Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Oscars of the Aughts: Screenplays 2008

I decided to combine the adapted and original screenplay nominees, namely to keep a decent pace in the series. So here's the nominees for 2008.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Slumdog Millionaire; Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Screenplay by Eric Roth, Screen Story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
The Reader; Screenplay by David Hare
Doubt; Written by John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon; Screenplay by Peter Morgan
Winner: Simon Beaufoy
The interesting thing about this category is that three of the five nominees are Tony-nominated playwrights: Hare, Morgan, and Shanley. But how are the scripts? Hare's screenplay for The Reader is serviceable, but that's the problem: there's nothing that really stands out. Roth's Benjamin Button screenplay is really no different from his Forrest Gump script. Morgan's script is a well-crafted work of drama (based on his own play), and stands well on its own. Beaufoy's work is inspirational and creates great drama from a Q&A. But working from his own play, Shanley has written the most dramatic, engaging piece in the group. Here's my ballot:
1. Doubt; Written by John Patrick Shanley
2. Slumdog Millionaire; Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
3. Frost/Nixon; Screenplay by Peter Morgan
4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Screenplay by Eric Roth, Screen Story by Robin Swicord
5. The Reader; Screenplay by David Hare
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Milk; Written by Dustin Lance Black
Happy-Go-Lucky; Written by Mike Leigh
In Bruges; Written by Martin McDonagh
Frozen River; Written by Courtney Hunt
Wall-E; Screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon, Story by Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter
This year's original screenplay crop are an interesting and diverse group. Hunt's Frozen River screenplay represents the indie crowd, with her quiet, emotionally intense drama. Milk writer Dustin Lance Black takes a very open personality in Harvey Milk and creates a terrific biopic out of his story. Happy-Go-Lucky is the Mike Leigh entry; its interesting that he's always nominated for this category when there's so much improvisation in his films. But its an excellent film, with a nice balance of wit and drama. The same can be said about McDonagh's In Bruges, though the latter is a superior film that is immensely entertaining. But the finest script barely contains any dialogue in its first half-hour: Wall-E, just one of a long string of Pixar films nominated for its screenplay. It was a masterpiece of animation, and the script is what lends the film its power. Here's how my ballot would have looked:
1. Wall-E; Screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon, Story by Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter
2. In Bruges; Written by Martin McDonagh
3. Milk; Written by Dustin Lance Black
4. Happy-Go-Lucky; Written by Mike Leigh
5. Frozen River; Written by Courtney Hunt

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