Best Original Screenplay

Tarantino

The Oscar for Best Original Screenplay is awarded to the writer(s) of a particular screenplay that is not based upon any prior published work.  This year’s group of nominees features some established, acclaimed writers and a couple Academy Award newcomers.  Between the nominated writers, they have been nominated for four writing Oscars and have won two.  Although there are some great scripts up for the award this year, one writer has already been sweeping the award shows for his screenplay, winning the BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice Award—this year, it just so happens that I am in full agreement with the major award shows on this category.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Original Screenplay:

WINNER: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Tarantino, also the director of the film, has created one of the greater scripts in modern cinema.  It has created a significant amount of controversy, but it has also been met with rave reviews from the critics—Quentin would not want it any other way.  Even though he did not win the Oscar in this category for Inglourious Basterds, which is by far my favorite movie of all time, he still has penned another masterpiece in Django.  Tarantino has a knack for creating some of the most remembered characters in the history of film, such as Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs, Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, and Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, and in Django, he does not disappoint, creating unbelievably dynamic characters like Dr. King Schultz and Calvin Candie.  I will never know how the inner workings of Tarantino’s mind operate, but I am most unquestionably thankful for the written work he has given us.  Tarantino was previously nominated for two writing Academy Awards, both in the Best Original Screenplay category, and he won for Pulp Fiction (1994).

2. Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)

Wes Anderson, also the director of the film, and Roman Coppola have collaborated for their second screenplay together—their first was The Darjeeling Limited, a film they also co-wrote with Jason Schwartzman.  The end result of their most recent work together is an incredibly hilarious, wildly entertaining script.  This screenplay has the best shot among the other nominees to upset the heavyweight Tarantino, and if things fall correctly for Anderson and Coppola, they just may find themselves raising the Oscar statute.  This story is one of a kind.  It tells the story of young love from a unique perspective that only Anderson, one of the most distinctive writer-directors of our time, could do.  It is a refreshingly different film, and it has quickly become one of my favorites of all time.  Anderson was previously nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).  Coppola has not previously been nominated.

3. Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)

After Anderson and Coppola, Mark Boal has the next best chance to knock off Tarantino at the top in this category.  This is only Boal’s second screenplay, but just like his previous one for The Hurt Locker, it is action packed and beaming with award-winning quality.  Boal tells the story of the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden, the most dangerous man on earth.  The Kathryn Bigelow/Mark Boal collaboration may not be quite the masterpiece it was for The Hurt Locker, but it is most assuredly not far behind.  I was on the edge of my theater seat throughout the entire film, and a lot of this is due to the spellbinding script Boal has written.  Mark Boal was previously nominated and won for Best Original Screenplay for The Hurt Locker (2009).

4. Michael Haneke (Amour)

Michael Haneke, also the director of the film, has finally been nominated by the Academy for his superb writing abilities.  Haneke is one of the most unknown writer-directors to the general public in the United States, but I have been aware of his work for quite a few years now.  The biggest film festival in the entire world is the Cannes Film Festival, and the top award at this festival is the Palme d’Or, an award given to the top film of the festival.  Only seven filmmakers have won this award twice since 1939—Michael Haneke is one of those (The White Ribbon, 2009, and Amour, 2012).  Haneke’s French-language film is intriguing, matchless, and invigorating.  The words he penned for this film not only earned him an Oscar nomination, but it also resulted in lead actress Emmanuelle Riva being nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role.  Haneke has not previously been nominated for any Academy Awards in either of the two writing categories.

5. John Gatins (Flight)

Gatins is an established screenwriter, but to be completely honest, none of his scripts have been anything close to award worthy.  His screenwriting filmography includes Summer Catch, Hardball, Coach Carter, and Real Steel, but his big break finally came with the 2012 film Flight.  In this film, Gatins uses an incredibly entertaining story line to keep our attention, but it is the complexities he has created in regards to human morality that truly sets his script apart.  I am surprised that he received a nomination, but after seeing the film, it is definitely justified.  Gatins has not previously been nominated for any Academy Awards in either of the two writing categories.

Writers snubbed in this category: Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)

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Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 13 – Flight

Flight 15

Flight is a film directed by Robert Zemeckis, with a screenplay written by John Gatins.  The film follows veteran airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) as he courageously rescues an aircraft after an unknown calamity causes the plane to descend into a devastating crash.  Following the crash, Whitaker is hunted down by the media and hailed as a hero for his uncanny ability to act in a time of distress and land his plane.  However, as the movie progresses, questions begin to arise about the true events that took place before, during, and after the crash.  More and more is revealed and everyone learns that the situations surrounding the crash prove much more convoluted and disturbing than was first thought.

From the outside, this movie has all of the necessary parts to make it look like a fascinating piece of film work.  For starters, the director is Robert Zemeckis, renowned for directing critical and commercial movie successes like the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away.  The film also features a screenplay by John Gatins, the writer of Summer Catch, Hardball, Coach Carter, and Real Steel.  Lastly, the lead actor is Denzel Washington—that alone will make film fans flock to the theaters in droves.

The obvious thing to discuss next is the crash scene.  I do not want to give anything away for those that have not seen the movie, but it is the scene that begins the movie and sets the stage for the rest of the plot to transpire.  There have been some scary, stressful plane-crash scenes in film—the hijacking scene from United 93 and the plane crash at the beginning of Zemeckis’ own Cast Away—but the crash in Flight is a version of those scenes but on steroids.  The scene is done in a manner that only Robert Zemeckis could dictate, and for the duration of the entire scene, you will be glued to your seat in sheer terror.  After the crash scene, however, the film seems to drag on for the next couple of hours.  Although some other interesting events do take place, the majority of the movie cannot live up to the first 20 minutes or so.

John Goodman, Don Cheadle, and Kelly Reilly turn in solid supporting performances, but like in most movies, Denzel steals the show.  The man has become one of the premier actors of this generation in the film industry, and I truly cannot think of a Denzel movie that I disliked him in—he’s just that good.  Washington is nominated for Best Actor for his performance, marking his sixth Academy Award nomination.  In Flight, he portrays a man that has not only lost his grip on reality, but he has lost a sense of his own inner identity.  Washington releases himself into the character, and his immersion on the screen is everything you could want in a performance.  If it was not for an incredibly competitive Best Actor field this year, Washington might very well find himself holding another golden statue.  Flight is rated R for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity, and an intense action sequence.

Academy Award nominations for Flight:

Actor in a Leading Role (Denzel Washington)

Writing – Original Screenplay (John Gatins)

Flight trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlFMZ5D8FNc