Best Screenplay 1972

1927/28 through 1997

What were the best original and adapted screenplays of 1972?

The Candidate (Jeremy Larner)
0
No votes
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Bunuel and Jean-Claude Carriere)
12
34%
Lady Sings the Blues (Chris Clark, Suzanne de Passe and Terence McCloy)
2
6%
Murmer of the Heart (Louis Malle)
3
9%
Young Winston (Carl Foreman)
0
No votes
Cabaret (Jay Presson Allen)
6
17%
The Emigrants (Bengt Forslund and Jan Troell)
1
3%
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo)
11
31%
Pete 'n Tillie (Julius J. Epstein)
0
No votes
Sounder (Lonne Elder)
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 35

The Original BJ
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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby The Original BJ » Fri May 05, 2017 7:46 pm

On the Adapted side, I agree that there were plentiful alternates -- The Heartbreak Kid (the one time I genuinely loved Neil Simon), Deliverance, Frenzy, Slaughter-House Five -- and also that the slate was solid enough there wouldn't necessarily have been room for all of them, but at least ONE of them should have knocked out...

Pete 'n' Tillie, which I found a really incompetent piece of screenwriting. The tone feels off throughout -- at times it seems like it's trying to be a wised-up comedy, but it's never very funny, and other times it seems to be seriously trying to explore grief, but it's never very moving either. And for a movie without all that many characters, it still manages to under-service most of them. This is the kind of movie that reminds me that not all 1970s movies were "1970s movies."

The other nominees are all respectable. Sounder isn't really a bracing movie -- though one has to acknowledge the rarity of serious works about black families, then and in the years since -- but it has a lot of sensitive touches along the way, and I find its modesty very welcoming. But it doesn't jazz me enough on the script level to make it a winner.

The Emigrants actually has a lot in common with Sounder -- it's another moving family drama that gets most of its impact out of small character moments, and captures the experiences of a community in America at a specific time and place with great detail. I agree with Mister Tee that on a dialogue level, it's on the simple side, but the story is thoroughly engaging, and for a three-hour movie, that's no small feat.

Cabaret has one of the strongest -- maybe even THE strongest -- screenplay for any film musical. A lot of this has to do with the fact that so much of it was reworked for the screen, jettisoning the old lovers storyline, and incorporating other characters from Isherwood into a new dramatic spine for the musical. As a result, this is one of the least stage-bound transfers in movie musical history, and though Fosse deserves a lot of credit for that, the script certainly gave him a strong assist.

But as a screenwriting achievement, The Godfather stands well above this roster. It's full of memorable characters, wonderful dialogue, and smart cultural/historical details that shape this quintessentially American epic. And structurally, it's beautifully put together, weaving the storylines of numerous family members (including an extended flashback) so that they culminate in an ending of great power. It's also just so effortlessly watchable, barrelling along with the kind of strong narrative energy you WOULD associate with a potboiler of a novel, but with so much more insight and emotional resonance along the way. An easy choice.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jun 15, 2015 5:34 pm

The Original BJ wrote:The Candidate is a solid political drama, with a fairly well-detailed portrait of the ins and outs of a senate campaign trail. And I liked the way the movie approached its ideas with a modicum of subtlety -- it doesn't spell out the changes Redford's protagonist is going through, but allows the audience to experience them gradually, not even really realizing how much he's compromising until the movie's end. But I thought this approach had a weakness as well, mainly the fact that, by the conclusion to the story, it didn't feel like it had reached any grand level of insight either. Of course, this problem was exacerbated for me by context -- in 2015, the idea that decent people can be corrupted by the political machine wasn't exactly as revelatory to me as it might have been in the pre-Watergate era. But I can only report my honest reaction, which was an overall feeling of "Is that all there is?" once the movie was over.


It wasn't exactly revelatory in 1972 either, nor would it have been even in ancient Greek drama. "Is that all there is?" was my reaction at the time as well.
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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jun 15, 2015 5:00 pm

When you think about it, this is exactly the kind of lineup you would expect when none of the Best Picture candidates are Originals: two cool foreign films on one end of the spectrum, two bloated white elephants on the other end, and a down-the-middle drama that ends up the victor based on compromise.

It's too bad, given some of more grisly nominees, that voters couldn't have gotten a comedy in there -- I, too, would endorse What's Up, Doc? for nomination, which is cleverly constructed and laugh-out-loud funny throughout.

Young Winston has to count as one of the more insufferably boring movies I've sat through in recent months. The tedious voice-over in the opening moments caused me to settle into my couch with dread, and I never recovered from this state of agony until the movie lumbered to its conclusion after an interminable two and a half hours. This is history presented with zero insight or point of view, and I second the notion that the material on screen barely even qualifies as a story but for the fact that its hero went on to become such a legendary world leader.

I'm not much of a fan of musical biographies, and Lady Sings the Blues is basically two and a half hours of everything I dislike about them. All of the tropes are here -- traumatic childhood, rise-to-fame montages, spousal conflict, drugs. And the entire narrative feels utterly shapeless, as if it had barely been guided by the hand of a writer at all, much less three. Plus, having now seen Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill -- a far more intelligent and emotionally engaging account of Billie Holiday's life -- Lady Sings the Blues just felt irrelevant to me.

The Candidate is a solid political drama, with a fairly well-detailed portrait of the ins and outs of a senate campaign trail. And I liked the way the movie approached its ideas with a modicum of subtlety -- it doesn't spell out the changes Redford's protagonist is going through, but allows the audience to experience them gradually, not even really realizing how much he's compromising until the movie's end. But I thought this approach had a weakness as well, mainly the fact that, by the conclusion to the story, it didn't feel like it had reached any grand level of insight either. Of course, this problem was exacerbated for me by context -- in 2015, the idea that decent people can be corrupted by the political machine wasn't exactly as revelatory to me as it might have been in the pre-Watergate era. But I can only report my honest reaction, which was an overall feeling of "Is that all there is?" once the movie was over.

Somehow, I managed to avoid finding out The Big Issue in Murmur of the Heart before watching it, so when that scene came, I was caught off guard that the movie was going in that direction. But I was impressed that that moment felt like it had evolved so cohesively from the story we'd been following until that point -- it wasn't exploitative or shocking, but a logical culmination of the coming-of-age/familial conflicts that characterized the film. And much of these details were really spot-on -- the way the younger mom feels almost like a friend to her children than a parent, the way the hero's brothers are just a few years older but feel like they're in a practically different stage of life entirely than he is -- and scripted in such a warmly funny, wistful manner. A fully deserving nominee.

But I've seen a lot of coming-of-age dramedies over the years; The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a far more singular creation. It has conceptual similarities to other Buñuel films, of course, but it's still remarkable that a premise as outlandish as "a group of friends keep trying to sit down for a meal and can never go through with it" would inspire set pieces of such variety and imagination, and be able to sustain them for the running time of a whole movie. The script juggles wildly different tones -- from the hilarious to the shocking to the dreamlike -- and still manages to cohere into a brutally incisive satire about the vapidness of upper class life in the latter part of the twentieth century. I have to side with the majority here in picking Buñuel for by far the most ambitious script on the ballot, and one that fulfills its great aims in such a confident and delightfully fanciful manner.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby ITALIANO » Fri Jun 12, 2015 3:07 pm

Of the three English-language nominees in Original, The Candidate is definitely the best - though that's easy when the others are Lady Sings The Blues (a truly puzzling inclusion) and Young Wiston (a bit better maybe, but still ponderous, unexciting). The Candidate isn't the most biting political movie of that decade, maybe, but it's still a movie of that decade - committed, mostly unsentimental, well-meaning. But there are two more nominees - both from Europe, both among the most celebrated, and somehow controversial movies of that period. It's difficul to choose between Louis Malle and Luis Bunuel at their best; Murmur of the Heart is full of unusually realistic details about the intimate, even sexual life of teenagers, and about growing up in provincial France at a certain time; it's alternatively funny and, if not sad, meditative, and it has a great role for Italian diva Lea Massari (her best ever, probably). It's also, at times, maybe a bit slow. Still, it would be a worthy winner - except that The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is possibly THE 70s movie par excellence: intelligent, provocative, witty, and with that typical Spanish combination of the surreal and the grotesque. A great script, really.

In Adapted, I've ended up voting for The Godfather - which is, while not as good as Part II, still a remarkable achievement, full of memorable characters and impressive scenes. A rich screenplay, certainly. Cabaret may be - in my opinion, IS - a better movie, and, for a musical, an unusually multi-layered script. But how much of it is faithfully taken from the stage hit it is based on? Maybe less than it uses to happen, but I really have no idea, and prefer to give my vote to a nominee I am more certain of.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Big Magilla » Sat May 30, 2015 3:21 pm

Greg wrote:I think one reason the screenplay for Cabaret stands out is that it is a less musical musical, in that only two of its principal characters, the characters who sing at the cabaret for a living, sing at all and the others only talk. Is this the only major musical that has just two singing characters? I cannot think of any others off hand.


The Last 5 Years has jut two characters period as does I Do! I Do!, but that one hasn't been filmed yet. Cabaret has three including the Hitler youth who sings "Tomorrow Belongs To Me". My only quibble about the film is that they only play snippets of "Married" as an instrumental. The wistful ballad, sung on Broadway by Lotte Lenya as Frau Schneider, the landlady, is my favorite of the score next to the title song.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Greg » Sat May 30, 2015 10:38 am

I think one reason the screenplay for Cabaret stands out is that it is a less musical musical, in that only two of its principal characters, the characters who sing at the cabaret for a living, sing at all and the others only talk. Is this the only major musical that has just two singing characters? I cannot think of any others off hand.
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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Precious Doll » Sat May 30, 2015 12:51 am

Easy picks for me this year.

Original: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Adapted: Cabaret

The Godfather & Murmur of the Heart are the only other major standouts.

Major omissions for me, which the Academy would never nominate, were Savage Messiah for adapted & Heat for original.
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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Kellens101 » Fri May 29, 2015 9:05 pm

I find it very appalling that Neil Simon could get nominated for mediocre comedies like The Goodbye Girl and California Suite and not even be acknowledged for his greatest work, the dark comedy The Heartbreak Kid. This movie is so brilliant and so underrated. I would definitely had nominated the hilarious script, along with Eddie Albert and Jeannie Berlin's equally hilarious performances. What an under appreciated gem of a movie, much like a What's up Doc? And you're so right Mister Tee, there's some great dialogue. My favorites were Charles Grodin's rant about the pecan pie running out, his discussion to Cybill Shepherd's family about honest Midwestern food, and Eddie Albert's response to Grodin's proposal to his daughter.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Mister Tee » Fri May 29, 2015 7:54 pm

Slaughterhouse-Five was a quite creditable film version of a novel that should have been unadaptable, and Stephen Geller deserved some credit for that. Neil Simon gets multiple nominations for his mediocre comedies, but his strongest screen credit, for The Heartbreak Kid, gets left by the wayside. (Some truly hilarious dialogue in this one.) And, though it wasn’t on a par with Hitchcock classics, Frenzy made something of a decent swan song for the director, and the Anthony Shaffer screenplay was worth praise.

Not to say there was room for all these also-rans, but there sure should have been space for at least one, because Pete ‘n’ Tillie was an incomprehensible seat-filler. The movie, an ungainly mix of wiseass comedy and shameless weeper, hadn’t got anything like strong reviews; the only reason I can think of for its nomination was writers’ branch devotion to old friend Julius Epstein. (They came through again for him a decade later, when he adapted another DeVries book into Reuben, Reuben) A truly silly nomination.

Sounder was fairly over-praised by critics at the time because its overwhelming niceness was seen as antidote to the sometimes angry and widely popular Blaxploitation pictures. The film isn’t an embarrassment – it never slips into full-out cloying – and Tyson and Winfield give performances of real integrity. But whenever I try to watch it again, I’m overtaken by the feeling I’m not virtuous enough to live in its universe.

The Emigrants is a strong epic about struggle – struggles to survive economic hardship or religious persecution, to withstand the elements of a grueling sea journey, and to adjust to life in a land far from home. There’s not a lot of humor in the film (or in these people’s lives), but it makes for a compelling story – a view from the other side of the immigration saga. I can’t say the film is memorable on the dialogue level, but it’s a solid enough story. So, I salute its nomination, without giving it my vote.

I’m surprised Cabaret is doing as well as it is here. I bow to none in my devotion to the film, and I gave it my votes for both film and director. However, even though I think Cabaret has as strong a libretto as any musical film ever made – memorable, funny and pungent dialogue throughout, that made the film just as strong as drama as it was as a musical – I do have the sense its greatest triumphs were conceptual and directorial.

While The Godfather qualifies as a truly impressive piece of screenwriting – more than that, something like miracle-level adaptation. Puzo’s novel, for those who’ve never read it, is filled with trashy elements: the woman with the extra-wide vagina, Johnny Fontane’s Oscar night public mating with the best actress winner, the alcoholic lounge singer “Nino”. Coppola himself said, when he started reading, he was asking himself, What is this, The Carpetbaggers? What he had the wit to do was to cast all that dreck aside and extract the gripping story at its center – more than that: find the thematic resonance in it that only half-existed in Puzo’s conception, and make it a film about the corruption at the core of the American dream. The film is beautifully structured in a classical way, making Michael’s painful descent from hoped-for respectability to following in the family business tragic but inevitable. And there’s a ton of great dialogue – from the famous throwaways (“Leave the gun; take the cannoli”) to the full-bodied Michael/Vito garden scene. All together, this strikes me as a significant screenwriting achievement, and it gets me to vote for it despite competition from one of my favorite films ever.

My favorite original on the year, bar none, is Benton & Newman’s Bad Company, a picaresque Western with echoes of Vietnam that was funny and gripping. I wouldn’t have advocated for it in 1972, because I hadn’t seen it then – the movie’d sunk quickly in its initial release. But the Public Theatre sponsored a revival sometime late in the decade – when there weren’t so many competing good movies as there’d been in 1972 – and friends and I went to see it more than once. It still doesn’t have an emphatic reputation, but I recommend it highly.

What’s Up, Doc? was a movie I DID love in 1972 – there aren’t many times I can recall laughing as much in a movie theatre as I did at this. Viewings at a later age have made me wonder if I overrated it in my youth…but maybe it’s just the inevitable diminution of comedies when the surprise element is gone. I know I’ll always cherish the moment of everyone sticking their heads under the dining table, and the waiter asking “What wine are they serving at that table?”

I haven’t seen Lady Sings the Blues since Christmas of ’72, and don’t have great interest in looking at it again. Holliday’s autobiography was apparently massively fictionalized to begin with, and the Motown crew pushed it all the way over into Hollywood schmaltz. On paper, Diana Ross seemed all wrong for the part – “genuine” was not a word much associated with her – so the fact that she carried it off reasonably well got the movie more cred than it probably deserved. As a script, though? -- a thoroughly dismissable nomination.

Young Winston is another for the “saw it four decades ago and haven’t thought about it since” category. I remember the movie being lively enough, but not really having much reason for being; my feeling at the time was, if we didn’t know this guy was going to grow up to be the eminent Winston Churchill, there’d be no particular reason to see the film. That said, it’s considerably more watchable than Attenborough’s later films.

The Candidate was OK. The message that political candidates don’t hold steadfast to principle may have come as more news in 1972 than it does today, but even then I think the brazen fact about the film was suggesting that liberal good-guy candidates were just as capable of such trimming as right-wingers (who were still at the hissable stage in most American films). McCarthy campaign veteran Larner’s script was savvy about the nuts and bolts of political campaigns, and that, too, was far more novel to audiences back then than it would be today. In general, an inoffensive winner, though it’s not getting my vote here.

I figured The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie would be the choice of most here, and you’re well in line with critical opinion. It’s me that’s the outlier, and I fear it’s just another case, like I had with Streetcar Named Desire, of my being exposed to a work before I was ready for it. I wasn’t exactly young when I saw the film – in college – but my consumption of foreign-language films wasn’t very far along, and even less advanced was my acquaintance with surrealism. I found the movie largely baffling. In subsequent years, I saw many-many Bunuel films, and loved several of them – particularly Belle du Jour, Tristana, and this film’s near-cousin, The Exterminating Angel. I assumed that the latter-day me would fall more in line with critical opinion. But I watched it again a year or so ago, and disappointingly found it still didn’t really work for me. There were parts I liked, but as whole it just failed to gel. It’s debatable whether that initial viewing fatally compromised my ability to ever care for the film, or if it’s just a case where I stand stubbornly apart from consensus. All I can offer is my honest reaction, and if I do’t like a flm, I can’t give it my vote, however much everyone else enthuses over it.

Which leaves me with Murmur of the Heart, yet another film I haven’t seen in four decades. (In the two weeks since I put it on my Netflix queue, it’s gone from Available to Short Wait to Extremely Long wait – a remarkably similar trajectory to that undergone by And Now My Love. Either people from this website are storming the rental lines, or there’s something hinky at Netflix.) But I remember the film as a pretty much a lark – which was surprising, since it came promoted as The Movie About Incest. But the incest, like everything else in the movie, was played in a “this is just how things happen in life” way, and it fit with the film’s overall sunny approach. This was one of the better coming-of-age movies of the era, and it’s my place to park my vote as part of the loyal opposition.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Big Magilla » Thu May 28, 2015 2:16 pm

Tough year, tough choices.

Bunuel's Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is the créme de la créme of the nominated originals, but I wonder if it would be such an easy win if the competition included such other nominees as Tokyo Story, Late Spring and Limelight, all of which had their belated L.A. engagements in 1972.

In Adapted, throw out Pete n Tillie and put in Butterflies Are Free or Travels With My Aunt, but give the award to Cabaret or The Godfather.

My votes go to Discreet and Godfather.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Kellens101 » Wed May 27, 2015 4:13 pm

Those were great lines. Pretty much the entire movie is chock-full of hugely hilarious lines though. I could watch that movie over and over again.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Greg » Wed May 27, 2015 3:58 pm

Kellens101 wrote:I wish that What's Up Doc was nominated though for its delightful and hilariously entertaining 1970s set screwball farce, but that film was sadly entirely ignored.


My favorite funny lines were those with everyone in front of the judge.

"They tried to molest me!"
"That's un-be-liev-a-ble."

"I'm a doctor of music."
"Can you fix a hi-fi?"
"No."
"Then shut up!"

"Is that clear?"
"No, but it's consistent."
You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.

Victor Hugo

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Re: Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Kellens101 » Wed May 27, 2015 2:13 pm

My Original vote would go to The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, one of Bunuel's best and an inventive, strange and darkly funny masterpiece. My Adapted vote would go to the Godfather, an iconic and amazing film with a hugely great narrative, dialogue and characters. It's a very easy choice and one of the greatest films of all time. But I also think Murmer of the Heart, the Emigrants and Cabaret would be great choices. I wish that What's Up Doc was nominated though for its delightful and hilariously entertaining 1970s set screwball farce, but that film was sadly entirely ignored.

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Best Screenplay 1972

Postby Kellens101 » Wed May 27, 2015 9:47 am

What was the best screenplay of 1972?


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