Monday, April 5, 2010

One Category at a Time: Best Original Screenplay

The biggest and baitiest projects of any given year are usually adaptations, mainly because the source material has already been judged and presumably deemed successful if it's good enough to be made into a motion picture. But this year, the adapted field looks a bit thin from the outset, while a number of Oscar hopefuls were written directly for the screen.

One film that could take off is Searchlight's awards pony Betty Anne Waters. Oscar loves a true story, and the last couple of years have shown us that voters are more likely to reward stories bearing a stamp of realism than they are more original or idiosyncratic scripts (for better or worse). Assuming that, the true story about the title heroine Betty Anne Waters, a single mom who put herself through law school to represent her brother, seems right up their alley. Writer Pamela Grey may well benefit, but only if her screenplay is truly great, as her competition is stiff...

Competition such as the team of writers (Paul Attanasio, Lewis Colich, Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, and Paul Tamasy) who have tackled the early life of Mickey Ward for David O'Russell's biopic The Fighter. Biopics do well here because, again, being based on real people and real events is as close to being based on prestigious literary source material as an original screenplay can come.

But recent years past have also been kind to independent comedies in this category, with the likes of Little Miss Sunshine and Juno winning in 2007 and 2008. The Sundance darling which got the most attention was Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids are All Right, co-written by her and Stuart Blumberg. Can the buzz be sustained? Or will another indie charmer come outta nowhere to take up a spot?

Finally, a couple of genre pieces. Word on Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life has been scant, but rumour states it has fantasy elements, an automatic turnoff for more conservative voters. But the film could be a big player in the awards race, and if a Best Picture nomination is attained, a Screenplay nod will usually follow. The one film I'm most looking forward to is Christopher Nolan's Inception. The man is a brilliant writer, as anyone who's seen Memento will verify. When he's not busy elevating the Batman franchise to high art, he works on his own creative stories which often involve screwy head games that leave us mouth agape and awed by his mastery of invention. I'm on board for Inception, which could be his most mind-boggling invention yet!

Predicted 5:
Betty Anne Waters
The Fighter
The Kids are All Right
The Tree of Life

Also consider: Darren Aronofsky & Mark Heyman for Black Swan, Derek Cianfrance & Joey Curtis & Cami Delavigne for Blue Valentine, James D. Solomon & Gregory Bernstein for The Conspirator, Noah Baumbach & Jennifer Jason Leigh for Greenberg, James L. Brooks for How Do You Know?, David Seidler for The King's Speech, Sophia Coppola for Somewhere, Michael Arndt for Toy Story 3, Woody Allen for You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

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