This year, like in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, nearly every single writer nominated will be attending the Academy Awards for the first time. Only two writers out of the seven nominated have received Oscar nominations previously: David O. Russell and Woody Allen. The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Original Screenplay:
WINNER: Spike Jonze (Her)
Spike Jonze has created in Her one of the most interesting and mischievously comedic films in his well-established career, and here, the movie truly comes alive because of his inimitable script. It is a science-fiction tale, set in the not-so-distant future, about a man who falls in love with his operating system. The loving relationship between Theodore and Samantha in the film is so incredibly vivid, jumping off the page and into our hearts, despite the fact that we never see Samantha, since she is not a real person. A main character that operates from a purely oral standpoint, lacking any visual component, must be presented with incredibly substantive dialogue in order to work, and Jonze gives Samantha more of a voice than anyone else could ever dream up in his or her mind. This screenplay is the epitome of the term “original” in “original screenplay,” and Jonze is more than deserving of this award this year. Spike Jonze has never previously been nominated in any screenwriting categories at the Academy Awards.
2. Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell (American Hustle)
A year after penning an Oscar-nominated screenplay in Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell has again received an Oscar nod for his script in American Hustle, co-written by Eric Warren Singer. Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite film of 2012, and last year I personally named the script from SLP as the Best Adapted Screenplay. Again, David O. Russell has penned an incredible screenplay, and clearly the collaboration with Singer has proven worthwhile. American Hustle was a thoroughly entertaining movie with more wit than I knew what to do with, but it was this distinct characteristic from most of David O. Russell scripts that shined bright again here. Eric Warren Singer has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award; David O. Russell was previously nominated as a writer for Silver Linings Playbook (2012) in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.
The black-and-white Nebraska was pure Alexander Payne at his best, but one of the immaculate moments from the movie was Bob Nelson’s script. Nelson created some memorable characters, some unforgettable scenes, and one incredibly exceptional journey between a father and his son. The dialogue was on point, and it gave each actor plenty of chances to make an impact on the film. I hope to see more from Nelson in the near future because this film proves he is a remarkable talent. Bob Nelson has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.
4. Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)
Woody Allen is one of the greatest and most critically recognized screenwriters in the history of motion pictures, and once again a script of his has made its way to cinema’s greatest night—the Oscars. Even though the bulk of Allen’s writing nominations came pre-2005, he still proves that he will always be a force to be reckoned with in the screenwriting world. In Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen created a wide range of wild and wacky characters, but his finest accomplishment in this film is the title character of Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett. Over the course of nearly forty years, Woody Allen has become synonymous with obsession, and in Jasmine, Allen has created one of the most absolutely neurotic characters modern cinema has ever known. For this alone, Woody Allen is deserving of being back at the Oscars. Woody Allen is the most nominated screenwriter in Academy Awards history; this nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category marks his sixteenth (an Oscars record), and he has previously won on three occasions for Annie Hall (1977), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and Midnight in Paris (2011).
5. Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club)
Even though the plot in Dallas Buyers Club is based on a true story, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack have written an original piece about the previously unexplored subject matter of Ron Woodruff and his HIV-positive diagnosis in the mid-1980s. All of the hype surrounding this film has been focused on both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto’s marvelously inspirational acting performances, but without an effective script, these portrayals would carry little weight, no pun intended. This wonderfully written script gave both McConaughey and Leto’s characters an encouraging voice, and it is because of this that both Borten and Wallack have been nominated. Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack have never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.