Oscarthon: Best Original Screenplay


Of the Big Eight categories, Original Screenplay is the only one that's a true tossup. Will it go to the now beleaguered Hurt Locker script, or Tarantino's wordy Nazi parable?


1. The Hurt Locker- Mark Boal (0 for 0)

SGT. JAMES: [to his son] "You love playing with all your stuffed animals. You love your Mommy, your Daddy. You love your pajamas. You love everything, don't ya? Yeah. But you know what, buddy? As you get older... some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you'll realize it's just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And then you forget the few things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it's only one or two things. With me, I think it's one."
The winner of the WGA and the BAFTA, Mark Boal's taught script looks like the current frontrunner, by just a nose. It's swift, frank, and as laudable for the things it leaves unsaid as the things it emphasizes.


2. Inglourious Basterds- Quentin Tarantino (1 for 2)
COL. LANDA: "Consequently, a German soldier conducts a search of a house suspected of hiding Jews. Where does the hawk look? He looks in the barn, he looks in the attic, he looks in the cellar, he looks everywhere *he* would hide, but there's so many places it would never occur to a hawk to hide. However, the reason the F├╝hrer's brought me off my Alps in Austria and placed me in French cow country today is because it does occur to me. Because I'm aware what tremendous feats human beings are capable of once they abandon dignity."
Tarantino, I suppose is a heavyweight having won this category for Pulp Fiction, but it's hard not to think of him as an outsider still. Yet it's possible AMPAS will award his wordy, episodic, and mannered script for Basterds, if only for navigating several languages at once.


3. The Messenger- Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman (both 0 for 0)
CAPT. STONE: "You do not speak with anybody other than the next of kin - no friend, no neighbor, no co-worker or mistress. Hours of operation are 0600 to 2200 hours and we dont want to wake anybody up in the middle of the night. If you ask me, hitting them with the news at the crack of dawn is not exactly a great way to start their day -breakfast-wise."
Moverman and Camon's screenplay seems more like something for a stage production- apparently there was little to no blocking or direction, or even rehearsal for any of the death notification scenes, so the reaction when someone slaps Woody Harrelson's character in grief-stricken panic was geniune. But there was some great work near the end when people finally start opening up.


4. A Serious Man- Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (both 4 for 8)
LARRY: "It's, it's more about myself, I've... I've had quite a bit of tsuris lately. Marital problems, professional, you name it. This is not a frivolous request. This is a ser- I'm a ser- I'm, uh, I've tried to be a serious man, you know? Tried to do right, be a member of the community, raise the- Danny, Sarah, they both go to school, Hebrew school, a good breakfast... Well, Danny goes to Hebrew school, Sarah doesn't have time, she mostly... washes her hair. Apparently there are several steps involved, but you don't have to tell Marshak that. Just tell him I need help. Please? I need help."
The Coens return with another dour, dark, farce layered with stuttering and awkward silence. It seemed to me designed to frustrate, but maybe that was the point. Moving on...


5. Up- Bob Peterson (0 for 1), Pete Docter (0 for 4), Thomas McCarthy (0 for 0)
CARL: "This is crazy. I finally meet my childhood hero and he's trying to kill us. What a joke."
DUG: "Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, 'I forgot to store acorns for the winter and now I am dead.' Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead."
Not sure if I agree- Ratatouille, Wall-E, and The Incredibles seemed a little more complex to me- the appeal of Up is almost entirely visual and immediate.


I'm going with The Hurt Locker in a close vote, even with all the late-breaking hubbub last week. Sometimes there's just no stopping a movie on a roll.

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