The Fifties for 2010: Best Screenplays
For Original Screenplay...
David Michôd for Animal Kingdom, for pulling out consistent surprises about who does what, who dies when, and who about-faces, yet emotion and vision outweigh shock value;
Giorgos Lanthimos for Dogtooth, who under-exploits certain threads (the misapplied words) but achieves a doomed, tragicomic synthesis from what seems like a loose structure;
Maren Ade for Everyone Else, who parses relations so finely and knows her characters so well that she conveys as many planes of tension as there are people in each scene;
Noah Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh for Greenberg, who avoid stagnation despite a protagonist whom everyone justifiably repudiates and a co-lead who both baffles and elicits our sympathy; and
Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich for Toy Story 3, who don't just work around 2's tied-up finale but turn resuscitation itself into a blessing and curse: greater ecstasies, graver reckonings.
Honorable mentions to Bong Joon-ho and Park Eun-kyo for the crazy, purple melodrama of Mother. Christopher Nolan deserves mention for the ambitions and imagination of Inception, as do Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg for the humor, warmth, and fraught relationships in The Kids Are All Right, even if both scripts wind up selling themselves short. Their peaks surpassed those of Frédéric Mermoud and Pascal Arnold for Accomplices and Mia Hansen-Løve for The Father of My Children, although those two were more lived-in and consistent, and in many ways more involving.
For Adapted Screenplay...
Robert Harris and Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer, who can't avert late-film diminishing returns, but who concoct ingenious scenarios of tension, both when Ewan acts savvy and when he doesn't;
Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders for How To Train Your Dragon, who capture a playful euphoria and the sensitive intuitions between two lonely kids, scaly and not; climax problems, but foot reveal is deft;
Thomas Bidegain and Jacques Audiard for A Prophet, whose carceral coming-of-age ends much as you'd expect, but the scenes along the way bristle and thrill: the hidden razor, the blazing ghost;
Alex Reval and Laurent Herbiet for Wild Grass, who give Resnais great ingredients to spice: not the opposed realities of early works, but characters who feel incompatible with themselves; and
Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini for Winter's Bone, who don't balk at the mythic structures or mannered dialogue, but who ground their story in a vivid envelope of noir, gallows humor and all.
Honorable mentions are few, when I already feel lukewarm about Wild Grass. John Requa and Glenn Ficarra came close to displacing it, if only I Love You Phillip Morris felt less gimmicky, and let the unexpected character relationships really drive the plot more than a saturating impulse to tickle and shock us. Plus, the film might never open. The Secret in Their Eyes is too soapy and over-conceived and Green Zone too naïvely wish-fulfilling to rate here.