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[2011 Oscar Preview] Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Written by , on February 16, 2011 at 3:59 pm 

Like we did last year, this is the first in a series of posts highlighting the main Oscar categories. Danny King kicks it off with Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and look for more leading up to Oscar night.

This year’s Best Original Screenplay category is an impressive slate and, normally, it’s the kind of lineup that would make for a photo finish, if not for the gaining momentum of the juggernaut that is Tom Hooper‘s The King’s Speech. In all likelihood, David Seidler will walk away with the Oscar for his delicate, nuanced depiction of King George VI’s speech impediment. But for the sake of highlighting quality work, let’s take a look at the nominees in their entirety. In alphabetical order, they are:

Another Year (Mike Leigh)
The Fighter (Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington)
Inception (Christopher Nolan)
The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg)
The King’s Speech (David Seidler)

Thankfully, Another Year, Mike Leigh‘s unflinchingly somber portrait of the aging process, didn’t go unnoticed by the Academy, and earned a last-minute bid in this category. Without question, there are other categories the Academy could have chosen to recognize this film in, but their singling out of Leigh’s work on the page speaks to the writer-director’s uncanny ability to create sympathetic, human figures that mirror real-life personalities. Indeed, many of the characters in the film – whose ultimate fate appears so dim – remind us of people we come across every day, and that’s why they stick with us. However, Leigh’s film is surely outclassed by its competitors in terms of wide-ranging, popular support (Sony Pictures Classics deserves some of the fault for that.) That, combined with the film’s status as the least-nominated film in the category, will keep it out of serious contention for the win.

Next up is The Fighter, which has four screenwriters to its credit. The film’s position in this category is largely a testament to the way the team of writers resisted a plethora of cliches in synthesizing the familial and professional dynamics of real-life underdog Irish welterweight Micky Ward. But as noteworthy as the screenplay ultimately is – the characters it develops are absolutely indelible – The Fighter is ultimately more recognizable for its other aspects; specifically, David O. Russell‘s gritty direction and the phenomenal ensemble cast. This is a film that will almost certainly be represented by Christian Bale and Melissa Leo on Oscar night, and even if either is upset in his arena for some reason, don’t expect The Fighter‘s crew of scribes to pick up the slack.

Although the snub of Christopher Nolan in the Best Director category reflects a moderate reaction from the Academy to Nolan’s Inception, their decision to include the writer-director in this category, on the other hand, reflects a respect for the filmmaker’s paramount achievement on the page. Nolan’s layered, dutifully-structured screenplay is something to marvel at, regardless of whether or not specific Academy members feel that the finished product measures up to its potential. Nolan’s previous history with the Academy will likely play in his favor as well, and if there is one candidate out there who has a legitimate chance to spoil Seidler’s evening, it’s probably Nolan.

The script for The Kids Are All Right, penned by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, has a small shot at playing spoiler in this category, though throughout the awards season the film, despite earning a multitude of nominations, hasn’t been able to score many big victories along the way. Unfortunately for them, if they weren’t competing in a category with such a supreme frontrunner, Cholodenko and Blumberg would have a better chance of taking this Oscar home, as the film’s indie status, well-respected cast and seamless blend of comedy and drama are generally traits that the Academy likes to reward in this spot (think Little Miss Sunshine and Juno).

As I’ve mentioned, the final nominee, David Seidler for The King’s Speech, seems to have this race locked up. If the film’s status as the Best Picture frontrunner weren’t enough to guarantee Seidler a win in this category, the scribe’s personal life-story would surely make up for the slack. Seidler himself dealt with a verbal stammer during his childhood, and the obvious psychological implications of such an impediment are translated into his depiction of the story of King George VI. That his dialogue is wonderfully crafted is undeniable – the film’s best scenes are the verbal battles between nominated actors Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. What’s truly surprising (and uplifting) about Seidler’s work is how emotional it becomes and how easily the audience is won over by a friendship that rings true in every possible way. He has all but wrapped up the victory at this point, and it’s enormously well-deserved.

Will Win: The King’s Speech (David Seidler)
Should Win: Another Year (Mike Leigh)
Should Have Been Nominated: Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis)

Who do you think will take home the Oscar?


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