Friday, February 26, 2010

Oscars 2009: Best Original Screenplay

As a writer, I always enjoy seeing the screenplay nominations. It’s in these nominees that one can discover talented writers, who otherwise never really get much attention. Here Christopher Harwood, William Monahan, and Woody Allen are superstars, with only the latter being a true marquee name. However, my favorite of the two is the original screenplay. Part of this is my personal opinion on adapted screenplays and the “lack of creativity” in Hollywood, and another is that I myself write original stories.
This year’s original screenplay category is an interesting one. Whereas last year there were two surprising snubs (don’t get me wrong, Frozen River’s Courtney Hunt and In Bruges’ Martin McDonagh were pleasant surprises, but nothing for Rachel Getting Married’s Jenny Lumet or Vicky Christina Barcelona’s Woody Allen, an Oscar favorite?), this year there was only one such tragedy: Scott Neustadter’s and Michael H. Weber’s phenomenal screenplay for (500) Days of Summer. But that’s a rant for another time.
The current war in Iraq is a popular topic. Mark Boal’s script for The Hurt Locker is true to his journalist past, presenting the soldiers through an action-based apolitical lens rather than sermonizing for or against the war. He presents the war as it is: a slow-burning conflict that isn’t always epic battles, but guerrilla attacks executed through remote means. In contrast, Oren Moverman’s and Alessandro Camon’s screenplay for The Messenger brings the war home, choosing to focus on a pair of soldiers in the Army Casualty Notification program. These men are still featured as manly-men, but instead of seeing the active toll the battlefield takes, here we see what happens when they return home.
The remaining screenplays tackle a variety of themes. Up, written by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, with a story by Docter, Peterson, and Thomas McCarthy, continues Pixar’s screenplay winning streak by presenting a story that can appeal to both children and adults and concerns the universal themes of love, loss, and following your dreams. A Serious Man, on the other hand, follows the traditional theme of meaninglessness that writers Joel and Ethan Coen routinely explore, this time with dark comedy. And Quentin Tarantino’s gonzo script for Inglourious Basterds provides a surprising rumination on revenge and its consequences without sacrificing any Tarantinoisms and rewriting history in the process.
My ballot is as follows:
  1. Inglourious Basterds, written by Quentin Tarantino
  2. Up, written by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson; story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, and Thomas McCarthy
  3. The Hurt Locker, written by Mark Boal
  4. The Messenger, written by Oren Moverman and Alessandro Camon
  5. A Serious Man, written by Joel and Ethan Coen
1. What do you think? Comments more than welcome.

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