Friday, January 18, 2008

OscarBlog Part 3 - Featuring Screenplays

I'm getting a late start on this one so I'll save sound and music for Part 4 and have this entry focus on the feature and screenplay categories. This may just end up being the shortest entry in the series so let's just get started.

The nominees will be...


Bee Movie
The Simpsons Movie

This has to be the easiest call to make this year. My only concern is that the Academy will be film snobs and not nominate The Simpsons Movie because of its television origin. Then again, it is The Simpsons and what else are they going to nominate? Beowulf? I don't think so. Unless the French graphic novel inspired Persepolis gets a big last minute push, I expect The Simpsons Movie to make the cut and then witness the Academy snobbery when they instead award Ratatouille on the big night. Don't get me wrong, Ratatouille is great, but not as great as The Simpsons Movie.

In the Shadow of the Moon
Lake of Fire
No End in Sight
Taxi to the Darkside

You probably don't want to read about it, and I really don't feel like writing about it so I'll be brief. I just picked four out of the five I was familiar with from the short list of 15 eligible films (the fifth is Zoo but only because of a very negative review). The other film I chose, Taxi to the Dark Side, is because it received a Writers Guild nomination and focuses on an innocent taxi driver who was tortured and killed by Unites States forces in Afghanistan five years ago. That sounds like an Oscar contender to me. Some of the others I'm unfamiliar with but sound like Oscar material from titles alone are Ghosts of Cite Soleil, Into Great Silence, Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) and The Unforeseen. I had to include that last one for the sake of irony alone.

Beaufort - Israel
Days of Darkness - Canada
Katyn - Poland
The Unknown Woman - Italy
The Year My Parents Went On Vacation - Brazil

You probably don't want to read about it, and... you get the idea. I'm not familiar with any of these films (though I have heard of the Canadian director Denys Arcand who won four years ago for The Barbarian Invasions). Entry forms for this award were sent to 95 countries, and a record 63 submitted films but only 9 of them make the short list. The four that didn't make my guess list above are The Counterfeiters - Austria, Mongol - Kazakhstan, 12 - Russia, and The Trap - Serbia.

Paull Thomas Anderson "There Will Be Blood"
Coen Brothers "No Country for Old Men"
Christopher Hampton "Atonement"
Ronald Harwood "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Sean Penn "Into the Wild"
Screenplay nominations usually go to Best Picture nominees and the list above could very well be the five films nominated for the big prize. For that reason alone there's a chance that John Logan's screenplay for Sweeney Todd could be nominated. A more likely substitution to this list, however, would be James Vanderbilt for his Zodiac screenplay since he received a Writers Guild nomination (Atonement was left off their list). There's even a slim possibility that David Benioff could be nominated here for The Kite Runner, though I think a nomination for 3:10 to Yuma writing team Halsted Welles and Michael Brandt has a much better shot than any of the aforementioned contenders.

However, since the Academy is comprised mostly of actors, I think the most likely alternate for this list would be Ben Affleck for the Gone Baby Gone screenplay he wrote with Aaron Stockard since it will be easier to nominate Affleck here than in the director category (even though that is something he managed to do all by himself). It only took ten years since he shared a screenwriting award last time with Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting for him to write another screenplay with someone else. Two deserving contenders that should be in the running but are certain to be left out are Harold Pinter for Sleuth and Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn for Stardust.

Diablo Cody "Juno"
Tony Gilroy "Michael Clayton"
Tamara Jenkins "The Savages"
Steven Knight "Eastern Promises"
Nancy Oliver "Lars and the Real Girl"

Steven Knight is the only one here not also nominated for a Writers Guild award, which instead nominated Judd Apatow for Knocked Up, so that's always a possibility but I'm betting against it because of Apatow's television roots and the Academy snobbery I mentioned earlier. The prediction I'm least confident in for this category is Tamara Jenkins who I could see losing out to Brad Bird for Ratatouille since Pixar has had three films nominated in this category before (Toy Story, Finding Nemo and most recently Bird himself for The Incredibles), or perhaps a posthumous nomination for Waitress writer/director Adrienne Shelly.
Noah Baumbach was nominated here last year for The Squid and the Whale but his follow-up Margot at the Wedding is (I think appropriately) not garnering the same buzz. Normally a Wes Anderson film would be a strong contender here (The Royal Tenenbaums was nominated five years ago) but the script he co-wrote with Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola for The Darjeeling Limited probably won't be noticed I think mostly because of its early fall release date. Todd Haynes (nominated here five years ago also, when he should have won for Far From Heaven) qualifies in this category for I'm Not There which he co-wrote with Oren Moverman, but since a large chunk of the dialogue is lifted from source materials (such as Don't Look Back and various interviews with Bob Dylan) it may not seem original enough (even though it's one of the most original films of the new millenium).

Kelly Masterson's screenplay for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is certainly worthy of a nomination, but since that film failed to find the audience it deserves she'll have to settle for losing to Diablo Cody at the Independent Spirit Awards. I'd like to see Peter Hedges and Pierce Gardner receive a nomination for Dan in Real Life, but that's not going to happen either.

Now the OscarBlog series is more than half complete. I hope you're enjoying reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.


JD said...

The Before The Devil Knows YOu're Dead writer is a HE. We interviewed him for the show. Good guy.
I think that should be nominated, but I would also like to see the others you mentioned get nominated too, they are all worthy. As are the adapted screenplays.

The Foreign Film nominations are causing a big stir because some films did not make it like Persopolis and the Romanian film. Big article about it in today's Style section of the Washington Post.

Keep up the great work.

Garney said...

I'm bummed that it's Mr. Masterson because it would be exciting to have a female dominated screenwriting category. I don't think that's ever happened.

If there's not a mini-controversy in documentary omission then it's foreign film's turn.

Red said...

I really don't think The Savages should be nominated in the screenplay category. I didn't think the script was really very strong.

What happened with the Romanian film? They've been running For Your Consideration ads in Netflix envelopes for weeks now...