Oscar Predictions: Screenplays

Although there are a couple of duds in the group, for the most part the screenplay nominees this year are pretty stout. Some of it is fairly clear cut but there are a lot of strong contenders.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Big Short - 1The Big Short
The creativity it took to tell this story in a way that connected with the individuals plus tackle the technical aspect of the story was really impressive. It broke the 4th wall before Deadpool made it en vogue to do so and at the end you want to wring someone’s neck for all that fraud. What more can you ask for.
Brooklyn - 1Brooklyn
 

A friend of mine commented she wondered if Brooklyn would have the same impact if it was a story about a man instead of Saoirse Ronan’s Eilis Lacey. It probably doesn’t but I think it’s a story unique to a woman living in 1950s Ireland. She wouldn’t have had the same opportunities then that her male counterparts did. Going to America was her only shot at making a life for herself. There is a tenderness and authenticity to this story that makes it one of this year’s most beautiful films.

Carol
CarolI commented yesterday when discussing Rooney Mara’s nomination that this movie doesn’t have a lot going for it. I’ll repeat just one point. If it was the story of a middle-aged divorced woman and a young male shop clerk this movie would have totally ignored. The fact that they’re two women doesn’t add anything. I never cared about any characters. Uninteresting and rather boring. I don’t agree with the nomination. Steve Jobs should have been here instead.

Martian - 1The Martian
It’s great to see this script nominated. It’s fun, clever and well-executed. It really took an actor with Matt Damon’s skill to really make it work so it really was a perfect match. It doesn’t rely on the concept carrying the story. What happens too often is an original idea like this one (“A man marooned on Mars.”) just keeps banging that drum. This script is smarter. But what I appreciated the most was it didn’t lean on clichés to do that. He doesn’t have a pretty wife and adorable child on Earth wondering when daddy’s coming home. You care about Mark Watney.

Room - 1Room
It’s hard to understate the exceptional brilliance of this script. Somehow it handles incredibly disturbing subject matter without resorting to shock and awe while humanizing the victims without making them pathetic figures. The subject matter is dark but the story is so much more than the tragedy of abduction and sexual abuse. The characters are given a complexity lazy writers don’t bother with. If great stories begin with posing a great question Room hits the nail on the head. “What would happen if an abducted girl had to raise a child in just one room, telling him that’s all there was? And then what if they suddenly escaped?”

PREDICTION: This is a two-horse race between The Big Short and Room and it’s a tricky one for me to pick. But I think the originality of Room will win out over the chronicling of bank fraud.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Bridge of Spies - 1Bridge of Spies
This is probably the weakest of these five scripts which is saying a lot because it’s really good. The Coen brothers are amazing writers and I’m happy for their nomination. I think what hurt them is working with Spielberg. As great as many of his films are, Spielberg has somewhere along the way lost his touch with subtlety. There are moments in this script where I felt bombarded by “significance.” I suspect that is more Spielberg than Coen but in the end it did take away from what is otherwise a well-crafted story.

Ex MachinaEx Machina
Holy Moses! This one’s a doozy! If I didn’t know it was an original screenplay I’d have thought this was an H.G. Wells or Isaac Asimov story. Smart. Tense. Engaging. After we saw it my wife said she hated it. Then for the next 3 days all she did was talk about it and her theories of what happened, didn’t happen and will happen.

Inside OutInside Out
This is the deepest Pixar has gone story-wise since Wall-E. It is such a well-developed, creative world and has even richer texture than Wall-E. It has smart dialogue and fresh but familiar characters. But where I think it really succeeds is in telling story that runs two different but connected sets of crises simultaneously. The internal predicament and the external predicament. At just the right times the internal struggle manifests in outward behavior ultimately putting 11-year-old Riley in genuine danger. Compelling cinema.

Spotlight - 1Spotlight
I’ll try to save my most lauding compliments for this movie when I talk about its Best Picture nomination. But this script is stellar. Based on a true story it wisely stayed true to the complexity of each of the real-life individuals who experienced it. It’s personal. Like Room, it doesn’t use the shocking nature of the story as a crutch. It knows that’s only a part of the story. It’s the characters that make the story of the Spotlight team exposing conspiracy and cover up so absorbing.

Straight Outta ComptonStraight Outta Compton
What a fascinating story. To be honest, I didn’t know much about NWA before seeing Straight Outta Compton. I was familiar with the group from when I was in high school but I didn’t listen to their music. Over the years it became part of the pop culture landscape but their origins were unknown to me. While at times the story could have been a little tighter, you don’t have to be a fan of NWA to appreciate their story. It transcends the music industry and music style preferences. Straight Outta Compton is about a group of young men trying to make something of their lives and the challenges that come along when you actually succeed.

PREDICTION: This is a slam dunk for Spotlight.

Tomorrow I’ll continue with the nominees for Best Actress. Be sure to check out my other predictions. And don’t forget to comment below or use the Twitter machine. Like the Facebook page, tell you friends and keep those cards and letters comin’ in.

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