Best Screenplay 2004

1998 through 2007

What were the best original and adapted screenplays of 2004?

The Aviator (John Logan)
1
2%
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Charlie Kaufman, Michael Gondry, Pierre Bismuth)
18
41%
Hotel Rwanda (Keir Pearson, Terry George)
0
No votes
The Incredibles (Brad Bird)
1
2%
Vera Drake (Mike Leigh(
1
2%
Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Kim Krizan)
7
16%
Finding Neverland (David Magee)
0
No votes
Million Dollar Baby (Paul Haggis)
3
7%
The Motorcycle Diaries (Jose Rivera)
0
No votes
Sideways (Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor)
13
30%
 
Total votes: 44

Heksagon
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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby Heksagon » Mon Aug 11, 2014 12:51 am

This is a surprisingly good year for these categories. No terrible choices at all, and for once, the Original category is the stronger one.

All the films in the Original are between good and very good; my vote goes to Eternal Sunshine, which is excellent.

In the Adapted line-up, Before Sunset and Million Dollar Baby are the best ones, and my vote goes to the latter. The remaining three nominees are respectable choices.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Aug 08, 2014 7:53 pm

Like many, I'd expected Kinsey to be included on the original list; also like many, I'd have included both it and Bad Education over some actual nominees.

Hotel Rwanda has its moments, most courtesy of actors Cheadle and Okonedo, but it's in the dreary-obvious-liberal vein, and I think the script is one of the film's weakest elements.

The Aviator's script is also not its primary attraction -- it's what Scorsese does with it that makes it (literally) fly -- but it's a reasonably creative approach to biography/history, and full of interesting moments. It might have been replaced by one of my two alternates, but its inclusion isn't at disgrace level.

Vera Drake is, for me, Mike Leigh's most successful film -- conveying not just the plight of a simple woman trying to do best for her peers in need, but the whole picture of postwar deprivation in England, and how differently it was experienced based on class level. I'm not sure I think of it as a script-centered film -- no dialogue sticks in my head -- but the breadth of its vision makes it a solid nominee.

The Incredibles may be the closest I come to voting for a cartoon under screenplay. I find the movie just amazingly clever -- verbally witty about issues that wouldn't seem to be part and parcel of a superhero film, and also exciting in its action-y moments. It's not quite as conceptually inventive as Wall E,. but one of Pixar's finest achievements.

It loses, however, to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, my choice for best original screenplay of its decade. Kaufman of course by then was widely celebrated for his collaborations with Spike Jonze, but I thought he reached a new peak with Michel Gondry. His ideas were still as mind-bending, and wittily executed, but with an underlay of heartbreak that had not been present in Malkovich or Adaptation. His out-there concept of erased memories and fractured time spoke more about the realities of committing to relationships than any other film of the era. Barring Sideways, it would have been the best film of the year, and, with Payne's film in the other category, it easily gets my vote here.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:43 pm

Under Original, I was hugely bummed that Kinsey missed the list. In a year full of biographies, I thought this was the finest one, and even after preparing myself for it not to do as well as I'd have liked on nomination morning, I still managed to be disappointed when it was surprisingly excluded here. I'd also have enthusiastically rooted for no-hopers Bad Education and Dogville, the former for its delightfully twisty noir plot, the latter for taking a borderline insane (or maybe just flat-out insane) concept and running with it to the ends of the earth.

Among actual nominees, I didn't dislike Hotel Rwanda -- I thought the material was, almost by nature, emotionally powerful, and I felt the movie overall didn't push the sentimentality too much. But nor do I find it to be a tremendously fresh or inventive piece of writing either. It was a solid docudrama, but lacking any great insight that would have made it more than that.

It's probably easy to underrate the script to The Aviator as simply adjunct recognition for the year's most nominated movie. But the film does have its memorable scenes, and a good amount of witty dialogue, so I think this nomination is definitely less objectionable than the writing recognition for much lesser epics like Gladiator or Braveheart, which really just felt tacked on to overall dominance. Still, this wasn't among The Aviator's top accomplishments. In addition to being more exciting as a visual/directorial showcase, it also fell victim to the most common biopic problem -- a general plot shapelessness that allowed the movie to feel aimless as it went on, despite high points.

I was pretty shocked by Vera Drake's nomination on Oscar morning, but once I saw it on the list, I wondered why I hadn't considered it more. It was one of Mike Leigh's strongest films, with a richly detailed milieu and a fascinating central character. It's a film which focuses tightly on one woman (maybe more appropriate to say one family) but manages to express great insight about the much larger political, cultural, and socioeconomic environment in which these characters inhabit. And, despite the period setting, it had great contemporary resonance as well. Ultimately, the script is not as wildly imaginative as my winner, nor even as complex a piece of writing as Leigh's best nominated script, but I did think if this category was to have an upset on Oscar night, Vera Drake might have been the surprise victor.

Well, we all know that I'm not exactly this board's biggest supporter of superhero fare. But there is one superhero movie that I think is pretty wonderful, and that is The Incredibles. It's a totally zippy entertainment, with a plot that just bounces along, full of wildly imaginative details about how a family of superheroes would actually manage a life in a seemingly normal suburban environment. And, beneath the exciting set pieces and the hugely inventive sense of humor, there's a compelling subtext about what it means to have an exceptional talent in a world that celebrates the "everyone-gets-a-trophy" mentality, in which excellence must be diminished so no one person feels less special than any others. This is the standard to which all movies in this genre should aspire, and which very few achieve.

But I think Eternal Sunshine would have to be in the running for best script of the decade, it operates on so many dazzling levels. The plot structure alone, with its series of flashbacks and memories colliding against one another and the present with rapid-fire glee, would be worthy of a writing Oscar. But then there is the wild imagination that went into crafting each memory. There's the dialogue, equal parts clever and painful. There are the wonderfully shaded characters, from sad-sack Joel and life force Clementine to the minor characters who would likely feel like necessary plot devices in other films, but who feel fully developed on the margins here. There's the overall concept, perhaps the most outlandish to come from the typically outlandish mind of Charlie Kaufman. And there's the heart, which reaches a deeply moving climax in that last scene, as the leads come to realize that they'd rather keep the painful memories of one another so as to hold on to the good ones as well. It's a fabulous movie, not simply a great script, but it's also one where the brilliance of the writing shines in every moment of the finished product. Best Original Screenplay all the way.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:38 pm

I did have trouble posting my full entry a time or two ago; since then, I've posted half and then edited that post by adding the second half. It does seem to mean there's now a limit on how much can be in any individual post. (BJ's problem may go deeper than that, seeing how many chunks he had to use below)

I like the top-line contenders in both categories, but can't say I'm wild about the fringe entries, and I don't have all that many strong substitutions, especially under adapted. I'd note a couple of about-forgotten films -- Stephen Fry's adaptation of Waugh's Bright Young Things, and The Door in the Floor, as successful/faithful a screen version of John Irving as I've seen.

I don't have the loathing for Finding Neverland others seem to. I thought it was painless enough. But ditto what I said about Chocolat: I'd have nothing against it except Harvey got it nominated where it doesn't belong. (There will probably be other such cases upcoming, so let me label it Chocolat Syndrome for future use)

I also don't love Before Sunset, as I've mentioned in earlier threads -- I just don't find the talk so profound as to excuse the lack of action. Points for a nice ending moment, but not that much else.

The Motorcycle Diaries took such a benign, almost beatific view of Che Guevara it felt like the work of a Soviet Disney. The banter between the two guys was fun enough, and, if it had been just about two anonymous guys, it would have been enjoyable enough (though that movie would probably never have been made). But as a prequel of sorts to Soderbergh's Che, it felt way too bland.

Million Dollar Baby is a movie I REALLY like, and at least part of the reason is the plot turns and dialogue provided by Haggis. It would clearly have been far less offensive for him to have won for this than for his year-following entry. But it's not a GREAT script -- the white-trash relatives are groan-worthy, and assorted other parts of the script seem to work because of the tact with which Eastwood (with his actors) enact them.

Plus, Sideways is one of the best scripts of the decade, so there's no way I could pick anything else. What Payne (with collaborators) does at his best is deal with people in painful life situations and make their plights seem hilariously funny (even while preserving the pathos beneath). You can say the lead actors make the script work, and they're all wonderful, but, truthfully, prior to the film's debut, no one would have picked any of them as project-savers. This was a case of a great script being cast with the right actors -- star power be damned -- and delivered flawlessly. Sideways was the best movie of 2004, and its script was element number one in that success.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Aug 05, 2014 4:23 am

The Original BJ wrote:So...what's the deal with these 403 Forbidden postings, and how can we get them to stop?


Could be your computer. I'm not having this problem, is anyone else?

http://pcsupport.about.com/od/findbyerr ... 3error.htm
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/245142
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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Aug 05, 2014 3:41 am

Not another cartoon! Actually there are two this time - The Incredibles, which I haven't seen of course, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which may have actors but still has no more substance than a cartoon (it's actually a triumph of form over substance). I saw it, but I didn't need to - the title, pretentious but ultimately empty, said it all. But back then, as now it seems, liking this fashionable movie meant to be "in sync" (with what, nobody knew), and the Academy, like this board, hated to be "out". Sadly, I can't NOT vote for it - I mean, I can't vote at all because, again, I haven't seen that one nominee. But if I could, I'd certainly pick Vera Drake. The one silent person who till now has had the courage of voting for it should get a medal - because Vera Drake IS a very good screemplay, so full of insight not only for its characters but also for the period it is set in - the culture, the mentality of that period, that place. And of course it gives a great, underrated actress a great character to play. A very good screenplay indeed - but here it could never win. They like Jim Carrey more.

In Adapted, it's true that Before Sunset is the best-written of the three movies it is part of - the least forced, I'd say, the most natural, yet at the same time the one with the most difficult structure in the way it follows its two characters without cuts for almost one hour and a half. And its mood - that mixture of regret and hope - was also the most difficult to achieve (the third one was much easier and much less original). But then with the obvious exception of Finding Neverland they are all at least good - even The Motorcycle Diaries isn't, I think, just a matter of beautiful locations but a rather subtle study of a friendship and of a young man's growing up. But needless to say I did vote for Sideways, so funny yet so bitter, with some wonderful lines and at least one wonderful monologue. THIS is an example of entertaining yet far from superficial American screenwriting.

And yes, while I was the one who advised Big Magilla to do so, we ARE going a bit fast maybe... There's so much more to say than I expected.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:28 am

So...what's the deal with these 403 Forbidden postings, and how can we get them to stop?

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:27 am

The Adapted slate consists mostly of the movies I would have nominated, though I didn't think there were a ton of other options. I see I had Baadasssss! on my personal list at the time, though I doubt I've thought of it at all over the past decade.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:26 am

The one undeserving nominee in my book is Finding Neverland. I find the movie's overall concept pretty uninspiring -- it posits that J.M. Barrie never really wanted to grow up, and would have rather played make believe with a bunch of young kids than deal with adult life.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:26 am

And the movie celebrates this idea, as if acting like a mature grown-up is merely for soulless fuddy duddies like Julie Christie's character.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:24 am

Add to that it was a sentimental schmaltz-a-thon, with some truly groan-worthy plotting (anyone surprised by how things turned out once Winslet's hacking cough appeared?), and you have the blandest major category nominee of the year.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:22 am

The Motorcycle Diaries wouldn't be win-level for me -- it was mostly a triumph of gorgeous travelogue visuals set to lovely music than screenwriting bravura. Focusing on Che Guevara pre-politics doesn't necessarily leave you with all that much content-wise. But I found the movie quite engaging as an account of the activist's formative years, and the relationship between Guevara and Granado full of genial humor. In lieu of much competition, I was happy it scored this nomination.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:21 am

The remaining films were three of my absolute favorites of the year, and I think highly of the writing in all of them. Million Dollar Baby is definitely Paul Haggis's strongest film achievement -- it's a simple piece of storytelling, but it's full of great emotional power, even in its earlier scenes, as disappointments hang over the three main characters even as they fight (no pun intended) to keep their dreams alive. And then there's that startling third act twist, which was a complete surprise to me, and which moved the film into even more resonant territory. It's interesting that both of Eastwood's Best Picture winners lost the screenplay prize, when both films seemed fully qualified to win that award in tandem. But I must conclude that the Academy made the same call I would, and agree that as a piece of screenwriting, it was a bit more traditional and less inventive than the script for which I would ultimately cast a vote.

I had very much enjoyed Before Sunrise, but I thought Linklater and co. took Before Sunset to a different level entirely. The sense of regret, and years missed, that bubbles beneath the surface of every scene gives the movie a tremendous sense of poignancy, and I agree with Sabin that the tension over whether or not Jesse will go back home or stay with Celine gives the movie a thrust that makes it a completely entrancing filmgoing experience. And the dialogue just sparkles, with conversation after conversation full of insight, heart, and humor. And, of course, it completely sticks its landing -- I've thought about "Baby, you are gonna miss that plane" so many times over the years, and think it's just about a perfect ending. This is my favorite of the three films in this trilogy, and though the movie on its own is definitely a bit of a smaller thing, when paired with the films that bookend it, its impact still feels pretty major.

But I have no desire to take away the Oscar that went to Sideways, one of the most fun times I had at the movies this year. It's a delightful comedy, populated with some very entertaining but also very human characters, full of terrific dialogue, and possessing some of the most laugh-out-loud scenes in any movie of its decade. (I was just about gasping for air during the scene when Miles has to get the wallet back.) But on top of all the humor, there was some really beautiful, tender writing as well, most of all during the "I like to think about the life of wine" scene between Miles and Maya. And the ending, in which we want Maya to be on the other side of that door, but don't know for sure if she will be, is such a hopefully beautiful button to the movie. I've been quite a fan of Alexander Payne (and, in this category, Jim Taylor) over the years, but Sideways might be the best blend of cynicism, sentiment, and humor in all of his filmography, and there is no better place for him to win an Oscar than here.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby mlrg » Sun Aug 03, 2014 5:48 pm

voted for Spotless Mind and Sideways

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Re: Best Screenplay 2004

Postby Sabin » Sun Aug 03, 2014 1:46 pm

Best Original Screenplay is the easiest call of all time. Eternal Sunshine is an ingeniously constructed film. Vera Drake and The Incredibles would be worthy choices in other years, but not this one. I was a bit nervous that The Aviator might take it. Had Scorsese taken a co-writing credit, it might have.

MY RANKINGS
1. BY SUCH A RIDICULOUS MARGIN...
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, Charlie Kaufman [screenplay], Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, & Pierre Bismuth [story]

2. THE INCREDIBLES, Brad Bird
3. VERA DRAKE, Mike Leigh
4. HOTEL RWANDA, Terry George & Keir Pearson
5. THE AVIATOR, John Logan


Best Adapted is a bit harder. I love Before Sunset like almost no other film in 2004 and I would love to reward Linklater, Delpy & Hawke in this category but Sideways indeed has a better screenplay. There are several aspects of Before Sunset's narrative that could be changed or swapped. Not Sideways.

MY RANKINGS
1. SIDEWAYS, Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
2. BEFORE SUNSET, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke [screenplay], Richard Linklater & Kim Krazan [story]
3. MILLION DOLLAR BABY, Paul Haggis
4. THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, Jose Rivera
5. FINDING NEVERLAND, David Magee
Last edited by Sabin on Sun Mar 26, 2017 9:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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