Monday, July 23, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Adapted Screenplay 2005

The Contenders:

Brokeback Mountain (winner)
The Constant Gardener
A History of Violence

What’s Missing

Oh, what a good year for adapted screenplays 2005 is! Even just limiting myself to the five nominees, I don’t have a huge number of complaints here. While there are some changes I’d make, I get the nominations for all five of the ones listed. Still, I think there are some places we can go that are more interesting. As usual, I’ll start with the nominations that would never happen from the Academy, starting with the odd little silent The Call of Cthulhu, which honestly probably is more of a short, which makes its nomination unlikely even in the best of situations. Genre likely prevents the nominations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Serenity. That’s also likely true of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, including the fact that the Potter franchise never got any Oscar love. Tsotsi was probably too underknown and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang probably wasn’t taken that seriously despite being a very smart screenplay. I’m a little surprised that North Country was left off. I’m even more surprised that Pride and Prejudice didn’t get a nomination.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I think Munich is potentially a lot more interesting than the movie that we actually got. There’s at least the potential for a story of revenge that has international and even spiritual consequences. The problem is that the film eventually gets bogged down in a story that changes in odd ways and eventually simply peters out into something far different than it started as. There is a story here that needs to be told; I’m simply not convinced that it’s this story. I’d much rather see Pride and Prejudice here, or even Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

4. I’m in almost exactly the same place with The Constant Gardener, which has a much better story in it than the one that we actually get. A big part of this for me is Rachel Weisz’s character, who is simultaneously terribly unpleasant and also almost perfectly noble in certain respects. I dislike her intensely, and since much of the story turns on her and her actions, a story that should be important and worth seeing is harder to watch than it should be. I want to like this a lot more than I do. It should be better than it is.

3. A History of Violence is a movie that I probably like a little more than I should, given the way that the story actually works. I love the idea of it, but there are some elements of the story that are simply too big of mental jumps to make without some head scratching. The story does have a lot going for it, and it’s a unique and interesting take on the idea of a mob story. It also benefits from some great performances, but those performances had a good starting point. As I said, I like this a little more than I should, given its problems.

2. I understand completely the win for Brokeback Mountain, and I don’t object to it that much. It’s a damn good movie, and it’s a damn good story. But it’s a good story really for what it is. At its core, Brokeback Mountain is a story about a forbidden love, and it’s not anything more than that. The big difference is that it’s a homosexual affair. Seriously, though, this is a movie that we’ve seen over and over with a heterosexual couple at the helm. I think it’s a great movie, and an important one, but one difference in an old story may not be enough.

My Choice

1. And so my choice is Capote. Here’s the thing--Capote does a lot of what Brokeback Mountain does, and also gives us the story behind one of the most important books of the 20th century. I’ve read “In Cold Blood,” and the book is an absolute masterpiece. Getting the story behind it is almost as good as the story that Capote tells in his book, and that’s not a small thing. This is a bigger-than-life story about something that really happened that was itself about something that really happened. It’s a true masterpiece, and it’s where my vote goes.

Final Analysis


  1. One of my great shames is not seeing Capote. I definitely need to get on that. I have seen the others and agree with you on everything except Brokeback Mountain. I hate that damn movie. Interestingly enough, one of my pet peeves with it, or more accurately all the praise it gets, is something you pointed out. It's no different than thousands of other romantic films, save for a gender swap of one character. The even bigger problem for me is that they chose to tell the story in the most drawn out, boring fashion possible. I put the blame for this squarely at the feet of Ang Lee who often bores me because his films run way too long for the story they're telling. This is no exception. I much preferred TransAmerica as far as LGBTQ movies go, that year. Of course, that doesn't qualify here. Other movies that do qualify I would've liked to see get some attention are Jarhead and Thank You for Smoking. Love your mention of Hitchhikers Guide and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

    1. I get what you're saying about Brokeback, although I like the movie more than you do. Part of your complaint is exactly my issue with The Kids are All Right. The fact that the story takes place in the context of a married lesbian couple doesn't make me like the characters more.

      If you track down my Best Actress 2005 run-down, you'll find that Felicity Huffman is absolutely my pick. I think she got robbed. When I eventually do Original Screenplay for this year, you can pretty much guarantee that I'll be talking about Transamerica once again.

      Jarhead and Thank You for Smoking are two I need to catch up with.

      Track down Capote. The fact that Phillip Seymour Hoffman is no longer around to do things like this will probably make you very sad, but it's one of those movies that is perfectly cast and just about perfectly acted.

    2. Ironically, I guess, I actually like The Kids Are All Right, but your sentiment is well taken.

    3. If we agreed on everything, one of us would be unnecessary.

  2. I wouldn't have objected to Capote winning but Brokeback would be my choice. The novella is such a delicate beautifully told tale and I think it's root idea was translated well into the film version so for me it's the best adaptation.

    I'm so glad you have Munich dead last. Such a compelling incident rendered intolerably dull.

    I agree completely that Pride & Prejudice should have been nominated. The filmmakers freshened it up so while retaining the soul of the story. If it were there if would be neck and neck with Capote and Brokeback for the prize.

    1. I think that's a pretty common opinion. I do like Brokeback, but in the screenplay department, it's just not enough different for me. Sure, I get that it's different in a significant way, but it's otherwise a pretty traditional forbidden love story.

      Pride & Prejudice would be a worth nomination. For me, the story will always take second place to Sense and Sensibility from the previous decade. I'm still surprised at how much I liked that.

  3. As the resident Potterhead, I can safely say Goblet of Fire does not deserve an adaptation Oscar. It was one of the worst adaptations of the books, more or less changing whatever it decided not to cut...which was practically 85% of the book.

    Is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang an adapted screenplay? If so, that's awesome, and it totally deserves to be there. As for the films that were nominated, I can get behind Capote.

    1. I'll bow to your superior knowledge on the Potter franchise. It should have gotten some Oscar love at some point, but if this isn't the place, fair enough.

      Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was based on a mystery story by Brett Halliday...who died in 1977, so it's got a pretty interesting pedigree for 2005.