Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Closer Look at the Best Original Screenplay Nominees

Now that we have covered the acting fields, it is time to look at the constructs of what makes those performances pop. First up is the Best Original Screenplay category that mixes modernist sci-fi (Her) with the AIDS epidemic (Dallas Buyers Club) and classy cons (American Hustle). It may even arguably be more interesting than the Best Adapted Screenplay category, as almost every selection on here provides an alternative view of American culture and chooses to explore the bigger themes of our lives. This is where the race becomes less solidified and the nominees are equally up for debate. Even then, this category is rather impressive and reflects what made 2013 a solid year for films.

I have always felt like the screenplay categories were where the Oscars took chances. Where most other categories are tried and true with their selections being top tier, familiar titles, the screenplay categories often recognize comedies, foreign films, or even problematic dramas. These are the categories that shape a film and thankfully are recognized because of that. Even if this years sees an impressive spread through all other categories, this is one that I am not entirely sure about, especially with 4 out of 5 being Best Picture nominees as well. It is a close race and probably one of the most interesting fields from this year's ceremony.

Her - Spike Jonze

Consider the following: Spike Jonze has three films with Academy Award nominations this year. Along with The Wolf of Wall Street and Bad Grandpa, his directorial effort Her is up for an impressive five nominations. The multi-hyphenate filmmaker has been a darling at the Academy since his nomination for Best Director for his debut film, he has been a curious individual who does things his way and gets praised for it. With all of that said, I am very much surprised that Her landed so heavily in the Oscar race specifically because of how oddball the concept was and that last year didn't leave the most favorable impression of Joaquin Phoenix. However, Jonze seems to have made his calling card to an Oscar win with the intricate, impressive screenplay for his latest film with is a dystopia of Los Angeles, but with a lot of romantic commentary. With him winning every other Best Original Screenplay award, it does seem like this will be his year. At very least, the bizarre nature of the film as a whole is enough to make it the most original of the nominees.

ODDS: With Spike Jonze winning this category at every other awards ceremony, it does bode well for his chances of taking this one home.

Left to right: Louis C.K. and Sally Hawkins
Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen

It seems inevitable that if a Woody Allen film is halfway decent, then it will get a Best Original Screenplay nomination. Having won two years ago in this category for Midnight in Paris, the seasoned director remains as vital as ever with Blue Jasmine, which is easily among his finest. With a sure-to-win performance by Cate Blanchett, the film came up strong in this year's nominations and the screenplay nod is the icing on the cake. It is a tough call, as the Academy loves awarding Allen in this category, but with Her zapping up all of the acclaim and awards, it does seem like this film stands a strong chance of being overlooked. It isn't from lack of quality, but stiff competition. 

ODDS: If the Academy waves their Allen flag high, it is likely that this film will win the veteran his fifth Oscar. Otherwise, it will just be added to his already impressive, massive amount of nominations.

Louis C.K.
David O. Russell and David Warren Singer

For those keeping track at home, I have practically mentioned in every one of these entries the possibility of an American Hustle sweep. This isn't too far fetched. Despite claiming in the opening credits to being "sort of" based on a true story, the screenplay is full of clever and fun wit that makes it an enjoyable film. However, consider that a lot of the script feels improvised and you'll get a sense that of the many threatening American Hustle overthrows, it doesn't seem likely for this to be one of those categories. Despite popularity, Her has been beating it in almost all awards ceremonies and is likely to do the same here. It would take some very persuasive bias for this pattern to change one bit.

ODDS: Despite being a favorite at the ceremony, it doesn't feel likely that it has enough steam in this category to overthrow Her or long time favorite Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine).

Left to right: Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey
Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack

Dallas Buyers Club is a phenomenal film that shows how powerhouse acting can lead a script with some problematic elements and elevate its quality. With that said, it doesn't seem like the film is likely to win much outside of acting because of that. The fact that it has six nominations shows that it is an unexpected competitor in the ceremony, but it is no more impressive than Her's multiple nominations. It has to distinguish itself from the other four nominees in this category to stand a chance, and that does not seem likely. The message is strong, but the script is not so much. The film is a deserving nominee, as it will allow a wider audience to see the film, but that is the extent to the success of this particular nomination.

ODDS: Almost none, as every other film has a lot more traction behind them and the quality of each being somewhat more consistent. Acting is where this film will win big.

Left to right: Will Forte, Bruce Dern, and June Squibb
Nebraska - Bob Nelson

I hate to keep placing Nebraska as the least likely winner in each category, but it does seem to be the truth. The film is great, but only in a nuanced sense that is too understated to overshadow the flashier films that it is competing against. The script is equally impressive and it does manage to make a tale of family bonding into something unique and fun for those with mid-west relatives. It is sweet, funny, and more human than all of the other nominees on this list, specifically for the brilliant portrayal of Woody (Bruce Dern). I would love for this film to win, as this is the area in which Alexander Payne films succeed, but considering as this is the case for almost every other nominee on here, the film doesn't have much going for it to usurp the competition.

ODDS: If the older Academy voters come out in droves for support, this film could win, but it is looking more and more like this is a category meant for Her.

Will Her manage to get Spike Jonze an Oscar? Is Dallas Buyers Club capable of a win despite its problematic script? Will Nebraska win anything this year?

No comments:

Post a Comment