2018 Oscars: Adapted Screenplay

Okay it’s February, which means it’s time to talk Oscars. The winter Olympics gives us an extra week this year, so my annual Oscar coverage will be coming to you Mondays and Thursdays from now until the big day on March 4. Then it’ll be time to put the blog on vacation for a bit and write something else for a while.

Next up…

“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
“Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Who will win: Molly’s Game
Who could win: Call Me By Your Name
Who should win: Molly’s Game
Who should be here: “Last Flag Flying” Richard Linklater & Darryl Ponicsan (updated on 2/16/2018)

One of the things I find annoying about the Oscars and those who predict them is that the screenplay categories tend to get discussed as consolation prizes for films who don’t really have a shot at recognition from one of the more talked about awards, such as picture, director or the four actors.

Call Me By Your Name certainly falls into this category this year. It’s got everything going for it as far as a Screenplay category win: It’s the only Best Picture nominee in the category. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. It’s got significant social issues with its discussion of homosexuality. It got passed over for expected nominations for Supporting Actor and Cinematography. It won’t win Best Picture, nor is it likely to take home the prize for Best Actor where Timothée Chalamet is the youngest nominee in history. James Ivory, the writer, is 89 years old and has never won an Oscar.

So, why not just engrave the statue right now, right?

What most of the pundits don’t realize is that much of the criticism of Call Me By Your Name – including my own – comes from lack of character arcs. The characters don’t really develop much over the course of the film, and we aren’t left with the idea that the events really changed them. The supporting characters, save for one great speech by the father, had little to nothing to do with the story. The strength of the film is all tone and nuance – in the way the characters look at each other, or react, or the photography, staging or directing. The writing doesn’t come into play a whole lot.

Where the writing DOES come into play is the terrific Molly’s Game, which inexplicably got snubbed for nominations for Best Picture and a Best Actress nomination for Jessica Chastain. This was Aaron Sorkin at his most Sorkin-esque. The dialogue flowed like music, the tension amped up with each passing scene, the resolution was surprising yet inevitable and above all, we were entertained. This is why, despite all of the logic pointing otherwise, I choose Molly’s Game as the winner here. The strength of the film was its writing. Perhaps I’ll be wrong.

It’s great to see Logan get some kind of recognition from the Academy. It’s the first time in history that a superhero film gets a nod for writing, and there’s no question in this writer’s mind that if there were no X-Men involved that Logan would be a serious contender for Best Picture. You can’t tell me that Mad Max: Fury Road, a film with virtually no character development yet one that nearly won Best Picture in 2016, is better. We’ll talk more about Logan in the coming weeks.