Last Sunday, the Writers Guild of America announced the winners of the 69th Annual WGA Awards. Although based on an unproduced play, Moonlight was placed in the Original Screenplay category and beat out Hell or High Water, La La Land, Loving, and Manchester By The Sea. For Adapted Screenplay, my favorite movie of the year, Arrival, took home the prize over Deadpool, Fences, Hidden Figures, and Nocturnal Animals. These are all worthy films to be honored for their writing, but the Academy chose to shake up the writing categories a bit. For the 89th Academy Awards, Moonlight was placed in the Best Adapted Screenplay category this time and will battle Arrival on Sunday. Here’s who I’m rooting for.
For Best Adapted Screenplay, the Academy nominated Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, and Moonlight.
This list is comprised of better, stronger screenplays and is the tighter race. Arrival won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Adapted Screenplay but was left off the list of nominees at the Golden Globes. Eric Heisserer, mostly known for horror films, created a new language for the film. That alone deserves an Oscar! In what is arguably the biggest twist in 2016 cinema, the story examines how we fear and hate what we don’t understand. By the end of this topical tale about language, you’ll find yourself questioning the decisions you make in life. Since Moonlight is considered an adapted screenplay now, it now battles Arrival for the win. It’s quite good but not as smart as Arrival. I appreciate seeing homosexuality addressed in an environment where it is not accepted, but we’ve seen this before in Brokeback Mountain. The other contenders in this race are strong aside from Fences, which I find to be a close copycat to the play of the same name.
Who Should Win: ARRIVAL (Eric Heisserer)
Honorable Mention: MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins)
For Best Original Screenplay, the Academy nominated Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, and 20th Century Women.
Damien Chazelle (La La Land) tied with Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea) for Best Original Screenplay at the Critics’ Choice Awards, but he took the sole screenplay prize at the Golden Globes. Although I praise Chazelle for creating a beautiful film, La La Land is not as great as Chazelle’s previous film, Whiplash. It’s built so much momentum from its previous accolades that it’s the front runner to win Best Picture, but only two of those original songs are great and, although it doesn’t end happily, I didn’t leave the theater as sad as I left Moulin Rouge! or as satisfied like I did with Chicago. Manchester By The Sea has a simple plot, but is driven by strong characters. The writing is wonderful and is expressed in much of the dialogue and visible in the character arcs. The script takes the lead character (Casey Affleck) and drags him through his journey as he takes on the role of the guardian of his nephew. Best Supporting Actor nominee Lucas Hedges even deserves the Oscar over front runner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight).
Who Should Win: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Kenneth Lonergan)
Honorable Mention: HELL OR HIGH WATER (Taylor Sheridan)
Who would you like to see win in these categories?