Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Oscars 2015: The Screenplays

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in "The Big Short"
Yesterday, the Manifesto analyzed the technical categories. Today, we're looking at the screenplays and the supporting actor/actress awards. You can find the latter here; for the former, read on.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

NOMINEES
Bridge of Spies—Matthew Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Ex Machina—Alex Garland
Inside Out—Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve
Spotlight—Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
Straight Outta Compton—Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff

WILL WIN
This one isn't rocket-science. Spotlight won at the Writers Guild, and it's the only nominee here with a realistic chance of taking Best Picture. It also happens to feature a thoroughly impressive screenplay that condenses reams of investigatory data into compelling drama. Book it.




SHOULD WIN
I liked elements of Straight Outta Compton, but its screenplay is basically Biopic 101, mistaking information for insight. The script for Ex Machina is far more tantalizing, even if it isn't entirely in control of its fascinating ideas. The remaining three nominees are all terrific. Spotlight turns monotonous journalistic research into a thrilling portrait of discovery, while the screenplay for Bridge of Spies crackles with both wit and intelligence. Still, my clear winner here is Inside Out, not just for its ingenious premise but for the way it smuggles a melancholy study of human growth into a vibrant tale of imagination and adventure.


THE MANIFESTO'S IDEAL BALLOT
About Elly—Asghar Farhadi
Bridge of Spies—Matthew Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Inside Out—Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve
Sleeping with Other People—Leslye Headland
Spotlight—Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer

It's always strangely gratifying when my own ballot synchronizes with the Academy's on a majority of the nominees. In addition to the three we share, About Elly is a beautifully told story, judiciously parceling out pieces of information that eventually form a haunting mosaic. Sleeping with Other People is a romantic comedy that's both romantic and comedic, which makes it something of a miracle.

The Manifesto's ideal winner: Inside Out—Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve.




BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

NOMINEES
The Big Short—Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
Brooklyn—Nick Hornby
Carol—Phyllis Nagy
The Martian—Drew Goddard
Room—Emma Donoghue

WILL WIN
All five contenders here are also nominated for Best Picture. OK, that's technically untrue, but I choose to pretend as though Carol is still in the running. Anyway, despite the ostensible competition, The Big Short is the easy pick here. As with its original-screenplay counterpart, it won at the Writers Guild, and it could feasibly walk away with the top prize. Sold.

SHOULD WIN
Oof. I don't envy voters this decision, as all five nominees are impressive. The Big Short performs an impossible task, streamlining esoteric information into material that's both digestible and dramatic. Brooklyn tells a coming-of-age story that's sweet, funny, and achingly true. Carol's love story features the best-written relationship of the year. The Martian turns a horrific situation into a briskly paced and often hilarious study in perseverance and collaboration. And Room brilliantly places you inside its characters' headspace. Forced to pick, I'll side with the Academy for once and take The Big Short, because who doesn't love a side-splitting comedy about financial markets?




THE MANIFESTO'S IDEAL BALLOT
The Big Short—Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
Brooklyn—Nick Hornby
Carol—Phyllis Nagy
The Martian—Drew Goddard
Steve Jobs—Aaron Sorkin

The omission of Steve Jobs here is a travesty, but it's a forgivable one, given the strength of the five nominees. Still, Aaron Sorkin's mesmerizing look at a flawed genius is the finest piece of writing of the year.

The Manifesto's ideal winner: Steve Jobs—Aaron Sorkin.




Up next: the supporting actor and actress awards.

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