Pulp Fiction (1994)


Pulp Fiction is known for its gruesome but stylish violence, pitch black but goofy sense of humor, and especially the many ways Tarantino’s storytelling so brilliantly messes with our minds so that even after seeing the movie several times (I think I’ve seen it about 10 times), we’re still not quite sure we just saw. Yet behind all this is a strangely profound movie about faith. Every twist and turn, every intentional chronological confusion, every character that seems unrelated to Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) in some way or another all center around Jules’ professed experience of the miraculous that leads him to leave his life of crime and become a Christian.

Near the end of the film we see an act of repentance where Jules begins to put his past life to death so he can begin his new life. He describes the miracle he claims to have experienced, during a hit, when bullets should have killed him and his partner Vincent (John Travolta) but instead ricochet onto the wall, many times throughout the movie. Because Tarantino organizes the story without any traditional sense of chronology, we see him explain his story in several different times and contexts as well as the results of that experience from people that don’t even seem related until everything unfolds in the final scene.

As we see the impact that Jules’ newfound faith has on himself, we might get confused whether we’re seeing a scene before or after the miracle the first time seeing the film, but once the movie’s over, this all become clear (even if little else of the story is after the first viewing). With repeat viewings, we get to know that Jules’ transformation is clarified throughout the movie, not just in the last scene. The first time seeing the movie, we might think he’s crazy or just telling the story as part of a brilliant criminal scheme. But the way he uses a prophecy of destruction from the book of Ezekiel as a tough-guy line before killing people is how we know we’re seeing a pre-Christian Jules.

Most of the time we see Jules actually is after the miracle, so when he says at the end of the movie how he’s trying to be like Christ, we can see that in the rest of the movie with repeated viewings. We see the genuineness that he tells his story with. We see a desire for others to experience what he has. We see lots of confusion, lots of anger, and lots of uncertainty of what it means to live this new life, so many of the old things are still there. But we do see through all of these things that he means what he says at the end when says “I’m trying, I’m really trying.”

With the exceptions of a few film portrayals of great real-life saints and church leaders like Monsieur Vincent and A Man Called Peter, Jules Winnfield is probably the most lovingly and fully created developed character in film history to represent repentance and conversion to faith in Jesus Christ. This is admittedly an extremely strange thing to say about a character in a movie so filled with actions of brutality and perversity, but that’s precisely what makes all the complex and divided puzzle pieces Pulp Fiction come together. It is a depiction of how in the places and situations of the world where evil and darkness are the most visible, light still shines, and goodness still pervades. Repentance like Jules’ is turning point that can make everything different in the world around the genuinely repentant person.


And the Oscar Should Have Gone to…Best Sound Editing

My next installment of “The Oscar Should Have Gone to” is dedicated to Best Sound Editing award. I have already given my pick for every year for the Best Cinematography, Best Adapted or Song ScoreBest Film Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay categories. As always, I will list the Oscar winner first when applicable, a grade for the sound editing of the film that actually won, and then my choice for that year’s best sound editing. My only rule for eligibility is that the film must have an American theatrical release date in the year of consideration, not always aligning perfectly with the Oscars.

The differences between sound editing and sound mixing (each separate Oscar categories at the present) are very complex. For the sake of simplicity, I equate sound mixing with the overall sound quality of the film and sound mixing with the sound-related effects. Best Sound Editing did not become an official Oscar category until 1964 for the films of 1963. Because of the limitations of technology prior to that time, I will not attempt to list my picks prior to that, but will start exactly when the Oscars did.

MV5BMTg5NTY4NjY1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQwNzkyMg@@._V1_.jpgBen Burtt appears among my choices more than any other sound editor. I choose his work as the best in 1977 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1981 Raiders of the Lost Arc, 1982 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and 2008 Wall-E.


1963 Walter Elliot, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (C); my pick: Larry Hampton, The Birds

1964 Norman Wanstall, Goldfinger (B); my pick: Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett & Robert A. Mattey, Mary Poppins

1965 Treg Brown, The Great Race (C+); my pick: Walter Rossi, Von Ryan’s Express

1966 Gordon Daniel, Grand Prix (A+); my pick: Mario Del Pezzo, The Gospel according to St. Matthew

1967 John Poyner, The Dirty Dozen (A-); my pick: James Richard, In the Heat of the Night

1968 No award given; my pick: Winston Ryder, 2001: A Space Odyssey

1969 No award given; my pick: James Nelson, Easy Rider

1970 No award given; my pick: David H. Moriarty, Ronald Pierce & Waldon O. Watson, Airport

1971 No award given; my pick: Don Hall, The French Connection

1972 No award given; my pick: Jim Atkinson, Deliverance

1973 No award given; my pick: Fred J. Brown, The Exorcist

1974 No award given; my pick: Walter Murch, The Conversation

1975 Peter Berkos, The Hindenburg (A+); my pick: George Frederick & Colin Mouat, Jaws

1976 No award given; my pick: John Farrell, Rocky

1977 Frank Warner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (A+); my pick: Ben Burtt, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

1978 No award given; my pick: Teri E. Dorman & James Fritch, The Deer Hunter

1979 Alan Splet, The Black Stallion (B+); my pick: Richard P. Cirincioni, Apocalypse Now

1980 No award given; my pick: William M. Anderson, Breaker Morant

1981 Ben Burtt & Richard L. Albertson, Raiders of the Lost Arc (A+); I agree

1982 Charles L. Campbell & Ben Burtt, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (A+); I agree

1983 Jay Boekelheide, The Right Stuff (A+); I agree

1984 Kay Rose, The River (UNSEEN); my pick: Greg Dillon, James Fritch, James J. Klinger, Mike Le Mare, Horace Manzanares, Gilbert D. Merchant, Robert Miller, Gary Shepherd & Karola Storr, The Terminator

1985 Charles L. Campbell & Robert Rutledge, Back to the Future (B+); my pick Jean-Marc Lentretien, Ran

1986 Don Sharpe, Aliens (UNSEEN); my pick: Nigel Gault & Edward Tise, Platoon

1987 Steven Hunter Flick & John Pospisil, RoboCop; my pick: Milton C. Burle, Neil Burle & Gordon Davidson, Lethal Weapon

1988 Charles L. Campbell & Louis Edemann, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (A-); my pick: Ronald Sinclair, David E. Stone & Ezra Dweck, Die Hard

1989 Ben Burtt & Richard Hymns, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (A); my pick: George Fredrick, Scott Martin Gershin, Avrim M. Gold, Kevin Hurst, Dan M. Rich, Frank Smathers, David Spence, Marshall Winn & Mark Lanza, Glory

1990 Cecelia Hall & George Watters II, The Hunt for Red October (A-); my pick: John Elizalde, Kirk Schuler & Gary Shepherd Joe vs. the Volcano

1991 Gary Rydstrom & Gloria S. Borders, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (A-); my pick: Gary Rydstrom & Richard Hymns, Backdraft

1992 Tom McCarthy & David Stone, Dracula (UNSEEN); my pick: Willy Allen, David Baldwin, Scott Martin Gershin, Per Hallberg, Dan Heneman, Dave McMoyer, Glenn T. Morgan & Asher Yates, The Last of the Mohicans

1993 Gary Rydstrom & Richard Hymns, Jurassic Park (A+); I agree

1994 Stephen Hunter Flick, Speed (B+); my pick: Paul Berolzheimer, Mike Chock & James Christopher, The Lion King

1995 Lon Bender & Per Hallberg, Braveheart (B); my pick: John Penders, Andrew Plain, Angus Robertson & Lawrie Silvertrin, Babe

1996 Bruce Stambler, The Ghost and the Darkness (UNSEEN); my pick: William Jacobs & Rob Navrides, Twister

1997 Tom Bellfort & Christopher Boyes, Titanic (A+); my pick: Phil Benson, Contact

1998 Gary Rydstrom & Richard Hymns, Saving Private Ryan (A-); my pick: Dave McMoyler, The Mask of Zorro

1999 Dane Davis, The Matrix (A-); my pick: Bruce Fortune, Three Kings

2000 Jon Johnson, U-571 (B); my pick: Eugene Gearty, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

2001 Gary Waters II & Christopher Boyes, Pearl Harbor (F); my pick: Karen Baker Landers & Per Hallberg, Black Hawk Down

2002 Mike Hopkins & Ethan Van der Ryn, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (A+); my pick: Richard Hymns & Gary Rydstrom, Minority Report

2003 Richard King, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (UNSEEN); my pick:  Paul Curtis, Phone Booth

2004 Michael Silvers & Randy Thom, The Incredibles (A+); my pick: Randy Thom & Dennis Leonard, The Polar Express

2005 Mike Hopkins & Ethan Van der Ryan, King Kong (UNSEEN); my pick: David Evans, Batman Begins

2006 Bub Asman & Robert Alan Robert Murray, Letters from Iwo Jima (A+); I agree

2007 Karen Baker Landers & Per Hallberg, The Bourne Ultimatum (UNSEEN); my pick: Christopher Scarabosio & Matthew Wood, There Will Be Blood

2008 Richard King, The Dark Knight (B-); my pick: Ben Burtt & Matthew Wood, Wall-E

2009 Paul N.J. Ottosson, The Hurt Locker (A+); I agree

2010 Richard King, Inception (C); my pick: Gwendolyn Yates Whittle & Addison Teague, Tron: Legacy

2011 Eugene Gearty & Philip Stockton, Hugo (A+); I agree

2012 TIE between Per Hallberg & Karen Baker Landers, Skyfall (A+) AND Paul J. Ottosson, Zero Dark Thirty (A+); my pick: Wylie Stateman, Django Unchained

2013 Glenn Freemantle, Gravity (A+); I agree

2014 Alan Robert Murray & Bub Asman, American Sniper (C); my pick: Richard King, Interstellar

2015 Mark Magini & David White, Mad Max: Fury Road (F); my pick: Matthew Wood & David Acord, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

2016 Sylvain Bellemare, Arrival (A-); my pick: Kyrsten Mate & Addison Teague, The BFG


Mary Poppins (1964)


Hidden behind what on the surface is a delightful fantasy comedy with catchy songs is a very powerful and even confrontational movie about empathy and responsibility. The movie opens with the melody of song we hear much later in the movie, “Feed the Birds.” The lyrics of the song are the heart of the whole movie. Just before Mary sings the song, she tells the kids that some people just can’t see past the end of their news. In that brief line, she gives a perfect assessment of their father whose priorities are entirely monetary and self-centered, yet he’s diluted himself into believing that he does everything he does for his family. When the kids express their belief that their father doesn’t love them, they’re right. But Mary’s job isn’t to get their father to see past the end of his nose and learn to love, it’s to teach the kids to learn to see their father who he is and accept him regardless so that he may be the way he learns to love.

The kids’ father isn’t the only one with priority problems that don’t allow the kids to feel loved. Their mother is well-intentioned with her fight for women’ suffrage (Glynnys Johns who gives the film’s best acting performance). Some of the movie’s funniest moments come because of her hypocritical attempts to fight a great fight in private with her friends while keeping it from her husband, since “the cause infuriates Mr. Banks.” She’s willing to tie up the prime minister and get a large clan of women arrested, but she won’t take any chances of confronting her own husband’s sexism. All this shows that she’s just as blinded by her own priorities as her husband is, even though they’re more well-intentioned and less self-centered. While she’s kind and caring to the kids on the surface, she can’t see past the end of her nose either, and all that she thinks she’s doing for her kids is really for her cause and actually hurting her kids.

Through Mary Poppins and Burt, the kids learn how to avoid the materialism, hypocrisy, and indifference that surrounds them. They learn that by looking around and seeing the people and the needs of people that nobody else recognizes (the “bird woman” that “Feed the Birds is about), they can learn to meet the needs of others, to empathize, and to love in ways their parents haven’t been able to demonstrate. At the end of the great “Chim Chim Che-re” scene, Burt gets the opportunity to deal with the father directly, singing some very harsh words that bring the healing the family needs: “And when your little tykes are crying, you haven’t time to dry their tears and see their thankful little faces smiling up at you, ’cause they’re dad he knows just what to do.”

When Mr. Banks hears these words, he tries to interrupt Burt to make a defense, but Burt just keeps singing and won’t let him off the hook. Through this confrontation, he realizes how blind he’s been and how much he’s hurt his children. This scene is the reason the more recent film depicting the making of Mary Poppins was called Saving Mr. Banks. Mr. Banks is saved from himself, from his wrong priorities, from his indifference, and from his lack of empathy. The film ends with one of the most joyful scenes ever in any movie I’ve seen with Mr. Banks showing the results of his awakening all symbolized through flying a kite. And the great song “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” shows how George is not the only one saved through his decision to listen to Bert’s words. The whole family, those who work for the family, and even the heads of Mr. Bank’s bank all receive a new outlook on life that changes everybody around them.

Mary Poppins may be a great movie for kids. But it only gets better, deeper, more profound, and spiritual as we grow up. It’s still a sweet and delightful fantasy but it is far, far more than that. Multiple viewings don’t just increase an appreciation for the filmmaking but for the timelessness and the power of its message for people of all ages.


And the Oscar Should Have Gone to…1946

The next year I’ll spotlight for is 1946. You can also check out “And the Oscar Should Have Gone to” for 1948, 1965, 1975, and 2014. My only major criteria is a U.S. release in the year of 1948 for every category, which do not always align perfectly with the Oscar’s own eligibility rules. I list the actual Oscar nominations first with my grade for the film’s worth within that category. The actual Oscar winner is in bold print, and I note any nominated films I haven’t seen. Then I give my own picks. The photo that comes at the beginning of each category corresponds with my choice for the year’s winner in that category.




Academy Award Nominees:

The Best Years of Our Lives (A+)

Henry V (A)

It’s a Wonderful Life (B-)

The Razor’s Edge (A)

The Yearling (F)

My Picks:

7. The Razor’s Edge

6. The Big Sleep

5. Gilda

4. Dragonwyck

3. Rome, Open City

2. Notorious

1. The Best Years of our Lives




Academy Award Nominees:

Clarence Brown, The Yearling (F)

Frank Capra, It’s a Wonderful Life (B+)

David Lean, Brief Encounter (UNSEEN)

Robert Siodmak, The Killers (UNSEEN)

William Wyler, The Best Years of Our Lives (A+)

My Picks:

5. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Dragonwyck

4. Charles Vidor, Gilda

3. Roberto Rossellini, Rome, Open City

2. Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious

1. William Wyler, The Best Years of Our Lives




Academy Award Nominees:

Olivia deHavilland, To Each His Own (UNSEEN)

Celia Johnson, Brief Encounter

Jennifer Jones, Duel in the Sun (F)

Rosiland Russell, Sister Kenny (UNSEEN)

Jane Wyman, The Yearling (D)

My Picks:

5. Gene Tierney, Dragonwyck

4. Anna Magnani, Rome, Open City

3. Lauren Bacall, The Big Sleep

2. Ingrid Bergman, Notorious

1. Rita Hayworth, Gilda




Academy Award Nominees:

Frederic March, The Best Years of Our Lives (A+)

Laurence Olivier, Henry V (A-)

Larry Parks, The Jolson Story (UNSEEN)

Gregory Peck, The Yearling (D-)

James Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life (A-)

My Picks:

5. Tyrone Power, The Razor’s Edge

4. Glenn Ford, Gilda

3. Rex Harrison, Anna and the King of Siam

2. Aldo Fabrizi, Rome, Open City

1. Frederic March, The Best Years of Our Lives




Academy Award Nominees:

Ethyl Barrimore, The Spiral Staircase (UNSEEN)

Anne Baxter, The Razor’s Edge (A+)

Lilian Gish, Dual in the Sun (C-)

Flora Robson, Saratoga Trunk (UNSEEN)

Gale Sondegaard, Anna and the King of Siam (B)

My Picks:

5. Gene Tierney, The Razor’s Edge

4. Martha Vickers, The Big Sleep

3. Angela Lansbury, The Harvey Girls

2. Anne Baxter, The Razor’s Edge

1. Leopoldine Konstatin, Notorious




Academy Award Nominees:

Charles Coburn, The Green Years (UNSEEN)

William Demarest, The Jolson Story (UNSEEN)

Claude Raines, Notorious (A+)

Harold Russell, The Best Years of Our Lives (A+)

Clifton Webb, The Razor’s Edge (A+)

My Picks

5. Harold Russell, The Best Years of our Lives

4. Herbert Marshall, The Razor’s Edge

3. Vincent Price, Dragonwyck

2. Clifton Webb, The Razor’s Edge

1. Claude Raines, Notorious




Academy Award Nominees:

The Blue Dahlia (UNSEEN)

Children of Paradise (UNSEEN)

Notorious (A+)

Road to Utopia (UNSEEN)

The Seventh Veil (UNSEEN)

My Pick:

1. Notorious




Anna and the King of Siam (A-)

The Best Years of Our Lives (A+)

Brief Encounter (UNSEEN)

The Killers (UNSEEN)

Rome, Open City (A+)

My Picks

5. Gilda

4. Dragonwyck

3. The Razor’s Edge

2. Rome, Open City

1. The Best Years of Our Lives




Academy Award Nominees:

“All through the Day” Centennial Summer (B-)

“I Can’t Begin to Tell You” The Dolly Sisters (A)

“Ole Buttermilk Sky” Canyon Passage (F)

“On the Athcison, Topeka, and Santa Fe” The Harvey Girls (A+)

“You Keep Coming Back like a Song” Blue Skies (A)

My Picks:

5. “The Wild, Wild West” The Harvey Girls

4. “I Can’t Begin to Tell You” The Dolly Sisters

3. “You Keep Coming Back like a Song” Blue Skies

2. “On the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe” The Harvey Girls

1. “Put the Blame on Mame” Gilda




Anna and the King of Siam (A-)

The Best Years of Our Lives (B+)

The Killers (B+)

Henry V (A-)

Humoresque (Not original; based on multiple classical themes)

My Picks

5. Anna and the King of Siam

4. Henry V

3. The Razor’s Edge

2. Dragonwyck

1. Notorious




Blue Skies (UNSEEN)

Centennial Summer (UNSEEN)

The Harvey Girls (A-)

The Jolson Story (UNSEEN)

Night and Day (A)

My Picks

5. The Harvey Girls

4. It’s a Wonderful Life

3. The Best Years of Our Lives

2. Night and Day

1. Humoresque




Academy Award Nominees

The Best Years of Our Lives (A+)

It’s a Wonderful Life (B-)

The Jolson Story (UNSEEN)

The Killers (UNSEEN)

The Yearling (F)

My Picks:

5. The Big Sleep

4. The Best Years of Our Lives

3. Dragonwyck

2. Gilda

1. Notorious




Academy Award Nominees for Black & White Cinematography:

Anna and the King of Siam (A)

The Green Years (UNSEEN)

Academy Award Nominees for Color Cinematography:

The Jolson Story (UNSEEN)

The Yearling (F)

My Picks

5. The Big Sleep

4. The Harvey Girls

3. Henry V

2. Notorious

1. It’s a Wonderful Life




Academy Award Nominations for Black & White Production Design:

Anna and the King of Siam (A+)

Kitty (UNSEEN)

The Razor’s Edge (B)

Academy Award Nominations for Best Color Production Design

Caesar and Cleopatra (UNSEEN)

Henry V (A+)

The Yearling (F)

My Picks:

5. The Big Sleep

4. It’s a Wonderful Life

3. Dragonwyck

2. Henry V

1. Anna and the King of Siam




Academy Award Nominees:

The Best Years of Our Lives (A-)

It’s a Wonderful Life (A-)

The Jolson Story (UNSEEN)

My Picks

5. Night and Day

4. Henry V

3. Gilda

2. Humoresque

1. Notorious


BEST COSTUME DESIGN (This award didn’t begin until 1948, so here are my picks for 1946.)


5. The Razor’s Edge

4. Notorious

3. Dragonwyck

2. Anna and the King of Siam

1. Henry V


BEST ENSEMBLE CAST (This has never been an Oscar category, but I think it should.)

5. The Razor’s Edge

4. The Big Sleep

3. Dragonwyck

2. The Best Years of Our Lives

1. Notorious


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)


And Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon introduces us to three complex characters that force us to think about how we see ourselves, what we value most in life, and how we answer the deep spiritual questions that every person is faced with. Li Mu Bai (Chow Fun-Fat) attempts to give up his life as a warrior in pursuit of Buddhist spiritual enlightenment. He gives his famous sword, the Green Destiny, to a friend to symbolize the end of that part of his life, but when the sword is stolen he’s brought right back into the world he wanted to leave.

Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh)  has given up all semblance of a normal female life as her 18th century Chinese culture defines femininity. She’s not a proto-feminist. She has high regard for what her culture deems appropriate for a woman including arranged marriages and the perceived woman’s roles in society. But her own engagement ended in the death of her fiancé (Li Mu Bai’s brother), leaving them both with the desire for vengeance against the murderer.

We learn about Yu Shu Lien’s past and the unrequited love that has developed between her and Li Mu Bai through her relationship with the third key character in the story. Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) is a rebel, but she assumes treats the other two are as well. She doesn’t care what society thinks she should do. She wants to love who she chooses. She wants to be a warrior. She wants to be better than her master Jade Fox (Pei-Pei Cheng), a vengeful woman who tries to kill masters that won’t train woman. She tries to deceive Yu Shu Lien into a a sister-like relationship so she learn about Li Mu Bai and learn how to defeat him.

The only one Yu Shu Lien is deceiving is herself. Li Mu Bai sees the good in her and recognizes that she’s acting deceptive only because she has been trained to do so. Her master has taught her more about how to think as her master wants her to think than about to fight. Jen Yu is already a better fighter than her master and is both held back and poisoned by her control. Yu Shu Lien understands something about Jen Yu that Jen Yu doesn’t understand about herself, that the freedom she really desires is not the freedom she’s seeking. This knowledge leads Yu Shu Lien to the complicated type of devotion to Jen Yu that cares enough about her to let her have her way in order to show her that her way isn’t what she actually wants. This is what leads to one of the greatest scenes in film history, the electrifying fight between the two women who have previously claimed to be like sisters.

Ang Lee gives a beautiful portrayal of complex relationships that involve romance but don’t center on that romance. It’s a portrayal of not just relationships between people with each other but of relationships between people and their dominant cultures, between people and their own ideals and perceptions of the world when those thoughts are deeply challenged and even contradicted. Having said that, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is ultimately about the relationship every person has with spiritual matters, about how we relate to the intangible realities of the world that are bigger than ourselves, about how we determine right from wrong, and about how we perceive the world as a whole and our own part of it.

And the Oscar Should Have Gone to…Best Adapted Screenplay

My next installment of “The Oscar Should Have Gone to” is dedicated to the Award of Best Adapted Screenplay. Last year I published lists for Best Cinematography, Best Adapted or Song Score, and Best Film Editing. The next award my Excel spreadsheet chose for me is Best Adapted Screenplay. I will list the Oscar winner first, a grade for the screenplay of the film that actually won, and then my choice for that year’s best adapted screenplay. My only rule for eligibility is that the film must have an American theatrical release date in the year of consideration, not always aligning perfectly with the Oscars.


MV5BMTM5NDU3OTgyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzQxODA0NA@@._V1_UX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_.jpgFrancis Ford Coppola deserved his Oscars in 1970 for Patton (although he was awarded Best Original Screenplay even though his screenplay was based on two biographies), in 1972 for The Godfather, and in 1974 The Godfather Part II. He should have also won in 1979 for Apocalypse Now in 1979 and The Godfather Part III in 1990. These five make him the most winning writer among my choices for Best Adapted Screenplay.


1927/28 Benjamin Glazer, 7th Heaven (A+); my pick: Thea von Harbou, Metropolis

1929 Hanns Kräly, The Patriot (1928 U.S. release date); my pick: Garret Fort, The Letter

1930 Frances Marion, The Big House (UNSEEN); my pick: Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott, & Del Andrews, All Quiet on the Western Front

1931 Howard Eastbrook, Cimaron (C); my pick: Garret Fort & Francis Edward Faragoh, Frankenstein

1932 Edward J. Burke, Bad Girl (1931 release date); my pick: Vicki Baum, Grand Hotel

1933 Victor Heerman & Sarah Y. Mason, Little Women (A); my pick: Thea von Harbou, M

1934 Robert Riskin, It Happened One Night (A+); my pick: Albert Hackett & Frances Goodrich, The Third Man

1935 Dudley Nichols, The Informer (UNSEEN); my pick: W.P. Lipscomb & S.N. Behrman, A Tale of Two Cities

1936 Pierre Collings & Sheridan Gibney, The Story of Louis Pasteur (A); my pick: Morrie Ryskind & Eric Hatch, My Man Godfrey

1937 Heinz Harold, Geza Herczeg, Norman Reilly Raine, The Life of Emile Zola (A); my pick: Marc Connelly, John Lee Martin, & Dale Van Every, Captains Courageous

 1938 Ian Dalyrmple, Cecil Lewis, & W.P. Lipscomb, Pygmalion (B+); my pick: David Ogden Stewart & Sidney Buchanan, Holiday

1939 Sidney Howard, Gone with the Wind (A+); I agree

1940 David Ogden Stewart, The Philadelphia Story; my pick: Robert E. Sherwood & Joan Harrison, Rebecca

1941 Sidney Buchman & Seton I. Miller, Here Comes Mr. Jordan (A+); my pick: John Huston, The Maltese Falcon

1942 George Froeschel, James Hilton, Claudine, West, & Arthur Wimperis, Mrs. Miniver (A+); my pick: Philip G. Epstein, Julius J. Epstein, & Howard Koch, Casablanca

1943 Philip G. Epstein, Julius J. Epstein, & Howard Koch, Casablanca (1942 U.S. release date; my pick: Lamar Trotti, The Ox-Bow Incident

1944 Frank Butler & Frank Cavett, Going My Way (B-); my pick: Billy Wilder & Raymond Chandler, Double Indemnity

1945 Charles Bracket & Billy Wilder, The Lost Weekend (A+); I agree

1946 Robert E. Sherwood, The Best Years of Our Lives (A+); I agree

1947 George Seaton, Miracle on 34th Street (A+); Daniel Manicuring, Out of the Past

1948 John Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (A+); I agree

1949 Joseph L. Mankiewicz, A Letter to Three Wives (A); my pick: Robert Rossen, All the King’s Men

1950 Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All about Eve (A+); I agree

1951 Harry Brown & Michael Wilson, A Place in the Sun (A+)

1952 Charles Schnee, The Bad and the Beautiful (C+); my pick: Nunnally Johnson, My Cousin Rachel

1953 Daniel Taradash, From Here to Eternity (F); my pick: Billy Wilder & Edwin Bloom, Stalag 17

1954 George Seaton, The Country Girl (C+); my pick: Moss Hart, A Star Is Born

1955 Paddy Chayefsky, Marty (A); my pick: Irving Shulman, Rebel without a Cause

1956 John Farrow, S.J. Perelman, & James Poe, Around the World in 80 Days (B+); my pick: John L. Mahin, The Bad Seed

1957 Carl Foreman, Michael Wilson, & Pierre Boulle, The Bridge on the River Kwai (C); my pick: Reginald Rose, 12 Angry Men

1958 Alan Jay Lerner, Gigi (C); my pick: Alec Coppel & Samuel A. Taylor, Vertigo

1959 Neil Patterson, Room at the Top (UNSEEN); my pick: Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond, Some Like It Hot

1960 Richard Brooks, Elmer Gantry (C+); my pick: Joseph Stefano, Psycho

1961 Abby Mann, Judgment at Nuremberg (A+); I agree

1962 Horton Foote, To Kill a Mockingbird (A+); my pick: George Axelrod, The Manchurian Candidate

1963 John Osborne, Tom Jones (C+); my pick: Peter Stone, Charade

1964 Edward Anhalt, Becket (A+); my pick: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, & Peter George, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

1965 Robert Bolt, Doctor Zhivago (C); my pick: John T. Kelley, A Rage to Live

1966 Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons (C); my pick: Ernest Lehman, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1967 Stirling Stilliphant, In the Heat of the Night (A); my pick: Richard Brooks, In Cold Blood

1968 James Goldman, The Lion in Winter (UNSEEN); my pick: Luis Buñuel, Belle de jour

1969 Waldo Salt, Midnight Cowboy (A-); my pick: Jorge Semprún & Costa-Gavras, Z

1970 Ring Lardner Jr., M*A*S*H (C+); my pick: Francis Ford Coppola & Edmund J. North, Patton (Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay but is based on two biographies)

1971 Ernest Tidyman, The French Connection (B-); my pick: Robert Altman & Brian McKay, McCabe & Mrs. Miller

1972 Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather (A+); I agree

1973 William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist (UNSEEN); my pick: Waldo Salt & Norman Wexler, Serpico

1974 Francis Ford Coppola & Mario Puzo, The Godfather Part II

1975 Bo Goldman & Lawrence Hauben, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (B+); my pick: Frank Pierson, Dog Day Afternoon (Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay but is based on a magazine article)

1976 William Goldman, All the President’s Men (A); my pick: Miles Hood Swartout & Scott Hale, The Shootist

1977 Alvin Sargent, Julia (B-); my pick: Norman Wexler, Saturday Night Fever

1978 Oliver Stone, Midnight Express (UNSEEN); my pick: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, & Robert Benton, Superman

1979 Robert Benton, Kramer vs. Kramer (A+); my pick: John Milius & Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now

1980 Alvin Sargent, Ordinary People (A+); my pick: Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan, & George Lucas, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

1981 Ernst Thompson, On Golden Pond (A+); I agree

1982 Costa-Gavras & Donald E. Stewart, Missing (D); my pick: Hampton Fancher & David Webb Peeples, Blade Runner

1983 James L. Brooks, Terms of Endearment (C+); my pick: Jean Shepherd, Lee Brown, & Bob Clark, A Christmas Story

1984 Peter Shaffer, Amadeus (A+); I agree

1985 Kurt Luedtke, Out of Africa (B+); my pick: Menno Meyjes, The Color Purple

1986 Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Room with a View (A); my pick: Howard Ashman, Little Shop of Horrors

1987 Bernardo Bertolucci & Marc Peploe, The Last Emperor (A-); my pick: I agree

1988 Christopher Hampton, Dangerous Liasons (C); my pick: Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

1989 Alfred Uhry, Driving Miss Daisy (B-); my pick: Shane Connaughton & Jim Sheridan, My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown

1990 Michael Blake, Dances with Wolves (D+); my pick: Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part III

1991 Ted Tally, The Silence of the Lambs (A-); my pick: Linda Woolverton, Beauty and the Beast

1992 Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Howards End (A); my pick: Michael Tolkin, The Player

1993 Steve Zallian, Schindler’s List (A+); my pick: Chazz Palminteri, A Bronx Tale

1994 Eric Roth, Forrest Gump (A+); I agree

1995 Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility (A+); I agree

1996 Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade (B-); my pick: Tab Murphy, Irene Mecchi, Bob Tzudiker, Noni White, & Jonathan Roberts, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

1997 Curtis Hanson & Brian Helgeland, L.A. Confidential (B); my pick: Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter

1998 Bill Condon, Gods and Monsters (A); my pick: Chris Eyre, Smoke Signals

1999 John Irving, The Cider House Rules (F); my pick: Patricia Rozema, Mansfield Park

2000 Stephen Gaghan, Traffic (D); my pick Joel & Ethan Coen, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2001 Akiva Goldsman, A Beautiful Mind (B); my pick: Ted Elliot, Terry Rosso, Joe Stillman, & Roger S.H. Schulman, Shrek

2002 Ronald Harwood, The Pianist (UNSEEN); my pick: Charlie Kaufman, Adaptation (Kaufman was nominated for the award along with his non-existent twin brother, Charlie & Donald Kaufman are both characters in Adaptation though only one is a real person).

2003 Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, & Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (C-); my pick: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini, American Splendor

2004 Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, Sideways (A-); my pick: David Magee, Finding Neverland

2005 Larry McMurty & Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain (C+); my pick: Dan Futterman, Capote

2006 William Monahan, The Departed (A+); my pick: Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion

2007 Joel & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men (C+); my pick: Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud, Persepolis

2008 Simon Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire (A+); I agree

2009 Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious (B); my pick: Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

2010 Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network (A+); I agree

2011 Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, & Jim Rash, The Descendants (A+); I agree

2012 Chris Terrio, Argo (A+); I agree

2013 John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave (C-); my pick: Danny Strong, The Butler

2014 Graham Moore, The Imitation Game (A+); I agree

2015 Adam McKay & Charles Randolph, The Big Short (A+); I agree

2016 Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin, Moonlight (A+); I agree







The Shawshank Redemption (1994)


One of the best things about The Shawshank Redemption is its story’s faithfulness to its title. The word “redemption” is so often misused in our culture with connotations that the word has never carried. It’s used in sports and other competitive situations meaning to make up for a missed opportunity and often the word is even used to imply revenge. But these two uses of the word are exactly the opposite of what the word actually means: freedom that someone receives at the cost of someone else.

There are two redemptions that happen at Shawshank. The first is when Andy begins to get favor with the prison guards, offering tax advice in exchange for a beer given to everyone else on his work crew. He doesn’t even take one, he watches the others enjoy what was done for them so they could, for that moment, feel free again. It happens early in the movie and only reaches a small portion of the prisoners, but it’s Andy’s first taste at giving others the redemption that he (as an innocent man who has the legal and moral right to freedom) will never be able to receive in this story’s context.

Then there’s the big one, the redemption that affects the whole prison. Even though Andy was almost killed in the first redemption, he knew that he’d be able to get out of that situation and the risk wasn’t as great as looked for a split second. But at the second one, he risked everything. He just became aware that he might have a way out of prison and the warden is key to making that happen, yet he jeopardizes his favor with the warden. He breaks into the warden’s office and plays a Mozart piece on the loudspeaker for the whole prison to experience the freedom of the soaring voices singing to them to help them forget their incarceration for the few minutes that piece lasts.

Buying back the freedom of others always cost Andy his own freedom. Even though he was innocent and should’ve never been in Shawshank to begin with, he gave his life many times and in many ways for his fellow prisoners so that even the two events I described are only a portion of the Shawshank Redemption. Actually Andy’s very presence in Shawshank and his constant willingness to give sacrificially is the full Shawashank Redemption.

Andy knows he was treated unjustly and of course he’s right to never stop fighting that, but he cares even more about fighting for others who don’t deserve to be fought for. His love for the unlovable and his recognition of the humanity in people who have given themselves to inhumane acts is Andy’s highest priority.  Offering redemption to others is his own way of finding freedom, whether or not justice will ever be done for him resulting in his own rightful release from Shawshank.

When he delivers the classic line, “get busy living or get busy dying” this is exactly what he means. Andy shows that he’s a person full of hope because he’s willing to offer that sacrificial freedom to others when it’s in his power to do so, no matter what the cost might be to himself. He shows that he’s a person full of hope because he’s always busy living by giving his own life and freedom for the sake of others. And as he brings hope to his fellow prisoners, it is even more those prisoners (especially Red played by Morgan Freeman) than Andy himself who give the very same hope and the very same encouragement to get busy living to those of us watching. They help us see how to be people who recognize where others have lost or given up freedom and how we can buy it back for them, putting their own needs ahead of our own even when, or maybe especially when, they don’t deserve it. When we live this way, we are busy living. When we don’t, we are busy dying.