Friday, January 29, 2021

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Adapted Screenplay 2019

The Contenders:

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit (winner)
Little Women
The Two Popes

What’s Missing

Since I’m always a bit behind on things, I’m certainly missing a stack of movies from 2019 that could potentially belong in both of the screenplay awards. That said, it seems like most of the movies I’ve really liked from 2019 have been based on original screenplays. 2019 was a good superhero year, though. We’ve got the super villain movie on the list and at least a trio on the outside. Captain Marvel is fun, but a bit dry. Shazam! is a lot more fun, but perhaps not serious enough. Finally, there’s Avengers: Endgame, which really should have gotten some consideration. As the culmination of a decade’s worth of interconnected movies, it really belongs on the list. Judy featured a great performance but was misfocused. The same could be said of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Finally, while it wasn’t as good as the previous movies in the series, I did enjoy John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. Knowing my predilections, it’s not going to be a surprise when I put The Two Popes in last place. I didn’t hate the movie and I like the two leads, but I don’t really like the idea of the pope as a concept, and so I don’t like the idea of making the current or previous one into some sort of hero. I get that there are hundreds of millions of people who disagree with me on that, and I’m comfortable with that. The movie is fine, but Endgame was a hell of a lot more inspiring and meaningful, at least to me.

4. I’ve mentioned this before, but my problem with Little Women is not the cast and it’s absolutely not the director. It’s the fact that I genuinely don’t like the source material. It’s exactly the same problem I have with most versions of Romeo and Juliet. The best possible version of that story is never going to be seen by me as more than just good enough because I don’t like the story. Little Women comes across as so saccharine to me. That this version has a more meta take on it improves it, but it’s still not getting above fourth place.

3. I feel like a broken record when it comes to talking about Joker. I see two possible ways to read the movie, one of which is brilliant and one of which is ultimately depressing. I can’t know which version of this is intended by Todd Phillips. While I like the possibility of ambiguity, I’m also frustrated by it here. Ultimately, though, I’m putting Joker in third place because I like the other two screenplays more. Problems aside, potential readings aside, that’s always how I’m going to make these choices.

2. The biggest problem with The Irishman is the same problem that everyone else has with this movie: length. The Irishman clocks in at nearly 3 ½ hours. Sure, it’s a well-made movie and it’s Scorsese at the helm, but it’s also more than a full hour longer than all of the other nominations, and almost twice as long as Jojo Rabbit. That length is certainly the responsibility of Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker, but it starts in the screenplay. There can be too much of a good thing, and this is proof.

My Choice

1. There have been a few times in the past where comedy has been made of the worst of tragedies. Specifically, there are some great comedies that involve Nazism. Jojo Rabbit is one of those films that walks that razor’s edge, and it does so perfectly. It’s smart enough to be cruel in its humor and even smarter that not everything cruel that happens is funny. It’s tuned very carefully and effectively; the way you know it works is that many of the laughs are the sort that make the audience uncomfortable at the same time. It was the right choice, and Oscar got this one correct.

Final Analysis


  1. This is where I totally agree that the Oscars got it right with Jojo Rabbit while I'm with you on Avengers: Endgame as I thought it got robbed of many Oscar nods because it was better than it had every right to be. Not just as a blockbuster superhero-action film but also something in my opinion is the closest thing to the kind of epic cinema that isn't seen often. Just watch the portals scene, the Russo Brothers definitely have done their homework as I think the likes of John Ford, Howard Hawks, David Lean, Sergio Leone, and Akira Kurosawa would've been in awe of those images. Martin Scorsese was wrong.

    1. Scorsese was wrong--and that portals moment works specifically because it took 10 or so years to get there. There's a lot of background getting us to that scene, and a lot of emotion pouring out when they open up. Jojo Rabbit is probably still my winner, but Endgame should have been in the mix.

  2. I think they got it right too. I agree with you on Endgame, we've seen so many other franchises fail at just starting shared universes and here Marvel is bringing 20 films together in a coherent way. But no, Joker is EdGy and rEaL. (I will never stop complaining about this)

    1. I really want to think that Joker is giving us the world inside Arthur's head, but I honestly don't think it's that smart.

      There was a fantastic (-ly ridiculous) incel rant a day or two after Parasite won Best Picture by some absolute wanker. He (naturally) wanted Joker to win because, in his mind, it was a movie about how terribly rich people treat the poor.

      Let the irony of that statement sink in.

      Joker stans are no different than Tarantino stans--they're just focused differently.