Saturday, February 22, 2014


     Well, the Academy Awards are just about a week away and I am going to do a little preview for the main categories leading up to the big show. Today, I will preview the Adapted and Original Screenplays races, following with write-ups on the Acting categories, Directing and the Best Picture during the week. After these are completed, I will serve up my predictions and will also be live blogging the winners as they are announced on March 2nd. Here we go.

     The Adapted Screenplay category is a tight one with two heavy favorites in 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street, but there could always be a surprise here. Not likely. The nominees are:
  • Before Midnight, written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke.   A wonderful screenplay in the third film of this trios "Before"trilogy. A well-deserved nomination and a film that is so poignant and almost perfect in its depiction and unveiling of the ups and downs of a "real" relationship. Some of the best ever put on screen. Writing that really understands Jesse and Celine as real people, not just characters in a story. No shot of winning, but one of my favorites of the year.
  • Captain Phillips, written by Billy Ray.   Ray's screenplays, based off the real events of Richard Phillips and the Somali pirate who hijacked his freight ship and himself, is a striking, detailed account of these occurrences. Sharp, swift and a film that is perfectly acted and directed. If any screenplay can steal the thunder away from 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street, it might be this one. 
  • Philomena, written by Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope.  First off, I have not seen this film yet, so I do not want judge the merits of the film or writing, but everything I have read is that Coogan and Pope have done justice to the story of a woman in search for her son who was taken away from her when she was forced to live in a convent. I do not think this one has a shot at all, so the nomination is the victory.
  • 12 Years a Slave, written by John Ridley.   Probably the frontrunner, even ahead of Wolf. Ridley's adaptation of Solomon Northup's autobiography, is strong, resilient and full of the horrors of slavery. The period and dialogue are perfect. Ridley has a great talent at really supplying the details and getting at the heart of the struggle and not shying away from the horrifying realities of slavery and oppression in America. 
  • The Wolf of Wall Street, written by Terence Winter.   On a personal level, this is probably my favorite screenplay of the year. Fast, in your face and full of F-bombs, Winter nailed it on every level. The time period, the arrogance and the appalling distaste and disdain for any human sincerity and respect. The "me first" generation has never been brought to life with such disregard and vitality as it has with Winter's wonderful adaptation of Jordan Belfort's autobiography. 
     On to the Original Screenplay category and although I enjoyed and respect all five films nominated, it is a terrible injustice that the Coen's near perfect original writing (maybe adapted since it is loosely based on a book about Dave Von Ronk) for Inside Llewyn Davis is absent. I am focusing on the nominees here, but this is bad when the Coen's do not get nominated from something so good. Enough on that. It is between American Hustle and Her in this category, but if there is a surprise, it could be Nebraska. The nominees are:
  • American Hustle, written by Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell.   Maybe the top film in this category, according to the Academy at least. The screenplay is ok, but did not do it for me. This is a film that is all about the performances and the soft, although enjoyable, piece of Hollywood entertainment that it is. The writing is good, but nowhere near as high quality as Russell's last two films, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. This might be the easy, soft choice for the Academy.
  • Blue Jasmine, written by Woody Allen.   The controversy surrounding Allen right now will not effect his place in film history or in this category. He will not win, but he is the absolute best at writing strong female roles and gets an amazing performance from Cate Blanchett, as well as Sally Hawkins. Jasmine's fall from elite society and the affected of the Wall Street crash of 2008 is shown in drastic, personal measures by Allen.
  • Dallas Buyers Club, written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack.   A strong film, with excellent performances and a screenplay that is the backbone of a heartbreaking, important story. Although I felt it became a little too stretched out near the end, this is a brilliant, true story about acceptance and the fight for life. It will not win, but this would be an enjoyable surprise.
  • Her, written by Spike Jonze.   One of the best screenplays in years and something fresh, innovative and extremely touching. Jonze crafted a story about the future of love and longing, while not being pretentious or untrue. Funny, lovely and futuristic, Her should win this category if the Academy wants to show the world that it is not out-of-date and because it is just that damn good. I loved this screenplay and the film.
  • Nebraska, written by Bob Nelson.   No filmmaker today is better at showcasing honest depictions of middle America better than Alexander Payne, and Bob Nelson's screenplay for Nebraska is another piece of brilliance and comedic purity. The film is a little bit darker than the rest of Payne's filmography, but what greatness it is. I loved the writing and these characters come to full life with Nelson's honest, truthful words. Could surprise here.
     And that is it for the nominated Screenplays. Still mad about Inside Llewyn Davis not getting nominated and I also wish Destin Daniel Cretton's beautiful script for Short Term 12 would have gotten some attention. Tomorrow I will be previewing the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories. Enjoy.

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