Friday, February 8, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 2010

The Contenders:

Another Year
The Fighter
The King’s Speech (winner)
The Kids are All Right

What’s Missing

There were so many good movies in 2010 that the nominees, as always, pale in comparison to what was potentially available. As tends to be my method here, I’ll start with some that really don’t have business being named as Oscar possibilities but that I love anyway. These include Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Stake Land, and Rare Exports. I feel I should also mention Rubber for its sheer originality even though I don’t love the film. On the “slightly more likely to earn a nomination” front we have Monsters, which is a surprisingly smart film for a giant monster movie, Korean revenge flick I Saw the Devil, and Spanish language animated film Chico y Rita. Also falling into this category is Four Lions, a brutally black comedy that probably went so far over the line of good taste that it wasn’t seriously considered for anything. Meek’s Cutoff would have been an interesting choice here, as would have been Blue Valentine. Easy A probably wasn’t considered a serious enough film to warrant a nod, although it’s a hell of a good screenplay. The big miss? Black Swan.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I admit that it’s not going to earn me friends in some quarters, but I’m dropping The Kids Are All Right off the top. This is the only one of the five nominees that I didn’t like as a film or as a story. In fact, my biggest problem with this is the story—this would have been a more compelling film with a heterosexual couple at the center of it, because the betrayal that happens would have been so much more painful. I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the story that much, and I genuinely don’t like the nomination.

4. There’s a lot to like about The Fighter, but for me, the screenplay ranks lower than just about everything else. I like the story well enough, but this is one of those “based on a true story” things that takes a lot of unnecessary liberties with the real history. Why do that when it’s so clearly not needed? I suppose that it’s my disappointment more than anything that ends up placing this in fourth. I like so much about this film that I’m ultimately disappointed that it feels like something very good on such a rickety foundation.

3. Another Year is something of an anomaly in where I think it should end up. I like this screenplay quite a bit. The characters come across as real people rather than movie characters and the dialogue is smart without being smarmy. So why put it in third? Because Another Year is less a movie with a plot than it is a slice out of the life of the main characters. There’s a story here, but not one that actually follows anything like a traditional narrative. That’s not always bad, but here I’m left wanting something that feels like a purpose.

2. I’ll almost certainly catch a great deal of shit for putting The King’s Speech this high, since this is one of those movies that has gotten a huge amount of heat for winning. Admittedly, The King’s Speech was a safe choice in a lot of respects. I like this movie more than it probably deserves. This is one of those “comfort” movies for me, one that I watch pretty much every year. I like the characters and I like the story, even with the few liberties it takes with the history. I find it compelling, and while it is ultimately predictable, there’s something here that moves me.

My Choice

1. Picking Inception is probably a cliché for this Oscar, but I don’t really care. This is a very inventive story, one that literally has a lot of layers, and while there was a great deal of potential for this to become a complete mess. Some of that can be credited to how the story is told, but much of it comes from a screenplay that puts forth a new and interesting idea and then does everything it can to keep it understandable for the audience. The fact that this is science fiction and the ending is left unknown probably killed its chances, but this really should have been the winner.

Final Analysis


  1. I've seen all of these except The Fighter. I would generally agree with your placings. In fact, I might be even a bit controversial and say that the script for The King's Speech is better than Inception's one. I say this because a lot of Inception's strengths often involve its visuals, though its clever structure obviously comes from the writing (and editing). I did think it had too much exposition (though it probably needed most of it to explain its concepts). The King's Speech was about talking, so the use of dialogue worked well.

    Throw Black Swan into the mix though, and it would likely get my vote. Like Inception it played with distinctions between reality and imagination (or dreaming), but for me it felt more integrated. And it really embraced the madness at its centre.

    I feel like I'm committing modern-day movie heresy talking about Inception this way! Don't get me wrong, it is a clever script, and Nolan has certainly shown that blockbusters can be sharply written, and you can trust your audience to go along with complex ideas.

    1. I liked Inception well enough, but I think it was over-rated in much the same way I felt that The Matrix was over-rated.

      And I agree with you on The King's Speech.

      My vote would go to Black Swan.

    2. I think it's a good year overall. Inception is a victim of its own success--a lot of fanboys decided it was the greatest thing ever made (much like The Matrix), which means that instead of being remembered as a movie that puts a brain behind its action sequences, it's thought of as this sort of uber-nerd wet dream.

      It's a smarter movie than people remember it for being. It manages to make the concepts it's playing with clear and relatable, and that's not easy to do. I respect what it did for that.

      Black Swan and The King's Speech would be my 2nd and 3rd in some order, and they'd win in a lot of other years.

  2. Blue Valentine was my favorite original screenplay of 2010, so that would get my overall vote. But of the noms, yeah, it has to be Inception. Also agree that it is pretty shocking that Black Swan didn't land a nom here.