Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees:
Argo, Chris Terrio
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Life of Pi, David McGee
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin/Lucy Alibar
Two of the tightest races in this year’s Oscars will be Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. In both categories at least three contenders have a good chance of taking the prize and each has a substantial amount of support in Hollywood.
Firstly, Best Adapted Screenplay at one point looked like a lock for Tony Kushner’s script for Lincoln. In the past month, the mood has soured a bit on Spielberg’s latest, leaving people wondering if it will take home anything besides Best Actor. Likewise, Kushner has fallen almost out of contention entirely in the minds of many pundits. To my mind, Kushner has enough respect as an established scribe to pull in massive amounts of votes. His script for Lincoln is the shining light of the film. A muscular, epic film that’s steeped in precise verbiage, Lincoln is lifted by the words from the page. Any accolades afforded the actors should also be afforded the words they were given. Kushner has a better chance here than he is getting credit.
Silver Linings Playbook is a rapid-fire talk-fest that’s thinly about mental illness and a cultural hidden under accepted measures of psychological repression. The film is, at its core, a solid rom-com that has undergone a vomit-inducing amount campaigning over the past month. This isn’t the most touching take on mental illness ever to grace the screen, as the ads would have us believe. However, the script is solid and the actors chewed up the material. The fact that the best performance is the most underwritten (Jennifer Lawrence) says as much about the breath of Russell’s screenplay as the greatness of the young actress.
The winner here will be Argo. It’s the frontrunner for Best Picture and the tight screenplay will be lauded for pulling together so many tones. To me, the lack of weight given to the main character remains a critical flaw that the script new overcame. At its heart, this is a somewhat cornball suspense thriller taking on very sensitive themes in a loose, somewhat disrespectful, manner. The biggest offender is a script that handles the characters like chess pieces instead of human beings that are making strong, difficult choices. Nonetheless, Hollywood likes this film a great deal. This is your winner.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
WILL WIN: Argo
COULD WIN: Silver Linings Playbook
SHOULD WIN: Lincoln
Best Original Screenplay Nominees:
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson/Roman Coppola
Flight, John Gatins
Amour, Michael Haneke
In Best Original Screenplay, unlike Adapted, there’s a lack of obvious choices that makes this race so close. Assuming Moonrise Kingdom will continue to be snubbed, this one is between Amour, Django Unchained, and Zero Dark Thirty. Given the Academy’s track record for rewarding filmmakers who haven’t taken home wins the past, Amour seems the frontrunner. Additionally, this one might be the only prize Amour takes if something like War Witch tugs at enough of the heart-strings to win in the Foreign category (not an impossible proposition). However, Haneke’s script is unsentimental and taciturn without also being all that exciting to watch unfold. With Tarantino in this race, I can’t see the Academy looking the other way.
For me, Tarantino’s dialogue borders on cutesy and his plots have grown increasingly messy. Yet, Hollywood continues to buy into Tarantino as a masterful writer. From those I’ve talk to, Django’s script is well-liked and it seems the competition is too thin to stand up to this one. Also, Tarantino – believe it or not – hasn’t won in almost 20 years. In some respects, he’s “due.”
Mark Boal won this three years ago with The Hurt Locker. Zero Dark Thirty is a bit of virtuoso filmmaking with some visual flare. The script, to me, is the weakest part of an otherwise daring project. For something as impacting as the search of rate world’s most dangerous man, there’s an awful lot of air in Zero Dark Thirty. The film has received a great deal of applied artistry from critics wanting to love its restrained sheen. I think there’s some lazy writing in here that many in Hollywood did not take to.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
WILL WIN: Django Unchained
COULD WIN: Amour
SHOULD WIN: Flight