Best Original Screenplay

Her 2

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 ScreenplaySpike 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)

Singer and RussellA 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.

3. Bob Nelson (Nebraska)Bob Nelson

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 AllenWoody 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)

Borten and WallackEven 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.

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Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 15 – Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club - BP

Dallas Buyers Club is a film directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, with a screenplay written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack.  The film tells the true story of Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey), a homophobic Texan who is diagnosed with AIDS in the mid-1980s and given thirty days to live.  After trials with the FDA-approved drug AZT prove unsuccessful, Woodruff begins smuggling drugs into the United States from all over the world that help alleviate the symptoms of the disease and give himself a chance to live longer; however, these drugs are not approved by the FDA, and Woodruff finds himself having to continually evade detection from the federal government.  With help from a transgender AIDS patient named Rayon (Jared Leto) and a defiant doctor (Jennifer Garner), Woodruff establishes the “Dallas Buyers Club,” a way for AIDS patients to get easy access to illegal, life-saving medicines.

Dallas Buyers Club was definitely one of the best films that 2013 had to offer.  Not only were there stellar acting performances, which I will get to in a moment, but the film also presents an inspiring story about staring into the face of death and choosing to live.  The director, Vallée, is relatively unknown to the Hollywood community aside from his film The Young Victoria (2009), but this stimulating cinematic effort will definitely put him on the map in Tinseltown.  The screenwriters, Borten and Wallack, are nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and rightly so; the script flowed fluently and provided each actor with a wide range of opportunities to make a memorable dramatic performance.

Besides the well-written script and the competent directing job by Vallée, the acting in thisJennifer Garner movie truly sets it apart from some of the other releases from the previous year.  For starters, Jennifer Garner gives a heartfelt performance as Dr. Eve Saks, the physican who risks her career to help Woodruff.  Many critics have overlooked her impact on the movie, but I refuse to do so—she makes the film work in a huge, emotional way!

But now to the two award-worthy acting performances: Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey.  Both Leto (the front-man for one of my favorite bands, 30 Seconds to Mars) and McConaughey have already received Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor awards, respectively, from the Golden Globe Awards, Critics’ Choice Awards, and the Dallas Buyers ClubScreen Actors Guild Awards, and all of this praise is quite deserved for both men.  Leto’s role as Rayon is unbelievably astonishing, and I mean that in the best way possible.  He is truly convincing as a transgender woman, and his performance is one for the ages.  McConaughey also gives the greatest performance of his career as Woodruff.  It is well documented that he lost 47 pounds for the role, but my admiration for his performance goes well beyond the weight loss—McConaughey simply knocked this dramatic role out of the park!  His role is the perfect combination of humor and devastation, and I would not be surprised if he takes home the Oscar for Best Actor.  Dallas Buyers Club is rated R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity, and drug use.

Dallas Buyers Club trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hs1kpGNSRVk

Academy Award nominations for Dallas Buyers Club:

Best Picture (Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers)

Actor in a Leading Role (Matthew McConaughey)

Actor in a Supporting Role (Jared Leto)

Best Film Editing (John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling (Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews)

Best Original Screenplay (Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack)