Tag Archives: Peter Craig

OscarWatch: Best Screenplay

21 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. And we’re kicking things off with…

BEST SCREENPLAY

I’ll give my Top 20 screenplays of the year, though I won’t divide them between original or adapted screenplays, my brief thoughts on each and then how I think the two screenplay races may look this Tuesday, in no particular order.

As for the state of this race, I think the winner in the Best Adapted looks clear, and by this of course I mean The Social Network. Aaron Sorkin has been unstoppable thus far and he should continue his reign come the Academy Awards. And if someone can stop it then I’d say it probably would be Michael Arndt for Toy Story 3, but that won’t really happen.

As for the Best Original Screenplay race, things aren’t so clear-cut here to me. This one is a three-way race between Inception, The King’s Speech and The Kids Are All Right to me. If The King’s Speech ends up winning Best Picture then it’ll get this one, though it may still get it regardless. If the Academy wants to finally reward Christopher Nolan then they’ll do it in this category. And if neither of those scenarios happens then it’s The Kids Are All Right. Really really tough one to call, though, we’ll just have to wait and see who wins the WGA.

Personal Top 20:

  1. The Social Network (written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Ben Mezrich) – My second favorite film of the year had by far my favorite screenplay of the year. Written by Aaron Sorkin in his typical witty and fast-paced talky style this one was amazing.
  2. The Kids Are All Right (written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg) – This is a film with a lot of stand-out scenes, and while a lot of that is because of the amazing acting it has on display, it also has to do with just how impeccable the writing is.
  3. Toy Story 3 (written by Michael Arndt, based on the story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich) – When you talk to people about this film, male or female, eight or eighty, they’ll all tell you they loved it, and most will also tell you they cried. That’s a testament to fine script Michael Arndt crafted for Pixar’s latest.
  4. Black Swan (written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin, based on the story by Andres Heinz) – My favorite film of the year should definitely get nominated for an Academy Award for it’s intriguing and hypnotizing script which creates this mesmerizing tension that translated so beautifully to the screen.
  5. Inception (written by Christopher Nolan) – The year’s most mind-challenging film was written to perfection by its director. And it had to be for us to be able to follow the intricate plot and structure. For him to have been able to introduce so much character development considering how much was going on is a testament to his writing skills.
  6. Winter’s Bone (written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell) – I thought Winter’s Bone was a remarkable film, and the job it did at capturing to perfection the mood of its source material was tremendous.
  7. Blue Valentine (written by Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis) – Much like the film itself, this is a tough script, and a very original one, too. Grounded on some very raw emotions, this is just a very powerful screenplay, which, unfortunately, I don’t think will get much awards recognition.
  8. Somewhere (written by Sofia Coppola) – I may be biased here because of my undying love for Sofia Coppola, but I still really do think Somewhere has a beautiful script. I know many will say that that’s not really the case, because the script is really short and quiet, but what’s there is magic, just see the film if you don’t believe me.
  9. The King’s Speech (written by David Seidler) – David Seidler gets the trifecta of biopic scripts here. He makes it both informing about its historical figure, while still very moving and appealing to the masses.
  10. Rabbit Hole (written by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on his own play) – Adapting such a beautiful play was going to be a difficult task. Unless you were the one who wrote the play to begin with. David Lindsay-Abaire transfers perfectly the feel and mood of his Pulitzer-winning play from stage to screen.
  11. The Fighter (written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, based on the story by Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson and Keith Dorrington) – This is one very effective script, the writers took elements we’re all extremely familiarized with, and made them feel new and fresh within this real-life story.
  12. Never Let Me Go (written by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro) – My vote for the most under-appreciated film of all 2010. The screenplay by Alex Garland is moving and perfectly captures the dystopian atmosphere of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel.
  13. Another Year (written by Mike Leigh) – Mike Leigh’s at it again with this film, continuing his perfect observation of human psychology in a terrific film which explores the everyday lives of middle-class English people like only he can.
  14. 127 Hours (written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, based on the book by Aron Ralston) – This one very compelling script, of course aided by the fact that they had Aron Ralston, the movie’s subject, on hand to ask questions to. The power of the film, in which we remain with one person in one place for the majority of its duration comes not only from the great direction and acting, but also from this very good screenplay.
  15. The Town (written by Peter Craig, Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard, based on the novel by Chuck Hogan) – This was actually a pretty damn amazing film, and Ben Affleck, as we know, already has an Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon. Here he’s joined by two other writers and creates a great film that never uses any cheap tricks or clichés and that always feels extremely entertaining.
  16. True Grit (written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis) – The Coen brothers are amazing at adapting this novel and making it their own. The vocabulary fits well with their trademark sense of humor, and they do wonders with that language in this one.
  17. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (written by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright, based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley) – I’m a huge fan of the Scott Pilgrim novels, and as such I didn’t knew what to expect of the film that tried to encompass those precious little volumes into a film. I had to nothing to worry about, though, because the result was a superbly fun film, written to perfection by Edgar Wright, the graphic novels’ fanboy and film’s director, and Michael Bacall.
  18. Greenberg (written by Noah Baumbach, based on the story by himself and Jennifer Jason Leigh) – I’m a huge fan of every single letter, comma and any other splash of ink Noah Baumbach writes, and Greenberg is no exception. This is an amazing story here, full of very good lines (“Youth is wasted on the young”, says Ivan. To which Greenberg replies: “I’d go further. I’d go: Life is wasted on people”).
  19. Get Him to the Greek (written by Nichollas Stoller, based on the characters created by Jason Segel) – The year’s funniest script, the amount of amazing one-liners this one has is ridiculous. Just go light up a Jeffrey, or drink up some naughty water, or something, because you’re about to get your mind fucked.
  20. Get Low (written by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell, based on a story by Chris Provenzano and Scott Seeke) – There were some four or five films competing for my final slot in this Top 20, but I thought Get Low was the worthiest entry, there is some very fine writing on display here as well as a very original premise. It also helps its case that the words were uttered by top-notch actors.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order) – Best Original Screenplay

  • Black Swan (written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin)
  • The Fighter (written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson)
  • Inception (written by Christopher Nolan)
  • The Kids Are All Right (written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg)
  • The King’s Speech (written by David Seidler)

This would be, in my opinion, a very very solid field of nominees. I think four of these slots are all sewn up, with the fifth slot being a battle between The Fighter and Another Year. Who gets that final nod will be decided by how much love those films get, and as such, I’m guessing The Fighter will prevail.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order) – Best Adapted Screenplay

  • 127 Hours (written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, based on the book by Aron Ralston)
  • The Social Network (written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Ben Mezrich)
  • The Town (written by Peter Craig, Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard, based on the novel by Chuck Hogan)
  • Toy Story 3 (written by Michael Arndt, based on the story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich)
  • True Grit (written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis)

I think The Social Network, Toy Story 3 and True Grit are all locks. 127 Hours I’d probably count in the same category, too. Which means there’s only one slot that, according to me, is up for grabs. I think  the Academy will give it to The Town, since they won’t recognize Ben Affleck in the director category (by an inch) and will have to give him something here, though I’m expecting some fight from the Winter’s Bone screenplay.

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The Town

14 Oct

Title: The Town
Year: 2010
Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Ben Affleck, Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard based on the novel by Chuck Hogan
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use
Runtime: 125 min
Major Awards: 1 NBR Award
IMDb Rating: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

This film is being referred to as “Ben Affleck’s comeback”, and in many ways it is, it shows Mr. Affleck directing a seriously terrific film, co-writing a tremendously smart script, and headlining a fantastic cast. However, the comeback started in 2007, when Mr. Affleck first realized that he should direct and crafted the sublime Gone Baby Gone, that’s when the comeback started, and this is when the comeback is cemented, because Gone Baby Gone was a smaller sort of film, that, while critically acclaimed, made under $35 million, while The Town has already made more than $85 million, and still has legs in it.

But yes, calling The Town Mr. Affleck’s comeback is accurate enough, even though Gone Baby Gone was the first step, and it was a pretty perfect directorial debut, this one is a more confident effort and one in which Mr. Affleck also acts, which he didn’t do in his first attempt at directing, and in all honesty, this is the one shows that Mr. Affleck is a fine director and that he wasn’t a one-hit-wonder, he’s a man to be reckoned with.

The Town is many things, it has a very human side to it, but it’s all masked under the heist film aspect of it, and Mr. Affleck is such a good director that he truly makes you want with all your might that these bunch of criminals end up succeeding unscathed. And achieving that feeling as a director is something that’s easier said than done, and something that, if achieved, should be seen as a terrific accomplishment, and an accomplishment that Mr. Affleck in this one seems to get down rather effortlessly.

The film set in a part of Charlestown, in Mr. Affleck’s beloved Boston. And we are told that this is where the largest quantity of thieves and bank robbers in the nation live, and Mr. Affleck plays a second-generation bank robber, Doug McRay, the leader of a four-man clan who are pretty good at what they do, and the intricacies of the complex planning that goes into their jobs usually pay off. That is until, Jem, the wild one of the crew, played by a very efficient Jeremy Renner, breaks a rule and kidnaps a civilian in the heat of the moment during a job.

The civilian is Claire, played by Rebecca Hall, the fantastic British actress who also appeared in this year’s very good Please Give, and who I’m hoping will be better known to American audiences after her role in this one. But anyways, kidnapping Claire is a pivotal part of the film because, after releasing her shortly after Jem impulsively takes her, they find out Claire lives in town, and so Doug decides to check up on her, to meet her and find out if she saw any faces or heard anything she shouldn’t have. But then of course, he starts liking her, and she starts liking him back, her not knowing who he really is, him not really telling her.

And so we have to deal with how that makes Doug feel, how he starts reconsidering everything after meeting Claire. All of while there’s an FBI team, led by Jon Hamm’s character, plus some terrific scenes with Doug’s father, played by an outstanding Chris Cooper. This really is a film that has a bit of everything, and you can tell it has a lot to do with how good Mr. Affleck is as a director.

Many actors have done the transition into filmmaking, a few of them scoring Oscars in the process, and I think that, even though he’s only done two films, Mr. Affleck has already joined the best people in that list, he’s right up there with Ron Howard and Clint Eastwood as the best actors-turned-directors in my list. His directorial talents are on full display in The Town, and it shows how he, being one himself, is so good working with other actors. He gets amazing performances from everyone, even from Blake Lively who I was kinda nervous for, while managing to keep the pacing of the film fantastically, and delivering an overall great end result.

I went into The Town being ready to embrace it, mostly because I had seen and adored Gone Baby Gone when it came out, but I ended up loving The Town for different reasons, this one, while still very human, just isn’t as emotionally charged as the former, it’s a film that’s larger and more intricate in scope, and that deals with more than one thing, but that still retains the directorial vision Mr. Affleck presented us with on his debut.

Now, I feel like I’ve spent most of this review talking about how good a director Mr. Affleck is, and rightfully so because he’s tremendous. But let’s talk about the acting for a while, here’s a guy that is, to me, rather underrated as an actor. Sure, that’s mostly because people like to remember Gigli, which was a trainwreck, but the guy has given solid performances in films like Hollywoodland and Shakespeare in Love, but those were certainly more supporting performances, and I think that in this one he gives the best leading performances he’s given to date. Not to mention that absolutely everyone in this film gets the accent right, and I don’t think there’s been many Boston-set films in which every actor gets that accent right.

I really loved The Town, I thought the romance part of it was balanced incredibly well because it gave a gentler side to the violence of it all, and it was the window into Mr. Affleck’s character. This is a very tense film, that finds Mr. Affleck giving, as I said, the best lead performance of his career yet, and surrounding himself with other actors at the top of her game, Chris Cooper as I said was terrific in his short role, Jon Hamm was as poised as always, providing a really put-together antidote to the crime side of the tale, Jeremy Renner, in a role really different from last year’s star-making turn in The Hurt Locker, was seriously rivetting as Jem, Rebecca Hall was also unbelievable, and even Blake Lively ended up giving a really solid performance.

That should be enough for you to know just how great The Town is, and should be enough to convince anyone that Ben Affleck is the real deal as a director and as an actor. Here’s to him, and hopefully this one will get the Best Picture nomination I think it deserves come Oscar time.

Grade: A+