Friday, February 28, 2014

86th Academy Awards Analysis and Predictions: Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay & Best Director

Andrew: Hello readers! It's Day Four of Two Tickets For...'s analysis and predictions for this Sunday's 86th Academy Awards! Yesterday we covered a couple of the biggies in Best Lead Actor and Best Lead Actress, which you can read HERE if you missed those. Today we continue discussing some major awards as we tackle Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director. That will also be the order we go in, so let's get to it!

Best Original Screenplay

The nominees for Best Original Screenplay are:

American Hustle, by Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine, by Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club, by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
Her, by Spike Jonze
Nebraska, by Bob Nelson

A: Okay Sarah, I think this is actually a pretty competitive category as I could see four of these nominees being legit contenders (Nebraska being the only one not). Give me your thoughts on Best Original Screenplay.

Sarah: Alright! Coming down to the end of the week! Screenplays are a tough category but this year there are some good ones! While American Hustle is definitely the front runner, let's take a look at the other nominations. 

Blue Jasmine was actually a pretty interesting film from a story standpoint. I really enjoyed the flashback storytelling and watching the two different women that Blanchett became. While I credit most of this movie's success to her, the story was a different look at a story we've seen a few times now.

Dallas Buyers Club was a look at a time that I'm not totally familiar with. While I thought it was a good study of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the 80s, I felt like the movie as a whole was a little one note. I thought the character development was the script's strongest point, but the rest of it? Maybe not so much. 

We didn't get a chance to see the other two, but I have heard so many good things about Her. It's definitely one that we are going to have to see ASAP.

A: I'm a little less hot on Dallas Buyers Club and Blue Jasmine's chances for a win, for different reasons. Dallas Buyers Club is based on a true story and all but over its two decade long development I think the fact that the script fudges facts and has come under fire from LGBT community might keep some voters away from it. And then Woody Allen just has no chance after the whole Dylan Farrow thing despite the fact that I thought the dialogue was some of the best in this category.

So to me it's down to Her and American Hustle. I'm having a tough time deciding between the two. We haven't seen Her but everything I've read and heard speaks about the true originality of a not-so-distant future and how the tale of a man falling in love with an operating system has turned into one of the most realistic love stories in quite some time.

Personally I think American Hustle will be the winner because of the overall love for the movie, because of the sharpness of its script and the structure of the story, but also because I'm getting the feeling that despite all the adoration for it this might be one of the only two awards it might actually win (Best Costume Design being the other). So to me it's a real toss-up. 

S: It really is! I'm a little bummed that there isn't a true clear winner this year. I think back to past years where there have been movies like Inception, which got nominated but didn't win, but had true originality that just blew me away. It's really bumming me out that we didn't see Her because I feel like maybe that was where I would find that feeling. 

A: So who do you think SHOULD win Best Original Screenplay and who do you think WILL win?

S: Well as far as originality goes, I think maybe Her should take home the award but David O. Russell is Hollywood's darling for movies right now so I think ultimately it will go to American Hustle.

A: I concur with that thinking. Her seems like the kind of originality that deserves this award, but I think the love for American Hustle and the voters' possible desire to award Russell in some way, shape or form gets him this award.

Who We Think Should Win: Sarah - Her   Andrew - Her
Who We Think Will Win: Sarah - American Hustle   Andrew - American Hustle

Best Adapted Screenplay

The nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are:

Before Midnight, by Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater
Captain Phillips, by Bobby Ray
Philomena, by Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope
12 Years a Slave, by John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall Street, by Terence Winter

A: Alright Sarah, another strong category but this time I'm of the mind that there's one clear-cut choice and that's 12 Years a Slave. Not only must it have been incredibly tough to adapt Solomon Northup's 160-year-old memoir from a narrative standpoint, but it just gives the characters such depth and soul that you can't help but wonder if it was taken straight out of the memoir or not - and I mean that in a good way. Can any of the others possible win this award?

S: I think it's a pretty clear-cut choice but if it wasn't for 12 Years a Slave, either Captain Philips or The Wolf of Wall Street  would be the ones to take home the prize. Captain Philips was pretty impressive by keeping the mood of the movie pretty intense similar to last year's Argo.

Then there's The Wolf of Wall Street. While it wasn't my favorite movie of the year, I can't deny that it was incredibly impressive. The fact that any one person could live in such excess is impressive enough, but to be able to translate it on screen in such a remarkable and uncomfortable way was a pretty big task for Terence Winter to write.

A: The Wolf of Wall Street is the other choice that I think could possibly topple 12 Years a Slave here and it's because like you said, I can't imagine how you take the debauchery and excess in Jordan Belfort's memoir of the same name and narrow it down to a movie like this. More impressive to me though was the dialogue for almost everyone. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie...they all had so much to chew on.

But in the end I can't deny that 12 Years a Slave is going to be the runaway winner here. It's obviously a front-runner for Best Picture and if it doesn't win this award, it's possible that it's Best Picture chances could take a hit.

So who do you think should win and who do you think will win?

S: I really have to give both those categories to 12 Years a Slave

A: Ditto.

Who We Think Should Win: Sarah - 12 Years a Slave   Andrew - 12 Years a Slave
Who We Think Will Win: Sarah - 12 Years a Slave   Andrew - 12 Years a Slave

Best Director

The nominees for Best Director are:

- Alfonso CuarónGravity
- Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
- Alexander Payne, Nebraska
- David O. Russell, American Hustle
- Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

A: A very strong category this year with Best Director, but in reality this is down to Cuarón and the stunning work he did on Gravity and McQueen for the intense yet careful work he did making 12 Years a Slave. Who ya got and why?

S: Oh man. Do you think this could be the 2nd year in a row that the Best Director and Best Picture don't match up?! I'm feeling like that might be the case! McQueen really brought the story to life and there were times (OK, the whole time) where it was INCREDIBLY uncomfortable to watch this movie. It was painful and raw. 

But, the same exact thing could be said about Cuarón and his work on Gravity. It was a beautiful look at how hostile and beautiful space can be. And I loved that about it! For many of the same reasons that Gravity  should win Best VFX, I think it has a pretty good chance of taking home Best Director. Cuarón's direction was captivating, painful and awe-inspiring. 

Wow, I can honestly say I don't know who will win.

A: This is a literal coin-flip category. Either one of these guys could win and people will say, "Yup, that's the right choice," but for very different reasons.

McQueen took a topic that is incredibly tough to touch on in any form of media. Plenty of movies and shows have been made that dealt with slavery and in a variety of ways (just look at Django Unchained from last year), but this was the first time someone directed a movie from the slave's perspective - and in such an unflinching way. While I think the movie as a whole is uneven at times, McQueen's decision to use long, uninterrupted takes on Chiwetel Ejiofor's Solomon Northup hanging from a tree or Lupita Nyong'o being whipped was inspired. They were tough scenes to watch and that was the entire idea. It put you in the moment and didn't let you escape from it with any cuts to a different shot. It was brave stuff.

Then on the opposite end of the spectrum you have Cuarón creating such a breath-taking film from a visual and storytelling standpoint. I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire film and I marveled at Cuarón's ability to create such a believable visual effect. For the most part Gravity is a one-person show and I thought a large part of Bullock's performance was helped by Cuarón's hand. That said, Gravity is just such a technology achievement that Cuarón created from the ground up (story, script, technology for filming, etc.) that I think he ends up the winner. McQueen did a great job and if he wins it'll be fantastic because he'd be the first black man to win Best Director, but I think it's Cuarón's to lose. 

S: I can see your points. It really is such a toss up. So, just to play the devil's advocate, I'll say that I think the Academy will give the win to McQueen. I think this will be the year they decide to make a statement and give it to someone from outside the establishment, but not only that, one who created something that shook so many people. I mean, why not?! The movie was uncomfortable and painful to watch the whole time. If someone wants to argue that 12 Years a Slave was Oscar bait, then I think you can consider the Academy has taking the bait.

So: Cuarón maybe should win, but I think McQueen will win!

A: I love it! We'll see who's right and who's wrong on Sunday night!

Who We Think Should Win: Sarah - Cuarón   Andrew - Cuarón
Who We Think Will Win: Sarah - McQueen   Andrew - Cuarón

S: Okay readers that does it for today's installment! We're going to make a little shift in our plans. Tomorrow we'll only be breaking down the Best Picture category and we're going to save our full and final predictions for Sunday morning so that we have one more day to sleep on our choices!

A: Plus it gives us one more day to go over the smaller and more technical categories. So be sure to come back tomorrow and Sunday, and as always, thanks for reading!

Saturday: Best Picture analysis and predictions
Sunday: Final/full predictions and Live Oscar Blog

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