According to the Writers Guild of America, the best screenplay ever written is Casablanca. And that really is ever -- the introduction to their list of the best 101 (a PDF of the list is here) indicates that the balloting was open to films made in any language, in any country. (And yet only six of the 100 best screenplays of all time aren't American? And Children of Paradise isn't one of them? Yeah, I buy that.) Also near the top of the list are such usual suspects as Chinatown, Some Like it Hot, and All About Eve which, despite the hype, continues to stun me with its sharpness every time I see it.

The fun of lists like this, though, are the surprises -- and the getting angry when your favorites are neglected. Going through the top 101, I was pleasantly surprised to see that actual screenwriters respect screenplays I love, like those for The Wild Bunch (#99), Grand Illusion (#85 is way too low, but at least it's on there), Broadcast News (#51), and All the President's Men (#53), the last of which strikes me as very nearly perfect. But by the same token, I was pretty stunned that Forrest Gump (#89) made the list, along with Jaws (#63), the former simply because I think it's a cloying, awful movie, and the latter because, though it's one of my favorites, there are a couple of scenes that have always struck me as awkwardly written, and there a tendency in the screenplay to cheaply create a depth by hinting at conflicts and emotions that are never actually proved to exist. On the neglected pile I'd throw virtually all the wonderful foreign films that, as usual, have been ignored, from La Dolce vita and the previously-mentioned Children of Paradise to The Rules of the Game, and the spare-but-wonderful Le samouraï.

So, here's something to think about on a lazy, rainy weekend: screenplays. What pisses you off about the list? What favorites are missing? And what did the WGA get exactly right?
categories Movies, Cinematical