Tuesday, January 19, 2010

FB Awards: Best Screenplays

Words! Words! I'm so sick of words!
I get words all day through; First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don't talk of stars burning above; If you're in love,
Show me!
Tell me no dreams filled with desire. If you're on fire,
Show me!

Sometimes an image is all you need. But movies don't start with an image (unless its a comic book franchise or maybe something in pitch form: think Pixar's UP and its house lifted by balloons) but with a screenplay. "Words words words...." I'm not really sick of words. I just like the song from My Fair Lady and "show, don't tell" definitely applies to the cinema.

Where the Wild Things Are, Inglourious Basterds, Fantastic Mr. Fox
and (500) Days of Summer are all nominees right here.

Writing screenplays must be a bizarre practice, as if building a sturdy enough skeleton that will one day be able to sprout the efficient internal organs and developed musculature of great filmmaking and contain the throbbing heart and stunning facial features of great actors. Here are my choices for Best Screenplay.


Richter Scale said...

Well, it is quite a bizarre practice. I'm about to graduate from college as a Writing for Film and Television major, and yes, "show, don't tell" is the first thing they tell us, but they also tell us that dialogue is the last thing you have to worry about. First, you have to structure the story, define the characters, characters arcs, plot points (I'm taught three-act structure, though I know it's not the only way to go) and the hardest part is that all of this has to seem natural, seamless. I think that's what people say when something feels contrived, like the writer is controlling the story rather than letting it run its natural course, though in reality, every screenplay is contrived, because we are contriving something, and we are driving the story. We just have to make it feel like we're not.

Anyway, I haven't read your nominees just yet, I wanted to share this thought before I read them (though I'm sure they are wonderful, I've always loved your nominees).

Also, I love My Fair Lady as well. "Anyone who's ever been in love will tell you that this is no time for a chat..."

Tony said...

I love your picks! Between your main picks and semi-finalists, you've covered all of my personal nominees:

Up in the Air, An Education, In the Loop, Precious, District 9

A Serious Man, Inglourious Basterds, The Hurt Locker, The White Ribbon, (500) Days of Summer

Richter Scale said...

I just looked at them. "The Maid" is an inspired choice. Not one I would pick, but definitely something new and the film was quite good. I also liked you picking "Where the Wild Things Are" and calling "Coraline" a perfect companion piece, I could not agree more. Loved both movies (though I love Coraline more). I would've included "Up" in mine, but I haven't seen "Summer Hours", so maybe I'll change my mind when I see it.

Robert Hamer said...

I'm disappointed, but not exactly surprised, that my favorite original screenplay of 2009 - A Serious Man from the Coen Brothers - didn't even make it past the Semi-Finals...but I've long known that you ran sort of cold on that one. So, out of the nominees, I advocate for Mark Boal's cerebral screenplay for The Hurt Locker to take the gold over Tarantino's bloated mess and Neustadter and Weber's entertaining but somewhat thin script. Though, to my shame, I must admit that I have yet to see The Maid and Summer Hours.

As for Adapted Screenplay, everyone here should know by now that I am firmly in the Fantastic Mr. Fox camp, and, based on how you wrote your justifications for each nominee, I think you might be, too.

Jack said...

Shame that "Star Trek" wasn't even a semi-finalist for Adapted Screenplay. I know it's more that you didn't like it than you just don't appreciate action-orientated screenplays since you semi-finalisted "Batman Begins" in it's year, but I was blown away by the "Star Trek" screenplay, and I'm not even a Trekkie.

They must have had such a difficult task ahead of them, having to please die-hard Trekkies and people who were totally new to the franchise (such as me). The way they created the "alternate reality" wormhole to allow them to take the original characters but acknowledge that they will be adapting from what the original series had already covered was genius (especially since they could have just diverted from "canon" without throwing a bone to the fans). All the while the amount of references they littered throughout to the original series (which I had to find out about later, since I'm not an original fan) was great.

Definately my favorite adapted screenplay of the year. Although I appreciate that it's the same two guys who also wrote "Transformers 2".


Jack, your punchline there is amazing.

I did like STAR TREK by the way

Jack said...

"I did like STAR TREK by the way"

I meant I know it has more to do with your actual feelings on the screenplay rather than just knee-jerk genre-bias.

kent said...

i am so sad by the BRIGHT STAR omission. i hope there's more love for the film to go around. but i am glad you chose to deem the screenplay as original, nathaniel, unlike the guild who considered it an adaptation.

Andrew R. said...

I vote for Precious and Hurt Locker here. The Maid is an interesting choice, but that doesn't mean I like it, sorry.

Robert said...

Great choices - I would have picked many of the same ones, especially (500) Days and Fantastic Mr. Fox, both great screenplays that are a bit less obvious. I think my overall favorite is Inglourious Basterds, however. Oh and it's quite an inspired choice to mention Coraline, I'm in love with that movie!!!

Fernando Moss said...

Wow! Love that you nominate The Maid (La Nana)... I think is superb and actually would end up in my ballot of Best Picture also, I just loved the film (now here's hope Saavedra makes your shortlist)

adam k. said...

I would've put in Whip It over Wild Things, since I had some trouble with the latter. There were some inspired choices, but that was mostly in the direction, and the film dragged a lot (for me) in the middle, and felt like maybe it really should've been a short. Whereas theWhip Itscreenplay was perfection; everything a good-natured mainstream comedy/drama should be. Bonus points for the author adapting her own work and doing it well (if only Michael Cunningham had that facility).

Jacob Passy said...

Am I the only person who didn't love 500 Days? Sure, it was an okay film, but nothing rave-worthy in my opinion. And while I at first enjoyed the device of the days as transitions, I eventually felt that it all seemed too contrived - at least for my tastes. I also felt the film didn't know what it wanted you to feel: Are you supposed to like Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel's characters, or are you supposed to dislike them? I think a little bit more focus on character development and a less picturesque view (really re: the blackboard walls and huge apartments for presumably lower middle class twentysomethings) could have done wonders for the film.

But, regarding the rest of your selections: I'm totally in agreement. I especially loved the attention you paid to Where the Wild Things Are and Whip It, both great films in my opinion.

moasey said...

Thank you for atleast including THE ROAD in some of your categories already. I'm so sad that film got the big shaft this season. Just thinking about Viggo's face and sad eyes in that movie make me tear up.
Inglourious Basterds FTW!

Rebecca said...

I also did not love (500) days of Summer.

Nice mention of 'Julia', I think it takes some guts & a lot of skill to write a screenplay centered around an unlikeable trainwreck. It outdid 'Half Nelson' in terms of cringing at the main characters poor decision making.

Sean said...

My Personal Choices

(500) Days of Summer (Bronze)
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man (Gold)
The White Ribbon (Silver)

District 9
An Education
In The Loop (Gold)
Precious (Bronze)
Where the Wild Things Are (Silver)

Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan said...

Very interesting, Nathaniel… I’m mostly in line with your picks for Original Screenplay despite the baffling BRIGHT STAR snub- also, i think Sam Raimi’s chilling DRAG ME TO HELL deserved a nod. Guess I’ll have to check out THE MAID. And while I’m a big HURT LOCKER fan… I still think it’s the directing, editing and acting that raises it into the greatness realm. In terms of a winner, I’m rooting for the years’ finest script; “Inglourious Basterds”.

As for Adapted, I’m glad the two obvious gems UP IN THE AIR and PRECIOUS made it the cut… but I definitely would have included Tom Ford’s moving, budget-conscious adaptation of A SINGLE MAN as well as DISTRICT 9.

Glenn said...

That nomination for The Maid is lovely. My feelings were incredibly mixed on that film when I first saw it, but I have since been leaning far more positively towards it.

While I respect the audacity and the challenge it must've taken to adapt Where the Wild Things Are (they certainly worked that "ADAPTED" title, didn't they?), I think as a film and as a screenplay Coraline did a better job at the same idea of a kid running away to an imaginary world in order to realise how much they love their family.

Thank gawd you didn't include Star Trek I say, but am loving the Mr Fox citation. And I like your blurb for Summer about it being two different movies for two different audiences.