I previously mentioned that over the next few weeks I'd be taking a look at the nominees in eight major categories for the 2011 Academy Awards. I'll be writing about what I think will win, what I want to win, and my thoughts about each category overall.
I begin this column with the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy - 127 Hours
Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network
John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich - Toy Story 3
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen - True Grit
Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini - Winter's Bone
As my gut tells me that this is Sorkin's to lose, I'd consider it an upset if any one of the other four took home the little gold naked man on the evening of February 27th. Although David Fincher deserves massive amounts of praise for The Social Network's success, most people come away from that film thinking (and talking about) acid-laced dialogue and the rapid fire pace at which it's delivered. Sorkin managed to build a screenplay that both older (who didn't really know much about Facebook before the film) and younger people (who couldn't have cared less about a film such as this) could easily follow and even find immensely entertaining. Not many writers can make one deposition interesting. The Social Network juggles two, and they're both so great that if, God forbid, I ever have to take part in a real one, I'll demand it be written by the guy who wrote The West Wing.
If any of these nominees does manage to upstage The Sorkin, I think it will be the writers of Winter's Bone. That film won't win for Best Picture or its acting nominations, but the Academy will want to honor it somehow. It's the "little movie that could" this year, and there's a lot of love for it out there.
127 Hours, although I admire its screenplay and believe Boyle and Beaufoy made some bold decisions with it, has simply been overshadowed since its release. Personally, I would be stoked if it came out of nowhere to nab the gold, but the pic has lost awards steam.
Toy Story 3 probably has the biggest hurdle to jump to land a win: it's a cartoon. It's been well established over the years that the Academy don''t really consider animated films to be "real" films. As long as there's a separate category for Best Animated Feature Film, no "cartoon" will ever win Best Picture or any other category in which it's up against four live-action movies. That being said, while Toy Story 3 certainly has a fine (and finely executed) screenplay, I don't know if I'd consider it award worthy.
True Grit, on the other hand, is most definitely award worthy, and my personal favorite out of the above bunch (although I have not seen Winter's Bone (sorry Katie, Netflix stopped streaming it instantly). From all accounts, the Coens have stayed very true to Charles Portis's novel, but there are still uniquely Coen aspects to True Grit, and the screenplay is so finely tuned and without excess that one will miss how subtle it is on a first viewing. Subtle in every way except, of course, the dialogue, which matches (and exceeds, in my opinion) the colorful nature of Sorkin's The Accidental Billionaires adaptation. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of the words in True Grit and the magnificent way they are spoken by the characters. Out of all the nominees, this is the one I would love desperately to see win.