Best Screenplay 1976

1927/28 through 1997

What were the best original and adapted screenplays of 1976?

Cousin,cousine(Jean-Charles Tacchella and Daniele Thompson)
1
3%
The Front(Walter Bernstein)
2
6%
Network(Paddy Chayefsky)
11
31%
Rocky(Sylvester Stallone)
0
No votes
Seven Beauties(Lina Wertmuller)
6
17%
All the President's Men(William Goldman)
14
39%
Bound for Glory(Robert Getchell)
2
6%
Fellini's Casanova(Federico Fellini and Bernardino Zapponi)
0
No votes
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution(Nicholas Meyer)
0
No votes
Voyage of the Damned(David Butler and Steve Shagan)
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 36

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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby Mister Tee » Mon May 04, 2015 8:17 pm

Reza wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:Instead of either, we got Voyage of the Damned, toward which some people here are inordinately generous. I think the film is in the running for worst movie ever to get a writers’ branch nomination. It was boring, endless, and at times incoherent (there was one moment the continuity seemed so out of whack I wondered if reels were being shown out of order). The only possible explanation for such a bad film getting nominations is the old “you can’t go wrong with the Holocaust” theory – but even that shouldn’t have been enough to fool the writers.


Tee, did you watch the original cut which ran 182 minutes? I think that version played for a very short time after which an abridged version played everywhere. I remember watching a version with many stars missing although their names appeared in the opening credits and the running time was slightly over two hours. Maybe that's why you felt the continuity of the film was out.

Beats me. I saw the only version I knew about (and IMDB, for what it's worth, has only one, 155 minute version listed). It's hard to believe the film could actually have been longer -- and an additional half hour of Steve (Save the Tiger) Shagan dialogue is more than I'd ever put myself through. But it's possible some brutish cutting was what gave me that feeling.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby Reza » Mon May 04, 2015 12:27 am

Mister Tee wrote:Instead of either, we got Voyage of the Damned, toward which some people here are inordinately generous. I think the film is in the running for worst movie ever to get a writers’ branch nomination. It was boring, endless, and at times incoherent (there was one moment the continuity seemed so out of whack I wondered if reels were being shown out of order). The only possible explanation for such a bad film getting nominations is the old “you can’t go wrong with the Holocaust” theory – but even that shouldn’t have been enough to fool the writers.


Tee, did you watch the original cut which ran 182 minutes? I think that version played for a very short time after which an abridged version played everywhere. I remember watching a version with many stars missing although their names appeared in the opening credits and the running time was slightly over two hours. Maybe that's why you felt the continuity of the film was out.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby Mister Tee » Sun May 03, 2015 8:38 pm

To underline the memorability of the Network screenplay: tonight, nearly 40 years after the film's opening, The Simpsons had a sequence that parodied the famous Ned Beatty lecture to Peter Finch.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby Mister Tee » Sun May 03, 2015 1:00 pm

I didn’t realize until doing this review that 1976 and 1977, atypically for the era, offered back-to-back years where the original side was heavy with best picture contenders while adaptation was largely populated by off-center entries. Sometimes this split opens the way for the writers to go far afield and make interesting choices; such, unhappily, was not the case with adaptations here, Though I can’t fault the writers too harshly, since I can’t come up with blazing alternatives myself. Carrie, sure – though I think of that as largely a directorial triumph. I was also quite fond of the light but charming twilight-of-the-Negro-Leagues film, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings.

Instead of either, we got Voyage of the Damned, toward which some people here are inordinately generous. I think the film is in the running for worst movie ever to get a writers’ branch nomination. It was boring, endless, and at times incoherent (there was one moment the continuity seemed so out of whack I wondered if reels were being shown out of order). The only possible explanation for such a bad film getting nominations is the old “you can’t go wrong with the Holocaust” theory – but even that shouldn’t have been enough to fool the writers.

Like Magilla, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen all of Casanova, though I’ve definitely seen significant portions on television. I tried to track it down for a full rewatch, but Netflix doesn’t have it listed, and the versions on YouTube have no English subtitles. You can judge for yourself whether I’m fully in the spirit of the rules when I opt to vote anyway. I do so because my recollection of what I did see is pretty unfavorable – it seemed to me Fellini was largely disgusted by Casanova, and a more-than-full-length film about a character whose director holds him in contempt is hard to watch. Fellini was of course just coming off the glorious Amarcord, but this seemed a step backward, in the direction of Satyricon.

The Seven Percent Solution was a very likable best seller that I thought sure-fire movie material…but I hadn’t taken into account Herb Ross’ astonishing ability to drain the life out of projects. He got a good cast (Alan Arkin is a pretty terrific Freud), and the story was essentially replicated on-screen. But everything that had seemed high adventure on the page fell flat in execution. I guess you can’t fully blame the screenplay for that – and I begrudge this film’s nomination far less than the preceding two. But it’s nothing I can heartily endorse, either, and I pass it by without any regret.

Bound for Glory is an intelligent film that clearly wants to be true to the spirit of Woody Guthrie, and to a decent extent succeeds. It has a wonderful central performance by David Carradine, spectacular cinematography, and it’s generally absorbing while it’s going on. But I found the story – Guthrie’s life, when you get right down to it – too episodic, lacking in much narrative propulsion. I recognize there are people here who rate the film, and presumably the script, much higher than I. But I can’t offer it my support.

For me, All the President’s Men is an easy vote, clearly the strongest script on offer. This is a bit of historic irony, since, during the production period, the film had almost as much rumored script trouble as Tootsie did. Whoever’s responsible for pulling things together (Pakula may deserve as much credit as Goldman), what finally emerged on-screen was a very exciting, taut true-life story that, without ever artificially jacking up suspense, played as excitingly as a-thriller. Given that it centered on the particulars of a very complicated, not especially sexy political scandal, this was something of a miracle (simply making it consistently interesting would seem challenge enough). The film also captured the mundane day-to-day life of a newspaper office (in which sense, it’s almost a time capsule), and the hunger that ambitious low-level employees feel for the big time. This is altogether a major film, and one that deserves especial praise for its writing.

On the original side, the contenders are all at least decent. My big miss would be Small Change, a completely charming Truffaut effort that views children charitably but not sentimentally. I presumed a lot of people here would advocate Taxi Driver, and I don’t exactly argue. But I do think it was Scorsese (and DeNiro) who made the material play as well as it did – Schrader’s purple prose with a different director might have come off ridiculous.

Rocky is, yes, the throwback film that beat a bunch of far more bracing, contemporary films, and, Sylvester Stallone, double yes, turned out to be a dreary bore. But, if you can block out all the dreck that followed from the film’s success (not least, Rocky II –III-however high it finally went), it’s worth recalling that this first film, while clearly far from the year’s best picture, was a decent enough fable that gave audiences (and most critics) simple pleasure without ever going over the top (they didn’t even let Rocky win his fight, a decision that seems to belong to another industry). It’s not getting my vote, of course, but it doesn’t rate my scorn, either.

I loved Pauline Kael’s comment about Cousin Cousine – that, while 10-20 years earlier audiences had gone to French films for the reality they couldn’t find in American work, with this film they were doing the reverse: passing up harsh American films for light Gallic froth. I don’t remember much beyond the bare outlines of the plot, and how determinedly droll the whole thing was. Nothing worth complaining about, but way too lightweight for consideration.

The Front is one of a number of movies that have tried to mine great art from the subject of the 50s blacklist. Like the same era’s beat generation, it seems to offer material that should someday yield a major work, so people keep trying…but to date no one has pulled either off. The Front is actually more clever than most attempts – its central conceit, that Woody’s character is no writer at all but still develops vanity about his work, is pretty comically inspired. And the subplot involving Zero Mostel’s character is moving, in a crude way (especially at that unseemly moment when federal agents snap photos of attendees at (OMITTED SO AS NOT TO BE A SPOILER)). But the Congressional hearing climax feels like something out of a Capra film – it’s way too cheerfully staged, which trivializes the issues that have led up to it. With all that, I enjoyed the film, and I don’t object to its nomination – though I was quite surprised by it: the film was not a commercial success, nor any big deal with critics. I’m guessing the fact of Bernstein having himself been a blacklist victim won some voters to his cause.

I’m working purely from memory about Seven Beauties, as I haven’t seen it since January of 1976. But my feeling then was it was a major piece of work – daringly juxtaposing comic sequences in Naples with the grimmest of Holocaust imagery, and knitting it all around a central character whose moral compass was set to “Survive” with no other qualifications. This was, to put it mildly, daring cinema, and full of memorable moments. I have no particular argument with those of you who’ve voted for it; it’s a fully defensible choice.

Back in 1976, Network was my first/last/only pick for original screenplay -- for best picture, in fact. I was totally wowed by the film, not least because it caught me totally by surprise. To me, Paddy Chayefsky was a guy who wrote dreary black-and-white “little people” stories; I went in expecting a 50s-style boardroom drama…and, while there was some of that, in the Holden/Dunaway storyline (which, I confess, I liked at the time, largely because of Holden), what dominated the film was a frequently hilarious, jolting lampoon of the TV news business – a lampoon so wildly imaginative it easily surpassed anything Chayefsky had written previous, and seemed to me (and the NY Critics, and the Academy) the year’s outstanding screenplay.

Time has passed, of course, and I finally gave Network a second look a few years back. This time, the Holden/Dunaway (throw in Straight as well) scenes didn’t hold up – they felt smugly over-written: an old-timer lecturing the younger generation, without any consideration he might be wrong on an issue or two himself. These scenes did much to tarnish my enthusiasm. But…the rest of the film – the lacerating satire – not only held up, it made me wonder if it was insufficiently appreciated in its day. For, while the film was universally thought, in 1976, to be funny, it was also considered absurdly over-the-top in its portrayal of the news business. Today? It feels like, if anything, it wasn’t pessimistic enough; there’s nothing on the Howard Beale Hour that doesn’t have a rough parallel on one or another of the cable news stations. (As Michael Gebert memorably put it: See All the President’s Men to find out why so many people enrolled in journalism school, and see Network to find out what they ended up doing) This prescience is an achievement that really ought to be noted. So: despite my misgivings about parts of the film, and my great respect for Seven Beauties, I vote to keep this Oscar in Chayefsky’s hands.
Last edited by Mister Tee on Mon May 04, 2015 12:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby CalWilliam » Fri May 01, 2015 5:44 am

I haven't seen some of the nominees so obviously I won't cast a vote, but in terms of what you say, Marco, about having to give one's opinion at every moment may be a sign of a weak personality reminds me precisely of Paddy Chayefsky (a strong personality) the following year when he announced the screenplay winners to Annie Hall and Julia. Before opening the envelope, you'll remember he HAD to pontificate about Redgrave's speech, which in my opinion it was completely inappropriate. I like Network, but I agree with Marco's feeling on the screenplay. You can see and hear Chayefsky in Dunaway's performance, and how much self-importance the movie provides.

At least Stallone didn't win in this category.
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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby ITALIANO » Fri May 01, 2015 4:12 am

Network will easily win here in Original - for two reasons. One is, if not good, understandable: it's a showily written movie. You feel the presence of a director, but you even more feel the presence of a writer, and one with an undeniably strong personality. There are memorable lines, sharply-defined characters, an ambitious approach to important themes and more generally to contemporary society. There is often also, of course, a lack of subtext, which can only be forgiven if the script, and the movie, belong to the grotesque, which I'm not always sure of. But, I mean, far worse screenplays have won the Oscar and let me say it - worse screenplays have also won OUR polls till now.
The second reason why Network will win is that most of those who vote here haven't seen all the nominees. Why they keep voting, I'll never know - is is something that they MUST do because their religion tells them to? Or a pathological urge to express their opinion at any cost - the obvious sign of a weak personality? Ayway,it's a pity, because there ARE two valid alternatives this time. Not Rocky, which has the virtue of sincerity but not much else, and not Cousin, Cousine, which is very French, very 70s, but not the best, or at least the deeper, example of either (both are, though, not unpleasant to watch). But The Front, while flawed, is a not stupid portrayal of an era and an unbearable political period - and then there's Seven Beauties, the one I voted for. Like Network, it's not the most subtle script ever, but at least this time the grotesque is intentional, and the portrayal of the main character - the typical Southern Italian man, coward, ready for anything in order to survive - cliched maybe, but oddly three-dimensional too. The idea of putting this anti-hero in the context of a Nazi concentration camp is courageous and brilliant, and makes for a harrowing second half. There are impressive scenes and, as always in Wertmuller's movies, a meditation on the roles of man and woman. It's an effective movie, a very personal script.

I guess that in Adapted the logical choice - and the one I've made, too - is All The President's Men. It's after all one of the best political movies ever made in the US based on real events (maybe the last truly good one before JFK?), and the way it portrays those events is absorbing yet rarely simplified. Plus, the competition isn't too strong - though for example The Seven Per Cent Solution has a good central idea (but doesn't develop it the way it could) and Fellini's Casanova isn't just a display of its director's visual virtuosity. But it's true that Voyage of the Damned - long, lugubrious and episodic - is one of the most puzzling nominees in this category ever.
Last edited by ITALIANO on Fri May 01, 2015 8:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Apr 30, 2015 5:11 am

I've never really been impressed with Katharine Ross. Her character here was supposed to be based on Diego Rivera's daughter who became a high priced prostitute after her father left her mother for Frida Kahlo. She plays her sympathetically but didn't seem to me to have the acting chops of most of the other cast members.

Lee Grant was playing a prima donna. I wouldn't have nominated her, but I thought it was the character, not necessarily the actress, who was the ham.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby Reza » Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:25 am

Voyage does have an amazing cast though.

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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby Reza » Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:24 am

Big Magilla wrote:I did sit through all three hours of The Voyage of the Damned once again. For almost forty years I considered it Ship of Fools lite. This time I found it better than I remembered it with good performances from Max von Sydow, Oskar Werner, Faye Dunaway and I suppose Lee Grant The rest of the cast, however, was given little to do and that's criminal when you have a cast that includes Wendy Hiller, Julie Harris and Maria Schell.


Katharine Ross was also very good - better than Lee Grant whose hammy turn was nominated for an Oscar. Ross won the Globe.
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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Apr 29, 2015 4:39 am

Original

Only Network and Seven Beauties really deserve consideration here and so far they're the only ones we're voting for.

Paddy Chayefsy cut his teeth on TV drama. Marty, The Catered Affair, The Bachelor Party and The Middle of the Night all began as TV plays. Those screenplays as well as those for The Goddess, The Americanization of Emily and The Hospital all had an underlying bitterness that reached its culmination with Network which was a bit of biting the hand that fed him. It was also very funny and highly prophetic, an obvious choice for the win at the time. If anything, it has improved with age.

Lina Wertmuller's alternately hilarious and disturbing masterwork, Seven Beauties is a one-of-a-kind film that had it been released in the U.S. a year earlier might have had an easy time winning over Shampoo, but it wasn't going to win over Network and it doesn't get my vote here for the same reason. Network is just too seminal a work to be ignored.

The Front is a great subject, the use of flunkies whose names appear on credits for films during the blacklist era, written by one of the blacklisted victims, Walter Bernstein, but next to Network and Seven Beauties it comes in a distant third in the comic treatment of a serious subject.

Rocky was the Cinderella story of the year, propelling Sylvester Stallone to instant superstardom but the screenplay was far from great.

Cousin, Cousine is simply too trivial.

My substitutes for those three would be Paul Schrader's seminal screenplay for Taxi Diver, David Seltzer's subtle screenplay for the horror film, The Omen and Paul Mazursky's pretty wonderful Next Stop, Greenwich Village, all of which received well-deserved Writers Guild recognition.

Adapted

William Goldman's ingenious adaptation of Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men is so brilliant I can't consider voting for anything else.

Robert Getchell's thoughtful screenplay for the Woody Guthrie story, Bound for Glory is certainly worthy of a nomination as is Nicholas Meyer's clever adaptation of his own Sherlock Holmes meets Freud murder mystery.

I've never seen more than a few minutes of Fellini's Casanova but found even those few minutes tedious. I should probably force myself to sit through the whole thing before dismissing it entirely, but I doubt that I would change my mind and consider it worthy of a nomination over the prolific William Goldman's adaptation of his own Marathon Man and Terence McNally's adaptation of his play, The Ritz. At least they ignored the WGA's endorsement of Frank Waldman and Blake Edwards' god-awful Pink Panther Strikes Again.

I did sit through all three hours of The Voyage of the Damned once again. For almost forty years I considered it Ship of Fools lite. This time I found it better than I remembered it with good performances from Max von Sydow, Oskar Werner, Faye Dunaway and I suppose Lee Grant The rest of the cast, however, was given little to do and that's criminal when you have a cast that includes Wendy Hiller, Julie Harris and Maria Schell. But I have to ask was the nomination for David Butler and Steve Shagan for best writing or most writing?

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Re: Best Screenplay 1976

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Apr 29, 2015 2:32 am

Original

This is pretty much a solid line-up with the exception of the by the numbers Rocky. I voted for the most original of the other 4 which was Seven Beauties. The 1970's was the golden period for Wertmuller and Seven Beauties the standout of her excellent work during that decade.

However, we have one glaring omission: Paul Schrader for Taxi Driver, particularly given it's Best Picture nomination. Schrader is also high on my wish list for an Academy Lifetime Achievement award.

Adapted

A less impressive lineup with only two worthy nominees All the President's Men & Bound for Glory. I voted for the latter.

What on earth the Fellini's Casanova & even more so Voyage of the Damned were doing on this list I'll never understand. Whilst I don't like The Seven Per Cent solution personally I appreciate that it has many admirers. In the place of the former two I would select Carrie & The Man Who Fell to Earth.

In the case of Carrie, Lawrence Cohen's screenplay is a prime example of turning straw to gold and as great a director as Brian De Palma is he would have had no hope in making the, let's face it, very silly story work without a solid foundation thanks to Cohen's effort. I'm indifferent to Stephen King's novel but Cohen's screenplay is a marvel. Pairing down and extracting all the fat, or which there was a lot for such a short novel but retaining the essential themes. And though I understand The Man Who Fell to Earth deviates significantly from it's source material it's a singular and impressive result.
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Best Screenplay 1976

Postby Kellens101 » Tue Apr 28, 2015 3:56 pm

What were the best screenplays of 1976? Also, can someone enable re-voting because I don't have that option unfortunately. Thanks.


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