Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oscar Death Race pt. 7 (THE WRITTEN WORD UP!)

Here it is. Finally. A category I'm actually excited about because I'm 100% sure that someone I like is going to win it. How do I know? Because I like all of these films and think their screenplays are super. Even the fact that my favorite movie of the year didn't get nominated here, in a category I was pretty sure it would get, can't really bring me down. Especially in comparison to the turgid Best Adapted Screenplay category (which Matty will have for you shortly, I think), this is just a ray of sunshine in an otherwise shit (or cloud, but hey, I do love mixing metaphors) filled year of nominations. GREEN FLAG GO!

Best Original Screenplay

- Frozen River - Courtney Hunt
- Happy-Go-Lucky - Mike Leigh
- In Bruges - Martin McDonagh
- Milk - Dustin Lance Black
- WALL·E - Andrew Stanton (screenplay/story); Jim Reardon (screenplay); Pete Docter (story)

Who Should Win?: This is a tough one. Frozen River is prolly my lest favorite of these, and even that's really good. WALL·E is just an amazing story (not forgetting here that a script is more than dialogue, folk), and really well written. Milk's screenplay does a great job avoiding biopic-by-numbers and making what could be an overly didactic, cliched Oscar-bait story into something with real emotional resonance, even past the immediate 2008 social context. In Bruges, which I would've totally missed had so many of my good friends not convinced me to see it, is absolutely hilarious and makes what I expected to be stock "gangsters with a conscience" characters incredibly multi-dimensional. And then there's poor Happy-Go-Lucky, robbed of a Best Actress nominations, which truly deserves something. As phenomenal as Sally Hawkins' acting in this movie is, Mike Leigh invents for her a truly bizarre, off-putting, and still quite fleshed out character, and one surrounded by a world of oddly believable yet still memorable characters and events. So, with all due respect to all these screenwriters, I'm giving it to Mike Leigh for Happy-Go-Lucky.

Who Will Win?: As much as I would love to see Mike Leigh get his first Oscar or Martin McDonagh his second, I really doubt either of those things will happen. The WALL·E folks have a slightly higher chance, I think, but still, it's Animated. So Dustin Lance Black, step up and get your prize. You're in the only one of these movies nominated for Best Picture, and while you wouldn't be my number one choice for this award, you'll prolly deserve your statue as much as anyone that wins all night. Keep doing a good job on Big Love too.

Who Got Snubbed?: Again, I'm really happy about these nominations, but that won't stop me from highlighting a few other screenwriting successes this year. Again, I loved loved loved loved loved loved Rachel Getting Married more or less as much as any movie in the last few years, and i don't care how much of it was improvised, a movie this good doesn't get made without Jenny Lumet's killer screenplay. Then there's Charlie Kaufman, who the Academy loves to nominate. I guess Synecdoche, NY was too dense and messy for lotsa folks, and that's fine, to each his own. But I found it immensely moving and immensely fun, the kind of movie you can get completely lost in and enjoy it all the more for the confusion, and I wish it hadn't been completely ignored by the Academy. But then encouraging ambition isn't exactly the Academy's strong suit this year, is it?

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