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Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Underdog Awards 2015: Part 5

The Underdog Awards

Writing Category

(Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay)


Welcome back to the Underdog Awards.

Bogged down by a set of pieces I am unfamiliar with, my awards have taken longer than expected and read longer than they should have.

So we're going to get a little funky and quicker this time round, cause this is my domain.


I'm loving writing, thinking of ideas, making them into stories and trying my hand at (frankly amateurish right now) screenplays.

I promise you these will be short and hopefully efficient. Plus it will finish faster

So let's get on with it...


Underdog Award for Best Adapted Screenplay

There's a lot I could define about the adapted screenplay category, but I did that last year. Instead let's talk about the Oscar nominees including the winner for the year.

Imitation Game: As much as I liked both Cumberbatch and Knightley, the screenplay for this film needed real saving. To be honest, the film never expressly delves into Alan Turing's masterful genius instead turning him into a genius recluse cliché and giving us some typical inspiring step by step tale while pretending to really give insight into the controversial end of Alan Turing's life. The so designated thriller element is completely missing. Inaccuracies and annoyances abundance. 

American Sniper: A film that slips into American celebration and doesn't hit hard on either the questions regarding war or for that matter Chris Kyle's own mindset. There's no examination of layers, instead a simple story on the war front, that doesn't really help a neutral audience to feel or engage with Kyle. Relying far too much on the heroic tragedy of the drama to move Americans and nothing much else.

Inherent Vice: It's at times Paul Thomas Andersons most dense and opaque works. Moving at a far too leisurely narrative pace, there's great comedy mined out of these well crafted characters. Unfortunately sometimes the plot is too convoluted and other times the writing deviates. It's hard to make some novels into film and PTA should be commended for trying this one.

The Theory of Everything: Being as romantically tragic as it can, Theory is a wonderful portrayal of a crumbling marriage and two people who fell for one another more than it is an out and out bio-pic on Stephen Hawking. Not that it needed to be, but one wishes for much more on his scientific achievements even though the film is adapted from someone else's point of view (Jane Hawking). It's why the second act tends to lag, but fine performances make up for an ok script.

Whiplash: Switched to adapted around nomination time, Whiplash is by far light on proper character and more heavy on a momentous examination of the teacher student relationship. Throwing us head on into dueling personalities, that couldn't be any similar and producing a riveting narrative that examines easy themes with profound intelligence and greatly crafted scenes and dialogue. This one should have won.

Anyways here's to my list.

Honorable Mentions: Gia Coppola-Palo Alto, Richard Glatezer and Walsh Westmoreland-Still Alice, Michael and Peter Speirig-Predestination, Dean DeBlois-How To Train Your Dragon 2, Dennis Lehane-The Drop, Andrew Bovell-A Most Wanted Man, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely-Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Hossein Amini-Two Faces of January, Marion Nelson-Tracks, Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver-Dawn of The Planet of The Apes, Jim Mickle and Nick Damici-Cold In July, Javier Gullon-Enemy, Greg Araki-White Bird In A Blizzard, Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber-The Fault in Our Stars, Peter Landesman-Kill the Messenger

And the nominees are...

Avi Korine and Richard Ayoade for The Double, Based on The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 

Satirical in its elements about the work space and the constant grind the 99% go through in their daily lives against a powerful bureaucracy. Double is a thoughtful and bleak comic character study of individuals who suffer doing one thing, but want another altogether.

 It looks at us as people who fear, or are weak to accomplish their real desires in favor of following the world's rules and grinding through a daily job (societal structure) to earn our keep. It's also about mental stability in the face of loneliness.

The dialogues are witty and insightful but the world building takes the cake, giving a sort of Metropolis/Brazil vibe.

Gillian Robespierre for Obvious Child, Based on Obvious Child by Anna Bean, Karen Maine and Gillian Robespierre

Realistic but funny, Obvious Child is a true look at how a woman would react to a pregnancy she doesn't want. It's funny, witty and smart while also being a heartfelt look at the life of a female comedian and her friends.

The dialogues are sharp and feel real where as the films writing wins you over due to it's honesty and bravery about a topic of this nature.

At the center of it all a character that is written naturally and just fits, making you realize how realistically complex she can be without making he decision seem either detestable or pitiful.

Kelly Masterson and Bong Joon Ho for Snowpiercer, Based on Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean Marc Rochette

A brilliant commentary on class divide in a dystopian world that parallels our own live in an eerily realistic fashion. The sci-fi elements might have some plot holes, but they really are intriguing and  fun.

The characters especially it's lead protagonist are written with fine etched details, including his heroic/leadership arc that takes a poignantly powerful turn due to its revelations.

There's rich themes about breaking class barriers, population control, sins of humanity and more. Making Snowpiercer a spectacular adaptation.

Gary Hawkins for Joe, Based on Joe by Larry Brown

A typical southern look at the idea of manliness and the relationships between fathers and sons. It's a well textured somber analysis of themes of fatherhood, sin and coming of age.

The characters are well handled, with Joe having an arc where he comes to terms with his past and not allowing for that to be repeated in his surrogate; Tye Sheridan.

Sheridan's boy learning to become a man and protect and provide for his family under the struggle of his abusive father creating a powerfully emotionally resonating arc.

Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan for Frank, Based on Oh Blimey! by Jon Ronson

Detailing Ronson's journey amongst the Soronprfbs and their enigmatic leader Frank Sidebottom, Frank is a bleak but emotionally heartfelt look at a bunch of broken but together artists.

Quirky black comedy that explores music and the soul of musicians pertaining to their ideas of success and when art and popularity collide. It's fun and immensely likeable supporting characters, teaching that art is not necessarily of a wider taste but of a singular soulful love for ones work and to be amongst ones friends.

It's at parts laugh out loud madness and in bits really moving touch of emotions.

And the Winner is...

Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan for Frank!

Underdog Award for Best Original Screenplay

You know the drift, so let's just examine the five original screenplays that made the Oscar ballot;

Birdman: Brilliantly meta and a wonderful scathing remark on the elements that pervade not only theater but film making as well such as critics and obnoxious method actors. There's tons of depth in the black comedy that just works well as an examination on the decadence of Hollywood and the at its center the crumbling ego of a lost star.

Boyhood: It's simple, there's no denying it. But it's real and that is what makes Boyhood as a story so fascinating and moving. Linklater as both writer and director has always persisted with the concept of time and in this he condenses such a normal ride which any child can grow to understand and connect with.

Foxcatcher: Shifting its timeline slightly, giving a complex backdrop of a falling empire amidst a harrowing true story, a lot of layers peeled from the narrative of this film create for a textured portrayal of two men and then John Du Pont. There's rich dialogue and back story, not to mention great themes of loyalty, brotherhood and inheritance, yet no rhyme or reason to the actions of John Du Pont, not even enough to resonate. One wishes Miller had stuck to the true story, mined a heightened sense of brothers bond breaking but more importantly of a clichéd true friendship soured (Dave and John) instead of the barrier caused by the questionable mentor/student trappings (Mark and John).

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Proving to be Wes Anderson's most funniest film in a long time and dark as hell as Wes Anderson can go, it's another master class on the kind of world building this director can craft up from his pen. There's such humor you wont stop being enthralled and such great characters especially lead Gustave H. Dialogues as usual proving to be a solid backbone.

Nightcrawler: Three deftly crafted layers, produce a magnificent narrative that will drive the audience beyond the edge of their seats by the end of it. On top is an exhilarating thriller, reliant on some exceptional dialogue. Underneath the film becomes a deep examination and analysis of the power  and persistence of the media today. Finally turning into a thought provoking psychological character study of an intriguing character; Lou Bloom.

And onto the Underdogs.

Honorable Mentions: John Michael McDonagh-Calvary, Stephen Beresford-Pride, Chris Rock-Top Five, Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias-Love Is Strange, Ned Benson-The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Olivier Assayas-Clouds of Sils Maria, JC Chandor-A Most Violent Year, Steven Knight-Locke, Lars Von Trier-Nymphomaniac , Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman-Skeleton Twins, Jonathan Asser-Starred Up, Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt-Night Moves, Chris Miller and Phil Lord-Lego Movie, Justin Lader-The One I Love, Peter Sattler-Camp X-Ray, David Michod-The Rover, John Carney-Begin Again, Ric Menello and James Gray-The Immigrant , Andrew Dodge-Bad Words, Eliza Hittman-It Felt Like Love, Jon Favreau-Chef, Andrea Siegel-Laggies, Kat Candler-Hellion

And the Nominees are...

Jim Jarmusch for Only Lovers Left Alive

Dour and straight faced but subtly comedic as it can get, OLLA is one hundred percent Jim Jarmusch. A lot of the narrative relies on dialogue between the character that establishes a sense of great history and personal depth, not to mention build on a very free story.

There's a great dissection of the whole vampire idea and a much larger focus on themes of love and immortality.

Going to a darker brooding atmosphere, Jarmusch wrings out some surprising subdued humor.

Justin Simien for Dear White People

Forming into a hilarious and balanced satirical yet dramatically efficient breakthrough on racial tension, in colleges; Simien's Dear White People is one hell of a rocking script. It features a wide array of characters on all sides and of conflicted ideologies regarding a larger issue.

Acting as a great microcosm, yet never representing any macro side or historical values. Each of the four lead characters gain from the arc they develop through in understanding themselves as much as the thrust that pushes the narrative.

Simien works all this well with some great insightful dialogues and moments that build on each other.

Alex Ross Perry for Listen Up Phillip

Juggling some undeniable dark humor and three complex characters, interlinked by their relationships. With Listen Up Phillip, Perry shines his abilities in defining and delving into an intriguing set of character studies that help shine light on fighting creative individuals.

It's hilariously poignant at time and poignantly hilarious during others. Perry underlines this with layers of maturity thanks to how well rounded he writes the characters even the oft easily detestable Phillip at the center of the trio.

Each characters examination having a great personal connect to the other, thanks to the wonderful and breezy narrative flow of Perry's pen.

Jennifer Kent for The Babadook

Taking on the tried and tested methods of classic and cliché horror films, Jennifer Kent dives write into complex and mature themes that just enhance the eventual scares she provides on a whole other level.

On the front of it is of course a mother-son relationship, some hard to peg twists and such rich psychological depth one cannot feel but be hooked. Ideas of parentage take a strong hold on the viewer, thanks to the employment of simple singular horror tactics on a far more refined psychological plane.

Kent's narrative and the under the surface brutality and scariness of it, is an example of how well done horror can truly be.

Jeremy Saulnier for Blue Ruin

Deconstructing the revenge thriller genre, Saulnier goes broke with one hell of a thrilling ride with the right dose of black comedy and the right hit on what vengeance truly means.

This is not an 'I Saw The Devil' type film where vengeance is a complex concept, it has complexities no doubt. No instead what this descents into is the idea of a man beyond the exact means or skills necessary to gain vengeance and post that save himself from utter damnation and a rowdy family.

Saulnier crafts this around a beach bum character Dwight who gains revenge on the man who killed his parents and then has to fight of his pissed of clan. In between providing a sense of great urgency but also a twisting calm and some dollops of black humor regarding Dwight's ineptitude. It's a fascinatingly underused lead, in a genre where every man seeking justice/vengeance is just another badass.

And the Winner is...

Jeremy Saulnier for Blue Ruin!

That's for the onto other things...

Up Next: The Big breakthrough's of 2014 and the BIG BAD ASS CASTS! Underdog Awards for Best Breakthrough Director/Performer and Best Ensemble

'Nuff Said

Aneesh Raikundalia

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