Wednesday, January 4, 2017

WGA Nominees, plus thoughts on Hidden Figures

The Writers Guild of America sounded off today, and the Original Screenplay category is loaded with contenders that are probable Oscar nominees. Mind you, that's because two of them (Moonlight and Loving) will be competing in the Adapted Screenplay category for the Academy Awards. Accordingly, the WGA's Adapted Screenplay lineup is fleshed out with some contenders which stand little chance of landing a corresponding Oscar nod.

Original Screenplay
HELL OR HIGH WATER, Taylor Sheridan
LA LA LAND, Damien Chazelle
LOVING, Jeff Nichols
MOONLIGHT, Barry Jenkins, Tarell McCraney

Adapted Screenplay
ARRIVAL, Eric Heisserer
DEADPOOL, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
FENCES, August Wilson
HIDDEN FIGURES, Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi

Thank God Moonlight was moved to this category for Oscar purposes, because this (with the notable exception of the superb Arrival) is a weak group. Here's my question: Does Moonlight now being considered an adaption disqualify the original playwright Tarell McCraney from what would otherwise be considered a nomination-eligible writing credit on the screenplay? The move might have guaranteed an Oscar for Jenkins, but effectively robbed McCraney of the nomination. I'll be interested to see how AMPAS rules.

Having recently seen Fences and Hidden Figures, I can't say I'm all that jazzed for them receiving accolades for screenwriting. Fences is a great performance showcase, but the script suffers for overly long scenes and exposition-heavy dialogue.
As for Hidden Figures, though certainly a work of cinema in the page, it's almost too tidy in its crowd-pleasing conventionality, while presenting a super sanitized depiction of segregated America that borders on saccharine. Sure, the featherweight tone and appealing performances (give or take a typecast Jim Parsons) makes it an easy watch, but lacks any bite or staying power. That said, Taraji P. Henson running might just be my favourite thing in any movie this year.

Documentary Screenplay
COMMAND AND CONTROL, Robert Kenner, Eric Schlosser, Brian Pearle, Kim Roberts
ZERO DAYS, Alex Gibney

Command and Control and Zero Days are shortlisted for the Oscar, but are severely trailing the precursor tally to the likes of O.J., 13th, Cameraperson, Weiner and I Am Not Your Negro.

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