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 of Rantings and Ravings is here to look at the nominees fro Best Original Screenplay.
The screenplay nominations usually include some of the edgier nominations of the year. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, there are ten slots to the other categories’ five (screenplays are in two categories of five each, one for original and one for adaptation). This allows for more idiosyncrasy. In addition, writers are often a bit more progressive when it comes to nominating their own kind.
It should also be noted that one of the screenplay categories is often what is called a consolation prize, an award given to a film that the Academy loves, but just can’t find an award to give it in a major category. This is usually in the category opposite of whatever will win best picture. This year, this means original screenplay, since Nomadland is predicted to win best picture.
None of that seems to apply this time round though. It has not been the best year for movies, mainly due to quarantine restrictions slowing the release of films. And this awards season, while the nominations are often entertaining and enjoyable, while being somewhat downbeat (to say the least), they are also a bit safe and middlebrow.
And the winner in this category this year is also predicted to win an award in a major category; at the same time, that major category is a hard fought for race, so no one is quite sure who will win.
So on to the nominees, in alphabetical order:
Judas and the Black Messiah, screenplay by Will Berson and Shaka King from a story by Berson, King, Kenny Lucas and Keith Lucas. A satisfactory dramatization of the rise and fall of The Black Panthers. It’s a little slow and I’m unconvinced it does anything more than what it does, tell this historical story. But a solid piece of writing.
Minari, screenplay by Lee Isaac Chung, who also directed. This is perhaps my favorite screenplay of the five, a very moving memory play of the director’s life growing up on a newly started farm in Arkansas under the Regan years. Deeply moving and often quite powerful, it’s one of the better films of the year.
Promising Young Woman, screenplay by Emerald Fennell, who also directed. This story of a traumatized woman who works out this trauma by going after date rapists as well as some people who caused a friend to commit suicide is an interesting idea that doesn’t quite work for me. If the story had focused more on going after the guilty parties rather than people who symbolized the guilty parties, I think it would have been stronger. The tonal shifts are a bit clunky and wobbly. The only real surprise is the near-Thelma and Louise ending which I also found unsatisfying. However, this is the screenplay to beat (it is supposed to also win Best Actress for Carey Mulligan).
Sound of Metal, screenplay by Abraham Marder and Darius Marder (who also directed), from a story by Darius Marder and Derek Cianfrance. This is a very moving look at a drummer who is going deaf and the new world he discovers of people who have the same disability. Overall, it’s a very moving drama.
The Trial of the Chicago 7, screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, who also directed. A dramatization of the trial of a group of protesters arrested during the 1968 Democratic Convention. Very entertaining and well written, a nice bit of agit-prop fun. But in the end, it’s a rather standard courtroom drama that doesn’t do anything more than others like it have done.