The Grouches have plowed their way through all of the films nominated for the big eight awards. Now we make the case for which film or performance we WANT to win. Doesn’t mean we think it will win or even have a shot at winning. But if we had a vote on the nominees, here’s who we would pick, and why:

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY NOMINEES: Juno, Lars and the Real Girl, Michael Clayton, Ratatouille, The Savages

JOHN

For a category with an obvious front-runner, this is a tough choice for me. I liked Lars and the Real Girl, but its characters and dialogue didn’t strike home for me the way they did in the other nominated films. Ratatouille is an incredible visual triumph, but that comes more from the film’s atmosphere and animation. I did have some quibbles with certain plot points and characterizations.

Michael Clayton has a lot going for it, but its greatness comes from the acting more so than the scripting. That shouldn’t be interpreted as a knock on the script, but it does sort of pale in comparison to the remaining two.

So Juno or The Savages? I loved both films. The dialogue crackles in both. Tamara Jenkins created incredible multi-dimensional characters for The Savages. Diablo Cody’s Juno feels so fresh, twisting many established film cliches (movie parents of teenagers are never allowed to act like Juno’s parents act). She also does a great job of creating some depth and truth under all the hipster slang, though she is helped by actors who sell their lines and characters so sincerely. Juno by a nose, though I can’t really say why.

Snubs: The saddest omission of all the categories for me was the lack of Judd Apatow’s script for Knocked Up. It’s so funny and raunchy, and yet very touching and perceptive.

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ADAM

Winner: Juno

One caveat to my selection: I have not yet seen Lars and the Real Girl. I very much want to see it, but it hasn’t been in too many theaters – especially recently. With that in mind, Juno is the hands down winner in my book. I know it’s not much of a secret, but I loved this movie – and the screenplay was a big part of it. The dialogue was fantastic, the scenes expertly written, and the plot flow was perfect. The Savages was probably the most surprising movie for me. My expectations for most of the movies this year were pretty close to reality. I was impressed by some and disappointed by many, but The Savages completely blew my expectations out of the water. One reason for this was that I had almost no prior knowledge or expectations going in, but I was unprepared for the great movie that I was presented with. Running a close third is Michael Clayton. I thought this character study was very well done and that its fairly simple overall plot was a good choice – as it allowed the audience to concentrate on character development as opposed to plot development. Ratatouille should not be on this list at all. Seriously…what are people thinking?

Ranking:
1. Juno
2. The Savages
3. Michael Clayton
4. Lars and the Real Girl **
5. Ratatouille

** Based on the commercials alone, I think Lars and the Real Girl has a better screenplay then Ratatouille.

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BRIAN

The screenplays are my favorite category to write about and debate, mostly because it raises the best discussion between Jared and me. I generally favor the authentic, realistic scripts, and to oversimplify things, Jared likes the saccharine crappy scripts. But he’d probably tell you differently.

Michael Clayton was a conventional legal thriller in my mind: captivating and entertaining, but nothing more than that. The performances were great, and Gilroy created a complex character in Clayton, but I would never consider it the best script of the year. Ratatouille’s biggest flaw was its script…so I was disappointed to see it recognized with an Oscar nom. The human characters had no personality, and the drama was lacking…and it dragged down the strong animation and voice work.

I imagine here’s where Jared will disagree with me most vehemently. Lars and the Real Girl was a one-note joke extended over the course of two hours of fluffy and predictable drama. I haven’t gotten around to expanding on my thoughts in a full review of Lars, but to be short about it: great acting, strains my credulity, one joke repeated over and over again. Maybe a good date movie that’s worth watching on Netflix, and that is in spite of the script.

Down to the final two, which is in reality not a close contest for me. The Savages was my favorite movie of the year, and that is without question thanks to the brilliant script by Tamara Jenkins. Anyone who can mix comedy with drama with bitter authenticity is well deserving of an Oscar win, and while I know she has no shot at actually winning, I’ll be content knowing that at least I’m right and the voters are wrong.

As for Juno…I loved that Diablo Cody created her own unique language, and that her characters seemed genuine speaking made-up slang. Two of the best response of the film “I don’t know what kind of girl I am” and “I try really hard [to be cool]” captured the warm sensibilities that made Juno so lovable. But, any script that spurs a ‘Jargon Generator relies a tad too much on the one-liners for my liking. And that was its only flaw, really. Especially the initial 20 minutes, where the onslaught of quirk soured my first impressions.

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JARED

The screenplay categories are my favorite categories. To me, the script is at least 75% of what determines how much I like a movie. I won’t bash Brian too much, both because it isn’t fair for me to have last word and because I hope to make it a running series. We can call it “Why Brian is Wrong” or something. I’ll just say that I think it is disingenuous to describe a movie as “authentic” and “realistic”, and to consider those positive adjectives. If you want real life, go people watch. I fail to see how a movie being close to your idea of reality makes it any better or worse than a different movie. I’d argue the whole point of a movie is to capture something you don’t see in the course of a normal day, even if it is a documentary.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox for a bit. Ratatouille must have been nominated solely due to the shock of an animated movie having a standard, middling plot. I’d bet almost anything that if Ratatouille had CGI rats, it doesn’t get the nomination. Heck, I’d wager it would have gotten soundly panned. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I don’t understand why people like Michael Clayton. It is like they started with a normal thriller, took out almost all of the twists and suspense, and put in good actors. Frankly, it was pretty boring. The Savages was a good movie. It wasn’t a great movie. I totally respect what everyone else thinks about it, but I’d respond that they are imbuing the movie with meaning that just isn’t there. And if the movie gives them that meaning, then great, I don’t want to take that away from them.

I realize I’m alone here, but this choice is really difficult for me. I guess I’ll say that Lars and the Real Girl was the second best of these. Lars is sweet, funny, and touching. Brian mentions that it “strains [his] credulity.” Well, I mean, Ratatouille doesn’t really strike me as being particularly likely to happen in real life, not sure what that has to do with anything. Yes, you have to be OK with Ryan Gosling pretending a sex doll is real, with Patricia Clarkson recommending that everyone just accept it, and with the whole town rather quickly accepting it. Not everyone is capable of that. But that’s not the movie’s fault.

Which makes Juno my favorite in the category. Not really a huge surprise. Everyone already knows it is funny and quirky and charming in all the right ways. It is always nice to see Oscar recognize comedies. Granted, they apparently only realize the existence of a very small subset of the difference genres that make up comedy. But first we get them to appreciate Juno. Then, with a little work, comes the Knocked Ups and Superbads of the world. And then, with a lot of work, comes the Dodgeballs. Lest you think I’m crazy, remember that in the “golden age” of cinema, screwball comedy was pretty highly regarded. Take It Happened One Night, My Man Godfrey, or Bringing Up Baby, for example.

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