Here's some absolutely not shocking news for anyone who knows me/follows this blog: I hate the Best Director and Best Screenplay races, albeit for very disparate reasons. As a writer, I'm offended at the level of hero worship that goes on for directors. (Seriously, do you think they just make it all up on the spot? The writers and actors have just as much, if not more, to do with the brilliance of the movie!) As an Oscarologist, I don't like the screenplay races because they almost never go the way they're supposed to. (Those crazy writers always sink my prediction score!)
Still, my job is never done until I've examined all eight top races, so here I go, trying to analyze these tricky races. I actually like several of the directors this year (though James Cameron will never be my cup of tea, and I'm really starting to hate Jason Reitman), and a few of the screenplays are truly enjoyable, so maybe this won't be as much of a pain in the ass as it usually is.
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker 75%
James Cameron, Avatar 15%
Lee Daniels, Precious 1.9%
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air .1%
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds 8%
As far as who deserves to be here, Bigelow is the one who is, absolutely no question, deserving of her nomination and her likely win. I'd throw Tarantino into her company, though still several tiers behind our frontrunner. However, they both have a similar problem, which I'd like to delve into briefly before continuing.
It's something I just can't get past for either: the extended, nonsensical, far-too-long-for-its-own-good scene that inhabits the halfway point of the movie. For Tarantino, it's the bar scene. For Bigelow, it's the scene with Ralph Fiennes. I can understand why Tarantino used the bar scene: he loves his ridiculous violence. But whereas all the other violence seemed so well incorporated into the story, this scene, which didn't really advance the plot all that much (though if you argue that it did advance the plot, it could have been done in 4 minutes, not 25), seems just out-of-place. I have a feeling that to get some extra money for budget, Bigelow included the Fiennes scene. The beauty of The Hurt Locker is that it has no plot, but this just didn't flow with the rest of the movie.
I respect what Cameron did in Avatar, and to be fair, he probably does deserve to be here, but I really don't respect how litle emphasis he puts on writing and, to a lesser extent, acting. He's the posterboy for why I don't like this category.
I loved Daniels' movie, and sometimes, we forget that incredible performances are in part due to the director's vision. There's a reason Mo'Nique thanks Daniels constantly when she makes acceptance speeches: he really did a phenomenal job with Precious when it was an incredibly difficult movie to pull off. Still, his directorial effort isn't comparable to any of the above, although I do appreciate the focus he puts on the writing and the acting.
Reitman has had an incredible streak of good movies, with Thank You For Smoking, Juno, and now Up in the Air. He may be the best director for contemporary, "of the moment" movies, but one has to wonder: how will they hold up in the future? And is his hand really that heavy, or has he simply gotten lucky?
Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker 35%
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds 45%
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger 5%
Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man 5%
Tom McCarthy, Bob Peterson, & Pete Docter, Up 10%
I love the Basterds and Locker screenplays, but I feel like Tarantino can't lose here. The other three are really there just to be nominated, which is a shame, because there were a few scripts that I would have preferred in those spots. But can I just say how much I really detested Up? I hate that this is the second animated movie nominated for Best Picture. It just really, really wasn't my cup of tea, and I think the underwhelming script had more than a little to do with that.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9 2%
Nick Hornby, An Education 8%
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci, & Tony Roche, In The Loop 3%
Damien Paul, Precious 30%
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air 55%
How badly do I want to see In The Loop? Let me count the ways... Unfortunately, despite how great Paul and Hornby's scripts were, this is Up in the Air's to lose...and it just might, if Reitman and Turner can't get their shit together. They still don't seem to know each other when they give acceptance speeches together, and that's because this was an arbitrated credit, meaning the Writers' Guild of America decided they both deserved credit despite the fact that they didn't actually write the script together. (The Envelope at the Los Angeles Times has a really great article about this if you want to read more; I personally find it all a little ridiculous.) If they can't, or if they wind up splitting votes with supposed runner-up Paul, Hornby might benefit, or Paul might worm his way into the winners' circle over both the dysfunctional Air guys and Hornby's expert script. I'd say this is actually the harder-to-predict category over BOS, which is not what most seem to think is the case. Call me crazy.
...Nope, that was just as much of a pain in the ass as it always is. Any thoughts, folks? Am I crazy for not caring about, well, any of this? Am I just an actor worshipper? Take it to the comments!