Best Screenplay 1981

1927/28 through 1997

What were the best original and adapted screenplays of 1981?

Absence of Malice(Kurt Luedtke)
0
No votes
Arthur(Steve Gordon)
0
No votes
Atlantic City(John Guare)
13
33%
Chariots of Fire(Colin Welland)
2
5%
Reds(Warren Beatty and Trevor Griffiths)
6
15%
On Golden Pond(Ernest Thompson)
2
5%
Pennies from Heaven(Dennis Potter)
5
13%
Prince of the City(Jay Presson Allen and Sidney Lumet)
8
21%
Ragtime(Michael Weller)
0
No votes
The French Lieutenant's Woman(Harold Pinter)
3
8%
 
Total votes: 39

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Jul 05, 2015 9:36 pm

FilmFan720 wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:Tee, you have an impeccable memory:

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/12/12/movie ... floor.html


I had posted the text below, for those without an NYT account!

Must've been while I was posting the link. :o

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby FilmFan720 » Sun Jul 05, 2015 3:20 pm

Big Magilla wrote:Tee, you have an impeccable memory:

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/12/12/movie ... floor.html


I had posted the text below, for those without an NYT account!
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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jul 05, 2015 3:14 pm

Big Magilla wrote:Tee, you have an impeccable memory:

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/12/12/movie ... floor.html

My search skills not quite as impressive.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Jul 05, 2015 2:56 pm


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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby FilmFan720 » Sun Jul 05, 2015 2:43 pm

Mister Tee wrote:
The Original BJ wrote:...no Emma Goldman at all!


I can't find any online confirmation of this, but my recollection is of the NY Times running an article saying the original cut of the film had run to an unwieldy length, and that the character of Emma Goldman -- played, I'm pretty sure, by Mariclare Costello -- was eliminated entirely.


WHEN EMMA GOLDMAN HIT CUTTING-ROOM FLOOR
By ALJEAN HARMETZ, Special to the New York Times
Published: December 12, 1981


HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 11— When E.L. Doctorow's ''Ragtime'' reached movie screens a few weeks ago, most of the historical figures who interacted with the novel's fictional family were missing. The book had been crammed with such titans of the first decade of the 20th century as J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud and Harry Houdini, but critics mourned in particular the loss of the anarchist Emma Goldman.

It was assumed that some artistic decision had been made in advance by the screenwriter, Michael Weller, and the director, Milos Forman, to eliminate Miss Goldman, who in the novel had raised both the consciousness and temperature of the showgirl Evelyn Nesbit in a sexually tinged political encounter. It will doubtless surprise all those who made that assumption that there was an Emma Goldman in the movie, but her entire role landed on the cutting-room floor in July, when the $32 million movie was shortened from more than three hours to its final 2 hours and 36 minutes.

Mariclare Costello, who spent three weeks in London and New York last year playing Emma Goldman, is imperturbable about what most actresses would regard as a serious setback to their careers. ''It was certainly an interesting role I was delighted to do,'' she says, ''but, in terms of one's life, it's just a movie. I'm disappointed, but I didn't expect it to make me a movie star.'' Busy on Stage and TV

Miss Costello, who was featured last year as Mary Tyler Moore's sister-in-law in ''Ordinary People,'' is much better known as a stage and television actress. She played the hero's first wife opposite Jason Robards in the original Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center production of Arthur Miller's ''After the Fall'' in 1964 and recreated the role 10 years later in a television production with Christopher Plummer. She also performed on Broadway with James Stewart in ''Harvey.''

Her first film role was opposite Dustin Hoffman in ''The Tiger Makes Out''; her biggest film role was with Zohra Lampert in a horror movie called ''Let's Scare Jessica to Death.''

On television, she has starred in one less-than-successful series, ''The Fitzpatricks''; as a German terrorist in ''The Raid on Entebbe,'' as Private Slovik's wife in ''The Execution of Private Slovik'' and opposite Kenny Rogers in ''Coward of the County'' in October

She had, she thinks, ''maybe eight minutes of screen time in 'Ragtime.' '' But it was expensive screen time. Recognizing the showgirl Evelyn Nesbit in a crowd on the Lower East Side, Emma Goldman causes a riot with a speech about poverty and money that uses Miss Nesbit as an example of the way male exploiters use women. The speech is broken up by 50 mounted New York policemen.

''Taking Emma Goldman out was not an easy decision,'' says Mr. Forman, the director. ''She was there for six and a half minutes, and I wanted her left in. It was the only spot where Dino'' - referring to the film's producer, Dino de Laurentiis - ''and I disagreed. He thought her scenes slowed the pace of the film. So we called in an arbiter - the author, E.L. Doctorow. He agreed with Dino. We did it the democratic way, 2 against 1.'' The Emma of 'Reds'

''Red Emma,'' the turn-of-the-century anarchist and feminist whose name was probably unknown to most Americans until the publication of ''Ragtime,'' is, however, a major character in another film, the $33 million ''Reds.'' Played by Maureen Stapleton in a unanimously praised performance, the Emma Goldman of ''Reds'' is a tough, earthy woman who is able to stare anything in the face, including her eventual disillusionment with the Russian Revolution.

In both the book and movie of ''Ragtime,'' Emma Goldman's quite different function was ''to make us aware of the class structure in America in that time,'' says Mr. Forman. ''In the book, she was absolutely necessary. In the film, we see the class structure with our own eyes. We see how they walk on the Lower East Side, how the middle class looks, how the rich live. We don't need a character to tell us.''

Miss Costello - who lives in a comfortable hillside house with her husband, Allan Arbus, who is also an actor, and her 4-year-old daughter, Arin - butters some slices of homemade bread hot from the oven. ''A disappointment,'' she says again. ''But not a tragedy'' is what her tone implies.

She smiles. ''And Milos said there is a possibility my scenes might go back in when 'Ragtime' is released to television.''

Illustrations: photo of Mariclare Costello as Emma Goldman cut from 'Ragtime'
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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jul 05, 2015 2:28 pm

The Original BJ wrote:...no Emma Goldman at all!


I can't find any online confirmation of this, but my recollection is of the NY Times running an article saying the original cut of the film had run to an unwieldy length, and that the character of Emma Goldman -- played, I'm pretty sure, by Mariclare Costello -- was eliminated entirely.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Jul 04, 2015 7:51 pm

On the Adapted side of this situation, I concur that On Golden Pond is a bummer of a choice. Of course, it has "filmed play" issues, and in this case the movie really FEELS like a claustrophobic stage piece just slapped up on screen. But even beyond that, the material itself is just so aggressively schmaltzy, a parent/child reconciliation drama that culminates in a sequence so simplistic in its resolution it's hard to fathom the writer had any experience with the complexities of actual families. All those good actors do their best with the material, but at its core it's just so shallow.

I understand that the task of adapting John Fowles's novel wasn't an easy one -- though I haven't read it to make any kind of informed comparison -- but I find the film version of The French Lieutenant's Woman pretty underwhelming. When Mister Tee wrote that the novel was more literary than dramatic, I thought, that would make sense. Because the actual narrative on-screen is REALLY thin, to the point where much of the titular character's actions made little sense to me -- watching the movie, I just kept thinking, I bet the psychology behind her motivations was explained better in the book. And then the modern storyline invented for the film just sat there like dead weight for me. This isn't to say the script is utterly without intelligence or taste -- the "I am the French lieutenant's...WHORE" monologue, for instance, is pretty captivating -- but on the whole I find it too under-conceived as cinema for my taste.

Perhaps no experience was more formative in turning me into a lifelong theater fan than seeing the musical of Ragtime on Broadway at twelve years old -- to this day, no song reduces me to an absolute puddle as much as "Make Them Hear You." I first saw the movie shortly after that, and was surprised that it left me almost entirely cold. I figured I needed to give the movie a second chance with adult eyes, so I revisited it last week, and was considerably more impressed, though the viewing of course carried with it the usual baggage when one is overly familiar with other versions of the material -- a willingness to forgive certain flaws based on deep affection for the story, and a simultaneous level of nit-picking over how the filmmakers chose to mount this version. The film remains a thoughtfully mounted portrait of a wide cross section of turn-of-the-century America, though it was interesting to note this time which characters the film privileged and which it excised, sometimes to its detriment (i.e. too much Evelyn Nesbit, not enough Tateh, and no Emma Goldman at all!) And though I admired the way the film moved so dexterously through so many characters and storylines, at times I found myself using my knowledge of the material to flesh out certain storytelling gaps. All in all, I've concluded that the film is a very respectable effort, but it just doesn't reach me as much as what Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty, & Lynn Ahrens would do with it down the line.

I figured Prince of the City would be the favored effort here, and I don't strongly object to that selection in any way. It's a very well-detailed, rather exhaustingly researched account of the difficulties of going on the up-and-up in a world defined by corruption. The script succeeds at depicting the specific struggles of one man, while at the same time exposing the grim reality of an entire flawed system, making tragically clear the idea that it's nearly impossible to fight crime in American society without at least getting one's hands a little dirty. It's a very ambitious work, gripping in structure and layered in theme, and full of very strong dialogue exchanges -- like the entire discussion about what counts as perjury or not -- that set it a cut above your average crime flick. This would have been a perfectly solid winner.

But I have a real soft spot for Pennies From Heaven, and I'm going to take the opportunity to grant it the one major prize I can. I haven't often voted for musicals in the screenplay category, and I get others' resistance to picking this one, given that, like most films in the genre, the visual, choreographic, and musical elements are more significant triumphs. But here I found the movie's entire conception, narrative invention, and thematic resonance to be at such an original level, I don't have a problem voting for the script. (It may help that I'm NOT familiar with the miniseries, so I only have this version to judge.) I first saw the movie in my Film Theories class in film school, and it was just a perfect movie to analyze in that context. Pennies From Heaven takes the escapist musical fare of the '30's and exposes it as a lie, forcing the genre to collide with the much darker realities of life in America during the Depression -- for people without money, for women, for blacks. And yet, at the same time, it still manages to show great affection for that which is old fashioned and frothy, borrowing a bit of Sullivan's Travels's idea that sometimes laughter is all people have. I think this is one of the more underrated movies of the '80's, and I'll show it some love with my vote for Adapted Screenplay this year.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby Kellens101 » Wed Apr 01, 2015 5:54 am

BJ, you would've given Reds Best Cinematography over Raiders of the Lost Ark? Both are visually beautiful, but I'd give the edge to Raiders of the Lost Ark for the stunning photography of the many glorious set pieces and some gorgeous lighting by Douglas Slocombe.Reds, though, has some pretty gorgeous images by the amazing Vittorio Storaro(who I would've given wins to for The Conformist, Apocalypse Now and The Last Emperor.)

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Apr 01, 2015 2:29 am

Under Original, I'd definitely have nominated Raiders of the Lost Ark, for its tight structure and clever wit. I'd also have included Body Heat -- despite obvious similarities in structure to earlier films, I found its modern riff on noir to be supremely confident and morbidly funny.

I find the actual nominees to be a mostly uninspiring slate.

Absence of Malice is probably the least impressive piece of writing. I felt much of the premise really pushed credulity -- Bob Balaban assumes the best way to get information from Newman is to leave a file on his desk? And no one steps in to prevent Field from committing the outrageous ethics violations that set off the plot? This isn't to say the movie completely avoids interesting territory -- once you get past the premise, the film gets to some compelling questions about journalistic integrity -- but then Field and Newman have to fall in love, and the entire romance just feels shoehorned into a narrative where it doesn't belong.

Humor, of course, is one of the more subjective elements of life and art, but I have to admit that I didn't find Arthur to be all that funny. It may be that, by the time I got to it, the lovable drunk just wasn't a character that could come off as amusing as it might have upon the film's release. And though I thought Moore and Gielgud had some nicely written banter between them, much of the narrative's episodic nature (especially in the second half) really tried my patience as it went on. And isn't the ending -- where Arthur basically gets EVERYTHING he wants -- just a little bit too easy?

It's worth commending Chariots of Fire for the fact that it avoids a rather simplistic, "rah-rah" take on sports, where the greatest triumph possible is simply to win your competition. My problem, though, is that I don't think the movie replaces that approach with anything all that compelling. The plot feels so half-hearted to me -- for a movie about the Olympics, the stakes don't seem to be very high -- and I feel like I have virtually zero memory of anything interesting about either main character outside of their religion (though I do think the movie's most thoughtful ideas swirl around the issues related to the Christianity and Judaism of its protagonists.) I wish the script had coasted less on the nostalgic atmospheric details and built a stronger foundation for its story.

I figured Atlantic City would be our winner, as it was with the critics' prizes in this category. And I, too, am a big fan of John Guare in general. But I just don't see the greatness in this movie that some do. I think the script has some very memorable elements -- certainly Burt Lancaster's character is a wonderful creation, and there's some very graceful, well-written dialogue exchanges throughout the movie. And I like the way the film allows the nostalgia for Atlantic City's past (and by extension, the past of its protagonist) to butt up against the realities of living in such a place at this moment in time. But...I just don't feel like the narrative has many surprises in the plot department, and by the end of the movie it just didn't feel like it had taken me much of anywhere.

This isn't to say that I think Reds screams screenplay prizes. It's more the kind of movie you could pick in Picture, Director, and Cinematography, and then find something more writer-centric in Original Screenplay. It's an overstuffed movie, for sure, with a script that definitely meanders, and some of the best moments in the film (involving the witnesses) don't count towards its writing credentials. But it's still my easy choice here. The film is a thoughtful, politically-charged portrait of history, which examines a time and place with epic scale while still bringing to life a central quartet of real-life characters with great intimacy. And in its best moments (like Reed and Bryant accidentally running into each other at the train station, or the heartbreaking final scene) it reaches moments of great emotional power that I don't think its competitors even touch. This is yet another category I'd have happily given to Warren Beatty this year.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby Precious Doll » Sun Mar 29, 2015 12:22 am

Original - Atlantic City in a heartbeat. Nothing else nominated comes close, though Red is not without it's merits.

Adapted - I haven't seen any of these since they were first released and it's between Prince of the City & Ragtime. I voted for the former.
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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby jack » Sat Mar 28, 2015 6:40 pm

I flirted back and forth between Atlantic City and On Golden Pond. I chose the latter . I'm well aware that both are somewhat slight, though they're guilty pleasures for me.

In regard to Raiders. No. The Big Bang Theory proved why.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby Kellens101 » Sat Mar 28, 2015 5:53 pm

In Original, I'd vote for Reds, which is a grand and ambitious epic that mostly succeeds its aims. I thought Beatty did a great job with the life of John Reed and the political and emotional struggles during that time. The romance between him and Diane Keaton is also somewhat successful as these two meet and leave each other over a course of years. It does get a little bit messy at some points since the film is so long and full of so many ideas and characters, but I thought it was an incredibly ambitious and great film. Atlantic City would be my runner-up for its poignant tale of aging gangster Burt Lancaster in his nostalgic search for happiness in the lost dreams of the past. I found it to be a very good film and a very good script. Sadly, the only award I'd give it would be for Burt Lancaster's heartbreaking and career-best performance. The other three aren't that good. Absence of Malice is a pretty lightweight and somewhat dull movie with not that much depth or originality. It's tastefully done, but it's nothing special. Arthur is a pretty funny movie at times, with some funny one liners and scenes. But, it does get very annoying by the end and it's definitely not the comedy great that some people think it is. Chariots of Fire is also a not very special and dull film. I have no idea why it won so many awards it did and its only real major element of distinction is the rousing score, and even that I wouldn't vote for. Not the best category this year.

In Adapted, I would vote for Prince of the City, not Sidney Lumet's ultimate best film, but a very good one with a great script that depicts the stress and pressure of a cop exposing the corruption in New York City, like Serpico. It definitely didn't feel like I was watching the same film over again, because this film was fresh as well. I agree it was a little bit long(almost 3 hours) for this kind of film, but I thought the film and script were very good.

Pennies from Heaven is a massively underrated movie that sadly failed at the box-office when it came out. I thought Herbert Ross's story of people finding joy and wealth in the sadness of Depression-era America was simultaneously stunning, disturbing, heartbreaking and realistic. But, though a very good screenplay, the film's most special elements were the acting, the gorgeous cinematography by the great Gordon Willis, the beautiful production design and costumes and Herbert Ross's direction.

The French Lieutenant's Woman was a clever and interesting screenplay about two separate stories: one a doomed English romance and the tale of two actors and their love affair while playing the former characters in a play. I thought the movie took this set up to reasonably interesting directions, but I wouldn't vote for it.

Ragtime is a very ambitious film about turn of the century America and the tumultuous time that was, full of racism, scandals and celebrities. The multiple plot lines are all fascinating as we follow all these characters and their lives throughout. I did think, like Reds, it was a bit messy, as it crammed all these stories and characters into one whole, but I found this epic film to be quite successful.

The worst nominee would definitely be On Golden Pond, a sentimental, corny schmaltzfest that features some clunky dialogue, cliched plot lines and that horrible kid, who I wanted trust be erased off the screen for he was so incredibly irritating. Not a hugely terrible film, but one with some pretty obvious major flaws.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby Kellens101 » Thu Mar 26, 2015 7:32 pm

If Raiders of the Lost Ark were nominated, they would've been my Original vote by far. Strange that the Academy ignored the script when it got a bunch of other nominations. I would gladly have given Raiders my wins for Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, Editing, Sound, Makeup and Visual Effects.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby ITALIANO » Thu Mar 26, 2015 3:28 pm

In Original, the winner, Chariots of Fire, isn't exactly a bad screenplay, and in theory its very British emotional discretion could be a plus. Yet the human side is really too slight, too bidimensional, there's no real depth - it's all a bit too "neat", too smooth - and too hagiographic even. In good taste, but still hagiographic. It's between Reds and Atlantic City. Reds works admiraby both as an epic and as an intimate portrayal of a relationship - it takes its liberties with histories, but does so rather effectively, and you feel that there's intelligence behind it. But there is, I'd say, more than intelligence behind Atlantic City - there's the insight and the talent of a writer, a real writer. It's probably little more than a character study, but done with an empathy - and a lack of sentimentalism - which are becoming rare in American cinema today. I feel nostalgic, and I've voted for it.

Many years ago, when I was in my early twenties and was studying screenwriting at the prestigious Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia of Rome, my three teachers were all important screenwriters, and all former Oscar nominees (one would be nominated a second time afterwards). One of them, the glorious Suso Cecchi D'Amico, was our teacher for Adapting. And who better than her? She had written famous movies based on such literary masterpieces as Senso, White Nights, The Leopard, Time of Indifference, The Taming of the Shrew, The Stranger, Metello, The Innocent... Anyway, she used to repeat that, to her, the most intelligent and creative adaptation of an important novel in recent memory was Pinter's The French Lieutenant's Woman. She was right: it IS an intelligent script. Too intelligent, maybe - it's formally flawless, but unfortunately a bit too cerebral, and (intentionally, I guess) unemotional. Ragtime is ultimately a failure, but a not uninteresting one. Either would be, needless to say, a better choice than the winner, that mawkish On Golden Pond. Prince of the City is ambitious and multi-layered, and would probably be my pick. If I could vote, I mean - but I haven't seem Pennies from Heaven, so I have to abstain.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1981

Postby dws1982 » Thu Mar 26, 2015 8:35 am

This is the one time I'd vote for Sidney Lumet. It's a little bit by default, and it might not get my vote in a stronger lineup, but I've abstained when I didn't find any of the nominees worthy of my vote, so I do think this is worth a vote. I think that his direction is clunky in spots, but the cast is great and in general I think it's one of his best films. In original, I'm also not too enthused about any of the nominees, but a recent re-watch has convinced me there's no need to take away Chariots of Fire's award in this category.


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