Baseball Toaster Screen Jam
One Chance for Borat
2007-01-31 09:16
by Jon Weisman

As part of a pre-preview of the Oscars in Variety, here's my pre-preview of the adapted screenplay race:

By nabbing an adapted screenplay nom, Sacha Baron Cohen and friends pulled one last reveal on the moviegoing public -- and once more, forced people to rethink their Oscar-night expectations.

Plenty of folks weren't even aware "Borat" had a screenplay until it received a Writers Guild nom. (The Golden Globes, which provided the forum for Cohen's memorable comedy actor acceptance speech, did not offer the same.) According to the L.A. Times, Cohen said he sent 20th Century Fox a five-page outline but secretly had retained a 60-page blueprint and goals for each scene.

Having earned a nomination with what amounts to an anticampaign in the category, all kinds of momentum could build for "Borat" now, considering that this is the pic's only nom. As the notion that the film was scripted gains traction, perhaps all that "Borat" has to fear is one last backlash from those who fell in love with the film believing it was seat-of-the-pants improvisation.

Well, that or the fact that the category brings other strong contenders to the table.

While speculation unsurprisingly centered on Martin Scorsese's chances of winning his long-awaited directing Oscar for "The Departed," screenwriter William Monahan quietly dominated pre-Oscar kudos, earning 10 nominations (including WGA) and five wins. "Borat" might be the brash Ali in this fight, but "Departed" could be the power-punching Frazier that scores the victory by decision.

The little people, meanwhile, will be rooting for "Little Children" -- adapted by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta from Perrotta's novel -- which scored early victories with reviewers before getting lost in the shuffle once another "Little" movie, "Little Miss Sunshine," put its Oscar campaign into overdrive. Separated here from the original screenplay of "Sunshine," "Little Children" might find salvation as the underdog. Field and Perrotta produced a script that felt like great literature, and Field stands as the only previous Oscar nom in the category.

A film that had adapted screenplay candidacy written all over it, "Notes on a Scandal" will also be reckoned with. Patrick Marber's pages gained wide appreciation for delivering melodrama in the best sense of the word. With Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett garnering acting noms, there is a solid base of support for the film.

Beyond "Borat," the biggest surprise nomination in this category was "Children of Men," a work many observers regarded as a triumph of Alfonso Cuaron's direction and Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography more than the script, which took on a fair share of nitpicking. The film has graced many top-10 lists, and a win here would be a sweet victory for those who think it might've been shortchanged elsewhere. ...

2007-01-31 12:41:04
1.   Benaiah
I think this is the most interesting major category. I think Best Picture is going to go to The Departed (sorry Jon, I know you are rooting for LMS) and LMS will get a Sideways consolation prize in the "Best Original Screenplay" category. This category has some heavyweights in it. I wish Children of Men had a shot (and I imagine you are hoping Little Children has one) but I would bet heavily on either Borat or The Departed.

Borat is the movie of the year, as far as cultural significance goes. It was incredibly popular, profitable and talked about, and this is its only nomination. I would love to see Sasha Baron Cohen give an Oscar speech, so I have my fingers crossed.

However, if I had a vote, I would probably vote for The Departed. That was one of the best written movies I have seen in a long time. The dialogue was fantastic. Matt Damon's flirting and Mark Wahlberg's bad cap approach especially jump out. Beyond that, the plot was fast and gripping, there were some nice devices (the envelope, the parallel story lines between Damon and Leo and, though I might be in the minority, the Guignol ending).

I personally think the acting categories will play out exactly like the SAG awards and I would be SHOCKED if Marty didn't win Best Director, so this is the one major category to watch.

2007-01-31 13:00:20
2.   Jon Weisman
Though I liked it, I'm not even convinced Little Miss Sunshine should have been nominated for Best Picture. Little Children, United 93, The Last King of Scotland and The Queen are in my top four, with Little Miss Sunshine or Letters from Iwo Jima fifth depending on my mood.
2007-01-31 14:06:20
3.   Benaiah
I remember now, you were hoping for a nomination for LMS, but you mentioned that those were your favorites. I think The Last King of Scotland and The Queen will both get Best Acting wins, but leave empty handed (besides something minor I may be forgetting) other than that. I thought Letters was powerful, but it may get lost in the shuffle (plus, hasn't Clint Eastwood won enough? I mean really).

I was hoping for a Best Actor nod for Sasha Baron Cohen, but the Academy is a little stuffy for that.

2007-02-01 13:17:13
4.   Marty
I guess I have to work on my acceptance speech.

Oh, you mean Scorsese.

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