Categories One-by-One: Original Screenplay

Mister Tee
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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:29 pm

To raise a dead issue, let me say I think the Coens were being a bit playful when they said, after the fact, that they'd never even read The Odyssey. There's an awful lot on O Brother that clearly DOES crib from Homer -- the Cyclops, the sirens, Penelope's suitors. It obviously wasn't a literal adaptation, but then neither was Clueless one of Emma, and that, too, was ruled adaptation for its pilfering of the story arc.

I will agree that rulings are made capriciously, depending on which category needs candidates -- Heavenly Creatures a particularly obvious stretch.

As for this year's race: This is one prize I truly begrudge Hurt Locker, should it pull off a win. I know it's become chic to say "Screenplays are more than just dialogue, they're structure" -- a saw first thrown out by William Goldman when he was outraged at Titanic's failure to get screenplay-nominated. But let's not pretend dialogue hasn't been the prime motivator for most wins in the past decade, and, in that vein, both Serious Man and Inglorious Basterds offer up more in just about any scene than Hurt Locker does throughout its full length. Beyond that, I don't think Hurt Locker has any distinction as pure story -- it's got cliches (the spiritual advisor riding along and getting killed), cul-de-sacs (the long, pointless search for the kid) and banality (the trip home and it's double-underlined "look how boring this is" narrative). Bigelow and her tech team provide what's memorable about the film, not the screenwriter.

But Boal has really promoted himself well, pushing how dedicated he was with his research, half-implying a vote for him is support for those nameless grunts in Iraq -- a ploy about on par with Richard Attenborough's A Vote for Gandhi is a vote for World Peace. Boal may grab the award on such campaigning zeal (plus, as BJ points out, best picture centrifugal force -- though Return of the King is really the only such case of a less-than-literate screenplay in recent decades).

My money says the voters will come out for words in the end, and given Tarantino his second Oscar. But it'll be closer than it ought to.

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Postby Sabin » Tue Mar 02, 2010 1:54 pm

Such ignorance is their righteousness. They merely live, so they suppose, as other people live. But Heaven knows the difference.

You? Me? The point is that THEY do not know who they are. This is the story of one of them and how he battles falling from grace. I don't think one necessarily needs to show one replacing another to do a film about a lamedvav.

Also, what jack said.




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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:46 am

jack wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:So who gets raised up at the end of A Serious Man?

Everyone. Didn't you notice that tornado?

Done in again by own words. :)

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Postby jack » Tue Mar 02, 2010 7:01 am

Big Magilla wrote:So who gets raised up at the end of A Serious Man?

Everyone. Didn't you notice that tornado?

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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:53 am

The Lamed Vavnik:

"For the sake of ten righteous people, God does not destroy the world. These are the Lamed Vavnik. They live scattered in any nation under heaven, are member of any class, of any profession which may be imagined; and they are invisible to the world. Lo, not even they know the significance of their lives. Such ignorance is their righteousness. They merely live, so they suppose, as other people live. But Heaven knows the difference.

And this is the mercy of God: that when one of the Lamed Vavnik dies, God raises up another."

So who gets raised up at the end of A Serious Man?

Sabin
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Postby Sabin » Tue Mar 02, 2010 1:45 am

True, but A Serious Man is an allegory about the lamedvavnik so all parallels to the Book of Job just come with the subject matter.

The nomination for O' Brother, Where Art Thou? is a joke that very clearly paid off for the Coen Brothers. It's a joke made all the weirder by their claims that they haven't read The Odyssey. If anything, this debate about whether or not it is adapted (or Inspired By or if they've read it in the first place) emphasizes the arbitrary nature of this whole partitioning. The only difference I see between differentiating between honoring adaptations and original screenplays should be which film retains the author's intentions while simultaneously writing something cinematic. Something like No Country for Old Men is kind of unreal even though it isn't as radical an undertaking as expanding "Oil" into There Will Be Blood. I mean, the script is the script regardless of wherever is comes from. Every year, one group is lopsided in one direction. 2002 saw Gangs of New York and My Big Fat Greek Wedding (both basically adaptations) jockeying against Far From Heaven, Talk to Her, and Y Tu Mama Tambien for fear of going up against the nominated adaptations.

I think the worst lineup of screenplays nominated this decade was last year's batch of adaptations. There is not a single screenplay that deserves to be honored. Both Frost/Nixon and Doubt are faithfully transferred plays that lack heft on the screen (especially Doubt). Benjamin Button has an incredibly confused voice and is a missed opportunity. Slumdog Millionaire is paint-by-numbers. And The Reader is just an offensive mess. Gun to my head and I'd choose Frost/Nixon. Unhappily.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Big Magilla » Mon Mar 01, 2010 2:47 pm

Here's another irony.

The Coen Brothers' screenplay for A Serious Man is a lot closer to the Bible's Book of Job than O Brother, Where Art Thou? was to Homer's Odyssey, but it is considered an "original".

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Postby Sabin » Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:28 am

Before Sunset is not an adaptation. Nor is Inglourious Basterds, nor O' Brother, Where Art Thou?

But Spider-Man 2 is.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Big Magilla » Mon Mar 01, 2010 2:51 am

The lines between original and adapted screenplays have always been somewhat blurred.

I much prefer the break between comedy and drama as the Writers Guild awards were originally set up. Of course then we could argue whether All About Eve was a comedy or drama. It was, in fact, nominated in both categories, winning in Comedy and losing to Sunset Boulevard in Drama.

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Postby Damien » Mon Mar 01, 2010 1:48 am

But there's a difference between being "inspired by" and actually adapting a work. Probably at least 10 percent of all literary and cinematic works owe a debt to Homer. Sullivan's Travels, Cold Mountain, The Dark Knight are 3 disparate movies that off the top of my head I can remember being likened to The Odyssey.

It's like saying that every teenage angst movie of the last 50 years was an adaptation of The Catcher In The Rye. But Tarantino was actually taking a movie and reworking its plot, so that instead of convicts/psychopaths you had an elite force made up of Jewish soldiers -- but you still had the same basic world view, of outsiders getting the Nazis.

I guess the first time I was really miffed by the Academy's writing category decisions was when the deemed Young Frankenstein Adapted. A parody is an original creation using existing characters and narrative material as a starting point for original writing. That same year, Blazing Saddles was Original, and yet it was as much an adaptation of Dodge City as Young Frankenstein was of the original James Whale/Karloff picture.




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Postby Big Magilla » Sun Feb 28, 2010 11:36 pm

Damien wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:It's not an adaptation. Tarantino was an admirer of Enzo Castillari's Grade Z rip-off of The Dirty Dozen but it's an entirely different story.

ANd O Brother Where Art Thou is a totally different story than the Odyssey. All I'm asking for is some consistency.

So what you're saying is that because they made a bad decision nine years ago they should continue to make the same bad decision till the end of time?

I'm not so sure O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a good example anyway since the Coens openly acknowledge it was inspired by The Odyssey and even open the film with a title card from the opening lines of Homer's epic poem:

"O Muse! Sing in me, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all the ways of contending, a wanderer, harried for years on end..."

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Postby dws1982 » Sun Feb 28, 2010 11:02 pm

Damien wrote:And Before Sunset was "Adapted," even though it was a sequel, noy an adaptation of anything.

And a year before that, The Barbarian Invasions was nominated as an Original Screenplay, even though it was a sequel to The Decline of the American Empire.

There does seem to be a lack of consistency in the way films are categorized here.

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Damien
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Postby Damien » Sun Feb 28, 2010 10:46 pm

Big Magilla wrote:It's not an adaptation. Tarantino was an admirer of Enzo Castillari's Grade Z rip-off of The Dirty Dozen but it's an entirely different story.

ANd O Brother Where Art Thou is a totally different story than the Odyssey. All I'm asking for is some consistency.
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Postby Big Magilla » Sun Feb 28, 2010 10:14 pm

It's not an adaptation. Tarantino was an admirer of Enzo Castillari's Grade Z rip-off of The Dirty Dozen but it's an entirely different story.

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Postby Damien » Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:59 pm

How in the world is Tarantino's screenplay "Original" when it's based on another movie?

I realize it's a major departure from the Italian original, but we're talking about an organization that deemed O Brother, Where Art Thou to be an adaptation of The Odyssey because it tongue-in-cheekly proclaimed to be inspired by Homer.

And Before Sunset was "Adapted," even though it was a sequel, noy an adaptation of anything.
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