Monday, January 16, 2017

2016's Award-Worthy Screenplays

All the movie award shows have a category (sometimes two) for Best Screenplay. Do the voters actually read the screenplays and factor in writing style and formatting when they vote? Almost definitely not. They generally vote based on the finished film’s plot, structure, and dialogue.

Nevertheless, the studios do make the screenplays of their top awards contenders available to voters through websites that anyone can access for free. Seeing a finished film does not always tell you what the writer’s contribution was. So go ahead and click on the links below and download all these scripts while they’re still online, then read them and tell us in the comments which ones you think will or should get nominations or awards.

Bleecker Street's 2016 Top Screenplay Award Contenders
Founded in 2014 by former Focus Features CEO Andrew Karpen, Bleecker Street Media received its first Oscar nomination, in the Best Actor heat, for Bryan Cranston's performance in 2015's Trumbo. This year they are hoping for Oscar recognition in the Best Original Screenplay category for the terrorist thriller Eye in the Sky, the alternative parenting drama Captain Fantastic, and the World War II thriller Anthropoid, and in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for the Holocaust denier courtroom drama Denial.

Universal Pictures' 2016 Top Screenplay Award Contenders
One of Hollywood's major studios, the 104-year-old Universal Pictures scored a Best Original Screenplay nod last year for Straight Outta Compton. This year their fingers are crossed for the Coen Brothers' Hail, Caesar! and the animated hits The Secret Life of Pets and Sing in the Best Original Screenplay category, and the sequels Bridget Jones's Baby and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and the adaptation of The Girl on the Train in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Note: The original My Big Fat Greek Wedding was nominated for Best Original Screenplay in 2003.

Walt Disney Studios' 2016 Top Screenplay Award Contenders
Eligible films in the Best Screenplay categories from Walt Disney Studios include Finding Dory, Moana, The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War, Queen of Katwe, Dr. Strange, and Rogue One. However, Disney has chosen to make only one screenplay available this year for awards consideration: Zootopia by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston, with six additional writers receiving story credit. The studio had two nominations last year in the Best Original Screenplay category (Bridge of Spies and Inside Out). Pixar features have garnered a total of eight screenwriting Oscar nods, but, excluding Miramax releases, the only Disney-distributed script to ever win the gold was 1989's Dead Poets Society.

Fox Searchlight's 2016 Top Screenplay Award Contenders
Fox Searchlight, the art-house branch of 20th Century Fox, has an excellent track record in the Academy's screenwriting categories, picking up seven writing trophies in the last 11 years (Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Slumdog Millionaire, The Descendants, 12 Years a Slave, and Birdman), with six more nominations for scribes in the same period. This year they offer screenplay downloads for Nate Parker's slave revolt drama, The Birth of a Nation, and their First Lady biopic, Jackie, for the consideration of Academy members, both in the Best Original Screenplay category.

Focus Features' 2016 Top Screenplay Award Contenders
Universal's indie branch, Focus Features, was last in the running for a writing Oscar for 2014's The Theory of Everything (adapted). They previously won Best Original Screenplay trophies for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Milk (2008), and had Adapted Screenplay triumphs with The Pianist (2002) and Brokeback Mountain (2005). This year's hopefuls, available for download, are the animated feature Kubo and the Two Strings (original), interracial marriage drama Loving (adapted, though considered original by the WGA), dark fantasy A Monster Calls (adapted) and Tom Ford's thriller, Nocturnal Animals (adapted).

Sony Pictures Classics' 2016 Top Screenplay Award Contenders
Sony Pictures Classics has a full dozen screenplay contenders available for download: (original) The Comedian, financial thriller Equity, The Hollars, Dutch drama Land of Mine, Rebecca Miller's Maggie's Plan, The Meddler, jazz biopic Miles Ahead, German comedy Toni Erdmann, and The Red Turtle, an animated feature with no dialogue; and (adapted) French psychological thriller Elle, Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light, and Pedro Almodóvar's Julieta. Their last Oscar-winning screenplay was Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (original, 2011). Recent nominations include Blue Jasmine, Foxcatcher, Before Midnight, and Whiplash.

Amazon Studios' 2016 Top Screenplay Award Contenders
Amazon Studios is aiming for their first invitation to the Oscars this year. Up for consideration are Love & Friendship, an adaptation of Jane Austen's Lady Susan, and, in the original screenplay category, Kenneth Longergan's front runner, Manchester by the Sea, whose screenplay has already racked up over 15 awards from critics organizations and 20 more writing nominations, with the film appearing on over 50 ten-best lists for 2016. Other scripts from the startup studio that are eligible but not currently available at Amazon's guild site include Woody Allen's period romance Café Society and Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon (my personal favorite of the year).
Founded in 1912, Paramount Pictures took home the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar last year for The Big Short. Other recent writing nominations for the studio include The Fighter, Hugo, Flight, The Wolf of Wall Street, and, from the Paramount Vantage label, Nebraska. This year Paramount plans to compete with their extraterrestrial linguistics spectacular, Arrival, a period garbage-man drama, Fences, and Martin Scorsese's historical religious epic, Silence, all in the Adapted Screenplay category. Also eligible, but not available for download, are Florence Foster Jenkens and Allied.
Another of the "Big Six" studios, Warner Bros. has only one script available for Oscar consideration this year: the heroic airline pilot biopic Sully, based on its subject's autobiography. They previously won consecutive writing Oscars for Argo (2012, adapted) and Her (2013, original). Other recent writing nominations for the studio included The Artist, Inception, American Sniper, and Inherent Vice.
The Weinstein brothers ran notoriously successful Oscar campaigns with their previous company, Miramax. Success has followed them to The Weinstein Company with Oscar statuettes for the writers of The King's Speech (2010, original), Django Unchained (2012, original), and The Imitation Game (2014, adapted), with nominations for the scribes of Silver Linings Playbook, Philomena, and Carol. This year, the Weinsteins are crossing their fingers for two original screenplays based on true stories, McDonald's founder biopic The Founder and mining-scam drama Gold, another true story adapted from a non-fiction book, the lost-child drama Lion, and an original musical comedy from Ireland, Sing Street (another personal favorite of mine).
Finally, A24, another newcomer, hot off their first nominations last year, for Best Original screenplay (Ex Machina) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Room, which gave the distributor its first Oscar win, for Best Actress). Downloadable for Oscar consideration are the screenplays for this year's Golden Globe winner for Best Picture - Drama, Moonlight, adapted from a play, and the original, semi-autobiographical period comedy from Mike Mills, 20th Century Women.

Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday, January 24.

Nominations went to six of the screenplays mentioned above (Manchester by the Sea, 20th Century Women, Arrival, Fences, Lion, and Moonlight). We found two additional nominated scripts online. Get 'em while they're hot. They may not be there forever.

Hell or High Water (original)
Hidden Figures (adapted)

2016 Oscar Nominations: Best Screenplay
Oscar Nominations: Best Original Screenplay (2015)
Oscar Nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay (2015)
Recap: Who Will Win the Best Screenplay Oscars (2014)