27 January 2013

Oscar Zone, Vol. IV: Writing Nominations

Well folks, we're knee-deep into Oscar Season now, and so it's time again to take a closer look at a category of nominees - this week it's writing. Last week we toiled long on all the Actor's Chances. This year, the writing isn't nearly as clear-cut as in years past. All the more fun for us prognosticators - who will come away with the Golden Bald Man? Who the hell knows - but let's start analyzing the ins and outs of both of these categories anyway. As before, these will be listed from the least likely to most likely to win.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Flight: John Gatins

This was a bit of a bizarre nomination. Flight really doesn't have much going for it outside of Denzel, but it is the kind of creative redemptive personal problem script the Academy likes. There's really much more of a backlash against this thing than the creators had surely hoped for, and the chance that Flight wins this is nonexistent.

Amour: Michael Haneke

Foreign films winning this category is extremely rare, although not unpreccedented. Previous non-English winners include the Spanish Talk to Her (2002) and the German-language Swiss film, Marie-Louise (1944). So they got that going for them. Amour is pretty popular with snobby critics, and apparently the Academy, but virtually unknown outside of that. This doesn't really have any momentum to speak of and winning on Oscar night isn't a possibility.

Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

This is probably the best Original Script of the lot, and Wes deserves a win at this point in his career. This is also the characteristic "quirky" nominee in line with previous winners such as Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Juno (2007), and Midnight in Paris (2011). This is probably the best script of the lot this year, but it's really just run out of buzz. Talk was hot about this flick over the summer, but its distributor hasn't treated it as well as some of the others on this list to properly market it to Oscar Voters. Still, it's got the makings of a recent classic winner, so an upset is possibl here.

Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino

I wouldn't think that there was any way that QT would win this, and it seems as if he thought the same way when he received the Golden Glove in this category. That's the main rationale in ranking this sucker so highly here. It's a competent, n-word filled script, but not as good or ground-breaking as either his win for Pulp Fiction (1994) or his nomination for Inglourious Basterds (2009). The only reason he could win here is a from a significant Weinstein push, which is surely not out of the ordinary.

Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal

It's somewhat unfortunate that Quentin again has to go against the fearsome tight script from Mark Boal. Boal knocked him around with The Hurt Locker in 2009, and he ought to repeat here. 0D30 was one of the fastest, thoroughly researched, and well-constructed screenplays in years. It's certainly an achievement that deserves to be recognized. If we are to go along by measuring current nominees with projects they had won for previously, 0D30's screenplay surpasses The Hurt Locker, which is an admirable feat. 0D30 is also one f the more buzzworthy films of the past few weeks - it will be fresh in voters' minds and a win is almost guaranteed.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin

It's amazing that a small, obscure film like this got as many nominations as it did, but it's not really that well-known or infiltrative of the zeitgeist to pull off the upset here. It's about the equivalent of Amour in the Original Screenplay category. It has its fans, but they aren't nearly influential enough to give it any kind of fighting chance.

Life of Pi: David Magee

This flick got a ton of nominations this year, but hasn't really won anything to show its worth in this category. It's really this year's version of Hugo (2011) in that it will wrap up a ton of awards for its visuals, but since it's really a kind of shitty movie, it won't win anything of real substantial merit. Also considering the beloved and intricate source material, Magee did about the best job anyone could in adapting it, but the film version will still never compare to its literary version. The same cannot necessarily be said for any of the following nominees.

Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell

Dave has again leaned on his actors more than his script in his first film to receive a ton of Oscar attention after The Fighter (2010), and his first nomination as a screenwriter. While it's still a widely loved movie for sure, it actually seems to have crested its popularity this week, and much more attention has been paid to its acting than writing anyway. In the past decade the winner most like this one may be Sideways (2004), so it's certainly possible that this type of flick wins, but this isn't the year for it.

Argo: Chris Terrio

Ben Affleck's greatest movie has been riding a huge wave since its premiere and it ought to keep surging at the Oscars. Still, it has an incredible level of competition, mostly from Lincoln, despite what the Golden Globes says. It ought to put up a good fight in many categories, but considering the Globes was much more liberal in awarding this film and then actually did give this award to Lincoln, Argo's chances aren't good. Yet again, without a lot more chances elsewhere dwindling, this could be an apt consolation prize. All in all, though, it's unlikely.

Lincoln: Tony Kushner

This is a lock for Lincoln to win only second to Daniel Day for Best Actor. It's really the perfect mix of popular and widespread source material, the most hyped film going into the Season, and the most competent and effective screenplay of the year. It's an easy win for Kushner, although there really isn't a ton of precedent for heady historical dramas to win the Adapted Award lately. In fact, this award has been all over the place. The winners are usually extremely strong contenders for Best Picture, though, and with this the forerunner by a good margin, its chances at nabbing this are pretty damn high.

So that's your Writing Nominees, folks. Stay tuned next week as we dissect the nominees for Best Director! What do you think of these predictions?

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