The Big Short (winner)
I don’t love the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay for 2015, because there are some options that I think were unfairly overlooked. We can start with a few that probably didn’t deserve to be here but that might gain some traction from some people. I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens because I felt like it really brought the franchise back in a lot of ways…but it was really just Star Wars in terms of the story. Mad Max: Fury Road was probably my favorite movie from 2015, and while I’d love to see it here, it’s also not a movie that feels like the screenplay is central to what people want from it. For whatever reason, adaptations of Shakespeare don’t gain a lot of traction come Oscar-time, which explains the exclusion of Macbeth. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was probably too much of a popcorn movie for Oscar voters, but it’s a dandy adaptation. High-Rise, based on one of my favorite books, may have been too small and too underseen for anyone but me to care. Black Mass does feel like a miss in a lot of respects. The bigger profile misses in my estimation were The Revenant and Creed, both of which were nominated for other awards.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. As often seems to be the case, Saoirse is the best part of her movie. Brooklyn is a nice film, but it’s also got problems specifically in the screenplay area. The truth is that this is a better movie when it’s set in Brooklyn than when it moves back to Ireland. It’s also very simple and almost simplistic. The characters are what drive the movie here much more than the actual situation they find themselves in, and while Ireland is prettier than New York, the story slows and fades when we cross the ocean. That’s a problem, and it keeps this out of the running.
4. I’d love to rank Room higher than fourth place, but I simply can’t because I think the movie is plagued by a massive plot hole. While I understand just how much this story resonates with a lot of people, and the themes of captivity and sexual abuse are important ones, I can’t help but think that breaking out of a garden shed wouldn’t take someone seven years with a little dedicated effort. That’s a problem with the film, and one that could be countered by putting the characters in a basement or an attic. A plot hole is a plot hole, and that certainly affects my opinion when it comes to a screenplay award.
3. The Big Short is a story that is well-told, but it’s also a story that I find infinitely depressing. If you really want to know what is wrong with the world and specifically with American society, you don’t really need to look a lot further than this movie. While the screenplay is a good one and the way the film is made is interesting thanks to that screenplay, it’s also a movie that angers me, and so it’s not one that I’ve ever really thought about watching a second time. That’s a problem for me; rewatchability is important.
2. Carol is a lovely story, and it’s tenderly told. It is perhaps too slow for a lot of people, but that’s part of the nature of the story and the time in which it takes place. It’s a careful story, and one that is smart in how it paces itself. It reveals itself slowly, building in the same way the romance between the two main characters does. Carol is not flashy or dangerous; it’s simply very good for the story it wants to tell, and it does so effectively and beautifully. I like the nomination, but I wouldn’t put it up for the win.
1. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that one of the things I tend to rail against is bad, stupid, or otherwise ridiculous science. In a world where millions of people deny science outright, making entertainment that either reinforces those beliefs or does nothing to counter how science actually works is dangerous. The Martian uses real science—it’s a story that manages to be entertaining while sticking to scientific reality rather than using “Science!” as a way to just make the plot be whatever the plot needs to be. In this field, that fact gives it a leg up on everything else. In an open field, it makes the cut for me, but doesn’t claim the prize.
My winner, for a number of reasons, is Creed. While I love the real science aspects of The Martian, I love more the feelings of nostalgia I get from Creed, but it’s not just nostalgia. Creed managed to resurrect a beloved character from decades before and give him new relevance, and did so in the context of a movie that legitimately moves the story of these people in a new direction, with a new focus, and a new life at the center of it, and a life that is every bit as interesting, as complicated, and as vital as the life we discovered in the first film. Creed feels like real people’s lives and it feels like it’s lived in its history for the decades that led up to it. It’s a serious achievement to make something this good that feels this natural and organic, and like it really belongs in the greater scope of the story being told. At the very least, it deserved a nomination.