Thursday, January 23, 2014

Awards-Nazi Award nominations: Original Screenplay

The adaptations may have been a bit sparsely populated this year, but the Original Screenplay race was dense with quality. Check out my five finalists after the cut.

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
Let's be clear about one thing: Sequels are not adaptations. They are continuations. And this continuation, like any other sequel, required a story that had to be cut from whole cloth. That being said, even if the Before trilogy were based on some book series or something, that would in no way diminish the exquisite mastery of this screenplay. It dispassionately but perspicaciously strips away the soul mate myth and presents a worldly couple more genuinely relatable to audiences who understand how relationships work in the real world.

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig)
Like Before Midnight, this collaboration between director and star has yielded a witty and incisive character study that reaches a  level of truthfulness few writers are able to tap. In nature a bleak tale about the self-imposed purgatory of prolonged adolescence, Baumbach and Gerwig wisely offset the underlying dread of maturation with low-key humour that fits character to a tee, but without tipping over into the realm of insufferable hipsterism.

Her (Spike Jonze)
If you can bring yourself to buy into Jonze's admittedly bizarre (yet not so bizarre) premise, you may indeed discover its subversive satire and thought-provoking themes about how human interaction has evolved with our technology border on the profound. One of the greatest virtues of this visionary screenplay is how it always finds new and unexpected directions to take. His sublimely gentle narrative twists keep us surprised but never jolt us out of the film's hypnotic mise-en-scene.

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
The Coen's screenplay adopts a cyclic structure that nicely compliments Llewyn's existential dilemma, with both Modernist and classical influences felt throughout; Anyone who doubts the inspiration served by Homer or James Joyce need only wait for the reveal of that tabby cat's name. The wry humour of their dialogue and the precision of their characterizations is as rich as ever.

Wadjda (Haifaa Al-Mansour)
This touching drama about an ambitious girl daring to find her own way in a world that constricts her free spirit is not only an interesting commentary on religion and values in contemporary Saudi society, but essentially just a wonderful story told with economy, gentility, and care. Al-Mansour's impeccably structured screenplay rings with heart and honesty.

Just missed:
Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
Dallas Buyer Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack)
The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm)
The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder)
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, Michael Polley)

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