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Longlists to Nominees: Original Screenplay

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^ Not quite how it was in the actual film, but the spirit is the same.

Unlike Adapted Screenplay, where I had 6 viable candidates (4 of which were locks) and the only dilemma was easily resolved, this is one hell of a category. If I wanted to, I could take my Top 10 and call it a day for nominees (and I’m considering expanding all my categories to 10 in the future). Just look at this longlist:

  • Computer Chess
  • Frances Ha
  • Her
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Mud
  • Nebraska
  • Prisoners
  • Side Effects
  • Spring Breakers
  • A Touch of Sin
  • Upstream Color

There are so many good choices here, I could just pull 5 out of a bag and have a decent category. In fact, just for fun, I’m going to do that.

And I got: Frances Ha, Mud, Side Effects, Spring Breakers, Upstream Color.

Not bad. That would never be my lineup–no way would I leave Her off–but it’s still pretty good; the alternative (Computer Chess, Her, Nebraska, Prisoners, A Touch of Sin) is even better. But the final result will be a bit of both.

(Oh, and yes, I took Llewyn Davis out of the running. I just didn’t really get much out of that one.)

Anyway…Her is on. No question. A Touch of Sin is on. No question there. (The Cannes jury got that right, at least.) Nebraska…I have a few issues with the first 20 minutes, but the rest is golden. It’s going on. And I love Spring Breakers too much (and it has too many great lines) not to put it on.

Now, for what’s left:

  • Computer Chess: Fun, weird movie. I really like it. It’s very well written. In another year, it might get on, but I don’t think it’s happening. At least not now.
  • Frances Ha: A really strong script. Very witty, well-drawn characters. I really need to see it again before I can comfortably put it on, though. I feel more strongly about it for Best Actress, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
  • Mud: I like the script. It’s got an almost novelistic feel to it–it really draws you in. And the characters are really well-rounded (the strength of the acting only helps). So I should at least advance it to the next round.
  • Prisoners: There are a lot of good things in this script. As an examination of vigilantism taken to an extreme, as a portrait of two obsessed individuals separated, essentially, only by status, and as a nerve-wracking thriller, it mostly works brilliantly. There are some weak spots, to be fair–a few scenes that feel like obligatory thriller moments. They don’t outweigh the film’s strengths, but they keep it just below the level of an unqualified masterpiece.
  • Side Effects: A good, Hitchcockian thriller. It’s a real shame this movie came out so early and was forgotten by awards season. And the script is great, full of twists and turns, complete with a framed hero, TWO femme fatales, conspiracy, etc….it’s a lot of fun. It’s certainly worth considering.
  • Upstream Color: Great movie, incredibly imaginative, and with a few great lines (“I have to apologize. I was born with a disfigurement where my head is made of the same material as the sun.”). But I don’t need to nominate the script. The editing, sound, score…absolutely. But this I can pass on.

So it’s basically a three-way tie between Mud, Prisoners, and Side Effects for that last slot. I’ll take off Mud. It’s not that brilliantly written.

Do I go with the ambitious, thought-provoking, but imperfect film, or the smooth, clever, but (ultimately) lightweight film? For the present time, ambition wins out. But of all this year’s categories, this one is most likely to have a change or two in the future.

And we have:

  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Prisoners
  • Spring Breakers
  • A Touch of Sin

(Picking one is gonna be tough.)

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