The LAMB Devours The Oscars 2017: Best Original Screenplay

by Jay Cluitt · January 26, 2017 · Featured, LAMB Devours the Oscars · No Comments

Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:

Today, Howard Casner from Rantings and Ravings discusses the nominees for Best Original Screenplay:

Every year when the Academy Award nominations are rolled out, friends on Facebook instantly start complaining about how so many are not worthy of Oscar recognition. I never understand that weeping and wailing because the Oscars are not, and never have been, about the best in film. Rather, they are the recognizers of the epitome of middlebrow entertainment, with an occasional bit of edginess and farsightedness thrown in.

So, actually, for most years, Oscar pretty much gets it about right.

Fortunately for this revolution around the sun, the Academy did an exceptional job when it comes to the nominees for Best Original Screenplay. Only one shouldn’t have made it due to quality. At the same time, it has to be said that that one who shouldn’t have represents the epitome of middlebrow art, and as such, stands an outside chance of winning.

First, a caveat. Moonlight, though considered an original screenplay for the WGA nominations, was put in the adapted slot for AMPAS consideration. This is because it is based on an unpublished story. This is the same reasoning that got the screenplay for Casablanca an adaptation nom, seeing as it was based on an unproduced play.

So, here are the nominees.

Manchester by the Sea

The movie to beat for the award. It began as a Matt Damon project that he would star in and direct with Kenneth Lonergan to write the screenplay. When Damon had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with The Martian, Lonergan was set to direct with Casey Affleck (who is expected to win the Best Actor Oscar) to star. Manchester is a beautiful and emotionally rich and poetic character study of a young man who can’t go home again. When Lee’s older brother dies from a heart condition, Lee returns to his home town to find out that his brother wants him to adopt his nephew Patrick and raise him in the city Lee grew up in, the titled tourist and fishing village Manchester By The Sea. As Lee tries to figure out what to do, the story slowly reveals the heartbreaking reason why he can’t remain.

The Lobster

The nomination that represents that bit of edginess that occasionally gets into the Oscar party. The film is Yorgus Lanthimos and Efhymis Fillipou’s follow up to their Foreign Language Film nomination for Dogtooth. In a future world where everyone by law must be in a relationship, a recently singled man checks into a hotel where he has 45 days to find a mate or be turned into the animal of the man’s choice (he chooses a lobster because they live a long time and are sexually active until the end). A brilliant and caustic black comedy that has to be seen to be believed.

If one is wondering how this highly unique and original screenplay got the Academy nod, especially since it opened so early in the year, first, the screenwriting category, I am proud to say as an aspiring screenwriter myself, has always been the most daring when it comes to nominations. Second, since there are ten screenplay slots to fill, five original and five adapted, it makes it easier to sneak something like this in. And it did get some end of year critical award notice as well as benefiting from a grass roots campaign (which is how Viggo Mortensen received his acting nomination for Captain Fantastic).

20th Century Women

Writer/director Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical follow up to his film Beginners, which was about a young man’s relationship with his father. Here we have a story about a teenage son’s relationship with his mother in 1970’s San Francisco. Somewhat plotless and episodic, it’s a lovely, touching and at times poetic look at a mother/son bonding at the time when the son begins pulling away from his parent to become his own person.

Hell or High Water

In Taylor Sheridan’s modern day western, two brothers, one divorced, the other recently out of prison, go on a bank robbing spree in order to save the family farm from ruthless bankers. It may sound familiar, but it is anything but. After them come two lawmen, one being Jeff Bridges who got his own Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. A powerful film with richly developed characters, a very authentic feel for Texas, and one that tells a story that refuses to give easy answers.

La La Land

The weakest of the bunch and the only one that could beat Manchester By The Sea for the coveted gold statue. Writer/director Damien Chazelle’s musical La La Land is a love letter to L.A. and all the hopers and dreamers there. It starts out wonderfully with a dance number during a traffic jam, but halfway through loses its way with forced plotting and a lethargic pace that ultimately (as opposed to such films as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or New York, New York) never creates a relationship the audience can have an emotional investment in. La La Land is the epitome of the epitome of middlebrow taste and naturally was destined to win Best Picture when it was just a mere gleam in Chazelle’s eye.

What do you think of this year’s Best Original Screenplay nominees?