While adapting is certainly an art unto itself, the act of having a story go directly from the mind of a writer to the screen may be the true dream of the many writers who dream of creating films. That said, it’s really hard to get much of anything made without some kind of pre-existing brand behind it, so original screenplay often don’t get made unless it’s sired through the system by a powerful filmmaker. Consequently, all five of these nominees happen to have been written (or co-written) by their directors.
- Amour: Amour is a very stripped down and minimalistic film with only a few characters, more or less one setting, and very little in the way of visual effects or flashy direction. That means that like no other film nominated here it needed to rely heavily on Michael Haneke’s screenplay. The script isn’t necessarily the most creative story and the dialogue isn’t necessarily great either. I suppose what makes the screenplay work is its honesty, its realism, and its unflinching stare.
- Django Unchained: Quentin Tarentino is almost certainly the modern master of the original screenplay. Every one of his films (except Jackie Brown) has been an original work (albeit with elements drawn from existing pop culture) and Django Unchained is certainly one of them. Tarentino does a great job of applying his usual dialogue patterns to older speech patterns. Beyond that he’s crafted a funny and fearless script that no one else could have come up with.
- The Master: While his last film was an adaptation (sort of), Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up was made from scratch. Bits and pieces were certainly taken from the real story of the early days of scientology, but it’s been thoroughly fictionalized and the film’s most enigmatic character (Freddie Quell) is also completely original. It’s a film with big and resonant themes and never takes the easy way out when constructing a story around them.
- Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson has made original films that are so fluid that you don’t exactly think about them as having been written, they just seem to flow from the guy’s imagination. With Moonrise Kingdom he and co-writer Roman Coppola have captured a sort of idealized version of childhood and crafted a fairytale of sorts for these belivable characters to live through. Along they way he creates a lot of neat little quirks like an onscreen narrator and a largish character who is known only as “Social Services.”
- Oslo, August 31st: Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt’s screenplay for Oslo, August 31st isn’t the most original work, in fact its basic story bears some clear similarities to that movie A Single Man from a couple years ago, but it still manages to really capture the rhythms of life in a way that rings truer than a lot of films. The people writing the film clearly know quite a bit about what it’s like to hit a low spot in your life and desperately try to deal