Can ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ win the Oscar categories the 1930 film failed to claim?
Edward Berger‘s “All Quiet on the Western Front” is, of course, not the first adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque‘s 1929 bestselling novel to be in Oscar contention. The 1930 adaptation, directed by Lewis Milestone, topped the 3rd Academy Awards, becoming the first film to win Best Picture and Best Director. It was nominated for two other awards, Best Cinematography and Best Writing (as it was known at the time), but lost both. Can Berger’s version win the two categories that Milestone’s lost?
Well, it’s favored to win one so far. After “Top Gun: Maverick’s” shocking snub in cinematography, a category it dominated on the critics circuit, “All Quiet,” lensed by James Friend, slid into pole position in the odds ahead of “Elvis,” “TÁR,” “Empire of Light” and “Bardo.” It was snubbed by the American Society of Cinematographers Awards — no ASC snubbee has won the Oscar since Guillermo Navarro for 2006’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” — but it won the British Society of Cinematographers Award. (Unlike ASC, BSC did nominate Navarro 16 years ago.) That presaged “All Quiet’s” triumph at the BAFTAs, where the World War I epic ran away with seven awards from 14 nominations, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was in second place in the screenplay odds behind “Living,” the only other Oscar-nominated script in the lineup.
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Likewise, “All Quiet,” adapted by Berger, Lesley Patterson and Ian Stokell, remains in second in the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar odds, trailing “Women Talking,” written and directed by Sarah Polley, but it’s been closing the gap since the BAFTAs and currently sits at 37/10 to “Women Talking’s” 17/5. “Women Talking” has underperformed all season, but Polley hasn’t been dethroned from the top spot yet, likely helped by the openness of the category. She also got a lifeline when the film made the Best Picture lineup — its only other nomination — but if you go by that metric, it’s the third strongest film in adapted screenplay as “All Quiet” boasts nine bids and “Top Gun: Maverick” has six. “Living” has one other nomination, Best Actor for Bill Nighy, while “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a lone nominee.
War films aren’t typical screenplay winners, but this category is ripe for the taking this year and the German film has been over-performing at every turn ever since its strong Oscar shortlist showing in December. And the way things are unfolding feel a little déjà vu. Last year, BAFTA went with “CODA” in adapted screenplay (a much more surprising pick than “All Quiet’s” win) over season-long favorite “The Power of the Dog.” “CODA” went on to bag the Writers Guild of America Award and the Oscar.
Since it’s ineligible at WGA, where “Women Talking,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Glass Onion” are contending, “All Quiet” won’t have the opportunity to win anything else (and defeat its Oscar opposition) before the Oscars. But even if it doesn’t win adapted screenplay, “All Quiet” looks good to at least match the 1930 film’s haul of two Oscars, though not in the same two categories since Berger was snubbed in directing. It’s on the rise in Best Picture (currently in fifth), but Best International Film is the other category it’s expected to win. And it can one-up the 1930 version by taking another below-the-line prize or two, but perhaps that’s not a fair comparison since this film has more nominations than there were Oscar categories back then (eight).
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