Dallas Buyers Club
It seems staggering to me that Gravity was five years ago, and yet here we are. While there’s not a huge amount of dialog in Gravity, it’s a hell of a good screenplay, and I’m a little surprised it wasn’t nominated. That’s even more the case with All is Lost, where the screenplay presents us with a gripping story with virtually no dialogue at all. Locke is almost all dialogue, most of it very good. The other three I find worth mentioning as original screenplays are ones that almost certainly weren’t on anyone’s radar. Fruitvale Station might well have been a few years too early to get the kind of attention it needed. Short Term 12 wasn’t seen by enough people, sadly. Only Lovers Left Alive is simply the wrong genre, or it was half a decade ago.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I honestly don’t know why American Hustle got as many nominations as it did. Every couple of years, we get one of these movies that gets tons and tons of nominations (it got 10) and no wins. It wasn’t the best choice for any of its nominations, and for original screenplay, I don’t think it even belongs. And it’s sad, because there could be a real story here, and a good one but I found this entirely unmemorable. I’d take every movie I mentioned in the paragraph above ahead of American Hustle for this award, and probably for some of its other ones, too.
4. The strength of Blue Jasmine is the towering performance by Cate Blanchett, who is brilliant at portraying a truly miserably, self-absorbed train wreck of a human being. It’s exceptional to me when someone can create a character who is so awful that brilliantly. But that’s also the entirety of the film—there’s nothing more here than the terrible psychology of a person who is truly awful. This is another case where I like the content of my first paragraph more than this film, and would swap out this for pretty much any of them.
3. Dallas Buyers Club is a better film that I would have expected, and it’s almost certainly a more important film than many of the other films on this list. There’s a lot to like with Dallas Buyers Club, and if I’m making my own list of five nominations, it’s going to be mentioned, if not necessarily added. My problem here is that while it’s a pretty good film and a good story, it comes across to me as not a lot more than just serviceable. It’s good, and I think it could be argued that it deserved at least some of the Oscars it won, but here? I’d say the nomination borders on questionable.
2. Nebraska is at least an interesting story, but it’s another movie that is made far better not by the story it tells or its dialogue but by the performances that move it. If nothing else, this is the film that made everyone realize who June Squibb is. I like Nebraska, probably more than just about everyone I know, and even with that I don’t really love it. The screenplay is good. It’s beautifully written all the way through, mostly because it comes across as real. If I came up with my own list of five nominations, it’s likely to make the list. At the very least, it’s on the short list.
1. I always find it a combination of fun and righteous indignation when I say that we can sweep aside the entire list of nominations for five of my own choosing. I can’t do that with Best Original Screenplay for 2013 because the Academy at least nominated Her, and then gave Her the Oscar. It was right in both cases. This is clearly the best, most innovative, and most interesting screenplay of its year, and one that I think we’re going to be feeling the effects of for a long time. It’s one of those rare films that adds something so new to its genre and does it so well that it feels like it’s been there all along. It was the right choice.