You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Original Screenplay Nominations Balance Serious and Light Subjects

Drama and comedy split spotlight in writing category.


Hell or High Water
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Heist thriller, modern Western, social commentary — Sheridan’s tart, observant script, which first drew industry attention as a 2012 Black List title, about a pair of bank robbers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) with a personal score to settle and the savvy Texas Ranger (Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges) on their trail draws elements from all three genre types to both inform and deepen its central, character-driven storyline. The result is at once a crowd-pleasing crime picture and a pensive study of people struggling to maintain their dignity in a landscape in which honesty and respect fail to take root. The crisp, often wry dialogue, rich with Southwestern lingo and delivered with relish by the solid cast (especially in the salty exchanges between Bridges and partner Gil Birmingham and the brittle closing talk between Bridges and Pine), adds grit to a thriller where the central crimes carry less heat than the long-simmering motivations behind them.

La La Land
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Chazelle’s retro-glamorous and gloriously stylish “La La Land” has hit the highest of Oscar notes with 14 nominations, including a coveted nom for Chazelle for original screenplay. Tied with “Titanic” and the classic 1950 Bette Davis starrer “All About Eve” for the most nominations, Chazelle’s big-screen musical with soaring song-and-dance numbers and a bittersweet ending has drawn comparisons to “Singin’ in the Rain.” Critics have hailed Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as the updated versions of Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. Having already won the Golden Globe for screenplay and up for a Writers Guild Award, “La La Land,” with its snappy dialogue and clever lyrics, could stand to make a clean sweep come Oscar night, including another writing prize for Chazelle.

The Lobster
Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
The absurdist film imagines a future where singles have 45 days to couple up at The Hotel or face being turned into an animal of their choice. Colin Farrell sells the role as a mousy man marching toward an unavoidable fate, although an early scene has him memorably reacting to the news by the matter-of-fact hotel hostess that even if turned into an animal, he might still find a mate in the animal kingdom. He opts to try a love connection with a heartless woman who kills his brother/dog, an act that finally elicits strong emotion and homicidal tendencies from him. An escape allows him to perhaps find love with an equally desperate single. The “Sopranos”-like ending leaves us all wondering, haunted by the unanswered question regarding the man’s ultimate decision. “The Lobster” represents the dark horse in a field of strong contenders, with a slim chance at grabbing the gold.

Manchester by the Sea
Writer: Kenneth Lonergan
This brooding drama makes history as Amazon becomes the first streaming-video company to earn a best picture nomination. The critically acclaimed film also snagged noms in almost every major category, making it a major contender for a screenplay win. The melancholy film shows a very subtle change in the morose main character Lee (Casey Affleck), who manages a bit of humor to help douse his unrelenting depression. Fine acting helps the script, especially in the scenes between former couple Lee and Randi (Michelle Williams), who suffer an unimaginable personal tragedy. Randi has moved on with a new family, but her ex-husband cannot. She tries to talk to him after a chance encounter on the street, and the pain is palatable as he tries to shrink away from any absolution. Lee’s scenes with his late brother’s teen son range from slightly amusing to heartbreaking, each a small portrait that breathes life into this tortured soul.

20th Century Women
Writer: Mike Mills
The catalyst for this engaging film is Jamie, a teenage boy, fumbling through his emerging sexuality. But the emphasis is on the three women in his life — his mother (Annette Bening) and the two intriguing young women who essentially live with them (Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig). Using narration, archival footage, and special effects, the movie has a distinct look that separates it from this talented field. But it is the carefully crafted writing that stands out, allowing the characters to breath. In one scene, Jamie tries to connect with his mother by reading a book passage about older women and sexuality, and she pointedly asks him if that’s how he sees her. It’s awkward for both — a telling moment when a child tries connecting on an adult level with his parent. This film evokes all the emotions of being a woman, particularly a woman in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and it’s a theme that resonates loudly in a nation where millions of women took to the streets after President Trump’s inauguration. That might count for something when the ballots are marked.

More Film

  • Captain Marvel

    Box Office: 'Captain Marvel' Shatters $900 Million Milestone

    Brie Larson’s “Captain Marvel” continues to do heroic business. In its latest box office milestone, the female-fronted superhero tentpole zoomed past $900 million in ticket sales worldwide. “Captain Marvel” brought in a mighty $87 million globally this weekend, including $52 million from international territories. It has now generated $589 million overseas for a global haul [...]

  • Us - Lupita Nyong’o - cr:

    Box Office: Jordan Peele's 'Us' Stuns With $70 Million Opening Weekend

    Talk about scary good. Universal’s “Us,” the second directorial effort from Jordan Peele, pulled off a stunning debut, generating $70 million from 3,741 North American locations. That haul is enough to land it the second-best opening weekend of the year behind just Disney’s “Captain Marvel” ($153 million). The psychological thriller about a family confronted by [...]

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content