Oscars 2019: What Should Have Been Nominated?

Original Screenplay

Original Screenplay Oscars 2019

1. Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Oscar Nominations? – Yes.

Alfonso Cuaron’s hugely personal tale of a 1970s Mexico City woman dips and dives between historic moments in a large cultural sense and profound moments in a personal sense as it asks questions of what it means to be human, how we are each perceived to be as individuals and what our ultimate legacies may end up being, all the while confronting issues of class, wealth, gender privilege and national privilege. The grandiosity of the themes it tackles never once takes away from the personal nature of the script, where we are encouraged to share in moments with lead character Cleo at all times, feeling her personal struggle as up close and personal as it gets. Cuaron’s written work on Roma is a deserving Oscar contender and an undeniable entry to this list.

2. Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara (The Favourite)
Oscar Nomination? – Yes.

Dialogue as sharp and witty as it can possibly get, with a strong thematic exploration of gender, sexuality and most potently class and privilege upon which it rests its foundations, The Favourite is as strong on the page as it is on the screen – the fact that this film took nearly 2 decades to get made is somewhat ludicrous in hindsight. The work of Davis & McNamara succinctly unravels character barriers through dialogue, developing three characters that are no more than tropes at the beginning of the film into fully fleshed out, interesting and believable people by the end of the film. More than any other piece on offer in this category, the screenplay for The Favourite masterfully walks the line between comedy, drama and thrilling tension to provide the foundations for a piece of cinema it is simply too difficult to take your eyes off.

3. Janusz Glowacki & Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

Based on the true story of director and co-screenwriter Pawel Pawlikowski’s parents lovelorn across a divided Europe in the aftermath of World War II, the screenplay for Cold War is not necessarily the film’s most striking aspect, but the subtlety at which the relationship between the two develops in its later days is truly tantalising and the way in which the entirety of the continent is used as a developing backdrop to the relationship, each location fitting the trajectory of the relationship, is simply stunning. Of all the nominees listed here, the Cold War screenplay is perhaps the tightest knit, Glowacki and Pawlikowski leaving no extra fat on the bones of a story that still packs one of the greatest emotional punches put to screen in years.

4. Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters not only tells the heartfelt tale of a group of misfits choosing their family against the backdrop of questionable moral standards and motivations, but it also offers a deconstruction of the viciously respectful Japanese culture and the lack of social mobility it apparently presents, not necessarily calling for support towards the country’s criminal underbelly but certainly questioning just how pristine and perfect the Japanese themselves see the country as being. Kore-eda’s microscopic deconstruction of so many of the central values to Japanese culture isn’t exclusive to the Japanese however, his commentary being inviting to foreign audiences as a way of judging ourselves and the story at the heart of the film ultimately being moving from the very first minute to the last. Having three foreign language screenplays in the official nominations for Original Screenplay at the Oscars never seemed likely, but it perhaps should have been the way it ended up being.

5. Paul Schrader (First Reformed)
Oscar Nomination? – Yes.

Quite how Paul Schrader, the legendary screenwriter of such films as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, takes you on the journey he takes you on with First Reformed remains a feat to astound the mind even after repeated viewings, the intricacies of his story of a self-destructive and disenfranchised priest offering one of the most thrilling journeys in all of cinema in 2018. Like Kore-eda, Pawlikowski and Cuaron, Schrader directed his own work and was therefore able to nip and tuck the project at the most opportune times, providing a finished product that doesn’t have even one moment of lost momentum while challenging its audience and confronting its central most issues regarding wealth, religion, the environment and extremism. Schrader’s work in this regard is the only nomination for First Reformed at this year’s Oscars, which is a shame considering the film’s other qualities, but it’s a deserving nod nonetheless.

Honourable Mentions: Michael Pearce (Beast), Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You), Gillian Flynn/Steve McQueen (Widows).

Missing Out: Nick Vallelonga/Brian Curry/Peter Farrelly (Green Book), Adam McKay (Vice)


Adapted Screenplay

Adapted Screenplay Oscars 2019

1. Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Oscar Nomination? – Yes.

Holofcener & Whitty’s work at bringing to life the true story of infamous writer turned fraud Lee Israel has been acknowledged by the Academy for its sensational balancing between comedy and tragedy, and how fittingly the story never quite fell off the cliff regarding likeability for its lead characters. Presenting two central protagonists who hate the world and everyone in it must have been something of a hard sell, and the likelihood of the film stinking of the same disingenuous and boring stench as some of the much maligned films about unlikeable characters do, was a real possibility, but the co-writers on this project instead developed one of the best platonic love stories seen on screen in years, dotting moments of wit and charm in with the struggle and tragedy to offer a top notch screenplay fantastically realised by director Marielle Heller.

2. Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Oscar Nomination? – Yes.

The mission statement in Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk is clear from the offset, when a quote about the original work from which the film is adapted is presented on screen, the words of the original author outlining how Beale Street is every black person’s life and history, exclusively owned by black communities across America. In making If Beale Street Could Talk in the way he did, Jenkins paid fitting tribute to the original work and the mission statement of its author, offering a visual feast that also featured some of the most well written scenes of any film this year. One particular party scene in which tempers flare is flawlessly transitioned from tranquillity to confrontation through to fear and all the way back again, each character having the opportunity to develop the feelings of the scene without it ever seeming too well formulated and therefore unnatural. Even in all of its poetics, If Beale Street Could Talk still feels real, the characters endearing and somehow close, all of which is a testament to the quality of Jenkins’ adaptation.

3. Spike Lee & David Rabinowitz & Charlie Wachtel & Kevin Willmott (BlackKklansman)
Oscar Nomination? – Yes.

The work of the four person team at the heart of BlackKklansman brought to life an extraordinary true story that simply had to be told, yet they didn’t douse it in nostalgia and the rose tinted glasses that such a dosing inevitably brings, but instead made the piece contemporary through its comparisons to our current day lives, not holding punches as it confronted the rise of racism and far right agendas in mainstream politics once more, crying out with anger and with sorrow “why are we still like this?” BlackKklansman is another film that balances charm and wit with its serious and dark premise, a choice Lee explained as being the only way to confront such an absurd story as a black detective infiltrating the Klu Klux Klan, but the way the combination of writers make it work to juxtapose the horrors and the comedy, and therefore help us to juxtapose our own lives to those currently oppressed, was simply phenomenal and an act of screenwriting way beyond a simple necessity as Lee had explained it. It truly was phenomenal; a deserving contender and a certainty for this list.

4. Phil Lord & Rodney Rothman (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

Animated films almost always get overlooked in any awards that aren’t Animated Feature or Animated Short at the Oscars, and as frustrating as that has been over the years, it seems to be more potent than ever in this year’s screenwriting category where Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman’s animated take on Spider-Man has been forgotten about despite its sheer wondrous creativity, ability to move even the most hardened of viewers and its quite spectacular premise. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was at first most striking for its visual palette, the comic book style bouncing from the screen in a simultaneously nostalgic and brand new way, but what the Spider-Man film brought on the page was not only reinforcing of this, but also one of the best sci-fi, comic book movie concepts ever put to screen. Original ideas are hard to come by in this day and age, especially original ideas that are so creatively pulled off, and the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse screenplay was certainly one of them – an undeniable member of this list and unfortunate absentee from the Oscars.

5. Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

Just as the Cold War screenplay was the most tight of the Original Screenplay selections, Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of the Jonathan Ames work on You Were Never Really Here is by far the most trim of the Adapted Screenplay selections, her work on the movie in all aspects being phenomenal but the screenplay’s ability to layer so much into so little being the absolute pinnacle of screenwriting work in 2018. Traditionally less Oscar-y than some of the other screenplays, particularly that of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, due to to its large periods featuring an absence of dialogue, its dismissal from the list of actual nominees isn’t surprising despite how (frankly) wrong its dismissal is. Ramsay won the award for Best Screenplay at Cannes in 2017 with this film, beating out the likes of BPMThe Square and The Beguiled, while tying with Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and the artistry usually associated with winners of the award is ever-present in this art-house masterpiece from a gloriously under-represented filmmaker with some of the very best English language cinema on offer in this, her latest offering. Take back your votes Academy, you’ve got this wrong.

Honourable Mentions: Luke Davis/Felix Van Groeningen (Beautiful Boy),Sebastian Lelio/Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Disobedience), Gus Van Sant (Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot), Jane Anderson (The Wife).

Missing Out: Eric Roth/Bradley Cooper/Will Fetters (A Star Is Born), Joel Coen/Ethan Coen (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs).

On the next page: Best Song & Best Score.

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