PGCMAs: Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay (2014)

Posted: February 13, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” SimpsonPGCMA 2014*The above image represents 2013’s PGCMA Best Director and Best Picture winner; Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.

Best Original Screenplay

Damien Chazelle, Whiplash: This is a very straight-forward movie that doesn’t have any major twists. Instead, the script for Whiplash finds its strength in deep characterization and a thorough understanding of the environment the film depicts. Chazelle has said the film is based on his own experiences in a jazz band and this certainly feels legit. More importantly, the two main characters feel very fleshed out.

Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler: Part of what makes Nightcrawler so special is the novelty of exploring a career never shown on film. I never thought about where news stations get their footage, but this shows it’s actually an interesting world. The characters are also strong with the dynamic between Lou and Nina being particularly rewarding.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo, Birdman: Usually a bunch of names on a screenplay is a bad sign, but you never get a sense of a lack of vision in Birdman. This script is full of memorable quotes and really amusing dialogue. Additionally, the film is able to explore some very interesting themes and comments on the contemporary state of art in a way that feels insightful and lacking pretension.

Richard Linklater, Boyhood: Boyhood is a film which is lacking major plotlines and grand arcs, but that’s kind of the point. The film is built on small, honest moments which feel completely real. The dialogue is well-written at all age points and the subtle character arcs are masterfully handled.

Paul Webb and Ava Duvernay, Selma: Paul Webb and Ava Duvernay’s first correct decision was the one to focus on a specific moment in Martin Luther King’s time rather than the entire scope of his life. The real highlight though are the behind closed doors scenes which show King debating with various politics, notably President Lyndon B. Johnson. These scenes are great and the dialogue is really strong.

And the winner is…

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Richard Linklater, BoyhoodBoyhood

Capturing subtle human interaction and putting it on screen in an interesting but still honest factor is not easy, and Linklater deserves credit for filling Boyhood with such genuine humanity. Beyond that, Linklater does a great job subtly transforming these characters and he knows when to employ bigger moments as well as when to scale back.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice: Inherent Vice didn’t meet the extremely lofty expectations Anderson has set for himself, but there’s plenty to admire. Anderson creates a lot of very distinct characters and while the story isn’t totally understandable, Anderson still takes the audience on a fun ride.

Andrew Bovell, A Most Wanted Man: What works best about Bovell’s script is the restraint he shows. The characters are all subdued, the actual spy material is grounded, and the film touches on very relevant issues without forcing it. It’s probably the least showy of the nominees, but it works very well.

Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn also wrote the novel of which Gone Girl was based so she clearly has an understanding of the material. You can tell the film is based on a novel too as the script does not conform to a conventional structure with constant twists changing the dynamic of the story. The film also has some great dialogue and the plot is pretty damn engrossing.

Simon Kinberg, X-Men: Days of Future Past: Simon Kinberg is very much a studio writer who often works on scripts purely for work. You can tell however that Days of Future Past was a special endeavour for him. He is able to combine the two casts of the X-Men franchise very well, delivers on some poignant moments, and is able to weave the action in with the story very well.

Chris Miller and Phil Lord, The Lego Movie: The Lego Movie has been one of the hardest films to categorize from this award. The story isn’t really based on anything except a toy, but so many of the characters are based on pre-existing characters. I probably could have leaned toward Original, but given how Batman is one of the film’s main characters, I decided to go with adapted. The film takes a lot of these famous personalities and does some really fun things with them while simultaneously telling a fun story with deeper messages than one would expect.

And the winner is…

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Gillian Flynn, Gone Girlgone girl

The twisty nature of the plot alone is quite the accomplishment, but the fact is Flynn’s script succeeds in a number of areas. The dialogue, despite feeling “written”, is very memorable and I think the film does a great job playing in the area of “trashy” fun while still being written for intelligent people. In fact the way the script is able to commentate on marriage and the court of a public opinion is a big part of the movie’s appeal.

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