27 Days of Oscar, day 15: the screenplay categories


I thought I would take a look at the categories I've completed having finished Best Foreign Film. Speaking of...I have an email interview to prepare for "Tanna" director Martin Butler and my last phoner with "Land of Mine" director Martin Zandvliet on Friday. My goal is to put that piece together on Saturday. I was planning to reach out to some of the Documentary Feature directors as well, maybe "Fire at Sea," but now I'm not sure. After some fantastic experiences I had one that went a little wonky and, of course, my inclination is to quit while I am ahead.

Anyway....

Here are the categories I've finished (meaning, I've watched all of the nominees), noting the ones I've covered in bold.

Picture
Director
Actor
Actress
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actress
Original Screenplay
Adapted Screenplay
Cinematography
Editing
Score
Foreign Language Film
Production Design
Costume Design

After watching "Moonlight" yesterday, I really want to discuss Original Score, but will save that until I see "Trolls." Instead let's chat about screenplay.  

In the early 90s when I really started watching the Oscars the original screenplay prize would go to the runners up for Best Picture. The films that the Academy loved, but not enough to give the top prize. At least, that's how it came across to me. 

"Dead Poets Society", "Ghost," "Thelma & Louise," "The Crying Game," "The Piano," "Pulp Fiction," "Fargo," "Good Will Hunting," and then "Shakespeare in Love." And when that win was announced, many of us thought the same. But it was a turning point as "Shakespeare in Love" won Best Picture. 

Occasionally it was still the case with "Almost Famous" (not even nominated for Best Picture) and "Lost in Translation." But as years have gone by, there really doesn't seem to be a pattern. The last two years, the award also went to the Best Picture winner.

With Adapted, looking at the last 15 years or so, the prize went mostly as expected. I can't remember who everyone thought would win the year Graham Moore won for "The Imitation Game," but the only surprise I know for sure was when "Precious" beat "Up in the Air." 

Adapted Screenplay

Moonlight
Fences
Hidden Figures
Arrival
Lion

Having seen "Moonlight" for a 2nd time, I'm sure about a few things. And one of them is that it deserves the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay. There was some ridiculousness that it was original simply because the play it is based on wasn't published, but that was settled (correctly) by the Academy. This screenplay is a work of art. And not just for the words. Like "La La Land" some of the best moments from the screenplay don't involve dialogue. In interviews Barry Jenkins, the director, has discussed the final shot of the film, and how it was on the page, giving him a direction for the entire film. He always knew where he was headed.

The screenplay for "Hidden Figures" is a little clunky in spots and in the hands of lesser actors would probably be more obvious. I still stand by my thoughts that "Lion" is weak in its 2nd half and mostly due to the screenplay, and "Arrival" is pretty much DOA with Oscar without the nomination for Amy Adams. 

That leaves "Fences" as "Moonlight"'s major competition. I was chatting yesterday with someone on the SAG nominating committee who was saying that "Moonlight" is overrated. Something I don't agree with, but a sentiment I believe to be more prevalent than is being reported by my colleagues. 

It's cooler to hate on "La La Land." If "Fences" receives this award, "Moonlight" is in trouble when it comes to Best Picture. 

Original Screenplay
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Hell or High Water
20th Century Women
The Lobster

This is the category I want to take the biggest risk with and say that "La La Land" will win. I think the screenplay is fantastic (although I am still on the fence a bit with the dinner scene) and although I've seen journos and everymen hate on it, I think actual film professionals know its worth. That being said, I would love to suggest the Golden Globes win as a sign, but those are journalists. So, my argument is probably moot. Oh well.

"The Lobster" is certainly original, but not going to happen. "20th Century Women" is very deserving, in my opinion, but that's a situation where the nomination itself is the prize. Perhaps the Academy will go with "Hell or High Water." Heck, why not? Things are not going to go as expected on Oscar night. Not completely. They never do.

Which leaves us with "Manchester By the Sea." Most people are predicting this for the win, but I don't feel any heat for this film anymore. I am beginning to wonder if Casey Affleck is even out for Best Actor. Most of my colleagues are on the Denzel bandwagon, and I'm almost there. Almost.

For now, I'm thinking "Moonlight" and "La La Land" for the wins. Subject to revision, of course.

After lots of foreign film seriousness I'm going to watch "Zootopia" this morning. In the meantime take a look at my viewing standings by category.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Fire At Sea

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
Kubo and the Two Strings

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls

BEST SOUND MIXING
Deepwater Horizon
13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

BEST SOUND EDITING
Deepwater Horizon
Sully

Best Live Action Short
Ennemis Interierus
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Time Code

Best Animated Short
Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Best Documentary Short
Extremis
4.1 Miles
Joe's Violin
Watani My Homeland
The White Helmets

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