Friday, March 1, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 2014

The Contenders:

Birdman (winner)
The Grand Budapest Hotel

What’s Missing

I don’t have a lot of complaints about this category for 2014, just suggestions. While my own list of nominations wouldn’t be identical to what we have, it would be similar in a lot of ways. While I don’t agree with all of the nominations, I understand them. As usual, I’ll start my suggestions with the kinds of movies that normally get ignored. These include It Follows, since horror movies tend to be avoided; A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, since foreign horror movies are usually ignored; and What We Do in the Shadows, since horror comedies tend to be shunned. Chef probably wasn’t important enough, and the third act doesn’t have a lot of plot, but it’s a sweet movie for its running time. Fury got generally ignored and overlooked, as did Calvary. I’m guessing Interstellar was too much flash and not enough substance for Oscar voters, even if I’m not sure that reflects reality. The two that are the biggest surprises to me are Big Eyes (Oscar loves biopics) and Selma (Oscar really loves biopics about racism).

Weeding through the Nominees

5. Boyhood is one of those films that gets talked about a lot because, bluntly, the story of its creation is a lot more interesting than the story the film tells. This isn’t to say that the movie is bad, but it’s three hours of a kid growing up. I liked Boyhood for what it was, but have never once thought about going back and watching it a second time. There’s not enough there for me to get that involved in seeing it again. Since that is the realm of the screenplay, I’m going to take issue with this as a nomination—there’s not enough here to warrant it being included.

4. As I said above, Oscar loves a biopic, and in the case of Foxcatcher, it’s evident that Oscar loves a biopic that involves high levels of dysfunction and crazy. I liked Foxcatcher, if “like” is the correct word to use when describing it, but it’s not the story that kept me interested. No, this is a movie that works based on the central performances, all of which are excellent. Again, this isn’t a bad screenplay, but I don’t think it’s one of the five best of this year. If we want to include a biopic, my vote is for Selma.

3. When Birdman won for Best Picture, I made the comment that it was by far the strangest winner in history. The screenplay is a good one, but this is another case where the screenplay isn’t close to the strongest thing on the screen. This is a movie that’s all about how it was filmed along with the insane performances. Birdman is a manic experience, and some of that comes from the screenplay, but most of it comes from the direction and from the people on camera. It’s on the border of whether or not I’d place this in my own list of nominations.

My Choices

2. I really like The Grand Budapest Hotel for just about every possible reason I can, screenplay included. Wes Anderson has been nominated now for seven Oscars and has never won one. He will someday, of course, but he is one of those people who seems to have terrible luck with his nominations. He seems to only get them in years when someone else has a career performance or movie. This one is close to perfection, though, and the screenplay clicks along, not like a well-oiled machine, but like an antique, twee little windup toy. In a lot of years, it’s my clear winner, and I wouldn’t have complained had it won.

1. For me, though, this is a year that belongs to Nightcrawler in so many aspects. This is not a movie that I can honestly say that I enjoyed, because it’s not that sort of a movie. It is, however, a brutal and scathing film, one that demands to be watched, and one that pulls no punches with its story and that hides nothing from its audience. It is heartless and cruel, and these are the qualities that make it work. It’s an easy film to dislike, even hate, but it’s an impossible film to ignore, and its power comes from the terrible story it wants to tell. It should have won.

Final Analysis

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