Best Screenplay 2001

1998 through 2007

Were were the best original and adapted screenplays of 2001?

Amélie (Guillaume Laurant, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Gosford Park (Julian Fellowes)
Memento (Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan)
Monster's Ball (Milo Addica, Will Rokos)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson)
A Beautiful Mind (Akiva Goldsman)
No votes
Ghost World (Daniel Clowes, Terry Zwigoff)
In the Bedroom (Todd Field, Robert Festinger)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Fran Walsh, Phillippa Boyens, Peter Jackson)
Shrek (Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, Roger S.H. Schulman)
No votes
Total votes: 50

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Re: Best Screenplay 2001

Postby Sabin » Mon Aug 18, 2014 10:15 pm

Interesting that we have a three-way tie for Gosford Park, Memento, and The Royal Tenenbaums. Three excellent films (all of them four star films in my book), all doing very, very different things.
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Re: Best Screenplay 2001

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Aug 18, 2014 9:10 pm

Any possibility we could start the once-weekly schedule a bit sooner? Look at the results: the last two years have only two responses each (one with no actual text)...what's the point of starting yet another thread in two days, when we know people (especially the most verbose of us) won't have caught up? Regardless of how familiar these films may be (and, after more than a decade, they don't feel as familiar as I expected), there's a guaranteed ten films to discuss in each thread, which requires more time than most seems to have right now. Yes, we can always "go back", but the whole point of these is to have some sort of contemporaneous discussion during slack season, and it's hard to feel engaged in any discussion when you're piping in a week and a half late and no one's likely to respond to even an interesting point.

That's my piece, and now I'll shut up.

I don't quite get why Magilla views this batch as bottom of the barrel; I see it as more or less average for the era, with good choices in both categories.

Adapted is clearly the weaker, particularly for holding one of the worst winners of recent times, Goldsman's Beautiful Mind. I'll admit that, for the first half of the movie, I was decently held by the structure. But I thought the movie got worse and worse as it went on, and I was genuinely angry to find out that 1) Nash's psychosis was actually nothing like what was portrayed on the screen, 2) Nash's wife in fact left him for many years, and only touched base with him in time to get escorted to the Nobel ceremony and 3) he won for something he developed long before the period of his full-out mental illness. I'm not normally any kind of stickler for literal adherence to facts, but those three essentially made the central premises a big fat lie. So, a huge thumbs down.

Now that Shrek has devolved into ever-diminishing sequels and an uninspired musical, it may be hard to remember the film was considered a breath of fresh air when it first appeared (before many of us got mortally sick of animated films). I wouldn't say the film's narrative is especially brilliant, but there's a lot of immensely clever stuff in the margins, and, since I don't have a ton of films I could substitute (The Deep End would be my prime choice), I'm content with its placement.

Since I objected loudly to the Return of the King screenwriting Oscar, you might expect me to be equally opposed to the first film's nomination as well. But, no -- first, because I think this first film is by far the strongest, best laid-out of the three, and second because, I'm not being asked to make it a winner, merely a nominee.

I'm having a horrible time deciding between the remaining two; which I choose might depend on my mood on a given day. Ghost World is a wonderfully insightful look at out-of-step people -- full of dark humor and touching moments, terrifically brought to life by Burch, Buscemi and Johansson. In the Bedroom is a considerably bleaker piece that has the feel of literature -- when I first saw it, I compared it to Hemingway's Big 2-Hearted River, for the way it expects us to extract emotion obliquely from a narrative that puts some key developments off-screen. The ending to me was genuinely shocking (and hardly the endorsement of vigilantism some apparently saw).

Either of these two would make a most worthy winner, but this time I'll go with the heavier piece and vote for In the Bedroom.

Under originals, I never despised Monster's Ball the way so many did here -- I thought it had some interesting elements (nearly everything to do with Heath Ledger's character), though it did have too much melodrama for me to endorse. Amelie was a bit too determinedly offbeat -- it felt in-your-face with perkiness far beyond my tolerance level -- but I wouldn't call it bad or anything.

The other three are are pretty top-drawer, and I see we're collectively unable to choose among them. The Royal Tenenbaums was the first time I fully responded to Wes Anderson (Rushmore just didn't ring my chimes the way it did for so many), and it remains, along with Fantastic Mr. Fox and Grand Budapest Hotel, in his top tier. It's Salinger-but-not-quite, very witty, and heart-rending in the end.

It's something of a miracle Julian Fellowes got the screenplay award for Gosford Park, given the tendency of many to believe (with Altman's encouragement) the film was largely improvisational. Granted Altman was always alert to catch whatever gems actors generated in the moment, but this script seems a far more sturdy blueprint than generally acknowledged (and more sturdy than those of many other Altman films). The story is beautifully structured, involving a great many characters and situations but fitting them all together with economy and elegance. And the dialogue is wonderful -- a multitude of snappy one-liners, as well as wonderful speeches like Helen Mirren's big one. This is splendid work.

But I can't vote for it, because Memento still seems to me a work of such audacity and originality that it demands my support. The logistics involved in constructing this script are mind-boggling -- making the story play backwards while never losing the thread (or feeling repetitive), and building to a satisfying (and completely surprising) finish. At the same time, the film is more than a gimmick...or, at least, it's a gimmick with soul: uncovering what humans can convince themselves or allow themselves to do when memory doesn't work the way it normally does. That Christopher Nolan has turned out to be, by and large, merely an entertainer is disappointing: it felt like he might be the rare talent who could make real art in genre, and what he's doing now, even the best stuff, is less. But I can still salute the one time he hit the high note, and give him my vote here.

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Re: Best Screenplay 2001

Postby mlrg » Sat Aug 16, 2014 5:58 am

voted for Memento and LoTR

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Re: Best Screenplay 2001

Postby Sabin » Thu Aug 14, 2014 10:01 pm

I am probably more conflicted about Best Original Screenplay, 2001 than any other category I can think of. Both Memento and The Royal Tenenbaums are among my favorite films and both of them are triumphs of very different styles of writing. I can muster some enthusiasm for Julian Fellow's script for Gosford Park (quite good). I didn't think much of Monster's Ball or Amelie at the time, although I'm willing to bet that were I to watch Amelie again, I might like it a little more. It's a bit odd to me that Amelie didn't go over stronger in the category of Best Picture or Director. Lord knows, it did just fine elsewhere.

Memento doesn't just tell the story backwards but hitting every single forward narrative beat along the way, such that even describing it as a story told backwards seems wildly inappropriate. This is no small feat, and along the way he manages to scribe some incredible stand alone scenes in their own right and ultimately arrive at a deeply unsettling conclusion about the lengths we will go to find purpose in life. It's his best film. If The Royal Tenenbaums isn't Wes Anderson's best film (Rushmore), then it felt then as it still does now as the total distillation of everything that Wes Anderson does and it does so in a way that hasn't aged an iota. The Tenenbaums' New York remains the most intoxicating corner of WesWorld. Just as Christopher Nolan's Memento is a closet adaptation, so in a way is The Royal Tenenbaums a retelling of the Glass Family with a little bit of Ambersons here and there, and yet it's as thoroughly Wes as Gosford Park is still Altman in Renoir's smoking jacket. Also worth mentioning is that both of these narrative greats stem from collaboration. How much of Memento comes from Jonathan's mind, we won't know, but surely the farther away that Christopher gets from his brother's side the farther away I want to be. Memento is a triumph of narrative economy that Nolan would hardboil into relentless rides. And while Wes Anderson has made some terrific films after Tenenbaums, there's no denying the night and day difference in character voice and specificity that Owen Wilson's co-penned scripts had. His collaborations with Noah Baumbach, Roman Coppola, and Jason Schwartzman have their merits but they coast more on archetype and attitude.

Ultimately, The Royal Tenenbaums occupies a different place in my heart than Memento could even attempt. It was the last film I watched at the University of Arizona, when I was mired in a Tenenbaums-ian breakdown, mired in melancholy after two and a half years of academic failure. The Royal Tenenbaums felt like a raft and a go-kart. It's a deeply special film to me and it gets my vote.

Fitting then that Ghost World is also my choice for Best Adapted Screenplay as it concerns itself with the perception of failure. As a fan of Daniel Clowes, Terry Zwigoff's narrative padding is both a betrayal and a godsend. It's one of the finest films I've ever seen about getting the fuck out of town...eventually.

I can't say anything else really comes close. The Fellowship of the Ring's screenplay feels like a transplanting more than anything else. There's very little narrative tension. I spoke with a friend who said the biggest letdown of the series is in the introduction of Aragorn and how the film doesn't even attempt to hang onto a little ambiguity with this guy's intentions. Shrek's animation is ugly but it's a canny bit of fable remixing. I like it okay. In the Bedroom would have been a fine winner in a Ghost Worldless year. As for A Beautiful Mind, well, I can't quite loathe the film but it utterly fails in getting me to view John Forbes Nash as anything other than a self-absorbed prick who won't take his meds.

Best Screenplays of 2001, in my opinion:
1. Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson, The Royal Tenenbaums
2. Christopher Nolan, Memento
3. Terry Zwigoff & Daniel Clowes, Ghost World
4. Steven Spielberg, A.I. Artificial Intelligence
5. Julian Fellowes, Gosford Park
Runners up: Karen Grant (Ginger Snaps), PIXAR-bot (Monsters, Inc.), Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), Lukas Moodysson (Together), Joel & Ethan Coen (The Man Who Wasn't There), David Ayer (Training Day), and for whatever reason it just seems strange to laud Mulholland Drive and In the Mood for Love above some of these films for Best Screenplay because of how ridiculously much these long-gestating projects changed.
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Best Screenplay 2001

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Aug 14, 2014 4:17 pm

This one pretty much scrapes the bottom of the barrel. It's no wonder that of the twenty-one writers nominated for their screenplays, only two (Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh) had been previously nominated and only three of them (Jackson, Walsh and Phillippa Boyens) would subsequently win. Fifteen of twenty-one, including the two winners, have yet to receive any further Oscar recognition.

The originals this year were superior to the adaptations with the Oscar rightfully going to Julian Fellowes for Gosford Park. I also liked Christopher Nolan's Memento from a story by his brother and Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson's The Royal Tenenbaums as well as Wong Kar-Wei's non-nominated In the Mood for Love and the Coen Brothers' non-nominated The Man Who Wasn't There. The latter was at least nominated by The WGA which also selected Gosford Park; Monster's Ball and Moulin Rouge. I'm glad Oscar ignored Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce's screenplay for the latter, which is really a thinly disguised adaptation of La Boheme, but I wish they had ignored the screenplay for Monster's Ball and surprise nominee (to me anyway) Amélie. I would even consider David Lynch's screenplay for Mulholland Dr. over several of the nominees even if the screenplay is not that film's strongest suit.

My favorite adaptation among the nominees was In the Bedroom. I also liked Ghost World but would have nominated The Deep End; A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and either The Shipping New or Bully over A Beautiful Mind; Lord of the Rings; Shrek and for that matter, the WGA's picks of Black Hawk Down and Bridget Jones' Diary.
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