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Oscar Picks: Best Original Screenplay

Coffee: Check.
Office Oscar pool: Completed.
Re-read all my old notes: Done.

After watching the 15 Movies (and writing reviews for 15 films) in 2 weeks, I needed a break. I watched 9 on 2/19; Within minutes of finishing my review, I needed to cleanse my pallet. I scrolled through the channels to find on showtime: Rambo IV starting in five minutes.


I grabbed a beer and watched the mind-numbing violence of a hollow film. No analyzing, just entertainment (all be it in the most gratuitous way possible) for the sake of entertainment. I sipped my beer and revelled in it, watching every epic moment of the most violent film (by body count) ever made. it was only after that (and another beer) that I slept the most soft and restful sleep that I had since this project began. It wasn’t until the following afternoon that I began to ponder – who do I honestly think will win what?

To that question I say: I do not know.

The Academy isn’t like Baseball playoffs, where the team that is playing the best at the end of september wins (Please referrence the 69 Mets, 03 Marlins, 04 Red Sox, the 07 Rockies, the 08 Rays, etc), but more like the NCAA tournement (Right around the corner folks! get your Brackets ready!) where if you win 8 or 9 awards leading in, you can get some momentum building for an Oscar push. The other side of this is the politicing. Politics Politics politics! The Weinstien’s are notorious for this – badgering as many (if not all!) voting academy members to support their film, which has become an anual every for them (see: Inglourious Basterds, A Single Man, Nine) usually with success.

Ok, Enough is enough. Time for me to be bold and decisive and tell you what I think of the films for the BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY!

Ok, your excitement is jumping off the screen to me as you sit in rapt anticipation. I am sure your eager as I was when this all started, so without furth adieu…

I always loved this category – after Best Picture, and Best Director, it is my favorite. Why? Because I can imagine it being me! All you need is imagination, organization, drive and a touch of skill, and your can create something from nothing. Based off your ideas, the motion picture world churns! It gives me hope, that there may be a guy sitting in an office, bored out of his skull day dreaming when it hits – just an idea, a premise, an wisp of thought – he dwells on it some more, and it grows, gains character, thoughts, then dialogue, setting, situations. Then the snowball is really rolling, and the what ifs come in…”What if this character did this? Would it make that happen?”

Sometimes thats all it takes – boredom combined with dwelling on the idea to create something mind shattering from nothing.

Thats where I think the idea for “Up” came from. What kid growing up didn’t dream on a summer day of using balloons to fly their entire house away? Staring at the sky, imagining looking down on the world as your slowly drift where ever you wanted? “Up” is a sweet tale full of shild like whimsy, and a dear premise that is as sweet as it is simple: when you are in love, true love, you will keep your promises, even to the ends of the earth, and nothing will stop you from making them come true.

“Up”, However, is where the lightness ends.

3 films emphasize war, or its after effects in one way or another. The most obvious of this is the post-Iraq invasion story in “The Hurt Locker”, Mark Boal’s tale of war as seen through the eyes of 3 Bomb disposal team mates of Bravo Company. The brutal nature of war is exposed as a result of his time reporting from the front lines in Iraq. Even the writer’s guild of America said this was the finest original Screenplay of 2009, giving it their highest prize. This is all hidden beneath the brutallity of war – the most brutal times being the down time between violent, never knowing when the next mission, firefight, or battle will crop up.

“The Messenger” takes “The Hurt Locker” to the next level – it answers the question “What happens to the ground soldiers when they return from war? And what if they don’t return?”. It is a dark tale interwoven with 2 former front-line soldiers delivering grim news to the Next of Kin, while trying to overcome their own issues, stemming from war and otherwise. A powerful story, punctuated with the gut-wrenching reality of the need to tell families that their Sons/Daughters/Fathers/Husbands will never be coming back alive. The power within this does not lie in the dialogue, but the grim emotion, and the reality that this is what happens when your country goes to war.

The alternative to all of this is the World War II flight of fancy set in 1943 Paris. It is the thought that if one COULD re-write history, how would he do it? The answer, of course, is “Inglourious Basterds”, based on the perfect circumstances of a group of Jewish Nazi Hunter’s stumbling onto a revenge plot to kill Hitler. This fantasy is in the same vein of childhood day dreaming as up… if you are Ted Bundy as a child. Tarantino’s decade long work on the script, billed as his “masterpeice” draws parallels to the great WWII war movies of the past (Particularly the Basterds, who parallel “the Dirty Dozen”. Just watch the first scene with the Basterds, and the first scene of “The Dirty Dozen” – you will see what I mean). Plus, you cannot forget he has won a Best Screenplay oscar before (1994, Pulp Fiction)

Last, but not least, is another Best Screenplay winner (Fargo – 1996; No Country for Old Men – 2007) with a dark comedy about a 1960’s South Dakota Jewish family (Centered around the patriarch, Larry Gopnik) as they are pushed and pulled from all sides, with each situation more outrageous then the last. Though it is a comedy, there is a dark haze hanging over Larry (Played by Michael Stuhlbarg) throughout the film, something he cannot escape. For him, even a win ends up being a loss, and his downward spiral only aids him to reaching new heights.

Thanks for reading all that. And now – who wins?

I think “A Serious Man” is the most complete script here; it has twists, turns, creativity, vision, while walking the fine line of a dark comedy. I love dark comedies; they are so hard to perfect and do correctly – like a good souffle, it is so easy to make a mistake and have your food end up less then tasty. “A Serious Man” deserves the win – but “The Hurt Locker”, with the power of the WGA award, gets the statue.

MY PICK: A Serious Man

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