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Entries in Screenplays (101)

Wednesday
Dec172014

Female Screenwriter Tops 2014 Black List

Manuel here to share some of the best unproduced screenplays written by women (according to industry insiders).

The Black List, now in its tenth iteration, compiles an annual list of the most liked unproduced screenplays. Since 2004, some of the screenplays featured on here have gone on to become Oscar-winning films like Argo, Juno, and The King’s Speech, as well as modest successes like Lars and the Real Girl, Charlie Wilson’s War and 50/50. Even current Oscar-favorite The Imitation Game topped the list in 2011. Other titles like Recount, Things We Lost in the Fire, The Beaver and Snow White and the Huntsman have been featured. That is to say, it’s quite a mixed bag (this year includes a screenplay for Wonka, for example, “a dark, reimagining of the Willy Wonka story beginning in World War II and culminating with his takeover of the chocolate factory,” which… well, to each their own).

This is the first year a screenplay written by a woman has topped the list:

CATHERINE THE GREAT by Kristina Lauren Anderson
Sophia Augusta takes control of her life, her marriage, and her kingdom becoming Russia’s most celebrated and beloved monarch: Catherine the Great.

In terms of casting my mind immediately went to Keira Knightley but that might be the Anna Karenina flashbacks. Such beautiful, gorgeously designed flashbacks! While female monarch films (including former Black List entries, Grace of Monaco and The Other Boleyn Girl) have not been outright hits, wouldn't you love to see this on screen with... Alicia Vikander? Diane Kruger? Rebecca Hall? Who would you go with?

Though perhaps, like Elizabeth, this film would do well to introduce us to a fresh, exciting talent. A tall order, I know.

Three other female screenwriters made the Top Ten with decidedly genre entries: Aether (by Krysty Wilson-Cairns) is set in a near future London where a revolutionary technology can record sounds hours after they were made; Situation Comedy (by Cat Vasko) is about a young woman who stumbles into a mysterious courtyard where she is transported into a sitcom-like universe, becoming a major character on this “TV show,” and Tau (by Noga Landau) is about a woman held captive in the futuristic smart house of a serial kidnapper. Sadly, the rest of the list does not bear out that early promise. The full list of 70 scripts shared only features four other scripts written by women.

Do any of these films feel like the next Juno (still the most high profile female-written Black List vetted script)? Do you have any better suggestions as to who would/should play Catherine should Anderson’s film be produced?

Tuesday
Dec162014

Open Thread & Roundtable Madness

I have been comically beset by obstacles this year so even though I'm roughly three weeks behind, I have to laugh a little at the strange stumbles and ouchy falls and just go... okay, well then. This is an interesting view of the floor! (apologiez: Oscar chart editing functions are somewhat on the fritz. trying for workarounds to fix)

Angelina Jolie talking about directing plane crashes and visual effects. Mike Leigh, hilariously also in this shot.

One of the victims of this impossible season for me at least has been THR's roundtables. I literally haven't watched a single one of those sometimes highly enjoyable if aggravating celeb gatherings. Not even the Actress Roundtable! (I'm certain it was its vibe of "The Amy Adams Show: Episode 5"  that killed my will to press play on the only day I had 50 minutes free on weeks ago. Important distinction: Amy Adams the actress is often very exciting to watch. Amy Adams the celebrity is like wallpaper.)

So consider this an open thread in which you can complain about all the Oscar stories we haven't covered this past couple of weeks (the charts WILL be updates tomorrow, damnit) and which exact minutes of these roundtables you would recommend that everyone including your host here must watch RIGHT NOW. The Hollywood Reporters six awards season roundtables to date follow. All five plus hours of them in case you've missed one. Or all six like me.  Along with the videos after the jump are the single questions per roundtable that I am pretending they answered...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Dec132014

Team FYC: A Most Wanted Man for Best Adapted Screenplay

Editor's Note: We're nearing the end of our individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. Here's Amir on "A Most Wanted Man".

Anton Corbijn’s latest film, A Most Wanted Man, is one of the year’s best American films. It’s the type of work that is elevated above the trappings of its overly familiar genre with superb performances and intelligent observations on the real world conditions that give birth to its story. It is arguably the smartest film made about America’s increasingly troubled relationship with, and its definition of, terrorism. Yet, it is surprising to compare the film's screenplay, penned by Andrew Bovell, to its original source, the 2008 novel of the same name by John le Carré, and notice the dramatic improvement that the adaptation has made to the text. 

With densely plotted novels, particularly in the espionage genre, one of the biggest challenges of adaptation is the careful omission of narrative threads without disrupting the harmony or logic of the story. Le Carré’s book is one of his lesser works, a straightforward piece about Issa (Gregoriy Dobrygin), a Chechen fugitive in Hamburg, whose history of being tortured in his homeland is sufficient cause for authorities (German and American) to assume ties with terrorist organizations. Issa’s story is intertwined to three other protagonists who are afforded equal attention in the novel: a banker named Tommy Brue (Willem Defoe), a lawyer named Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) and a spy named Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman)...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Dec122014

Best Picture Predictions: Selma & Budapest on the Rise...

At this juncture in each film year, each week (hell, each day) brings another level of absurdity to the notion that anything is sure when it comes to Oscar. The awards table is constantly being shaken up and as soon as the pieces settle they're jostled again. All that and we're still almost three weeks away from actual Academy balloting for nominations.

you wish to have the curse reversed? get your screeners out first!

The tidal wave of awardage in early December reminds us once again that late December releases IF they are also late to screen can struggle. Still Alice and Cake, counter-examples, may be hiding from the public [ahem -grrr] but they premiered / screened regularly and early for the industry starting in September so their late arrivals haven't been a problem. Interstellar and Selma (both from Paramount) and A Most Violent Year (from A24) performed inconsistently without the benefit of awards screeners. Other late-to-screen releases (none of which have opened yet) including American Sniper, Into the Woods, Unbroken, and Big Eyes got screeners out but not in time for the SAG Nominating committee (from my understanding). Only Streep scored with a SAG nomination from those films.

And, let's face it, Into the Woods didn't even have to screen. Many many people in the world are willing to buy Meryl Streep on principal as Best even if they haven't yet seen whatever new character she's selling. (I wasn't joking when discussing her awards prospects on twitter when I said that only about once every 20 years do awards bodies en masse just decide to ignore her entirely in a given film year and we're not due for another one of those Brigadoon-like mystical occurences until 2024/2025. (If you're curious the last two times were Falling in Love in the 80s and Prime in the 00s)

Despite all the heat a Globe or SAG nomination or an LA / New York critics win can bring a film it's infinitely worth noting that Oscar balloting doesn't even begin until after Christmas so there are still important weeks ahead for all of these movies. In the end buzz only increases your likelihood that Academy members will watch your film. It doesn't necessarily mean that they'll like your film and vote for it. If you trust the precursors Whiplash isn't a threat for anything outside of Supporting Actor gold but I'm still willing to bet big on it in my predictions. At every industry event I've attended I've heard people speak of it with the kind of excitement that you can't buy with expensive PR pushes because the excitement is organic and personal taste driven. I'm not a huge fan of the film (though it has its moments and Damien Chazelle obviously has a big career ahead) but I hear actual love and not just respectful admiration when people talk about it and that is at least as good as, say, a Globe Best Picture Comedy or Musical nomination for Oscar heat, you know?

Best Picture is still something of a mystery, since we don't know how many nominees we will get or which of the 15 or so movies still in the running will be selected. We've had four completely consistent performers in the precursors that have already faced and won over both audiences and critics so you can lock them up: Birdman, Boyhood, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything. But beyond that? Anyone's guess. 

The Globe love-in for Selma and that totally deserved but still a wee bit surprising SAG Cast nomination for Grand Budapest Hotel are arguably the 2 biggest deal awards occurrences this week. If AMPAS voters haven't yet decided to screen either of those films, you can be sure they're going to.

More questions: Can Foxcatcher, Gone Girl, or Interstellar reheat cooling buzz? Can Unbroken, Into the Woods, American Sniper, and A Most Violent Year rally their fan bases in the next two to three weeks? (Successful opening weekends definitely won't hurt if they can muster them.) 

What other questions are you asking about the best picture race? 

SEE UPDATED OSCAR CHARTS:
PICTURE | DIRECTOR | SCREENPLAYS

Friday
Dec052014

Team FYC: The Babadook for Original Screenplay

Editor's Note: We're featuring individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, or Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Michael on The Babadook

Years of horror films have trained audiences how to guard against all the tricks of the genre, but Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook gets around those defenses and needles us in ways for which we aren't prepared. Kent understands that all great horror touches on some form of primal terror. Something deeper than the surface shocks. The Shining had our fear of isolation. Jaws had our helplessness in the face of nature's power. The Babadook taps into our dread of our own offspring. The fear that they might destroy our life and the fear that we may hate them. Kent’s film burrows so far under the skin you can practically hear it scrape against bone.

The Babadook's screenplay does so many things so effortlessly it’s easy to miss the scope of her achievement. Part of the reason the scares are so effective is that the film has been so convincingly grounded in reality before the horror elements creep in. If the haunting had never materialized the story could continue quite well as an affecting portrait of a struggling single mom. Kent also lands a killer ending, one that manages to leave the audience both satisfied and thoroughly unsettled. Count on your fingers how many other modern horror films pull off that trick and you will have enough digits left over to cover your eyes when The Babadook gets too terrifying.

The Babadook has been widely heralded as one of the best horror films of the new century, if not the best, yet it is all but certain to be ignored by the Academy. It deserves to join the slim ranks of Best Picture nominated horror titles alongside The Exorcist, Jaws and Silence of the Lambs, but since that is not going to happen, the least they can do is recognize Kent’s achievement in conceiving of Mr. Babadook in the first place. And after all, wouldn’t it be fitting if the story of a monster who lurks on the printed page found its recognition in the writing category?

Related
We talked to Jennifer Kent about her brilliant debut

Other FYCs 
Original Score, The Immigrant
Supporting Actress, Carrie Coon in Gone Girl
Visual FX, Under the Skin
Cinematography, The Homesman
Outstanding Ensembles

Sunday
Nov302014

Interview: Jennifer Kent on Her "Babadook" Breakthrough and What She Learned From "Dogville"

It's been a banner year for female directors. Two female directors have continually been in the Best Director Oscar discussion, they continue to make inroads in indie cinema (see the Spirit Award first feature and first screenplay citations!) and in many countries outside of the US. And that's not all. The year's most impressive debut stint behind the camera arguably belongs to Jennifer Kent (pictured left) whose controlled, creepy, beautifully designed and acted Australian horror film The Babadook has been winning raves. After a stint on Direct TV it's just hit US theaters, albeit only three of them. May it expand swiftly to unsettle every city.

When I spoke with Ms. Kent over the phone we were experiencing and ungainly time-lag and accidentally talking over one another. A time-lag also happened when I watched her movie the first time; its unique slow build had me more frightened after the movie finished than while I was watching it. It sticks. The tag line is true

You can't get rid of the Babadook.

I mention that I'm pre-ordering the Babadook book as I'm telling this story about how the movie continues to haunt me. "Then you'd better not," she says laughing as we begin our conversation about debut filmmaking, snobber towards horror films, what she learned from Lars von Trier, and the miracles of Essie Davis' lead performance.

 

NATHANIEL: Have you had a lot of weird reactions to the film?

JENNIFER KENT: Yeah, I have. I’ve had the gamut of reactions from people seeking a roller coaster ride with jolts and scares. They've been like  'Ripped off. This isn’t a horror film!' to people like yourself. What’s most surprising to me is -- more than a  couple of people have said ‘I really didn’t like but I saw it again.' Why would you see it again?  And then changing their minds about it. [More...]

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