Best Screenplay 2008

What were the best original and adapted screenplays of 2008?

Frozen River (Courtney Hunt)
2
4%
Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh)
1
2%
In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
6
12%
Milk (Dustin Lance Black)
10
20%
WALL-E (Andrew Stanon, Jim Reardon, Pete Doctor)
10
20%
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Eric Roth, Robin Swicord)
8
16%
Doubt (John Patrick Stanley)
3
6%
Frost/Nixon (Peter Morgan)
3
6%
The Reader (David Hare)
1
2%
Slumdog Millionaire (Simon Beaufoy)
7
14%
 
Total votes: 51

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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby FilmFan720 » Thu Aug 07, 2014 10:00 pm

In terms of original screenplay, this category does not capture the joys of the year in cinema. Frozen River is a dreary, sloppy film going experience and easily the weakest of the entries. I like both Mike Leigh and Martin McDonough a lot, but these nomination represent to me some of their weaker films. That leaves two films I adore, with very different but very strong screenplays. Dustin Lance Black's dramatization of Milk is about a strong as a biopic can be, at least one trying to span as much of a subject's life as possible, but it still hankered down by the unnecessary framing device that drops it down a peg. That leaves me with my favorite film of the year, Wall-E, as original, daring, smart and emotional of a screenplay as made it to the screen all year.

Unfortunately, that roster of screenplays leaves out three of my favorite pieces of writing that year. Son of Rambow is a charming, smart and fun film that also happens to be one of the best representations of adolescence in recent cinema. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days has been rightfully heralded already, and in other places. I would also throw a bone to Jenny Lumet's wonderful Rachel Getting Married, a film I love more than most around here, and which stands on the shoulders of an imperfect yet bold screenplay almost as much as it does the direction and acting.

On the adapted side, I remember this being a weak year and while I'm not excited about any of these nominees, I can't really fight too loud for any of the missing candidates. I would throw out the contrivances of Slumdog Millionaire, the sloppiness of The Reader or the bland adaptation of Doubt to the screen. Frost/Nixon probably works the best of all these nominees, but it also a pretty literal adaptation of the stage play. The Curious Case is a striking, yet flawed, film and I would probably vote here to honor the parts that worked (and worked gloriously) and in spite of the weaker elements (such as the Katrina pieces).

As for the also-rans, I would throw a bone to The Class, my easy vote for the award. Among the other films, I think Iron Man is still the best of the recent spate of superhero fare, and Paranoid Park certainly is an interesting enough place to give Gus Van Sant a nomination.
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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby Heksagon » Thu Aug 07, 2014 2:19 am

Well, well. This was an exceptionally bad year in screenwriting categories as well.

Original category is an easy choice with Milk, and even that screenplay is hardly a great one. But everything else here disappointed me. In Bruges and WALL-E are, in my opinion, hugely overrated. In the former, the characters and the story are just so plain dumb that I couldn’t relate to it, even if good acting does make the film at least bearable. In WALL-E, I just couldn’t relate to the damn robots, and the story is childish. And while I usually like Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky is perhaps his only truly bad film, at least in terms of screenplay.

The Adapted line-up is disappointing as well. The only two nominees that I feel are respectable are Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire, and I’m going with the latter. The screenplay of Benjamin Button is not nearly as clever as it should be, although David Fincher’s direction at least fully utilizes every drop of mediocrity that it has to offer.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Jul 22, 2014 1:07 pm

ITALIANO wrote:By the way, are we sure that this system doesn't allow more than two votes, and only one for each of the two categories? There are so many more votes for Original here compared to Adapted...


The number of votes allowed per person is limited to the number at the top of the top of the poll, which in this case is 2. That doesn't stop someone from voting for two within the same category and none in the other, but that doesn't appear to be the case here as several people, including you, have talked about abstaining in one category while voting in the other.
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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby Sabin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:53 pm

If I could give an award for single most forgettable nomination of my lifetime, it would go to Courtney Hunt's screenplay nomination for Frozen River. I just had to double check back to make sure that it was Frozen River and not Frozen Lake. I recall Roger Ebert championing the film to no end. I would never have guessed this film had the faintest shot at a nomination, especially considering the abundance of films available for citation instead. If voters felt so warmed up to a single performance that they honor the rest of the film, why Frozen River and not Thomas McCarthy for The Visitor, Robert Siegel for The Wrestler, Jenny Lumet for Rachel Getting Married, or Nick Schenk for Gran Torino? Or why not past winners Joel & Ethan Coen for Burn After Reading or Charlie Kaufman for Synecdoche, New York? Or Vicky Christina Barcelona. I should watch the film again. I didn't much enjoy it, but here's a writer/director who is nominated for absolutely everything regardless of quality making a film that is his biggest hit in two decades, a film that is something of a departure for him, a film that wins the Golden Globe for Best Musical/Comedy Picture, and it contains an Oscar winning performance. Were the slate expanded to ten, I wouldn't think twice about including Vicky Christina Barcelona in my predictions, and he misses out on a nomination to Frozen River?

Martin McDonagh's nomination for In Bruges was a terrifically pleasing surprise, but Courtney Hunt's nomination is almost unfathomable.
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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:35 pm

Big Magilla wrote:Salon Kitty was a rip-off of The Night Porter, but if that's your thing, here are a few more...

http://whatculture.com/film/10-insane-n ... e-swastika


:D

The (in)famous, and very successful, Salon Kitty was actually more a rip-off of Luchino Visconti's The Damned (which we will talk about, as if it was Oscar-nominated, and in this same category), to the point of using two of the stars of that movie, Ingrid Thulin and Helmut Berger. Bizarre and flamboyant as it is, it's still better than most of the frankly embarassing examples of this sub-genre, so florid in the 70s, the Nazisploitation drama.

By the way, are we sure that this system doesn't allow more than two votes, and only one for each of the two categories? There are so many more votes for Original here compared to Adapted...

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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jul 21, 2014 11:47 pm

This year's Original Screenplay race was a bit like Best Actress '03 -- few candidates people were really enthusiastic about, but a ton of contenders swirling around the margins. In both cases, this gave us a ton of surprises on nomination day. (I only predicted 2/5 correctly, I think the worst I've ever done in a major category.)

I don't think it was eligible, but I would rate the wonderful A Christmas Tale the finest of the also-rans. I also would cite Rachel Getting Married, and maybe Nothing But the Truth, if only for pulling off one of the more successful surprise endings in recent years.

There is one atrocious nominee on the ballot, and that is Frozen River. From its start, it was pretty dreary -- a bunch of indie poverty cliches -- but as it went on, the characters just kept behaving in ways that were more and more ludicrous. By the time we got to the "throw the bag on the ice" sequence, we were in Crash territory.

In Bruges is fresh and fun, the voice of a singular writer making a memorable splash on the big screen. But although I think the movie flirts with some substantive stuff, it seems more like an exercise in style than anything major. Much as I enjoyed a lot of the dialogue and plot turns, by the end of the movie, I wasn't sure if it was about anything more than its own cleverness.

I think there are a lot of well-written scenes in Happy-Go-Lucky, and I did think Sally Hawkins's character was a great protagonist. This is a film about what it means to be an optimist in the world, and how that can have its challenges when so many don't share the same outlook on life. But structurally, I think it's pretty half-hearted. By the end of the movie, I had no idea why it stopped when it did, or what everything I had been watching was supposed to have built toward. Not an objectionable nominee, but it wouldn't get my vote.

My choice comes down to the remaining two movies -- my two favorites of the year -- and it's a close call. Like Mister Tee, I would probably rank WALL-E slightly higher overall. It's a work of great imagination, with the first half a seemingly impossible blend of dystopian fantasy and Chaplin-esque silent comedy. And it maintains its sense of wonder throughout, culminating in the overwhelmingly poignant scene of WALL-E trying to get EVE to wake up. Who knew a romance between two robots who can barely speak could be so touching? But I also echo Mister Tee's sentiment, that much of what makes WALL-E special are visual and aural pleasures. Compared to many other Pixar movies, it's far less dependent on things like narrative and dialogue, i.e. some pretty major things one has to consider when voting for screenplay prizes.

So, I too, end up voting for Milk in this category. As a non-fan of many film biographies, I liked the way this film managed to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that bother me about the genre. Although it's focused on the title character, the supporting players (and the protagonist's relationship to them) are drawn in much more memorable shades than the typical biopic. It seemed to be less embalmed than the standard hagiography, with a lot of laughs along the way. And I liked that, above all, the movie seems to be about something beyond the events in one person's life -- it's about a time and place in American history, it's about a community of people struggling to gain visibility, and practically for the first time using the political process to try to achieve that. I would have been perfectly happy with a win for WALL-E, but I see no need to take Dustin Lance Black's Oscar away.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:58 pm

Salon Kitty was a rip-off of The Night Porter, but if that's your thing, here are a few more...

http://whatculture.com/film/10-insane-n ... e-swastika
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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby Eric » Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:39 pm

Big Magilla wrote:I didn't find it even remotely in the same league as the soft porn realm of hacks like Radley Metzger.

Ain't that the truth. Daldry only wishes he could direct as well as Metzger, and The Reader would be lucky to be as good as "softcore porn crossed with Nazism" (e.g. Salon Kitty).

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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jul 21, 2014 2:51 pm

I'd argue for Revolutionary Road on the adapted side -- it was flawed for sure, but I found it to be a far more ambitious and bracing effort than its reputation as failed Oscar bait would suggest. And, sure, The Dark Knight, which was definitely overhyped, but which was far more narratively and thematically compelling than the majority of films in its genre.

The Reader is the worst of the nominees -- dreary at best, ideologically muddled at worst. The way the movie plays, it almost seems like it's worse that Kate Winslet couldn't read than that she worked for the Nazis. Probably not the message the screenwriter intended.

The stage version of Doubt had been pretty hyped for me -- everyone kept praising the fact that you left the play having no idea whether or not the priest was guilty, and everyone could come away with a different opinion. I wanted to know what play they all saw -- it seemed to me he was CLEARLY guilty, and then Cherry Jones had one last line that complicated the situation just BARELY. Given that the film version was essentially a transplant of the play, I have to resist voting for the screenplay on two counts -- it was basically a play on screen, and one I wasn't that wild about to begin with.

I liked Frost/Nixon quite a bit more, though perhaps that could be because I never saw the play onstage. Still, it seemed opened up to an unusual degree for a stage adaptation, and I found the subject matter and interplay between Frost and Nixon to be intelligently written, witty, and by the end, even moving. Not a major work, but fine as a filler nominee.

Is Benjamin Button running away with this prize out of enthusiasm, or by-default desperation? I actually like it the best of these films -- it has a great concept and fleshes it out in some interesting ways, and there's innate power to the story's portrait of full lives being lived. But I think the script is about the weakest element of the movie. I don't think those Hurricane Katrina bookend sequences work at all, and along the way there are entire set pieces and subplots that don't always feel of the same piece. (For instance, the sequence that precedes Blanchett's accident seems to have been lifted from another movie entirely.) I'm always willing to salute a project with ambition, but I just feel like this screenplay is too lumpy to vote for it.

So I guess I'll be the first person (and so far, the only person) to endorse the actual winner. Slumdog Millionaire is a bit schematic as a piece of writing -- if you want to go along with the movie at all, you just have to accept that the Millionaire questions just happen to relate to everything in Dev Patel's life in the EXACT order they occurred. But I have to admit that most of the vignettes were fun, with a decent amount of grit thrown in so the movie never felt too sugary. And the ending, jerry-rigged for audience button-pushing though it may be, was pretty hard for me to resist. As a piece of writing, I find this to be the most fully successful of the bunch, so it gets my vote.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby dws1982 » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:54 am

Like Mister Tee, I'm going to abstain in the Adapted lineup. Although I like Slumdog, Benjamin Button, and Frost/Nixon to raying degrees, I think they also have pretty serious liabilities as screenplays, and more-or-less succeed in spite of their screenplays, rather than because of them. My picks for the year would've all come from overseas (some of which weren't eligible, I'm sure): The Class, Boy A, Gomorrah, Tell No One, The Duchess of Langeais.

Not crazy about the original lineup either, but I can at least cast a vote. I think the worst of the nominees was the winner--Black's total wide-eyed admiration of Harvey Milk seemed to make him afraid to take any risks whatsoever. Other than the gay theme, its played-completely-straight Great Man structure is what you saw in countless movies out of Warner Bros. in the forties. It may be a mess, but I think his screenplay for J. Edgar is a lot more interesting and takes a lot more risks. Frozen River is about as weak of a nominee as Milk, and Happy-Go-Lucky is not one of my favorite Leigh films. Wall-E is fine, but In Bruges gets my vote quite easily. I haven't seen it since early 2009, but it really hit me at the time--I never had much of a clue where it was going; loved the way it veered (oftentimes suddenly) between comedy and drama and tragedy; loved the way it played around with the characters in ways that kept us unsure as to who was in control and who was being control, and who was going to be killed and who was going to kill. Easy vote here.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:38 am

ITALIANO wrote:
Mister Tee wrote: the film is softcore porn



Oh, come on Big Magilla...

Come on, what? Mister Tee is entitled to his opinion which I don't at all share regarding Stephen Daldry whose films I find a lot more interesting than some of those those of such sacred cows as Mike Leigh; Terrence Malick and Quentin Tarantino. I didn't find it even remotely in the same league as the soft porn realm of hacks like Radley Metzger and the like.
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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:30 am

Again - I don't watch cartoons, and I'm sure I wouldn't vote for Wall-E even if I had remotely seen it. But the movie is so praised here, and the race in Best Original Screenplay so tight, that it seems especially unfair to vote without having seen all five contenders, so I will abstain. Otherwise I guess I'd pick Milk - which is actually a quite traditional American biopic, but unusually insightful - and at least for me, who didn't know anything about its subject, very informative. Plus, while it IS about Harvey Milk - and I'd say quite detailed about both the human and the political side of the man - it's also, in a larger way, an accurate portrayal of a whole and complex era, with so many characters, most of them not superficially written (the relationship between Milk and his eventual murderer, for example, is rather subtly executed). It's a good, solid screenplay - one that I'd probably even like to read. But I can't deny that In Bruges is an inventive and often successful exercise in black humour, and probably the most authentically "original" of these four (Happy Go Lucky is also respectable, but it's true that its writer has done better work).

I didn't want to abstain even in Adapted, so I voted for the most acceptable choice - Benjamin Button. Far from perfect, but at least, as far as I've heard, a true re-work of Fitzerald's short story. In terms of efficiency, the winner should probably be Slumdog Millionaire, but it's not much more than that - efficient. Then we have two adaptations of plays - something which I always find problematic voting for (and anyway both plays don't seem to be of Pirandello caliber). As for The Reader - the original novel wasn't a masterpiece either, but maybe because it was written by a German, you could feel an actual torment behind it, his trying to come to terms with such a heavy past, to wrestle with it - there was a basic honesty about it (and the female character's final act was more clearly motivated, less ambiguous, because of that). The movie is an international production, written, and then shot, with that kind of "cleanliness" which maybe this subject didn't deserve. But it's not softcore porn :)

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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Jul 21, 2014 3:46 am

Mister Tee wrote: the film is softcore porn



Oh, come on Big Magilla...

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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby Sabin » Mon Jul 21, 2014 1:43 am

Best Adapted Screenplay is a personal nadir. I'm not sure a one of these screenplays is a competent screenplay. For me, the only possible choice is Frost/Nixon which might end up being majorly simplistic in the final stretch but it's by far the most compelling narrative.

For Best Original Screenplay, it has to go to WALL*E. While I cannot argue with those who say that the structure of the film is the least compelling facet of the film, I would also say that the second half of the film is a little bit underrated at this point. It's incredibly inventive and does a very good job of tracking WALL*E and EVA's courtship with the fate of mankind. It easily gets my vote. Although Milk was my choice in a walk for a bevy of other categories, its victory here infuriated me.

RANKING FOR ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY...
1. WALL*E, Andrew Stanton
2. IN BRUGES, Martin McDonagh
3. HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, Mike Leigh
4. MILK, Dustin Lance Black
5. FROZEN RIVER, Courtney Hunt

RANKING FOR ADAPTED SCREENPLAY...
1. FROST/NIXON, Peter Morgan
2. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, Simon Beaufoy
3. DOUBT, John Patrick Shanley
4. THE READER, David Hare
5. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, Eric Roth [screenplay], Eric Roth & Robin Swicord [story]
Last edited by Sabin on Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Best Screenplay 2008

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jul 20, 2014 11:09 pm

(I suddenly ran into the same "403 Error" BJ was complaining of yesterday. It appears there are now length limitations on posts: when I cut off the second half of my post, it showed up fine. But when I tried to edit and add the remainder, it again gave me "403". So...this is in two parts, meant to begin with the post below)


The original batch rate better, but there are easy substitutions I'd make: I'd be the one lunatic to reward the ambition of Synecdoche, New York (despite its third act nose-dive); I'd salute Reprise as brimming with youthful energy; and I'd give Woody Allen the one recent nod he's missed, for Vicki Christina Barcelona.

Despite being an overall superior group, the original list does contain the absolute least-deserving nominee of the year: the stuffed-with-cliches, condescending Frozen River. How sad for a surprise nominee to be such a lousy one.

I also wouldn't have nominated Happy Go Lucky, though my disdain is not at the level of Magilla's. I just found Poppy's character an irritating chatterbox, and I wouldn't honor Leigh for lesser work.

In Bruges was another unexpected nominee, but a happy one. The film had some of the inventive energy that characterized this category in the 90s but has been sorely missing in recent years (though it did make a return in 2013). McDonagh's script kind of fizzles near the end, so it doesn't get my vote, but I'm happy it made the cut for nomination.

Wall E is probably my favorite movie of 2008, and for its first half it is by far the most creative work of the year. There are two reasons why I'm not voting it this prize (though I'm tempted): first, that its second half, while still clever, is not at the stratospheric level of creativity as the first; and second...well, that there aren't alot of words. I know it's an article of faith in some circles that only dullards consider screenplays synonymous with dialogue. But, as someone who works at writing scripts, I think dialogue is a pretty key ingredient, especially when judging this category.

So, I go for a script that's a bit more traditional, but it is also pretty damn solid: Dustin Lance Black's work on Milk. Black and van Sant don't completely escape the limitations of the biopic, but they work interesting variations within it, and offer a good deal of wit beside. I'll echo the Academy's choice and vote Milk.


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