Mike Mills for Beginners
The quirky veneer would absolutely crumble if not for the deeply universal, human truth lying underneath it. The scenes between Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer are some of the most wrenching and honest of the year.
Sean Durkin for Martha Marcy May Marlene
Operates as both a fascinating character study of an emotionally scarred young woman and as the creepiest thriller of the year. The screenplay's two-ply structure (life in the cult vs. life at the lake house) is handled superbly.
Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan for Shame
Structurally, it's not as tight as some of the other nominees, but damn if McQueen doesn't make up for that with deeply interesting, truthfully written scenes of human interaction. Broken record, I know, but
Brandon and Marianne's date scene contains some of the year's best writing.
Andrew Haigh for Weekend
The dialogue is rich with insight into the dynamic between Russell and Glen that seems so real, yet has never been portrayed on screen this way. An unfussy yet truthful distillation of two very different ideas of male homosexuality.
Diablo Cody for Young Adult
Cody has had less of an uphill battle with me than she does with the rest of the world. I maintain Juno as an example of great writing (if a little slow going in the beginning) and her work on United States of Tara was top drawer. Here, she creates a tapestry of unlikeable characters and does so with her signature humor, ear for great dialogue with just the right amount of humanity and honesty. That she manages to do so almost every time out without creating work that seems like carbon copies of one another makes me value her all the more.
Adapted Screenplay Nominees...
Hossein Amini fo Drive (Based on James Sallis’s novel of the same name by)
So deliciously visual and specific, yet still clearly conceived of on the page. Refn’s direction elevates much of the script, certainly, but Amini’s balance of character deepening and economic storytelling go a long way.
Pedro Almodóvar for The Skin I Live In (Based on the novel “Tarantula” by Thierry Jonquet)
Not so much for the handling of the mystery, which is dolled out in somewhat odd pieces throughout the narrative, but for how well the scene construction and characterization transcends the stylish veneer to hit very rewarding emotional beats.
Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian for Moneyball (Based on the book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis)
Two of the industry’s highest regarded screenwriters somehow manage to coalesce very different styles on a project plagued with development problems in service of adapting a tricky, non-fiction story that doesn’t inherently lend itself to the cinematic moments birthed in Moneyball.
Rory Stewart Kinnear and Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk About Kevin (Based Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name)
The script makes for a unique, auterist approach to the text managing to be at once a clearly distinguishable Lynne Ramsay film (why doesn’t she work more often?) and a recognizable representation of the novel. Adaptations need not always be cut-and-paste renderings of their source (paging Taylor, Faxon and Rash…).
Apichatpong Weerasethakul for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Loosely Inspired by “A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives” by Phra Sripariyattiweti)
Of these nominees, it is one that I saw least recently, but it still burns bright in my memory. So uniquely constructed, yet imbued with so much depth and sympathy for its characters. A seemingly abrupt change in both setting and rhythm towards the late middle strangely insulates the two halves of the narrative against one another in a way that’s fascinating, if it doesn’t entirely work. A revisit is certainly warranted.