Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
David Chase, Not Fade Away
Rian Johnson, Looper
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods
There are so many great scripts to choose from in this category that I feel the Academy could do a fine job even if they ignore some of these selections, which is good considering that Looper and The Cabin in the Woods – two phenomenal scripts that exemplify cinematic originality – are unlikely to see a nomination. The same probably goes for David Chase’s Not Fade Away, far too under-the-radar to get any major recognition but absolutely deserving as one of the best pieces of writing I have seen in years. Mark Boal’s work on Zero Dark Thirty, however, is a virtual lock, and rightly so; the film is not just a top-notch exercise in procedural writing, but a stirring piece of authentic, in-depth journalism. The standout, to me, is Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, a wickedly smart, funny, and subversive script filled with the best dialogue and characters of 2012. It may or may not get nominated – the Academy runs hot and cold on Tarantino – but if it does, it surely deserves to win.
Dream Winner: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Tough Omissions: Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths; Ben Lewin, The Sessions; Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee, Wreck-It Ralph; John Gatins, Flight; Vanessa Taylor, Hope Springs; Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Best Adapted Screenplay
Judd Apatow, This is 40
Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski, Cloud Atlas
Another great category, and one where I find myself constantly changing my mind on who I think should win. The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer did an amazing job repurposing David Mitchell’s book for cinema, and while the film is beautifully written – and my second-favorite feature of the year – I feel that it is the trio’s direction that ultimately made the film great. As pieces of writing, these other dream nominees impress me more. This is 40 is divisive, but I believe it to be Judd Apatow’s best film, and surely his most sharply observed and written. Stephen Chbosky did what few authors are capable of in turning his extremely literary novel into a viable cinematic blueprint, and Tony Kushner’s smart and savvy Lincoln is just bursting at the seams with terrific dialogue.
But my heart tells me I like Silver Linings Playbook the most. I love this film exponentially more with each successive viewing, and the more I watch, the more I realize how much I love to simply listen to these characters talk, or to see how effortlessly every facet of the story develops. This is a film where a lot happens, to the characters and their relationships, between Points A and B, and the fact that everything seems to fall into place so naturally and organically is surely reason to celebrate the expertly constructed script. It would be my pick to win.
Dream Winner: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Tough Omissions: Joe Carnahan and Ian McKenzie Jeffers, The Grey; Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises; Gideon Dafoe, The Pirates! Band of Misfits; Chris Terrio, Argo; Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
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