Editor’s note: This is part of a 32-part series dissecting the 85th 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 the other posts regarding this event, please click here. Thank you, and enjoy!
By Jeffery of jdbrecords
Best Original Screenplay is one of my favorite categories at the Oscars. Many of the past winners are risky, arresting and decade-defining films such as Chinatown, Citizen Kane, The Crying Game, Dog Day Afternoon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fargo, Network,Pulp Fiction, and Sunset Boulevard.
This year, the scripts vary greatly in tone, style, and subject matter.
Amour – Michael Haneke
Michael Haneke’s painful story of an elderly couple haunted me after watching it. What Haneke accomplishes best are subtle shifts in time and poignant, sometimes amusing tales relayed by the husband. This isn’t a schmaltzy love tale, it’s a spare but layered and unusually structured piece with a sense of claustrophobia and an unsettling creepiness.
Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino
Tarantino always ignites the medium. Here he crafts a zany, anachronistic buddy pic with German bounty hunter and freed slave who make their way to Candyland–a mythical plantation–in order to rescue Django’s wife. This is another flashy revenge flick that pays homage to screwball comedy, the western and blaxploitation. The unusual marriage between the historical horrors of slavery with spaghetti western has caused some heat from critics including Spike Lee. However, the film, while entertaining, gratuitous and blithe, ends up posing a lot of interesting questions about our American obsessions and the power of the cinematic tradition to reconstruct history. The dialogue in Djagno is complex and delirious, with Tarantino’s signature long monologues.
Flight – John Gatins
There’s a riveting airline crash scene and Denzel Washington gives a solid performance as an alcoholic pilot, but overall I found this movie and its script a bit uneven. The cheesy preachy moments overpower the rare contemplation of character. By far the weakest nominee in the category.
Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson’s marriage of warmth, surprise and dry wit made Moonrise Kingdom irresistibly sweet. With the tale of two misfits on the lam on a fictional island, Anderson focuses both upon the absurdity of childhood and adulthood and the yearning to escape. Lots of funny moments in this but poignant ones too.
Zero Dark Thirty – Mark Boal
Screenwriter Mark Boal and Director Kathryn Bigelow had finished a script based upon the incidents of December 2001 in the Battle of Bora Tora. They were about to begin filming when news had broke about the death of Osama Bin Laden. Boal used a lot of material from his previous effort to shape and define Zero Dark Thirty, a tense procedural about the hunt for Bin Laden. Interestingly enough, Boal doesn’t give us much specific details about the main character Maya, a young CIA officer (played with measured intensity by Jessica Chastain), instead her whole life purpose and obsession becomes dependent upon Bin Laden’s capture. Once he is dead, there is a lingering sense of moral ambiguity that is rare to find in films these days.
Who was left out?
This seemed to be a thin year for Original Screenplays; the best films of the year were mainly adapted from other sources. Of those left out, I would have handily nominated Paul Thomas Anderson’s fascinating The Master and Rian Johnson’s eclectic dystopian thriller Looper. For me, other great original scripts of the year included Compliance, Dark Horse, Elena, Seven Psychopaths, Tabu, and Your Sister’s Sister (though much was based upon the ensemble’s improvisation).
Perhaps it doesn’t have the emotional heft of the other contenders, but I found Moonrise Kingdom to be a pretty perfect piece.
Who will win?
I think it’s between Boal, Tarantino and Haneke. Both Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty were critically acclaimed big hits, but also controversial in their subject matter. What gives Amour the edge is that it’s the only film with both a Picture and Director nomination and is notable for being the first foreign language film to be nominated for Best Picture since Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.