This week, Moviegoers bloggers Mack Bates and Tom Fuchs take on the best original screenplay and best adapted screenplay races.
For those of you wondering, this feature was directly inspired by “Siskel & Ebert’s” annual televised Oscar special that featured the late reviewing duo decked out in tuxedos announcing who they would vote for, based on that year’s pool of nominees, if they were members of the Academy. Check out last week’s inaugural entry.
Best Original Screenplay
American Hustle - Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club - Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack
Her - Spike Jonze
Nebraska - Bob Nelson
Mack’s Pick: Three of these nominees (Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, and Nebraska) are notable more for their astounding performances – lead and supporting – than for their scripts, however solid they happen to be. Which leaves us with filmmaker David O. Russell’s wild and freewheeling take on the FBI’s ABSCAM sting operation in American Hustle, and filmmaker Spike Jonze’s beautifully realized romantic dramedy Her, where a lonely guy in LA falls madly in love with a newly purchased operation system named Samantha. The Beatles once famously sang, “All you need is love.” With that in mind, I’d cast my vote for Her.
Tom’s Pick: Spike Jonze's screenplay for Her should and will win. It's clear that his work with brilliant writers in his previous films (Charlie Kaufman and Dave Eggers) rubbed off on him in some way because for a first time out writing a feature film solo, Jonze crafted something of immense beauty and feeling. He really captures the peculiar biorhythm that so many relationships take on, with its ebbs and flows and constant struggle of one person giving more freely of themselves than the other. It's beautiful, mature work.
Will win: Spike Jonze for Her
You were shafted: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis, and Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station
Best Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight - Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
Captain Phillips - Billy Ray
Philomena - Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
12 Years a Slave - John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall Street - Terence Winter
Mack’s Pick: If Mequon native John Ridley doesn’t win for his breathtaking adaptation of Solomon Northup’s stirring autobiography, Hollywood burns. With the notable exception of Billy Ray’s superb scripting for Captain Philips, Ridley’s script is in a league of its own among the other nominees in this category.
Tom’s Pick: While I'm very tempted to give the nod to Before Midnight here (in the adapted category due to it using previously created characters, in case you were curious), Milwaukee's own John Ridley deserves the recognition for career-best work with 12 Years a Slave. Maintaining the particular cadences of a memoir written over 150 years ago without making the entire enterprise feel like a stylistic quirk is a laudatory feat – Ridley shows expert care in taking large swaths of text from the text verbatim and then incorporating his own work in alongside the source material seamlessly.
Will win: John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave
You were shafted: Tracy Letts for August: Osage County, and Drew Pearce and Shane Black's fiendishly clever screenplay for Iron Man Three