While the adapted screenplay category was quite weak, the original screenplay category has really picked up the slack. This category was so stacked that I needed to make some real sophie’s choices when narrowing down the field to five nominees. There are movies that could have come really close to winning in the adapted screenplay category which didn’t even get nominated here. I’m especially going to give a shout-out to 50/50, which got a best line win almost as a consolation prize.
- Certified Copy: Abbas Kiarostami’s screenplay for Certified Copy had some very good dialogue and a solid minimalist structure, but what really sets it apart is its clever meta-concept. Juxtaposing an intellectual argument about the validity of copies next to original works with a mysterious relationship between a man and a woman, the film gives a whole lot of food for thought and it isn’t nearly as pretentious as it sounds.
- Contagion: A lot of people think that a screenplay award is basically the same as a “best dialogue” award. Looked at from that perspective Contagion might not stack up particularly well in this category, but I give it a whole lot of credit for vision and authenticity. Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns clearly did a lot of research into the way diseases spread and how agencies like the CDC react to them, and has also put a lot of thought into how society as a whole would react.
- A Separation: Beginning with a divorce proceeding and then spiraling out of control from there, Asghar Farhadi has created in A Separation a really complicated yet completely accessible film about a dispute between four fully formed and meticulously developed characters each with their own inward and outwardly conflicting agendas. I hesitate to talk about it in too much detail for fear of giving away certain early developments, but it is a decidedly excellent achievement.
- Take Shelter: With Take Shelter, writer/director Jeff Nichols uses a simple story of a man who feels compelled to prepare for a disaster he believes is approaching in order to explore themes of sanity, paranoia, religion, and fatherhood. The film slowly rolls out its character’s seeming decent into madness while also dangling the possibility that he’s the one who’s in the right the whole time. Additionally I appreciated its attention to the economic realities of the character’s decisions and the way it erodes away his family life.
- Weekend: What I really like about Andrew Haigh’s Weekend is that it was able to more or less turn a single extended conversation between two people into an entire film. We’ve seen this before in films like Before Sunrise and from its competitor Certified Copy, but this film had less of a high concept to work with than even those films. In fact the entirety of the film rests almost entirely on its script, and its ability to craft really interesting and well developed characters out of a pair of fairly ordinary people.