Sunday, 27 April 2014
Encore Awards (2013 in Review): Writing
Inside Llewyn Davis
What if I said Inside Llewyn Davis was my favourite film from the Coen brothers? Much of that unfolds in the actual execution, but the simple way that the script itself observes Llewyn without grim disinterest or detached amusement like in previous Coen films makes all the difference for me. It makes this particular tale of Llewyn and his wrong decision decisions unfold in a manner that's not only necessarily truer, but is sweeter and more charming even if it is tinged with the same cynicism and sadness which comes with the territory. And, even though the supporting characters exist as creatures existing via Llewyn's consciousness they are no less interesting for it.
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Kings of Summer
There is much about this script that is fanciful to the point of childishness, but significantly these become elements of the film’s success for me. The Kings of Summer is never quite magic realism, but it does comprise deliberate elements of whimsy as it traces a fantasy world of what it feels to grow up. Within the poles of whimsy Galetta has real and moving things to say about friendship, parenthood and even sibling relationships. And even when the third act gets fanciful the trueness of its thrust is still paramount.
The funny parts of it are gut-busting, but it's more surprising when Galetta manages to wring true moments of boyhood tenderness from something as simple as a teenage row.
It’s my favourite movie puzzle in a while. Sure, Farhadi is working from a place of melodrama but this doesn’t work as a criticism – it’s the point of the piece. As the story develops and different characters come into contact with each other the most significant aspect of the screenplay is not only the way it depends on keeping everyone in darkness but the way that - from the incidental to the most momentous moments - everything is connected. And, of course, this gives way to a heavy sense of melodrama within the narrative but melodrama is a style itself and not an intrinsic shortcoming. And, it's difficult to fault a script that cares as much for every character within its knotty drama.
The Place Beyond the Pines
On one hand, yes, the three disparate stories in The Place Beyond the Pines each land with various emphasis and success but on the other hand – the confluence of the contrasting parts make for a satisfying whole. Each third may be following a familiar path but even at its most pulpy Cianfrance and company are showing a true understanding of the characters and their environments.
Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder
The World’s End
The goodness of this one works on dual levels. On one hand it works excellently as a genre-hopping exercise giving way to a genre deconstruction but beneath its fun and funny exercises in tones is buried a film steeped in sadness and significant bleakness. It’s a film that must work on both the literal and the figurative level and Pegg and Wright succeed in being hilarious, but still questioning and moody attacking one of the film’s ultimate themes of looking below the surface to see the disorder beneath.
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright
FINALISTS: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints riffs on a very familiar tale of lovers apart, but is all the more impressive for where it strays from the familiar with sincere moments; parts of Before Midnight read more like ideas and concepts more like actual conversation between people but the conceit manages to, mostly, pay off; Woody’s ostensible harshness in transposing Blanche to the 21st century makes for a particularly bleak first viewing with Blue Jasmine, but re-watches reveal a sincerity to it despite the coldness; Enough Said wins points for being one of the warmest romances in recent memory, a rarity today; Frances Ha is as good at looking at Frances' idiosyncrasies as it is at painting images of the people she knows; The Heat seems like it's just business as usual but nails the humour while never sacrificing smartness; Prisoners falters on occasion, but for the most part if nailbiting and direct in its tension
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Frozen; Her; Spring Breakers
The Lone Ranger
Poor Lone Ranger….will anyone beside me stand up for it? Specifically its writing? The way The Lone Ranger subverts your expectations in race, genre and even in gender is something that surprises and then rewards and then impresses for how rich, and non-conforming its story is. It's not afraid to consider tough questions, and although the film doesn't deliver answers for all it is a well developed tale of legend but also of responsibility and loss. The script is not the film's beacon, but the goodness of the writing is an essential part of making the whole work.
Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio and Justin Haythe
It manages to succeed as a story of political intrigue as well as a story of how advertisement is really just about manipulating people without getting too serious or too cynical. Instead, it flows easily and hilarious and manages both task so well because Peirano realises that on its own both stories might be bland but together and with the back story of so much perspective in the story it thrives on being fleet-footed. Like many films this year (Inside Llewyn Davis, Short Term 12, Blue Jasmine) there's an almost debilitating focus on the protagonist a the centre, but like the best of them the focus on René does not rob the characters, and film, around him from being nuanced and developed.
Short Term 12
The world Cretton created feels real and lived-in, the character feel authentic and nuanced. Even though much of the film functions as Grace’s story, no supporting aspect feels incidental or peripheral. It benefits from having some of the best written characters of 2013 which is why character beats from Mason’s stories, to Nate’s awkwardness to Marcus’ implacability feel genuine and profound and not just moments to drive the story forward.
And that it all ends in the same easy way it begins is the surest sign that Cretton knows just what type of story he wants to tell. Not one of contrivance, but just a simple view at a day in the life of these people.
Destin Daniel Cretton
The Wolf of Wall Street
It doesn’t make use, as much, of the benchmarks of Winter as a writer – the stolid bleakness or the mournful sadness. It’s funnier, than he usually is, but it’s as sharp as he tends to be. At its best, the entire thing is whip smart and the subtle way its questioning everything on screen is as much indicative of Scorsese's direction as it is of Winter's script.
World War Z
Sure, the behind the scenes of this film was plagued by the ostensible idea of too many cooks in the kitchen and before the film opened I was worried that the writing would indicate that. In the execution, though, there are many aspects of World War Z that I liked, and some that I loved and the taut construction of the script falls in the latter. The peaks operate in a different way than you’d expect them to in this type of film but it also means that the moments of catharsis and humaneness amidst the drama are more significant and more potent.
Matthew Michael Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski
(story) Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof
FINALISTS: 12 Years a Slave; August: Osage County; Beautiful Creatures;
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Bling Ring; Blue is the Warmest Colour; Captain Phillips