Writers Guild Awards

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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby OscarGuy » Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:46 pm

I am with Flipp. I enjoyed the movie a great deal, but the script is very superficial and has very little to say about anything important. I haven't seen Her, so I can't comment on that screenplay. Maybe American Hustle won the screenplay award at New York, but isn't that more of a fluke than a tradition? Was NYFCC considered the outlier in most respects this year (as opposed to LAFCA, which are normally the weird ones).

I don't think American Hustle is out of the race, but I notice its fans are just as likely to say Her just isn't strong enough to win as Her fans are to outright reject Hustle's chances. Perhaps I'm trying to look at it from a more pragmatic perspective. Yes, Hustle is a popular film, but other than SAG, where has it really been well loved from the guilds? It really hasn't. I also think this David O. Russell is due narrative would hold water if he were known for being a great screenwriter. Some might think of throwing him a bone in Original Screenplay, but some of those might want to hold out until he has a genuine Best Picture slam dunk in the future so they can give him the Best Director prize to. I'm not diminishing the great screenwriters of history by saying their awards mean less, but when it comes to "overdue" prizes, except in the acting categories, I just haven't seen the Academy giving "lesser" prizes to people.
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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:17 pm

Okri wrote: I can't explain The Pianist's victory. That, more than Polanski or Brody, was the WTF moment of the 2002 oscars.

Well, coming off WGA, the favorite was The Hours -- and even someone as un-wild about The Pianist as I would reluctantly agree to that switch. Adaptation obviously had a good deal of popularity in certain circles, but it wasn't a best picture or best director nominee, and never seemed to me to be in the running.

This discussion has gone on all day, and many of the points I'd have made have already been highlighted, but let me say a few things:

I strongly dispute the "even fans of American Hustle think the script is weak" contention. flipp aside, I'm mostly hearing this from people who DIDN'T like the movie, and are projecting their view as more widespread. As BJ points out, the film won screenplay in NY and finished third at the National Society, so some fairly influential people think quite highly of it (in both cases rating it higher than her, in fact).

People may not remember at this point, but there were a lot of folks trashing Alan Ball's script for American Beauty back in the day, as well. Some even suggested Being John Malkovich would upset it under screenplay.

Eternal Sunshine is indeed the strongest precedent for a her victory, but, as BJ says, The Aviator that year was never seen as a script-dominated film (I was more worried about Hotel Rwanda that year, actually), and Kaufman had some "overdue" status after two previous nominations and a reputation as the most creative screenwriter of his generation. I'm not sure Spike Jonze is seen quite at that level (I'd be more likely to feel that way if he'd been nominated by the directors this year). And, you know, David O. Russell has an overdue quotient of his own.

Characteristically, I'm with BJ: I think her has a definite shot at winning this, but I'm not willing to dismiss American Hustle out of hand, the way many appear to be (wishfully?) doing.

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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:00 pm

I also think it's not insignificant that honoring American Hustle's screenplay could be a way to recognize David O. Russell, who has had three films in four years get a truckload of nominations, and who will likely not be winning Best Director. This isn't to say that Spike Jonze is not someone voters would want to honor, but he hasn't directed much lately, and he hasn't had any films in the Oscar conversation in over a decade.

Of course, this factor could also work AGAINST Russell if enough voters hold his personal reputation against him. (A friend of mine worked closely with him for years, and his stories of major Hollywood players who refuse to even speak to him again are numerous.)

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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby Okri » Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:10 pm

This intrigues me.

On the one hand, I feel that American Beauty and Gosford Pard were noted for their screenplays a lot more than American Hustle, which has been lauded for (imo) direction and acting. But then I think that both American Beauty and Gosford Park were also noted for direction and ensemble (indeed, both won best ensemble at SAG). Then I'd argue that a singular premise is often thought of as a sign of notable (award-winning) screenplay (Talk to Her, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Departed* back to The Crying Game). But we've seen those singular premises lose to more AMPAS-feted alternatives (Memento, Kauffman's scripts, even The Truman Show).

The film that American Hustle reminds me of the most is actually Chicago. Razzle-dazzle direction and significantly praised ensemble that overshadow the screenplay. Of course, it's easier for us to overlook musicals in the screenplay and Argo just won (surfacey-twisty light-drama/comedy movie), so maybe.

I can't explain The Pianist's victory. That, more than Polanski or Brody, was the WTF moment of the 2002 oscars.

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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby FilmFan720 » Tue Feb 04, 2014 6:12 pm

OK, I didn't mean to say that The Aviator and American Hustle were that similar. I was merely pointing out that the year that Eternal Sunshine won, the Academy could have gone different ways and still chose to go with the edgier choice. I think it is one of the best choices the Oscars have made in a long while, but I am still surprised that it happens. American Hustle is much more likely to win next month than The Aviator was.

As for the comedy issue, the point that I was trying to make is that the Oscars have not had a pattern of awarding comedies (and since I don't think her is an all-out laughfest I don't know why we are debating this). Movies like Lost in Translation or The Social Network, both of which I like a lot and find very funny, are not all-out comedies, which is how you made them sound. They function mostly as dramas, although they have lighter tones and some scenes that are hilariously funny. The Descendants was just as funny as most of those films, and I think Eternal Sunshine, The Social Network, Juno, Gosford Park and Almost Famous all have as much virtue being on a list of "films with strong dramatic moments" as any other film. The Academy in this century has preferred to award hybrid films, but it's not like the Oscars are running around giving their awards to In the Loop, or Bridesmaids, or My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Feb 04, 2014 5:48 pm

I guess this is a situation where different people looking at the same data just come to a different conclusion. I don't in any way view the general consensus regarding American Hustle as "exciting movie, too bad about that script." (Obviously, individual reactions may vary.) Hustle won the NY Film Critics prize for its script, and was a runner-up at National Society -- it hasn't been as overwhelmingly praised for its writing as Her, but I think it would have to be considered one of the more acclaimed pieces of writing this year. And furthermore, it's got the kind of elements -- time-jumping chronology, laugh-out-loud dialogue, lots of story strands with big plot turns -- that are widely considered to be writer-centric. To me, "even the fans agree the script isn't the triumph" is the kind of argument one would make about a movie like Gravity, where the clear reason for the film's acclaim is visual rather than verbal. (In writing terms at least, I think THAT is The Aviator in this category, and the field was so crowded it was never even really in play for a nomination.)

None of this is to say that I think American Hustle will necessarily win here. I just don't think we can easily write off its chances with "it's not a writer's movie" the way most of us did with Gladiator, Gangs of New York, and The Aviator. (Heck, in all of those years I thought MULTIPLE non-Best Picture nominees stood a better shot at the screenplay prize in those races, that's how much I thought those films weren't writer's movies.)

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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby rolotomasi99 » Tue Feb 04, 2014 5:41 pm

FilmFan720 wrote:You have a much more forgiving definition of hilarious then I do. I think even the staunchest supporters of Lost in Translation or The Social Network would balk at calling those film hilarious.


The Original BJ did such a great job of replying to your assertion that THE AVIATOR had a chance at beating ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND for its screenplay that there is really nothing I need to add.

I would also say that since the expansion of the Best Picture field, every film to win for its screenplay has been also nominated for Best Picture. I think it is safe to say both ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and TALK TO HER (which has the added benefit of a directing nomination) would have been nominated for Best Picture in an expanded field. If TREE OF LIFE, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, WINTER'S BONE, AN EDUCATION, and A SERIOUS MAN could make it in the expanded field, so could those two films.

As for your above quote, I think I actually have a very high standard for what is hilarious. I do not find movies like TED, THE HANGOVER, BAD GRANDPA, or GROWN-UPS funny in the least despite audiences loving them.

The audiences I saw LOST IN TRANSLATION and THE SOCIAL NETWORK with were laughing heartily at these great films. My favorite scenes for LOST IN TRANSLATION are the out of control exercise machine, the whiskey commercial, and the hospital waiting room conversation. For THE SOCIAL NETWORK, it is the opening break-up conversation, the twins meeting with Larry Summers, or any of the deposition shade throwing by Zuckerberg.

I know both Sophia Coppola and Aaron Sorkin have as many detractors as fans, but the fact that you cannot believe even the films' "staunchest supporters" would find them hilarious seems bizarre. I realize with comedic movies it is often hard to know what was improvised by the actors and director versus what was in the screenplay, but I think it is safe to say the Academy gave some of the credit for the films' hilarity to the scripts.
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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby flipp525 » Tue Feb 04, 2014 5:00 pm

I agree with Oscar Guy (and said as much in my original review of American Hustle). It has a weak script that is saved by fantastic performances, great costumes/hair and a built-in late 70s soundtrack. There are singular scenes and characters which stick out as having been written well (see Johnny Guitar's description of one of the Jennifer Lawrence scenes), but the overall film does not cohere on a writing level. Which is why I think that her will ultimately triumph in this category.

I'd also much rather see a Spike Jonze acceptance speech than a David O. Russell one.
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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby OscarGuy » Tue Feb 04, 2014 4:50 pm

I think I disagree on one point, BJ. The script for American Hustle ISN'T one of its most praised elements, which does make it sound more like The Aviator than you indicate. With a few exceptions, even fans of American Hustle agree that the script was one of the weaker elements.
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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Feb 04, 2014 2:50 pm

I'm not really leaning one way or another toward predicting Hustle or Her -- I think both have a good shot -- but a couple more thoughts:

I'm going to argue that Her would not have been a Best Picture nominee in a 5-wide field, and 10-nominee Hustle absolutely would have been. I don't think that's a bold statement, but for comparison's sake to earlier years, I think it's fair to argue the former as a Talk to Her/Eternal Sunshine type (a hugely acclaimed script with more limited overall Oscar support).

But I don't know that The Aviator is necessarily the best comparison to American Hustle. The Aviator was the kind of big epic whose writing wasn't remotely its most acclaimed element -- like Gangs of New York, Gladiator, the non-nominated Titanic -- even its biggest fans weren't clamoring for a prize in that category. (Well, maybe the BIGGEST fans were, but the volume on that microphone was pretty quiet.) So the fact that those films lost to more script-centered efforts -- many of which were out of the Best Picture race -- doesn't seem correlative to the Hustle/Her race, where BOTH scripts were pretty acclaimed. (Hustle even won the NY Critics Award.)

Now, I get that Her has come to be viewed as THE standout piece of writing in its category. But so were Being John Malkovich, Memento, and Adaptation, but voters found in American Beauty, Gosford Park, and The Pianist films with BOTH stronger Best Picture pull AND screenplays noted for strong writing. (You could probably argue Little Miss Sunshine/The Queen as well -- even though The Queen had more nominations, Little Miss Sunshine was viewed as a far stronger Best Picture threat, and it managed to beat a far more acclaimed piece of writing.) About the only scenario in recent years where stronger Best Picture pull didn't carry along a screenplay prize that seemed within reach was Million Dollar Baby/Sideways, and even in that case the more acclaimed script was a lot deeper in the thick of the Best Picture race.

The wrinkle in all of this, of course, is the fact that Her has now won BOTH the Globe and WGA prize, a feat not even Eternal Sunshine pulled off, so it's entering the race with far more momentum than many of the critical darlings that came up short on Oscar night. But those ten nominations for Hustle (which I view as significant to this category in a way that I didn't with the 10 nods for Gangs of New York) suggest it will still be getting a lot of votes here, possible enough to push it over the top.

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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby FilmFan720 » Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:52 am

rolotomasi99 wrote:
OscarGuy wrote:The prizes went to:

Her (Original)
Captain Phillips (Adapted)
Stories We Tell (Doc)

Now tell me again how American Hustle is the frontrunner?


HER is a delicate, beautiful wisp of a screenplay. It is a creature too ethereal to have its greatness recognized by the Academy.

Looking at the past screenplay winners from this century which were not Best Picture winners, you can see the Academy likes films which have strong dramatic moments (THE DESCENDANTS, PRECIOUS, MILK, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, THE PIANIST, and TRAFFIC), comedies with hilarious dialogue and characters (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, JUNO, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, SIDEWAYS, LOST IN TRANSLATION, GOSFORD PARK, and ALMOST FAMOUS) or the hybrid which has both strongly dramatic and comedic parts (DJANGO UNCHAINED).

HER does not have any of the qualities the Academy looks for in a screenplay. It is both subtly funny and serious in a way that goes right over their heads. In fact, the only screenplay winner from this century which even comes close to such quietness is probably TALK TO HER. That was truly one of the greatest surprises I have had watching the Oscars. I would love for something that wonderful to happen again, but I am not willing to bet against a movie that has such strong support from the Academy. AMERICAN HUSTLE has not only a very hilarious, memorable, and twisty screenplay, it also has a great back story. The whole narrative about it going from the infamous screenplay blacklist to now being a huge critical and more importantly commercial hit is just too much for the Academy to ignore.

I would love, love, love to be wrong, but AMERICAN HUSTLE is taking original screenplay.


You have a much more forgiving definition of hilarious then I do. I think even the staunchest supporters of Lost in Translation or The Social Network would balk at calling those film hilarious.

Talk to Her is a hard comparison to make. It is one of the most worthy winners this category has ever had, but remember that was a year that Original Screenplay was extremely scant and the five nominees we had were virtually the only choices to make. A documentary won the WGA award, so Talk to Her was able to come out on top not as much because the Academy wanted to be ballsy but because the competition was weak. Without a real alternative, the Academy was almost forced to honor Almodovar.

I think that the closest comparison to her is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Both were extremely popular critical smashes with a certain deal of hip cache to them. Both also are very high concept pieces, where you are awarding not only the screenplay but the ingenious idea behind the film. Eternal Sunshine had to overcome The Aviator, a film with just as much Academy love as American Hustle (and that ended up winning more Oscars than AH probably will), and didn't have the wide berth of Oscar support that her does (2 nominations to 5...and I'm not sure that Eternal Sunshine would have gotten a Best Picture nod in an expanded film).

I'm not ready to be the mortgage yet, but I have a pretty strong feeling that her will manage another win here.
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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby rolotomasi99 » Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:46 pm

OscarGuy wrote:The prizes went to:

Her (Original)
Captain Phillips (Adapted)
Stories We Tell (Doc)

Now tell me again how American Hustle is the frontrunner?


HER is a delicate, beautiful wisp of a screenplay. It is a creature too ethereal to have its greatness recognized by the Academy.

Looking at the past screenplay winners from this century which were not Best Picture winners, you can see the Academy likes films which have strong dramatic moments (THE DESCENDANTS, PRECIOUS, MILK, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, THE PIANIST, and TRAFFIC), comedies with hilarious dialogue and characters (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, JUNO, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, SIDEWAYS, LOST IN TRANSLATION, GOSFORD PARK, and ALMOST FAMOUS) or the hybrid which has both strongly dramatic and comedic parts (DJANGO UNCHAINED).

HER does not have any of the qualities the Academy looks for in a screenplay. It is both subtly funny and serious in a way that goes right over their heads. In fact, the only screenplay winner from this century which even comes close to such quietness is probably TALK TO HER. That was truly one of the greatest surprises I have had watching the Oscars. I would love for something that wonderful to happen again, but I am not willing to bet against a movie that has such strong support from the Academy. AMERICAN HUSTLE has not only a very hilarious, memorable, and twisty screenplay, it also has a great back story. The whole narrative about it going from the infamous screenplay blacklist to now being a huge critical and more importantly commercial hit is just too much for the Academy to ignore.

I would love, love, love to be wrong, but AMERICAN HUSTLE is taking original screenplay.
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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby Sabin » Mon Feb 03, 2014 1:16 pm

Mister Tee wrote
There's of course a long history of hipper WGA choices losing to more best-picture-centric films in the screenplay categories at the Oscars -- Out of Africa replacing Prizzi's Honor, The Last Emperor bumping Roxanne, Rain Man over Bull Durham, Howards End over The Player, The Cider House Rules over Election. Not so many in recent years; in fact, with the exception of the already-noted Up in the Air/Precious, the only WGA winners not to carry over to the Oscars this past decade came when disqualifications muddied the race. So, Jonze has a good shot, but I wouldn't say he's close to a lock.

But most of the films you cited as Oscar-adorned alternatives to the hipper WGA choices don't really fit American Hustle's bill. If anything, it seems like a Roxanne, a Bull Durham, a The Player, an Election that just happened to get a ton of Oscar nominations.

Considering that I wasn't even sure that Her would be able to bump Inside Llewyn Davis to place in this category, I'd say it's close to 50/50 between them.

Now had more of these allegations come out against Woody Allen earlier in the year (or in the year of Midnight in Paris), would anyone feel the need to give Woody Allen another nomination?
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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Feb 02, 2014 1:23 pm

There's of course a long history of hipper WGA choices losing to more best-picture-centric films in the screenplay categories at the Oscars -- Out of Africa replacing Prizzi's Honor, The Last Emperor bumping Roxanne, Rain Man over Bull Durham, Howards End over The Player, The Cider House Rules over Election. Not so many in recent years; in fact, with the exception of the already-noted Up in the Air/Precious, the only WGA winners not to carry over to the Oscars this past decade came when disqualifications muddied the race. So, Jonze has a good shot, but I wouldn't say he's close to a lock.

Captain Phillips' win to me simply means Hollywood at large (directors' branch at AMPAS aside) just likes the film -- more than the divisive Wolf of Wall Street, and the not-in-the-best-picture-race-at-all Before Midnight, anyway.

To me, Gravity seems the clear front-runner for best picture right now. But the theme of this season has been that whenever we think we know what's going on, something comes along to upend the consensus.

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Re: Writers Guild Awards

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Feb 02, 2014 1:33 am

I love that this year continues to be a giant cluster!

It's pretty rare for a movie that wins BOTH the Screenplay Globe and the WGA prize to lose the Oscar -- Up in the Air is (I think) just about the only one that did in recent memory. So there's pretty solid precedent for Her to take the Oscar in this category.

But...I don't think American Hustle is out of this Screenplay race at all. It's standing pretty tall with 10 nominations -- a good number of which were borderline possibilities at best -- indicating Oscar voters responded enthusiastically to it. And Original Screenplay has often been a chance to reward exciting filmmakers who wouldn't be taking the Best Director prize -- doesn't David O. Russell, who's been on a pretty strong run the last couple of years, seem like he fits that bill?

I do think this puts a slight damper on the movie's chance at a Best Picture win, though. It may be that, like Sideways, which was always in the thick of the Best Picture conversation in its year, but pretty clearly had dipped to running third on Oscar night, it's just be perceived as too lightweight compared to its other main competition.


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