I'm a bit less enthused about the Original slate overall. I have would liked nominations for the three candidates Mister Tee offered up -- Pleasantville, Happiness, and The Opposite of Sex.
I think Bulworth has a creative premise, and there are definitely laughs along the way -- the story of a political candidate who essentially becomes unhinged, and is therefore able to tap into what really irks his constituents about the seeming hopelessness of the political process, has some pretty biting observations along the way. But count me in the group that also finds the movie pretty scattershot -- it felt more to me like an early draft of an interesting idea than something with a narrative that had been carefully thought through.
Life is Beautiful is definitely an ambitious movie, and given both the subject matter and the film's unique approach to it, not something that can be quickly dismissed. But it, too, seems like a script with interesting ideas that weren't as finely calibrated as they might have been. For starters, although the first half of the story has its charms, I think it gets way too silly for the tone shift that follows. (I might even say that Benigni parading in on that neon green horse is...what's the right word to use...perhaps a little bit...infantile?
) I found the second half considerably more compelling -- the idea that a man would make up a fantastical game to shield his child from the horrors of their surroundings has genuine power to it -- but I think the movie could have used some more skepticism toward this father's approach. When Benigni mis-translates the guard's commands to the other prisoners, I could only think, this is information the rest of these people might need to STAY ALIVE, are we supposed to admire that his actions are putting other people in real danger? Similarly, when he swaps out the camp's music for an opera song, it's played as a sweet romantic gesture for his wife, but if he'd been caught, he and his entire family could very likely have been slaughtered, no? I didn't think Benigni and his cowriter quite mined their conceit for the moral complexity it merited, and so I ultimately find the movie problematic in a lot of ways, despite admiring how much it bites off to chew.
I really like Saving Private Ryan, but I'll echo what I wrote about The Thin Red Line, though to an even stronger degree -- it just isn't a writer-centric enough movie to get my vote given the competition. This is not to disparage Robert Rodat's contribution, as I think one of the elements I like best about the movie (the almost black comic sensibility that runs through many of the scenes, as our heroes begin to find this mission more and more ridiculous) seems to be pretty squarely his influence. But beyond the fact that so much of the film owes its success to Spielberg's superb visualizing of the battle scenes, it's also easiest to blame the few bumps in the movie on its script, especially the surprise of the old man's identity (at exactly the wrong spot for a "gotcha!" moment), and the subsequent "Have I lived a good life?" speech, which feels like the conclusion to a far more sanctimonious movie than the one we'd been watching up to that point.
My vote comes down to the remaining two movies, and I could make an argument for choosing either. Shakespeare in Love is probably the more script-dependent of the two. It's full of so much witty dialogue ("The show must, you know..." "Go on...") a joy of a narrative that's very cleverly worked out, and the kind of storytelling allusions to Shakespeare's work that give the film an extra level of inventiveness. I like what Mister Tee wrote, that the movie is almost a modern version of an untold Shakespeare comedy, full of frivolity but with a deeply human sensibility, and a lot of insight on life, love, and the artistic process. Shakespeare in Love may not be a landmark film -- John Madden isn't what you'd call a visionary director -- but I think it's a total delight, and its script is much of the reason why.
But I cast my vote for The Truman Show, another movie which I think is full of huge imagination, from the dazzling tv world set up in its opening, to the manner in which Andrew Niccol just runs with this narrative in surprising and inventive plot directions, to even the way what begins as an enjoyably breezy comedy reveals itself to be something far more emotionally resonant by its conclusion. (I love the way Christof, the film's de facto antagonist, even gets a beautifully written speech near movie's end that shows that, in the end, he really does have an almost fatherly love for the hero of his show.) But I think the script ultimately clinches my vote for the way it tapped so perfectly into the zeitgeist at the time, for examining the burgeoning reality television boom as the outpouring of people's desires to observe the realities of other humans' lives, to see "the real world" in a manner that's structured enough to give it some kind of meaning, to have a collective narrative experience that we all share in an increasingly diffuse global media landscape. I, too, remain surprised The Truman Show missed the Best Picture lineup -- it's the kind of outstandingly reviewed Hollywood hit that would seem to have an easy path to recognition -- but it definitely deserved the nomination it earned in this category, and I'll go even further to give it my vote.