BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
- Adam McKay & Charles Randolph for THE BIG SHORT, based on the book by Michael Lewis
- Nick Hornby for BROOKLYN, based on the novel by Colm Toibin
- Phyllis Nagy for CAROL, Based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
- Drew Goddard for THE MARTIAN, based on the novel by Andy Weir
- Emma Donoghue for ROOM, based on her novel
Who Will Win?
This is a tough category. This will be between The Big Short and Room.
Usually known for broad comedies like Anchorman, Step Brothers and pretty much any comedy starring Will Ferrell, Adam McKay took a giant leap out of his comfort zone to deal with the subject of the 2008 economy collapse. He tried to do it with The Other Guys, but the message got lost in the buddy cop tropes. So, he joins co-writer Charles Randolph to tell a true life tale of the few investors who predicted the housing bubble would burst and made financial investments against the US Economy.
He took an even greater risk by applying a Meta style to the film. Throughout the film, Ryan Gosling speaks directly to the audience to inform them of the story at hand. Not only that, but other characters will turn to the audience and correct anything said by the character. He even has actresses Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez and Chef Anthony Bourdain play themselves as they explain complicated investment terms.
As a plus, they will outright admit when a scene in the film is inaccurate to what really happened. Acknowledging the fact it’s a film might turn a few people off, but it’s nice for someone to take a gamble on this.
When it does tell a story, it still works. Even if you don’t understand the Housing market, the characters are still entertaining to watch. Each character’s given his own unique personality, from the khaki shorts wearing numbers genius Michael Burry to the loudmouth crusader Mark Baum.
In contrast, Room is a more personal film. Adapted from her own novel, Emma Donoghue tells a tale of Jack, a five year old boy who’s spend his whole life locked up in a shack along with his mother. This is a devastating subject to focus on, and yet Donoghue somehow creates a reassuring tale of perseverance against horrible odds.
The strength of the script is that it’s told mostly from the innocent perspective of Jack. Seeing the shack as his whole world, Jack wakes up every morning saying good morning to all inanimate objects. He regards this as normal life. When his mother finally reveals there’s a wider world, he refuses to believe it at first, but then accepts it.
When he and his mother finally escape, Jack finds the outside world full of wonders. But he’s also painfully shy about exploring it. At this half of the film, we see more of the mother’s perspective. Though no long physically imprisoned, she is now internally imprisoned by her trauma. It becomes her journey of recovery and Jacks’ journey of opening up. At the same time, the script also shows how this tragedy affects those close to her, especially the Grandmother.
It’s a battle between the experimental and the personal. I’m going to predict the academy will go for the experimental The Big Short due to its subject matter.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
- Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen for BRIDGE OF SPIES
- Andy Garland for EX MACHINA
- Josh Cooley, Ronnie Del Carmen, Pete Docter & Meg LeFauve for INSIDE OUT
- Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer for SPOTLIGHT
- Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman , S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus for STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
Who Will Win?
The clear winner for this one is Spotlight. It’s a challenge to adapt journalism into the very visual medium of film. It’s even harder when the subject at hand is the cover up of Catholic Priests molesting children. McCarthy and Singer pull this off perfectly.
The film begins with a flashback in the 1970’s, where we see the judicial process from a child’s perspective. This reveals one amongst many victims let down by adults. It adds more weight to the subject matter when the reporters interview the victims. At first, they are resistant to recall their traumatic experience. Each victim has been traumatized in their own way. Some have channeled it internally. Others have turned it into a crusade to expose their lies.
Each reporter has his/her own personality and own contribution for the group, whether it’s leader Walter Robinson mingling with leaders or Mark Ruffalo stubbornly waiting all night to get access to necessary documents. But in the end, the film maintains the subject as its main focus.
- Adam McKay for THE BIG SHORT
- George Miller for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
- Alejandro G. Inarritu for THE REVENANT
- Lenny Abrahamson for ROOM
- Tom McCarthy for SPOTLIGHT
Who Will Win?
In many of the technical nominees, I have pinned Mad Max: Fury Road against The Revenant. These two films have a few things in common. They are both visually oriented films centered on people trying to survive in a cruel world. They are both the work of auteurs who took great risks to make the films as real as possible. And they both have Tom Hardy amongst the leads.
Alejandro G. Inarritu has already won last year for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtues of Ignorance), a portrayal of an actor (Michael Keaton) living under the shadow of the superhero he starred in. The Revenant represents another vision for the auteur and boy did he go through hell to get it. What started off as a two week shoot across Canada not only had to be extended to six weeks, but had to be moved to Argentina due to the unusual warm weather? Crew members either quit or were hired throughout shooting. But again, it was all worth it to see a gritty tale of a man dragging himself across the lands to survive.
I would have picked him for the award, but since he already won last year, the odds are a little more against him. Besides, every seems to lean more in favour of George Miller. Returning to the franchise he created, Miller was determined to restart the Mad Max franchise with a vengeance. He avoided CGI with the car chase scenes, making the crashes and attacks as real as possible. Like I said, when cars crash, they crash for real. And he pushed the post-apocalyptic vision to its most nihilistic and absurdist level possible, creating endless unforgettable images.
Keep in mind, Mad Max was the film that not only made Mel Gibson a star, but created the “Aussie-sploitation” craze. You can still feel that influence in the first trilogy in the absurd zombie film “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead.” It would have been so easy for Miller to rest on the laurels of the franchise. Instead, he took a lot of risks story wise. First, he replaced Gibson with Tom Hardy. Then he made him a false protagonist, placing Charlize Theron in the forefront as one armed heroine Furiosa. Then, he stripped the plot to its barest bones, making it one entire battle chase. Despite this, he still finds a way to not only tell a story, but also create memorable characters. He not only rebooted the genre, he elevated it into an art form.
So I choose Mad Max: Fury Road. A win for this film is a win for Geek Culture as a whole.