Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Best of 2007: Original Screenplay

It's impossible to follow a commemorative post, written in the aftermath of such a premature and uncanny death, and not feel complicit in some enormous cultural process of turning around and moving on. But, with final respects to those who actually knew Heath Ledger, and with due acknowledgment that my onlooker's sorrow isn't anything like their intimate grief, I of course am moving on: moving on, at least, to keep celebrating the same art form that he sustained and celebrated, which is, after all, the root and reason for the unexpectedly emotional claim that yesterday's news had on me, and on so many of us.

So: I don't agree with the perennial axiom that a great movie starts with a great script. Not all great movies have great scripts; most scripts are rewritten and retro-fitted during filming; it's impossible for a filmgoer to parse the screenwriter's labor from spontaneous improvisation, or from the re-architecture of editing, or the other happy accidents of filming. I'm more likely to love a movie for its cinematography or its editing than for its script—but I do, of course, still thrill to the artistry of a great screenplay. And from the best of what I can tell, even in relation to one nominee that doesn't even have a credited script, the arc, the words, the sequencing, and the structure of these five films fully warrant our warmest admiration.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Dave said...

Surprised- but glad!- to see Deep Water there. It felt much more filmic than most documentaries, especially in, as you mentioned, its sense of character. It wasn't simply recounting a story but was interested in what the story did to the people involved. (Also, when read by Tilda, it just sounded gorgeous, don't you think?)

It also happens, by unlucky coincidence, to be the only one of your choices I've seen, so I'm avoiding reading those comments for fear of spoilers (I refuse to read more about Juno until I've seen it! *sticks fingers in ears/eyes*).

10:43 AM, January 24, 2008  
Blogger tim r said...

STILL haven't seen Juno -- strenuous labour in the UK or what? -- but I of course agree with you about 4 Months, Before the Devil, and Deep Water, and I'd throw in two out of Conversations with Other Women, The Gigolos, 2 Days in Paris and Funny Ha Ha.

I caught up with Day Night Day Night last week, and I have to say that, terrifically directed though it was, I wasn't as bowled over as I was expecting. Unlike in United 93 I really felt a lack of context, and the script's refusal to provide any felt to me like more of a nervous escape route than a productive artistic choice. I guess we'll talk about this more soon. It was coming in at about a B, for me.

11:04 AM, January 24, 2008  
Blogger tim r said...

I appreciate, by the way, that it must seem I simply didn't get the movie's biggest gambit there, but that was pretty much my experience of it. Not getting it. I think we're left with something undeniably tense but thinly "universal", and even though that affect has got to be the whole point of the movie, I kind of don't see the point, and I'm troubled by the ways the movie lets itself off the hook in the process. Truth be told, I'm still grappling with it, and may well have another go.

11:19 AM, January 24, 2008  
Blogger Cal said...

I haven't seen any of your nominees :-( .. although I'll catch 4 Months, 3 Weeks.. tomorrow, which I'm excited about!!
However, 2 Days In Paris is in my current top five. I really liked it. Probably because so much of it feels as neurotic as Delpy's Celine in Before Sunrise/Sunset, so it kinda of makes me hope that she's actually like that in real life. Haha. Plus it has that amazing bit with the Republican codebreakers. Magic.

4:17 PM, January 24, 2008  
Anonymous steve said...

I still haven't seen 4 months yet. It looks like I'll have to wait for DVD unless it comes to Boston.

That in mind, my choices would be:

2 Days in Paris
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Juno
Knocked Up
The Wind that Shakes the Barley

With major condolences to Once.

5:05 PM, January 24, 2008  

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