Friday, March 22, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 2015

The Contenders:

Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Spotlight (winner)
Straight Outta Compton

What’s Missing

A lot of good movies were released in 2015, and the collection we have for Best Original Screenplay is a good set of nominations over all. Of course, I think it’s entirely possible to create a different set of five without a huge step down in quality. That said, the original screenplays I tend to like from 2015 fall on the horror spectrum, one of Oscar’s least-liked categories. We can start with Crimson Peak, which honestly should have been nominated for its set design if nothing else. Maggie, Green Room, and Bone Tomahawk managed to avoid mainstream radar, a shame for all three. The VVitch was also one that seemed to not strike much of a chord with the people who matter in terms of nominations. The presence of Inside Out on this list almost certainly kept Anomalisa from a nomination. Tangerine was probably considered too much of a gimmick at the time, something also likely true of Victoria.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. Bridge of Spies is clearly the odd one out here, the one I would absolutely dump for anything I mentioned in the previous paragraph, up to and including an Arnold Schwarzenegger zombie film. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Bridge of Spies, but there’s also nothing that noteworthy about it. Mark Rylance is fine in the film and won an Oscar for it, but beyond that, I don’t really know why it is here beyond the fact that Tom Hanks was in it, and he’s sort of an Oscar seal of quality. It doesn’t belong.

4. I think Spotlight is a very important movie, one that I am happy to see achieve a great deal of prominence thanks to the Oscars and other awards. It has one of the best ensemble casts in a long time, and tells an important story that desperately needed to be told (and needs to be told over and over again). It’s a good screenplay, even a very good one, but it’s a movie that is carried more by the performances and the importance of the story than the specific screenplay that we see. I like the movie a lot, but it didn’t deserve this win.

3. I’m going to catch a lot of shit for putting Inside Out in third place. It’s a good screenplay, even a very good screenplay, and one that may well have a great deal of value in dealing psychologically with kids experiencing trauma. I respect it a great deal for what it is. The reason I’m putting it here has nothing to do with a lack of quality in this screenplay. It has everything to do with the fact that I simply like the other two nominated screenplays more than I do this one. Sorry if that bothers you.

2. Best Original Screenplay is the only Oscar that Straight Outta Compton was nominated for, and that’s ridiculous. I can’t imagine what was going through people’s heads when they decided to all but ignore this. Look, I’m not a fan of rap and I wasn’t a fan of it back in the day. If this movie can interest me as much as it did when I have nothing at stake and no genuine interest in the topic, it’s got something going for it. Sure, the casting is brilliant and the performances are tremendous, but it’s the story that makes it.

My Choice

1. Nominate whatever you’d like here and expand the nominations to 10 or 15 movies, and Ex Machina still gets my vote. Sure, we all know that Oscar doesn’t like science fiction (although that is changing), and even getting nominated is something special for a film like this, but this is a screenplay that does everything right. Each time the audience thinks they have it figured out, the movie knows this and goes out of its way to show that, and show the audience is wrong. It’s smart, treats the audience intelligently, and shows that it’s smarter than everyone. It’s a masterclass in screenwriting, and it should have won.

Final Analysis

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