Monday, February 26, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Adapted Screenplay 2007

The Contenders:

Away from Her
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
No Country for Old Men (winner)
There Will Be Blood

What’s Missing

2007 is a great screenplay year, the sort of year that could easily handle double the standard number of nominees. Movies like The Mist that arguably improve on the source are going to be left out because of its genre. The same might be true of Sweeney Todd, with any benefits it gains from its musical numbers lost to its horror elements. Stardust, a fantasy movie, couldn’t overcome its genre, either. With Persepolis the problem may have been its graphic novel source, which is a damn shame. Zodiac feels lke an unfinished story (rightfully) and Into the Wild ends on an odd note. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is perhaps too slow. The biggest miss is probably Gone Baby Gone.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. It’s probably not fair for me to put The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in fifth place except to say that it legitimately brings all of my worst fears and phobias to the surface. It is almost certainly deserving of a higher spot here, but it’s a film that hits the majority of my phobias in a single go. I think it’s a fine movie, even an important one, but it is also a movie I cannot and will not watch again. If you think it should be higher, you’re probably right. I just can’t bring myself to contemplate it any further.

4. Away from Her is the sort of movie where nothing good happens to anyone in it. It’s a film that trades almost entirely on the performances, though, with Julie Christie’s being the one that sells the whole thing ably assisted by Gordon Pinsent and Olympia Dukakis in particular. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the movie; I don’t want to leave that impression. But aside from its premise, everything here comes down to the strong performances of the actors and not so much the story itself. It’s worth seeing, but for Christie, not the screenplay.

3. I like Atonement quite a bit. It again has a cast I genuinely like. I’m a fan of James McAvoy and this is one of those performances that demonstrates Keira Knightley is a real talent. It’s also the first time I remember seeing Saoirse Ronan in a film, and she has clearly become one of the premier actors of the current age. The problem here isn’t with Atonement itself; it’s that with the remaining two films in the nomination list, there’s simply no way it gets higher than third place. In a different year, it might well be a different story. Move it to 2008, and it might even win. Just not in 2007.

2. I have very particular ways that I put these posts together. One of the rules I follow is that even if I think there are multiple possible winners, if I agree with the ultimate choice, it gets to stand alone as the clear winner. That’s the case here. Had There Will Be Blood walked away with this award, I wouldn’t entirely agree with it, but I wouldn’t complain too much. It’s a more than satisfactory winner for Adapted Screenplay, one that is rich and deep and dark and satisfying in every respect. It’s a great choice, and if it’s your choice, I get why you’ve picked it even if I don’t entirely agree.

My Choice

1. And so this is a rare instance where the Academy managed to both nominate and select the right winner. No Country for Old Men is a personal favorite of mine, a film that is brutal and awful in so many respects, and yet so perfect on the screen. What sells it for me is what many people hate the most about it: the ending. I think it wraps up exactly the way it should. It’s the sort of film that requires discussion after a viewing, and one that is going to inspire a lot of different opinions. It’s that sort of screenplay that I think is worth watching, and it’s one of the many reasons I’m happy it won.

Final Analysis


  1. I'm not going to argue with any of this. I've seen al of these except Away from Here and there are some fine screenplays in here.

    But I've seen Persepolis several times. I got it from Netflix the first time I saw it and then I got it from the library a couple of times. And I always kept it a few days and watched both versions, English and French, every time. So I've probably seen it six times. And that is a wonderful screenplay! It's got great source material (that I've read several times) and great voice actors (between both versions, Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Gena Rowlands, Sean Penn and Iggy Pop) and a great animation style.

    But I also love the screenplay. The more I've seen it, the more Persepolis stands out as a great animated film, and part of the appeal is the screenplay.

    1. Persepolis would likely make my list of five nominations. I think it's a great and important film, but I'm still sticking with No Country for this. It's the end that sells it for me.

  2. There Will Be Blood would have been my choice. I'd reverse your comment and say that I certainly have no problem with No Country for Old Men getting accolades for an fine adaptation of a tough novel, but There Will Be Blood blew me away in so many ways--Screenplay, direction, photography, editing and acting.

    1. I don't take any issue with that. No Country is my preferred of the two, but I fully understand why someone would hold the opposite position.

  3. I would have to take the opposite position... I loved No Country until the third act, when it just ruined the entire movie for me. On the other hand, I loved the third act of Blood (as well as the rest of it). And I remember the writing more for Blood than No Country (except for the coin flip bit). I can understand going for No Country, but it's literally the screenplay that makes me dislike the movie toward the end, so I can't give it.

    Also... I love Stardust.

    1. I love Stardust as well.

      For me, the closing scene of No Country is the perfect way to end the film. It gets to the heart of what the story is about, and it sells the entire piece for me. I know it's controversial, but it's still, for me, one of the things that makes the whole film work.