now bits (like “Violation!”), but the film has more zip and structural creativity than anything else in sight. It’s my choice…but you won’t see my vote registered, because, once again, I’m not voting.

For me, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold stands head and shoulders as the best adapted work of the year. Nothing else is even worth mentioning as runner-up – definitely not the five minor efforts the writers designated the year’s best.

Speaking of heavy-handed… Ship of Fools. Stanley Kramer managed to get through the Holocaust in 1961 without going Full Metal Kramer on it, but the second time around he succumbed. I’ve never read the Porter novel (I’m not sure many have; it was widely spoken of at the time as a book people bought to display erudition but never actually read), but it provides an interesting enough panoply of characters, some of whom are brought to the screen believably (the Signoret and Werner characters especially). Kramer’s simplistic liberalism, though, obliterates much of the rest. Not a bad movie, exactly, but short of a good one.

Doctor Zhivago is another movie I loved as a high-schooler, but found seriously wanting upon a later watch. The opening sequences, those establishing Christie’s relationship with Steiger, as well as those setting up the Revolution, are absorbing enough, but at a certain point the story seems to just ramble – Zhivago goes out on the road and runs into Lara, then he’s with his family, then he meets Lara again, etc. I did find the climactic final scene – the futile pursuit of Lara off the streetcar – pretty vivid and gripping back then; since it could never again have the element of surprise, I can’t say how I’d react to it today. Overall, though, I can’t see this as a notable work of screenwriting; the Oscar win was probably more indicative of the film’s second-place status in the best picture race than anything else.

A Thousand Clowns was the WGA winner that year; Herb Gardner went in to the Oscars, thinking he might win. I heard him tell the story that he’d been told to watch which theme music the then-visible Academy conductor leaned toward; he swore it was his film’s. Which wouldn't have been a great outcome, either. I probably have more affection for Garnder’s play than most here – I did scenes from it for classes in college, when it was still a relatively fresh work. And I think some of the dialogue is funny. But the overall play is pretty minor, plus the adaptation is slapdash (and shrilly directed), so it doesn’t rate the vote.

Cat Ballou has its funny moments – “Happy birthday” completely killed me in 1966, and I think the overall thing is amusing. But it’s such a minor thing, with stretches that seem to drag. It was the kind of movie that could only become a sleeper hit/Academy favorite in a truly moribund year.

Like, I see, a number of people, I’ve settled on The Collector, though I don’t think it’s anything great. Its subject matter has of course by now been repeated many times, but in 1965 it was an edgy, creepy piece of work that managed to deal with its characters sympathetically without slipping over into indulgence. Nothing earth-shattering, but, in this context, solid, and really the only choice for my vote.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1965

Postby ITALIANO » Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:03 am

Big Magilla wrote: It's crap no matter what language you watch it in.


Well... Now, come on...


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