The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Original Screenplay

by Rachel · February 11, 2012 · LAMB Devours the Oscars · 5 Comments

Editor’s note: Welcome to the eighteenth of a 32-part series dissecting the 84th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

During the past few decades, the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay has frequently rewarded films that seemed destined to win Best Picture but were a bit too daring for the Academy’s tastes. Prime examples include Pulp Fiction, Fargo, Lost in Translation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Recent trends indicate that the award may be morphing into something less interesting, however. The past two Best Picture winners, The King’s Speech and The Hurt Locker, both also took home this prize. Has the Best Original Screenplay award simply become a validation for the night’s big achiever? Let’s take a look at each of this year’s nominees to consider the answer to this question. Please note that the name of this award was changed to Best Writing (Original Screenplay) in 2002. I’ve chosen the simpler phrase to save space and make for a smoother term within each sentence. Let’s check out the nominations!
The Artist – The Oscar Front-runner
Although it’s possible that The Artist will be unseated by The Descendants, right now it seems like the expected Best Picture winner. If this acclaimed movie wins that award, will the momentum carry it to many wins? I’m expecting the Oscars to be spread across a number of films, with none winning more than four or five. However, I’ve been very wrong in the past. Another interesting aspect is the fact that The Artist is a silent film. In one sense, this should lessen the importance of its screenplay, but you can also take the opposite approach and say that the story structure remains pivotal. Regardless, this is one of the top contenders for the Best Original Screenplay award. Michel Hazanavicius might have a better chance to win this Oscar than Best Director.
Bridesmaids – The Crowd Pleaser
Few comedies during recent years have achieved so much box-office success along with critical acclaim. Even The Hangover had its detractors and wasn’t praised by a majority of viewers and experts. The ambitious push to gain a Best Picture nomination fell short, but this nod justifies that expectation. KristinWiig has a lot of fans across the industry, and it’s great to see a screenplay written by two women (Wiig and Annie Mumolo) gain so much attention. This fact should bring support for this energetic comedy to take home the prize. I don’t expect this to actually happen, though. It still seems like a stretch for it to overcome the two top choices in this category.
Margin Call – The Head Scratcher
Writer/director J.C. Chandor’s debut film is the surprise nominee from this group and wasn’t part of any experts’ predictions before the announcement. The drama about the financial crisis does include an all-star cast with a serious pedigree. When you have Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Mary McDonnell, and Zachary Quinto in your cast, the Academy is bound to take notice. The connection to recent headline-making issues also adds to the support for this film. That said, I’d be shocked if it took home the award. Its nomination was already a surprise, and it has the longest odds of winning the Oscar.
Midnight in Paris – The Likely Winner
Woody Allen has been nominated 15 times for Best Original Screenplay, winning twice for Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters. It’s been a long time since he’s won this award, and I expect the Academy is ready to change that trend. Midnight in Paris doesn’t seem like a serious contender to win Best Picture, and it feels destined to be another top film that receives this consolation prize. Another factor in its favor is the focus on artists in this movie. It makes creative people feel they’re the stars of our world, and that can only inspire sentiment. This was my favorite movie of 2011, so I may be biased. Following Allen’s win at the Golden Globes, I expect him to take home the prize this year. He won’t attend the ceremony, which may be a bit awkward, but that won’t hurt his chances for the well-deserved victory.
A Separation – The Intriguing Underdog
There’s been a groundswell of support among critics for this Iranian film that will likely win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Asghar Farhadi’s look at divorce and family relations in modern Iran could take a surprise win. I haven’t seen it yet, but from what I’ve heard so far, it’s likely to have a lot of devoted fans. The question is whether that passionate support will be enough to overcome three crowd pleasers in this category. A Separation stands apart from the rest of the movies, which will likely cause it to fall short of the necessary votes to win. I also expect Oscar voters to reward it in the Best Foreign Film category instead. This nomination is impressive and should bring more coverage to this movie, but it seems unlikely to lead to a win.
Although this is a solid group of films, there were some notable snubs from these nominations. The most egregious missing pick was Will Reiser’s script for 50/50, which received a good deal of acclaim. I would have loved to see Mike Mills’ charming screenplay for Beginners get a nod. Christopher Plummer does a great job, but the film is a lot more than that performance. The tricky part is deciding which choices to remove to drop these movies into the mix. Margin Call seems like the most likely one, but it’s hard to say which truly received the least votes. Regardless, this race seems down to two choices, Midnight in Paris and The Artist. I expect the former to take home the prize, but it’s always possible that Michel Hazanavicius’ film will enjoy a wave that sweeps many of the big awards.

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5 Responses to The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Original Screenplay

  1. i really do hope midnight in paris wins. i saw a lot of these nominated (including margin call, which i thought was propelled by its performances). midnight in paris is just so fresh, truly inspirational in every way.

  2. EFC says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. EFC says:

    I was ready to say that Midnight in Paris would take it, but your bit about The Artist’s story structure reminded me of an Oscar piece William Goldman wrote, way back in ’98.

    He said that even though Titanic had, in his opinion, lame dialogue and paper-thin characterizations, he felt that it was an incredibly well-structured story — and that’s what it really comes down to. The Artist, while lacking in dialogue, is still a well-told story, and now I’m all confused which one to put my money on! Thanks a lot, Dan. 😉

  4. Great write up Dan! I think that The Artist probably deserves to win, because screenplays actually do cover more than just dialogue, they also include all those other things like who does what. But I’m thinking that Midnight In Paris will be the one to take this, since The Artist will be rewarded elsewhere and the Academy loves Woody Allen. Like you, I think that Midnight deserves to win something, and this is the likely place for them to reward it.

  5. Dan says:

    Thanks! While I’m pulling for Midnight in Paris, I still wonder about The Artist sliding in there based on the overall love. The screenplay categories should be really interesting this year.

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