I seem to recall that when the Producers Guild nominations were announced recently there was a lot of excited noise around the web regarding the representation of science fiction films in the Best Picture category. Some people spouted frustration, still, that Moon wasn’t one of the nominees along with Star Trek, Avatar and District 9, but you just can’t please everyone.
Yet today, with announcement of the Writers Guild nominations, nobody seems at all satisfied with the choices for either the original or adapted screenplay categories. Why? Mostly because of the inclusion of certain science fiction films, namely Star Trek and Avatar, the latter of which coincidentally has just become available online in script form (including a deleted sex scene).
But the movie receiving the most stunned reactions is The Hangover. I’ll agree, the nomination does seem odd considering it’s no better than tons of other comedies released each year and because it’s somewhat a ripoff of Dude, Where’s My Car? There’s no doubt this is evidence that WGA members are not indicative of the best in screenwriting as a whole.
Everyone is quick to point out that a number of the year’s best scripts were ineligible or disqualified or whatever because their writers aren’t WGA members. These include Up , Fantastic Mr. Fox and Inglourious Basterds and the really-not-any-better-scripted films An Education, A Single Man and District 9. A few people are also mentioning the truly best script of the year, In the Loop, which is British and was therefore also disqualified.
Still, I have to continue loving the WGA’s Awards as long as they remain one of the few organizations to recognize the writing that goes into documentaries. And it’s here that I’m glad comedy is well-regarded, as you’d never see Chris Rock’s Good Hair up for a documentary Oscar, even if it had been released in time for eligibility.
What do you think were the best screenplays of the year?
How weak is the competition for this year’s Best Original Screenplay? So weak that the scripts for Avatar and The Hangover were nominated for that very award by the Writers Guild this afternoon
Of all the merits of ‘Avatar,’ its screenplay was definitely not one of them, trafficking in stock, black-and-white characters, lazy cliches (“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” please) and rehashing beloved children’s classic “Fern Gully,” by adding guns and robots. It’s actually a bit of a slap in the face to writers in this category frankly.
I wasn’t particularly expecting “[Bright] Star” to make the WGA cut (though, seriously, giving Nora Ephron a nod for half-a-decent screenplay “Julie & Julia” and not giving one to Campion is quite sad), and “Avatar“‘s ASC nod is semi-sorta forgivable, the flip side is downright ridiculous:
For one, James Cameron’s “script” for
“Pocahontas” “The New World” “Dances With Wolves” “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest”“Avatar” does not deserve any sort of recognition.
Even the WGA went for James Cameron’s on-the-nose, curiously dated slang in the Best Original Screenplay category, and even more notably selected The Hangover in the same space along with more conventional favorites (500) Days of Summer, The Hurt Locker and A Serious Man. They threw Star Trek a nod in the Adapted category as well; at least someone seems to have understood that whole time warp/ice-planet detour in the middle of the of the film. (Quiet, spoilerphobes! It’s not a spoiler if it doesn’t make any sense.)
Now, in all honesty, there is no way “Avatar” is getting into the original screenplay race if “Basterds” and “Up” are included here. And Adapted? Only “Precious” and likely winner “Up in the Air” make the cut. “Julie an Julia”? “Star Trek”? (Did I really just see those hacks Orci and Kurtzman listed here?) Neither movie was entertaining nor a success because of the screenplay. “The Hangover” is a nice honor, but you can even argue it’s Todd Phillip’s direction an the actor’s chemistry that make that movie as memorable as it is.
Needless to say, the WGA is in a bind here. The purpose of their awards is to recognize the best of their membership, not to promote the achievements of those who either do not join their guild or qualify. Unfortunately, that is going to lead to years like this one where, well, they just don’t mean as much.
The WGA managed to do even worse in nominating Jon Lucas & Scott Moore for their unbelievably popular hit, The Hangover. The esteemed Writer’s Guild do realize that they have just christened the writers responsible for Four Christmases, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Full of It (anyone remember that one?) and the Martin Lawrence kids basketball film, Rebound, with a nomination right? Dave Eggers contributed to two screenplays in 2009 (Away We Go & Where The Wild Things Are) and you nominated one of the worst comedies of the year. Yes, I am aware it made $285 million. It still should have gone straight to video.
These nominees are kind of a joke. Avatar is getting way more love for its spectacle than its story (protect the Hometree from the Sky People), (500) Days of Summer’s structure is impressive but the characters and story are completely vanilla, Julie & Julia is half a good movie, and Crazy Heart is a two-hour commercial for Alcoholics Anonymous.
Yes, the writers of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” are WGA nominees. But in my view, they deserve the pat on the back for this film, a high octane entertainment that was smartly conceived and remains one of the true gems of 2009.
Star Trek, which I feel is grossly overrated, is a very, very clever piece of writing in how it navigated the Trek past and future. The Hangover worked because of the structure laid down in that screenplay. The flip side is Julie & Julia, in which all the problems of the movies stemmed directly from the undercooked screenplay, even if the film is reasonably entertaining in spite of those flaws.
In any case, I expect this to be a year where the Academy noms are pretty dramatically different than the WGA’s.
Put simply, it’s going to be a populist kind of year. With 10 Best Picture nominees and some great films from the “populist” categories (especially science fiction), it won’t be surprising to see films such as Avatar and Star Trek, and even The Hangover making their way onto the red carpet on Oscar night. […] It’s likely that if you’re a consistent reader of this very site, you’ve heard of (and possibly seen) every one of these movies (save for the documentaries). That’s not something we can say every year.