Friday, November 18, 2016

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 2001

The Contenders:

Gosford Park (winner)
Monster’s Ball
The Royal Tenenbaums

What’s Missing

In terms of the movies themselves, I like a lot of the nominees, whether I’m impressed with the screenplay and story or not. But, as is always the case, there’s room for improvement here and a few that could happily go away. It was a good year for animated films. Monsters, Inc. is a smart movie and a damn fine story and there’s precedent for animated film nominations here (and before you object, Shrek was adapted). Spirited Away is another story worth talking about…but it got its nominations (and an Oscar win) the following year. On the non-animated front, I thought The Son’s Room was depressing, but beautifully written. I also really like how complex Monsoon Wedding, which looks like a nothing on the surface, turned out to be. And speaking of complex, where’s Mulholland Drive?

Weeding through the Nominees

5. The fact that Gosford Park won not only over the other four nominees but over the ones I mentioned above makes me angry. I thought and still think this movie is a boring mess. The only justification I can think of for its winning is that there are a lot of characters and it all more or less holds together. That doesn’t stop it from being astonishingly dull. I didn’t hate this movie, but I didn’t like it, either. A bunch of posh Brits doesn’t make it good, interesting, fancy, or worth rewarding. I don’t even like the nomination.

4. Monster’s Ball is a decent movie, but it very much feels like this is a film that got a lot of respect because of the story and the interracial nature of the relationships more than anything else. It’s a film where I like the concept a hell of a lot more than I like the actual movie that was produced from it. There are better choices than this one, both in terms of winning the actual award and even in terms of actual nominations. I don’t think it should be here; I’d keep if it if I only got to replace one, but I’d drop it if I got to replace two.

3. Of the five nominated films, Amelie is by far my favorite. So why is it in third place? Because it’s not so much the screenplay that makes it great. It’s everything else that makes it great. It’s the wonderful characterizations and the way the film is presented. The story is a good one, but let’s be honest, this would likely be just as charming and special because of Jeunet’s direction and Audrey Tautou, you could do a lot of things and still end up with something very much worth watching. I love the screenplay and wouldn’t complain had it won, but I think there are better screenplays this year, if not movies.

2. The same could possibly be said of The Royal Tenenbaums. It’s a movie that wouldn’t work as well as it does with a lesser screenplay, though. This is a film that trades in large part on all of the twists and turns and relationships that are created in the screenplay to work at all. Of all of Wes Anderson’s films, this is the only one that I feel like I could watch at any time and be happy to be watching it. He’s someone I can’t take a steady diet of, except for this movie, which is almost good enough to be the best of its year.

My Choice

1. Memento takes the win. This is all screenplay, and it’s staggering that the damn thing works. Half the movie works backwards and is still somehow coherent. Half the movie goes forward and still manages to fit in with the rest of the movie. Memento isn’t merely a smart screenplay, though. This is a movie that changed the way that people watch films and change the way film can be seen. That’s something that should be rewarded. Memento got robbed despite being the best in a pretty strong field.

Final Analysis


  1. I loved Gosford Park, but not every movie is for everybody, but I agree that Memento has the stronger screenplay and deserved to be the winner from the nominees.

    1. I know a lot of people like Gosford Park, but it's a film that I barely remember and don't have any desire to sit through a second time.

  2. I just went and looked at my IMDB Favorite Movies - Year by Year list because I couldn't remember what I had for 2001. And it's ... The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra! Not a traditional Oscar choice. But you know, if I was writing up an assessment for this category, I'd probably include it as a maybe.

    I love it when I've seen all the movies!

    I don't think I saw any of them when they first came out though. I saw Memento and Monster's Ball and Amelie when they weren't very old and I saw the other two three or four years ago.

    It's actually a pretty impressive batch of Oscar movies! I don't even want to wade in and start rating them. I'd put Monster's Ball at fifth because I had a few minor problems with the script. The other four are all movies I thought were just about perfect. Frances MacDonald in Gosford Park. Audrey Tatou in Amelie. Everybody in Tannenbaums. Just about anything you could name in Memento.

    It's been too long since I saw some of them to really start comparing them. Memento seems like a fine choice.

    1. Most of these are genuinely worth a second look. Then again, I pretty much want to watch Amelie again the moment I finish watching it.

  3. We're in agreement on this one. The screenplay for Amelie is phenomenal and deserves the win.

  4. I've only seen Monster's Ball from among the nominees, and I probably liked it a bit more than you did. From the 2001 films I have seen, there are plenty of other good original scripts to also enjoy:

    3000 Miles to Graceland (probably too insane for the Academy)
    The Others (but horror films rarely get respect)
    Rock Star (movies about heavy metal get even less respect)
    Serendipity (a pretty clever rom com)
    Training Day (probably my pick for winner, from those I've seen)

    1. The Others is a very good suggestion and one I missed.

      Really, track down Amelie and Memento at the very least.

  5. Yes to Memento! It was also really well edited, and the choice of black-and-white to distinguish timelines was clever, but its brilliance all starts with the script.

    I while I love Amelie more as a film, and the wittiness of its dialogue and structure was part of the charm, the visual are really what sell it.

    1. That's exactly where I am with Amelie. The screenplay is lovely, but it's really everything else that makes the movie work for me.

      Then again, I really love Jeunet's work, so there's definitely a bias there on my part.

  6. I *hated* Gosford Park. You're right... it's a dull, boring, mess of a film. I can't believe it was nominated, much less won. And you're also right in that Memento was robbed.

    1. Evidently, you and I are in the minority on Gosford Park. That said, even if I liked it, I'd have trouble voting against Memento.