And on to the writing accolades...
Animal Kingdom (David Michôd)
This is sort of like an ideal movie in that it really does begin with the screenplay, even though the writing never becomes an overpowering crutch. In fact, like so many of the achievements of Animal Kingdom it might be easy to miss just how great the screenplay is – or essential. The memorable characters are not as much about the brilliant performances as they are about the cohesiveness of plot and development coming from Michôd.
Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)
Each authorial decision Baumbach makes, here, serve as palpable evidence of his interest in ensuring that his story moves forward. This is a difficult story to work with without making it too terse or stark and his interest in character (not just the main ones, or even the ones we see) is a significant reason as to why Greenberg ends up being a success – and such a good opportunity for the actors.
The Kids Are All Right (Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Choledenko)
There’s an almost self-effacing easiness with which The Kids Are All Right unfolds, and the screenplay is an important part of that. Blumberg and Choledenko are both intent on keeping the narrative as uncluttered as possible, sometimes complex but never complicated and though it unfolds in simple spurts it’s never simplistic. When it comes to the scope of it all the screenplay is at the head.
The King’s Speech (David Seidler)
I praised Seidler’s decisions in my original review, and after a second viewing I’m still impressed. Like The Kids Are All Right there’s a simple nature to the way the story unfolds which is never simplistic. This is the type of film where the characters often talk too much – and for too long, but even though The King’s Speech depends on its screenplay it’s not dialogue driven. True, dialogue driven writing works for some but Seidler realises that it won’t here and instead goes for a naturalness that’s impressive.
Somewhere (Sofia Coppola)
Coppola seems much more aware and comfortable with the characters she carving than I’ve ever seen her. It’s not exactly minimalist (although it is low-key) and there’s nary a false moment as she gives us an almost voyeuristic look into this man’s life. The chance that the editing and photography team get to work with those smooth transitions depends on the organic development of plot here – courtesy of Coppola’s screenplay.
FINALIST: I sort of hate leaving Agora off the list, and it is a historical drama – not history, and sure there’s something vaguely humorous about crediting Hypatia with so much – but ignoring historical inaccuracies (which are neither here nor there, to be honest) Amenabar’s ability to turn even the most abstract of scientific principles into potentially riveting plotpoints is damned impressive; though I cannot wholeheartedly surrender my love to Blue Valentine it’s screenplay is a treasure worthy of effusive praise, not only for its obvious gutsiness but for the consistency of development which could have been easily waylaid for theatrics; Hamilton’s writing in Night Catches Us in beautifully devoid of agenda or pretentiousness – she’s more interested in her characters than any of those which is why the film manages to be as consistent despite a few issues.
SEMI-FINALISTS: Easy A is not as fresh as some of its biggest champions might say, but it’s aware of that and finds comfort in its comedy ancestors; in its final instalment Toy Story III manages to retain its charm and comedy all the while ensuring it delivers on the emotional poignancy necessary for the departure; The Fighter owes its accolades more to the direction than the writing, but at its strongest moments the focus on family ties and relationships is stunning if exasperating in the fact that there’s an even more excellent movie hidden underneath the very good one we get.
The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski and Robert Harris)
There’s sort of an irony as to Polanski’s writing and his direction – but he knows what he’s doing. He opts for a literal thriller-ish nature to his direction which means that the screenplay must be the opposite, and it is. It’s constantly subtly, and almost always unassuming despite its intelligence. That ends up being the quality that serves it best when it comes to that final dénouement where everything unravels so beautifully.
Let Me In (Matt Reeves)
On the most obvious it is not the screenplay that’s responsible for all the cool things going on in Let Me In, and yet what Reeves creates on the page is necessary. It’s probably one of the barer screenplays of the year as it is – ideally – a bit of paradigm for the film itself and in that light the meticulousness of the entire exercise is commendable. I wouldn’t necessarily agree that less is more, but it’s an asset here.
Rabbit Hole (David Lindsay-Abaire)
It’s seamlessly adapted from the play it emerges as, perhaps, the most significant facet of this already well made film. Nicholas mentions in his review how we’re eased into every important situation, and that’s something important which can’t be overstressed. He’s careful to maintain a realness to the situation while managing to ensure that everything that happens has some reaction that maintains the realism and takes the story forward.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World (Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall)
Scott Pilgrim vs the World has such a strident way to it so that it’s a bit difficult to single out a specific entity as its champion and in that light I’m unsure that I would champion its screenplay – and yet Wright’s adaptation is a significant as to why Scott Pilgrim manages to survive the journey from comic book to cinematic entity. It manages to be socially conscious without overemphasis on pop-culture fanaticism and it’s youthful without being pretentious. And, of course, it’s consistently hilarious – even when it succeeds with those singular moments of poignancy.
The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)
His droll dialogue, incidentally, ends up becoming a detriment to the praise he deserves since he’s doing more here than just providing witty lines. He fools you into thinking that he’s doing something especially newfangled on his own, when he’s just using old paradigms to create something classic and fresh at the same time. He deserves credit for never making the deposition scenes come off as retrospective as they could have been and ensuring that they are the foundation of the screenplay without making becoming pretentious.
FINALIST: How to Train Your Dragon is a whole lot of fun, but more than its hilarity it deserves credit for constantly ignoring the easier tricks and hooks that come with the territory and deciding to keep the best interest of its story – and characters – at the heart of it.
SEMI-FINALISTS: Winter's Bone, True Grit
SEMI-FINALISTS: Winter's Bone, True Grit
Which screenplays impressed you most this past year?