Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oscars of the Aughts: Screenplays 2007

Welcome back to Oscars of the Aughts! Now that 2010 is all wrapped up, I can get back to the past decade (it just never ends, and that's the way I like it). Hopefully I'll be able to finish 2007 this week, and I'm currently working my way through 2006's nominated films, so those posts are in the works. But first, the nominated screenplays of 2007:

 Atonement; Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
 Away From Her; Written by Sarah Polley
 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
 No Country for Old Men; Written for the Screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
 There Will Be Blood; Written for the Screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Winner: No Country for Old Men

This year's set of Adapted Screenplays saw some very dark material, from nihilistic murder to the dark side of the American dream to Alzheimer's. Among them all, the weakest would have to be Atonement: the story is mostly in tact from the book, but Hampton's script doesn't have the high-charged romantic spark to make the central love story believable, and Briony's path to redemption lacks emotional heft as well. Away From Her captures a desperate and heartbreaking situation, and though it has its faults throughout, it ultimately redeems itself with a terrific third act. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly's Harwood works his magic in turning a difficult story into a great narrative, but the film's success owes a lot more to its director than to its writer. Ultimately, this year comes down to the auteur projects. The Coens find a perfect match in Cormac McCarthy's dark, nihilistic tale, and their spare script captures the emptiness and terseness of McCarthy's language. But Anderson's screenplay for There Will Be Blood takes Upton Sinclair's Oil! and turns it into a scathing critique of Horatio Alger's pauper-to-prince stories, as Daniel Plainview ruthlessly claws his way to the top of the oil world. Its close, but There Will Be Blood has the edge.

My Adapted Screenplay ballot:

1. There Will Be Blood; Written for the Screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
2. No Country for Old Men; Written for the Screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
4. Away From Her; Written by Sarah Polley
5. Atonement; Screenplay by Christopher Hampton

 Juno; Written by Diablo Cody
 Lars and the Real Girl; Written by Nancy Oliver
 Michael Clayton; Written by Tony Gilroy
 Ratatouille; Screenplay by Brad Bird, Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
 The Savages; Written by Tamara Jenkins

Winner: Juno

2007 proved to be a glorious year for women screenwriters, with the majority of the Original Screenplay category being female (the most in Oscar history). Nancy Oliver's Lars and the Real Girl script, though, suffers from way too much indie-move cuteness, drowning in the improbability of its plot and the quirks of its characters (not even Ryan Gosling can save it). To a certain extent, Jenkins' The Savages has the same problem, but more-enriched characters help prevent this script from that fate. Much better examples are Gilroy's tight and tense Michael Clayton screenplay, which twists and turns its way into making corporate dealings intriguing. Its never a good idea to doubt Pixar, but with Ratatouille it seemed that they had a difficult story to sell. Luckily, Brad Bird (who wrote and directed Pixar's best film at the time, The Incredibles) and company crafted a terrific screenplay, making it possible for audiences to actually want a mouse in a restaurant's kitchen. But none of these hold a candle to the wicked-smart, sarcastic-but-sentimental-at-heart Juno script, written with gusto by Diablo Cody. She may never capture the lighting of this film again, but she created a story that avoided melodrama to show how another type of teenage girl handles pregnancy. Even today the dialogue is fresh and snappy, and the structure holds up well. She deserved her Oscar (of course, anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I'm a huge Juno fan, to the point where I still enjoy the film more than most. This will be really evident later in this series).

My ballot:

1. Juno; Written by Diablo Cody
2. Ratatouille; Screenplay by Brad Bird, Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
3. Michael Clayton; Written by Tony Gilroy
4. The Savages; Written by Tamara Jenkins
5. Lars and the Real Girl; Written by Nancy Oliver


Walter L. Hollmann said...

There Will Be Blood = yes! Oil! is about an oilman's son becoming a socialist; There Will Be Blood is a wicked descendant of great American dramas like Citizen Kane.

My picks: There Will Be Blood, Away from Her, No Country, Diving Bell, Atonement

I'd choose Ratatouille over Juno, but it's still a solid choice. Seriously, it's reassuring to know there are others out there that still love the film. And I LOOOVE Lars and the Real Girl. Yeah, the story's improbable, but I don't think it ever pretends to be anything but fantasy. It's sweet, funny, a little sad...I enjoy it.

My picks: Ratatouille, The Savages, Juno, Lars and the Real Girl, Michael Clayton

Jason H. said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves Juno. Ratatouille is a great choice too, though; I really liked 2007 in film as a whole (at least as far as Oscar nominees go).