Academy Awards Project: Best Original Screenplay
Here come all of the stories written from scratch. Well, not entirely from scratch. There are life inspirations, real events and personal opinions (crafted by the world around these writers) here. This is usually one of my favourite categories, because you usually find some of the most imaginative works here. This year is actually safer than normal (which is strange, because there were some really risky screenplays this year). However, there is still some gold to be found. Here are the nominees for Best Original Screenplay, ranked in order from worst to best.
Biggest Snub: Eighth Grade
There are actually a number of missing screenplays here (Sorry to Bother You, being a main candidate), but many of those felt like they were my opinion. Plus, they may have been a bit too loopy for the Academy. How in the hell did Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade not make it here? It felt like an absolute shoe in! It is witty, relatable, life like and beautiful. It is an astounding first major screenplay, and I can easily think of at least two films it could have replaced. This one is not just one of the biggest snubs; it's actually moronic that it's not here.
5. Green Book-Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
Sigh. Let's go through the pros and the cons. The pros are that the Green Book screenplay is deceptively good thanks to its clever (but typical) dialogue. Many profound (but not inventive) lines can be found. There are genuinely interesting conversations, so there is that. However, they can only distract you from the shoddily made foundations for so long. Green Book is insanely pedestrian (ironically for a film about driving), and it glazes over the depth of the lead characters in different ways. Tony Lip's blatant racism disappears very quickly after he insinuates that Doc Shirley should eat fried chicken (I know it's not going to be an easy process, but good lord is that a fast turnaround). Shirley himself remains an enigma whose life we never truly get to experience (just the ebbs and flows of his career and the racism he faces). Safe can sometimes stem from laziness. This is that sometime.
4. Vice-Adam McKay
Where Green Book tried too little with its plot, Vice tried too hard. We all know Dick Cheney did a plethora of malfeasant things, but Vice feels like an essay with arguments slapped in the middle at the last second. We know Cheney's gun accident is an infamous moment during the George W. Bush presidency, but tossing it in arbitrarily is a little much. The hopping between timelines doesn't always work. The dialogue is very slick, at least. Yeah. This is a nomination that feels like it made it here because of the awards race.
3. First Reformed-Paul Schrader
That's more like it. This faith based psychological thriller really messes with both your head and your heart. It is very cautious to balance the scales between religion and science, as First Reformed does not want you to leave feeling that either side is more correct. We truly get to know these characters (including ones that don't stick around for too long). By the nauseating finale, you will wonder how we even got there. The film will play back in your mind, and -- thanks to a brilliant screenplay -- you can sadly see how.
2. Roma-Alfonso Cuarón
This is a very sneaky entry that I feel like made it because of Roma's awards race power, but I am thrilled that it made it. It isn't an openly great screenplay, but definitely an exemplary one once examined. The placement of every plot point is highly strategic. The philosophical lines are carefully placed and not overused. These characters feel real, because they talk real. Once in a while, a smart line will be made, but not enough times to make you question the breath they breathe. Everyday we face pearls of wisdom, during the good times, our turmoils, and even the mundane moments. Roma had it all figured out.
1. The Favourite-Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
Yeah, there is no question in my mind about this one. The amount of literary juggling that The Favourite does is impossible to ignore. It is vulgar and quotable like a Quentin Tarantino flick. Its political strategy is softly placed in order to allow it to gel with everything else. The characters actually evolve naturally. You get to know the history of everyone quickly, sharply, and sometimes weirdly. Then there is the creativity. Did Queen Anne actually own rabbits and race lobsters? No, but these inclusions make for some brilliant symbolism. This satire of an upper class whose own heads are so far up their own asses is genius. It makes you laugh, gasp, wince and second guess everything. There isn't anything that The Favourite does objectively wrong (subjectivity with this film is a whole different story). Yeah. No contest. The Favourite is the best screenplay of the year.
Our Predicted Winner: seeing as The Favourite doesn't have a chance at winning the other top prizes (it might pick up some production and crew wins), it has a chance of doing well here. Depending on the Oscar race, either Roma or Green Book will pick up a win here if they are destined to win Best Picture (and need the coveted screenplay win to do so).
Our Academy Awards Project is an ongoing series that will continue until all the categories have been ranked and reviewed. Tune in Monday to Saturday for a new category each day.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.