BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard - The Cabin in the Woods
Stephen Cone - The Wise Kids
Vanessa Taylor - Hope Springs
Ava DuVernay - Middle of Nowhere
Lynn Shelton - Your Sister's Sister
Generosity, creativity, and honesty. Those are the qualities I latched onto in this year's best original scripts. Cone's script for The Wise Kids spreads its love around, from its three protagonists, to their hesitant loved ones, to the more troubled souls in their midst. Vanessa Taylor brings that same kind of even-handed kindness and curiosity to the marital discord in Hope Springs. Ava DuVernay's depth exceeds her breadth in Middle of Nowhere, but the family portrait is a rich one, and the degrees of open/closed-off in Ruby's character are pretty fascinating. Lynn Shelton draws such rich and specific relationships -- in concert with her three brilliant leads -- that Your Sister's Sister manages to navigate past one hell of a narrative speed bump in its final third. Finally, the fun Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard are having in drawing up the rules and regulations of their universe, cracking jokes all the way down to the ninth circle of hell, is fantastically infectious.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Leslye Hedland - Bachelorette
Lucy Alibar; Benh Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Richard Linklater - Bernie
Tony Kushner - Lincoln
Stephan Chbosky - The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I still don't see in Lincoln what its most ardent supporters see in it, but I have such respect for the direction Kushner took with the film, eschewing battles and mythmaking for nitty-gritty 19th century politics. Richard Linklater knows his way around a script, and he structured Bernie brilliantly. Then we're left with three authors who adapted their own work. Lucy Alibar collaborated with Benh Zeitlin, making big changes in service of a story that blended the world inside Hushpuppy's head with the world outside it and kept the lines of demarcation sparking and translucent. Hedland and Chbosky went it alone -- directed their own films and everything. Hedland's film didn't feel the least bit stagebound, and its willingness to let its characters be nasty but recognizably human was admirable, yes, but funny foremost. Chbosky made smart, streamlining decisions, but also managed to open his story up to characters who were only glanced at in his novel.
Michael Haneke - Amour
Benh Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee - Life of Pi
Ava DuVernay - Middle of Nowhere
Kathryn Bigelow - Zero Dark Thirty
SHOCKINGLY close to the Oscars lineup! I'm in love with the ambition of these five men and women. Be it the logistical and technological ambition of Ang Lee, while still telling a smarter, and more layered story than even the source novel was interested in telling. Bigelow's ambition was probably the riskiest of all, since she experienced actual consequences for how plainly she depicted her hunt for Bin Laden. Haneke took a risk by being as unlike himself as he's ever been. He sacrificed none of his story's impact by omitting his usual directorial sneering. Zeitlin and DuVernay have me so excited for the next ten years of filmmaking, I can't even tell you. Not only were their films gorgeous and bold, but they're peering into narrative corners that don't get peered into very much.