Best Screenplay 2002

1998 through 2007

What were the best original and adapted screenplays of 2002?

Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes)
6
12%
The Gangs of New York (Jay Cocks, Steve Zallian, Kenneth Lonergan)
0
No votes
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Nia Vardolos)
0
No votes
Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar)
13
25%
Y Tu Mama Tambien (Carlos Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron)
7
14%
About a Boy (Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz)
3
6%
Adaptation (Charlie Kaufman, Donald Kaufman)
13
25%
Chicago (Bill Condon)
0
No votes
The Hours (David Hare)
4
8%
The Pianist (Ronald Harewood)
5
10%
 
Total votes: 51

The Original BJ
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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby The Original BJ » Fri Aug 29, 2014 1:07 pm

On the Original side, my alts would have been Lovely & Amazing and Punch-Drunk Love.

There was some discussion below about what we thought would win. I'll say that the moment Bowling for Columbine won the WGA Award was the moment I decided to bet on Talk to Her at the Oscars. The WGA outcome seemed to suggest that (along with other evidence) Far From Heaven just wasn't that well-liked beyond critics circles, and that My Big Fat Greek Wedding didn't have enough artistic cache to go along with its populist favor.

Speaking of the Big Fat Wedding...it was a lousy nominee, though the fact that I had genuinely feared a Best Picture nomination made the fact that it was only cited here feel like a glass half full outcome to me. I didn't see the movie until well into its run, after which nearly every "joke" had been spoiled to me by somebody I knew. Who knows whether I'd have thought it funnier had I seen it on opening day (my guess is: probably not). It always struck me that the indie sheen over this movie allowed many to ignore the fact that it was basically an unfunny sitcom. And then, once it actually BECAME a sitcom, everyone suddenly saw the material for what it had always been.

Gangs of New York is definitely better -- it's a movie of big, memorable moments, and the writers deserve credit for making some of them pop verbally. But was this script just a case of too many talented cooks in the kitchen? I've greatly admired other work from all three of this film's credited writers, but the basic narrative line to Gangs is a real hodge-podge, the romance plot is exceedingly lame, and the ending just goes on and on. This script is more compelling on the margins than some bloated epics, but still too messy for consideration here.

I think that the remaining three nominees are exemplary choices -- any one of them would have had my vote with ease over the nominees in '03 (and, frankly, many other years this decade). So, hairs must be split to determine who gets my vote.

Far From Heaven is a wonderful movie, borrowing from melodramas of yore but twisting many elements to create an old-fashioned film bursting with contemporary relevance. It's to Haynes's great credit as a writer that he manages to pull off this pastiche without dipping into self-parody, particularly when the films he's lifting from carry with them a great deal of irony. And yet I have to acknowledge that Far From Heaven does lift a lot from earlier movies -- this isn't a criticism of the film, because I think Haynes is far more than a copycat here, but given that this ballot has two options with more fully original plot lines, I have to pass on giving Far From Heaven the Original Screenplay prize.

Talk to Her, of course, provided a wildly original plot that was, by turns, mysterious (that opening dance sequence), hilarious (the silent movie), shocking (everything from the bull fight to the rape reveal), and deeply moving (its portrait of burgeoning friendship between the two men). Structurally, it's inventive without ever seeming gimmicky, and it's full of the appealingly odd tangents so typical of Almodóvar's work. I'll take the point that the Academy acknowledged Almodóvar for a less edgy effort than usual, but I'd also argue that Talk to Her represented a step forward in maturity for the filmmaker, even from All About My Mother, and I wouldn't want to discount that. I don't know whether or not I'd say that Talk to Her is Pedro's BEST film, but I definitely think it's one of them, and I would have no desire to take away his Oscar for a resonant, thoughtful, and imaginative effort such as this.

However, Y Tu Mamá También is my favorite movie of the year, and I think its script is perhaps its finest area of achievement. It's a film that manages to be a lot of things -- a hilarious buddy comedy, a moving coming-of-age drama, a rollicking road movie, a portrait of cultural change in Mexico, even a poignantly observed romantic tragedy. It feels very much like a modern day Jules and Jim -- the two men in love with one woman, the richly insightful voice-over, the narrative that builds quietly to an overwhelmingly powerful finale. And yet, the Cuarón brothers' script is so full of singular energy, so tapped into the spirit of magical realism prominent in the Latin American arts, that it never feels derivative. This was perhaps my favorite nomination on Oscar morning (I thought it stood a shot, but it definitely seemed on the bubble), and in this very tight lineup, it garners my ultimate vote.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Aug 26, 2014 11:21 pm

The Original BJ wrote: (I've not read The Orchid Thief, but is Kaufman taking any more from Susan Orlean than Todd Haynes borrowed from All That Heaven Allows?)

Actually, along with all else the movie does, it dramatizes the content of The Orchid Thief pretty well.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:27 pm

My reaction to the omission of About Schmidt in the Adapted category was precisely the same as my reaction to Dennis Quaid/Far From Heaven. In both cases, my runner-up choice for the year depressingly failed to make the cut, and in both cases, I hadn't even considered the possibility the candidate would be left off.

In addition to Schmidt, I would also list The Two Towers as being no less worthy than the two Rings films that were cited here in bookending years.

Like many, I was pretty floored by the ultimate outcome in this category. I bet on The Hours, with its WGA win, 9 nominations, and literary pedigree, but figured the most likely upset could come from critical darling Adaptation, with Chicago not totally out of the running due to Best Picture pull. I hadn't considered The Pianist at all. I'm more agnostic than many on the movie, but this is one category especially where I have very little urge to consider it. I just don't find there to be all that much invention in the writing -- the early scenes feel like they could have come from umpteen other Holocaust movies I'd seen, and the later portions of the movie succeed more due to the power of Brody's performance and the innate quality of Polanski's craft rather than any narrative richness.

Of course, it's not like I was bummed out that The Hours lost either, which I think is a less successful movie. I quite like Michael Cunningham's novel, but there was a clunky literalness to the movie that makes everything interesting about the juxtapositions between narrative lines feel so obvious. (The early "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."..."Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."..."Sally, I think I'll buy the flowers myself" was the perfect start to the movie's Adapted Screenwriting for Dummies approach.) It's obviously an ambitious movie, and it's not lacking in intelligence, but on the whole I find it too uninspired a translation to choose it.

Although the other "About" film would have been a more deserving nominee, I don't at all object to the inclusion of About a Boy on this slate. I think it's a really funny and sweet comedy, a very humane portrait of individuals trying to connect with each other despite their foibles and imperfections. I remember catching up to it on DVD late in the year, when it was starting to get some faint awards attention, and I was surprised by how thoroughly I enjoyed the writing in what I assumed would be a more generic pop comedy. It's definitely not serious enough to get my vote, but I think it's a thoroughly charming effort.

It's usually pretty difficult for me to endorse writing awards for stage adaptations, simply because the amount of "adaptation" seems minimal compared to other choices. And I feel that here a bit, too -- the strength of Chicago's writing comes down to its knockout collection of songs, none of which Bill Condon had a hand in. But I do salute the achievements which were Condon's -- the dream/reality structure which felt really fun and inventive, the diary plotline which improves upon the original musical's court room sequence, and a lot of funny one-liners that weren't in the original show. Not a winner, but worthy of its status as the only musical to nab a writing nomination since, what, Victor/Victoria? (Am I missing something in between?)

But Adaptation is a pretty easy choice for me here, though I guess one could pretty easily make the argument that it's not an adaptation at all. (I've not read The Orchid Thief, but is Kaufman taking any more from Susan Orlean than Todd Haynes borrowed from All That Heaven Allows?) It's yet another delightful mind-bender from Charlie Kaufman, full of some really funny characters and dialogue ("That's how much fuck fish!") and wonderfully insightful observations on the creative process. (It's hard to think of another movie that dramatizes the act of writing as honestly as this one does, in all its stressful, headache-inducing glory). And I thought the ending worked pretty terrifically -- once that wonky third act kicked into gear, I thought to myself, I had no idea this movie would go in this direction, and yet it feels perfectly appropriate for the story that's come before. An enthusiastic vote for the Kaufman brothers!

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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby FilmFan720 » Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:23 pm

I actually think the Oscar, in a rare turn of events, went to the rightful winner in both of these categories, and I can't think of any alternates that were better.

In Original, I am sad that with all the Pixar nominations this decade other nominated films weren't able to piggy back. Spirited Away is a pretty perfect film and I would love to have seen its beautiful screenplay cited here. I would also throw in Punch-Drunk Love and Lovely & Amazing, two small but fully realized portraits that I wish had more traction come awards season. Still, this is between the two Spanish language screenplays, two of the best films of the year, and the Almodovar barely squeaks past the Cuarons.

In Adapted, I would have liked Charlie Kaufman to have pulled off a double (or triple?) nod with also getting Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in here too. I'll vote The Pianist, but a closed second is the way Bill Condon made Chicago work better on screen than it really had any right to.
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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:39 am

Y Tu Mama Tambien and Talk to Her were, for me, better than any of this year's Hollywood product, although I do like Chicago quite a bit. I think Mama] is the better directed one, but Talk to Her has the tighter screenplay.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby Heksagon » Wed Aug 20, 2014 12:37 am

anonymous1980 wrote: since Spain inexplicably didn't submit it as their Oscar Foreign Language Film entry that year

Although I’m a huge admirer of Almodóvar in general and Talk to Her in particular, it isn’t surprising that Spain passed it over in the foreign lingo category.

Mondays in the Sun is a good film in its own right, it was a huge hit in Spain and it happens to deal with social issues. On the other, the film is too pessimistic and the characters not sympathetic enough for the Academy’s taste.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby Heksagon » Wed Aug 20, 2014 12:36 am

The Original Screenplay category is very curious this year. The category was so bad that it resulted in the most deserving screenwriting award of the whole decade.

I’m a huge admirer of Talk to Her, and even us such, I must admit that the reason why it won its (highly deserving) Oscar was because there were no decent English-language nominees in the running. We also had a rare example of not one, but two films - Gangs of New York and My Big Fat Greek Wedding being category manipulated into Original while technically they should have been Adapted. And even then, the writers could spare a nomination for another foreign lingo film.

Besides Talk to Her, I feel that Y tu mamá también is the only really deserving nominee. Gangs is a good film, but it’s really a director’s film, and the screenplay is actually pretty weak (which was recognized by critics at the time - I don’t think it would have been nominated in Adapted).

Far from Heaven is one of the most over-rated films ever (didn’t I just say that earlier this year), and Wedding hardly needs to be commented on.

The Adapted category has the very good nominees, Adaptation and The Pianist, and I’m going with the latter. Chicago is also deserving nominee, while About a Boy and The Hours are pretty mediocre, if even that.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 13, 2014 10:10 pm

Well, let's see if I can get this posted before 2001 rears its head, so I can feel up to date for a few minutes.

The adapted side of the ledger excludes what would certainly be in the running for my top slot, the Globe-winning About Schmidt. One could hardly have guessed, after this obvious exclusion, that Payne would subsequently turn into an Academy regular.

I'd also have advocated for the very solid version of The Quiet American, over a few of these entries.

Both The Hours and The Pianist for me fall into the category of "I can't say they're bad, exactly, but my life would be as rich if I'd never seen either". The Pianist's win here seems the ultimate triumph for the Holocaust vote, as there's nothing distinguished about the writing: The Hours at least has its literary curlicues as a claim to fame.

Condon's script for Chicago is very strong by the standards of recent movie musicals -- quite funny throughout, and cleverly conceived (it was, by all reports, Condon's notion to structure the story around the imaginary musical numbers). It was frivolous stuff, but, like the movie in toto, a thoroughgoing pleasure.

I liked About a Boy well enough, but I couldn't believe the oversell it got from some, as if the Weitz clan had turned out a modern classic. It always seemed to me this was the entry that knocked out About Schmidt, and that I can't countenance.

But, as we know, I can't vote for About Schmidt, so I go for my second favorite, Adaptation, despite my misgivings about the third act. I don't think Kaufman ever properly worked out that climactic portion of the film -- I can rationalize it going the way it does, but it didn't FEEL right while I was watching it. Still...the preceding hour and a half was so clever, so inventive, that this remains the class of this group even with that gaping flaw.

Under original, I'd advocate for the verbally dextrous Roger Dodger. And, if cartoons are going to be cited, why not Spirited Away?

It certainly deserved nomination over the dreck that was My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In this day of prepackaged blockbusters, one hates to rain on the parade of a genuine sleeper hit. But, good god, retro doesn't even begin to describe this film: it felt like something written by someone who hadn't even seen a movie in 50 years. And, for an alleged comedy, I don't remember laughing once.

I cant support the nomination for Gangs of New York, either (even passing over the fact that it's at least semi-adapted). I think Scorsese spins some gold with his visuals and his actors (DiCaprio & Diaz excluded). But the story is a misshapen mess -- once DiCaprio's identity is revealed, the story has no forward thrust, and the climactic riot felt like it was tacked on in desperation. Not even adequate writing, let alone among the year's best.

I adore Far from Heaven -- my favorite film on the year -- and I think Haynes' screenplay certainly deserves a nomination, for its canny reimagining and reframing of 50s melodrama. But, contra our Italian friend, I think the film's clearest achievements are in performance and in visual/aural elements (put me down for best actress, best director, best cinematography, best score). For me, purely as writing achievements, the two subtitled efforts stand a bit taller.

I will, though, agree to some extent with Italiano, that the reason Almodovar triumphed may have something to do with the fact that Talk to Her is less sexually centered than his earlier efforts (though the trip inside the giant black-and-white vagina surely didn't thrill the nursing home set)...and certainly less than the film's main competitor. But I'd like to think at least some appreciated Pedro's wonderfully indirect, circular story-telling, which in the end gave us a love story we didn't even really see coming.

My choice, though, is Y Tu Mama Tambien, a movie that flies along, making stray observations, and in the end adds up to a wonderfully panoramic view of two hormone-driven young guys, the young woman who's way smarter than them, and the country/life they inhabit. I've watched the film over and over on cable, and I'm always caught up in the energy of the narrative, and the wonderfully observed voice-over. This is one of several pretty great films that came along in 2002, and my favorite original screenplay of the bunch.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:35 am

Nobody can say that Talk to Her is a badly written movie. Of course it isn't. And it happens so rarely that Europe wins in this category that one certainly shouldn't complain. Still... Why Talk to Her? Why THIS Almodovar movie - good, but not one of his best, personal, but not one of his most personal - and not Bad Education, or All About My Mother, or even the admittedly not-perfect Volver? Was this movie so appreciated in America, and by the Academy, BECAUSE it was sexually less extreme than most by the same director, because it was more about death - a favorite Protestant subject - than about the joys of unorthodox sex? We will never know, but I suspect that that played a role, and seeing that this script is also winning here - and I mean, it's not like this board seems to be composed of exactly sexually adventurous types - only confirms my fear. But I mean - there ARE good things in Talk to Her, some characters are both bizarre and sweet, and the general mood is rather affecting... yet, there are two other well-written movies here, and my vote will go to one of then. Y Tu Mama Tambien is still its director's best movie (and yes, I have seen Children of Men and Gravity). It's a portrayal of boys growing up, of course, but also of a whole country, and it's made with intelligence and a sort of "realistic sensitiveness" - the two boys aren't especially smart, they aren't the kind of teenagers that a film director usually wants to identify with - and wants his audience to identify with. But they are "true", they feel true - and their typical Latin machismo feels so true, too (and like all Latin machismo, more complex than it seems to be on the surface). Very good script.
Still, I voted for a movie from the US for once. No, not My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I think that Far from Heaven is an unusually perceptive American screenplay. It works on so many levels - it's about a certain period in American history and society, about the role of not only women but also blacks and gays in this society, and of course also about how movies portrayed this society... It's just so complex, yet even emotionally quite powerful, and SO intelligent. I know, some may consider it "minor", but I actually think that it's quite relevant (and no, despite the technical and visual aspects, it's definitely a screenplay-centered movie). My pick in this category.

In Adapted, this board is predictably voting for Adaptation, a movie which typically is about... nothing, really, so one can see whatever one wants in it - movies like this are essentially the film equivalent of a Rorschach test. Plus, I know that Americans are masters of screenplay as a structure - but I mean, shouldn't content be important, too? As you should know by now, I prefer movies which have something to say - sorry. And of these five, the movie which has most to say is The Pianist. Is it a great screenplay? No. But it's solid, and it takes its time to tell an important story, and it tells it in a traditional but undeniably effective way, The best of these five I think.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Aug 11, 2014 12:47 pm

Elderly voters were not this film's biggest supporters. It was the thirty-something mostly unmarried females who were the film's target audience and biggest supporters.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby Sabin » Mon Aug 11, 2014 12:23 pm

Before the Oscar nominations were announced, yes, I did, because I thought My Big Fat Greek Wedding was very likely going to end up a Best Picture nominee. I was not positive that Gangs of New York, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and The Pianist had the support they needed and My Big Fat Greek Wedding was such a big hit that I was sure elderly voters were going to cast their ballots. On Oscar nominations morning when I saw Pedro Almodovar's Best Director nomination, I knew that Nia Vardalos was not going home with the statue.
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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby anonymous1980 » Mon Aug 11, 2014 9:22 am

Sabin wrote:In Best Original Screenplay, I have a very difficult time choosing between my two favorite films of the year: Talk to Her and Y Tu Mama Tambien. The former mixes humanism and eccentricity as well as I've ever seen Almodovar do. The latter is a great, glorious road movie. Because I've already given Almodovar my award for Best Director, it's only fair to give my other favorite film of the year its due here, but the Academy made an incredible choice in a category that I was sure was going to My Big Fat Greek Wedding.


Really? You thought the Oscar was going to Nia Vardalos? It's the film's ONLY nomination. I thought Talk to Her was the front-runner since Spain inexplicably didn't submit it as their Oscar Foreign Language Film entry that year and the Academy would have wanted to award Almodovar with something plus Almodovar also got a Best Director nomination which is a sign of strong support for the film within the Academy.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby Sabin » Sun Aug 10, 2014 11:44 am

In Best Original Screenplay, I have a very difficult time choosing between my two favorite films of the year: Talk to Her and Y Tu Mama Tambien. The former mixes humanism and eccentricity as well as I've ever seen Almodovar do. The latter is a great, glorious road movie. Because I've already given Almodovar my award for Best Director, it's only fair to give my other favorite film of the year its due here, but the Academy made an incredible choice in a category that I was sure was going to My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

What a difference twelve years makes! Where once I stomped my food demanding an Oscar for Adaptation., the best screenplay of the year by the best screenwriter of our time, now I find it a little to make my choice. Except for The Hours, which might read better on the page than on the screenplay but yeesh, all of these films have their virtues. I think I'll still go with Adaptation., but I admire the other scripts quite a bit.
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Re: Best Screenplay 2002

Postby mlrg » Sun Aug 10, 2014 11:41 am

voted for Hable con Ella and The Pianist

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Best Screenplay 2002

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Aug 10, 2014 4:25 am

If it weren't for the inclusion of the two heavyweight scripts for Spain's Talk to Her and Mexico's Y Tu Mama Tambien, this would have been a dismal year for original screenplays.

Oddly, however, in order to make room for these splendid nominees, the Academy rejected the WGA's two most unusual and interesting nominees in this category. Michael Moore's WGA winning documentary, Bowling for Columbine was certainly a better choice than the insufferable script for the long, boring and historically inaccurate Gangs of New York which was hardly the best work of any of its esteemed writers. The WGA nominated, Oscar rejected autobiographical Antwone Fisher wasn't a great movie but it was a nice little one that would also have been a much better choice than the asinine My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I've warmed to Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven since my initial reaction to the film which wasn't so much about life in the 50s as it was about life in the 50s filtered through movie and TV reflections of life. Today it would be my fifth nominee. The best choices, however, are Pedro Almodovar's witty and incisive Talk to Her and the Cuaron Brothers' marvelous road film, Y Tu Mama Tambien which the IMDb. has suddenly inexplicably decided to rename And Your Mother Too, the literal English translation of the film's title by which it was never known. Although I love both films, I can only choose one so I happily give my vote along with the Academy to Almodovar.

The WGA and the Academy were in sync on four of the five adapted screenplays. I agree on four of the five nominees each group made. I would, however, have brought over Alexande Payne and Jim Taylor's script for About Schmidt instead of Charlie Kaufman and his fictitious brother's script for the sophomoric Adaptation, a film that starts out funny and ends up just plain silly.

Bill Condon's script for Chicago is very inventive, providing more than just the dialogue between the songs but in the end as with most musicals it's the songs, not the patter that you remember best. Peter Hedges and the Weitz Brothers' script for About a Boy is quite marvelous but doesn't have the heft of either David Hare's screenplay for the WGA winner, The Hours Ronald Harewood's script for the WGA ignored but Oscar winning The Pianist. Hare or Harwood? Harwood or Hare? I'll go with Hare on this one.


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