Thursday, February 14, 2013

For Your Consideration: Last Pleas

We are but ten short days away from the 85th Academy Awards and in the true thick of it all.  Final ballots are due back by Tuesday, and as we reach the finality of this nutty year in the awards landscape, all the stops are going out in order to make sense of, what truly feels like the most open Oscar race in some time, if perhaps ever.  And while personally, we all grasp the category and finalist that we want to trump and champion for, the one race, in my eyes, that I find the most compelling, the most to pin down and the most irritating comes in that for Best Adapted Screenplay.  The nominees are:

  • Argo- Chris Terrio
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild- Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
  • Life of Pi- Chris Magee
  • Lincoln- Tony Kushner
  • Silver Linings Playbook- David O. Russell

A fairly strong line-up with the race whittled down to three potentials-- Argo, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook.  However, in my view, nothing tops Kushner's achievement in taking Lincoln and turning into a great American play of politics, all in the guise of a dressed up biopic.  His language is something akin to great poetry and it's fortunate that the actors in Lincoln are capable and bold and grand enough to make it appear as light as they do.  Aside from that, I believe it's the strength of Kushner's great American work that forced director Steven Spielberg to be at his most restrained, forcing the power of the language and the content to be front and center.  The accomplishment, depth, understanding and the power to not just rip away at rusty co-webs in cementing Lincoln as a reverent, but also timeless creation is truly a testament to Kushner, one of the great Americans writers of our time, but that his work is also by extension, funny and witty and not all in any way a chore, or viewed as homework should be all but enough for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to all but hand him the Oscar.

Of course, it's not as simple as that, as the politics of Oscar campaigning are nearly as ruthless and cutthroat (not to mention as costly) as that of a gubernatorial race.  And this is where things get a little tricky.  As Best Adapted Screenplay seems to hew closely to this years Best Picture race, of which Argo by now must be valued as the unstoppable machine due to its circuitous post-Oscar nomination stumble and quick rebound with the PGA, DGA and at BAFTA.  That leaves the at first if only paper frontrunner Lincoln relegated to also-ran status, with perhaps Best Actor being that films only true thing.  The question behind this is that Argo, a certified winners circle crown member at this stage, can't possibly just be honored with Best Picture, something else will have to follow.  Chris Terrio's tight and economical script seems the easiest second get, coupled with what's assured to be an easy Writers Guild get come this Saturday, which would follow the near guild sweep, as well as last weekend's USC Scripter win for Argo.  The reasoning behind this: well Kushner will already be honored by the WGA this weekend with the Paul Selvin Award, which in my view, can be seen as a make-up honor by a branch that foresees an Argo victory ahead.  But Kushner's so good-- he can't possibly just leave empty handed-- not from writers at least.

There's another wild card, a slipperier one, that might stand in way of a Lincoln victory with Adapted Screenplay.  That comes in the flakier form of Silver Linings Playbook, which surprisingly took home the prize at the BAFTAs last weekend.  While questionable in some corners, it's absolutely true that the film is loved, and in nearly the same token as Argo, appears as one of the films of 2012 in which most can agree upon as well-liked-- sometimes more important than being loved.  While the campaign for Silver Linings, upon a last stand for the Weinstein Company, has pulled out the stops trying to trump the film as not the lightweight romantic comedy in which it is, but a avid, heart warmer about mental illness.  This feels a bit thorny, even if it's been orchestrated by the master of Oscar campaigners, but still, I wonder if all this last minute trumping might go towards a Silver Linings favor in a few categories come ten days from now.

So what is left of Lincoln...I plea for the members of the Academy to do the right thing here and remember the great American treasure that not only is Tony Kushner, but in his tremendous achievement for Lincoln, which will stand the test of time regardless of what ever occurs on February, 24th.

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