Tuesday, January 25, 2011

OSCAR NOMINEES 2011: The writing categories

To much fanfare, the 2011 Academy Award nominations were released today.  You can grab an entire list of the nominations here.  Here's an analysis of the two screenplay categories, Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) and Best Writing (Original Screenplay).  These two categories are normally hotly contested and frequently are a chance for the Academy to shower praise on something other than the eventual Best Picture winner.  These are the bones that they throw to those movies with several nominations, not the most, but also those inventive creators who really do something daring (just take out-of-nowhere past winners like Diablo Cody for Juno, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for Good Will Hunting, and Quentin Tarantino for Pulp Fiction).  It's always a duel between the pros and the one-hit wonders.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Who was snubbed:  It's hard to really argue with the nominees.  These same five have been at the top of most smaller award lists and critics guild nominations.  The Writer's Guild of America did give a nomination to the controversial I Love You, Phillip Morris, and there's a little bit of love out there for The Town from director Ben Affleck and even Shutter Island in some circles.

Happy to be there:  This goes to Winter's Bone.  There's always one small, independent, low-budget, yet highly regarded film every year that gets some solid credit for the indie film industry.  It will will something like the Independent Spirit Awards before the Oscars, but lives up to the expression "its nomination is its reward."

Who will winThe Social Network, adapted from the Ben Mezrich's nonfiction novel The Accidental Billionaires by highly respected writer Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The American President, TV's The West Wing), has swept every major precursor award in this category.  The screenplay even won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay when the original and adapted screenplays were combined.  There might be no bigger "sure-thing" of the night than this one, even if it somehow doesn't go on to win Best Picture.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Who was snubbedBlack Swan and Blue Valentine can both make very good pitches that they should have been among these nominees.  Black Swan, from Darren Aronofsky, is as twistingly original as Inception and Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine script and story fits that daring "little-engine-that-could" quality that past winners like Juno and Little Miss Sunshine had.  You can tell the "quirky" factor stopped at The Kids Are All Right. 

Happy to be there: Another Year has writer-director Mike Leigh smiling ear to ear and polishing his resume.  This is Leigh's seventh combined nomination between the writing and directing categories, never winning though, following Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake, and Happy-Go-Lucky.  If he keeps this pace up, he's going to be the British Woody Allen.

Who will win:  Quirky wins and brings the statue home to Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg for The Kids Are All Right.  As aforementioned in the introduction, this is a place where the Academy throws a bone to the work it respects but knows won't win the big prize.  The Kids Are All Right, other than some veteran vote hope for Best Actress nominee Annette Bening, isn't going to win any other award it's nominated for.  This is the spot it gets its love and kudos.