Why do we divide adaptations and original screenplays? It usually isn’t readily apparent whether something is original or adapted when you watch a movie, and adaptations can often be loose. I suppose it’s because adaptations have a safety net that original screen plays don’t, they’re working with something that they know works. Original screenplays need to work from the ground up, and that often leads to this being the weaker categories, but not this year. I’m probably more confident in this roster of screenplays than I am in some of the adaptations.
- Blue Valentine: It’s been well stated in a variety of interviews that a lot of the dialogue in Blue Valentine was improvised and that the written screenplay was disregarded in a number of ways. I don’t care. I haven’t read any of these screenplays and am in no position to comment on what was written on the page. As far as this goes, a screenplay consists of whatever makes it to the screen, and on that level Blue Valentine is most definitely worthy of this award.
- Dogtooth: If nothing else, this is the most original of the original screenplays; in fact it’s the most original thing in many realms. This is a sly satire of closed off societies; be they totalitarian states, cult enclaves, or the suburbs. In its own small scale way it also has some very good world building that often doesn’t announce itself in overly obvious way. This is brave writing that’s possible to love or hate, but impossible to dismiss.
- Greenberg: Greenberg is one of those small scale indies with a heavy focus on character and human interaction. Greenberg himself is an interesting and well developed character that carries the movie effectively and the film has some very solid dialogue and structure. I particularly like the film’s final moment, in which a climactic moment from a bit earlier is brought back in a clever way right before the credits role.
- Inception: There seems to be a lot of nerdiness involved in the creation of science fiction scripts, I mean, it takes a special kind of person to create a universe in with numerous alien species with varying alliances and technological details. But most of those movies are still working within the traditions of the “space opera,” and many other sci-fi movies similarly follow stock concepts like “time travel” and “post-apocalypse.” But what formula do “dream-levels” derive from? You could argue they’re a form of the “virtual reality” genre, but it still invents most of its ideas. That is a rare accomplishment.
- The Kids Are All Right: What I really love about the screenplay of The Kids Are All Right is the way it so deftly avoids cliché. The conventional Hollywood version of this story would have had a family confront a stereotypically homophobic father who, after some time, comes to accept the family and everyone lives happily ever after. Instead it makes Ruffalo a really likable person and leads the whole film in decidedly less predictable paths.