beforemidnight

So what happens when the Wyandotte Siskel & Ebert get together for their annual breakdown of the Academy Awards?  Only one way to find out…

MALIK: Y’all know what time it is, it’s the 2014 Art Fradieu Oscar Preview!  5 posts leading to Sunday night, we’ll cover Writing, Directing, Supporting and Lead Acting and Best Picture.
Now if you’re here, you know me: KCK native, repping the SAG-AFTRA crew, but blue collar down to my roots. Might walk in the room in a suit, might rock a hoodie and a wave cap, ya feel me?
My guest this week also started in Wyandotte, but he knew early on he was ‘too good’ for where he came from.  Literally.  Proudly crossed the tracks to go to Pembroke Hill, proud Morehouse Man.  His all time favorite song is Billy Joel’s ‘It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me’.
But professionally, you have to give him his respect: 2 time NAACP Image Award nominee, for writing on ‘Friday Night Lights’ and ‘Southland’ respectively.  Helped get the popular cult hit ‘Sleepy Hollow’ off the ground; putting the finishing touches on directing an ESPN 30 for 30 doc I (and many others in our circle) are very hyped about.  Ladies and gentlemen, my old friend, Aaron ‘The Servant’ Thomas!
ART: Thanks for that intro, Malik “Koko B. Ware” Aziz…. But, let’s get one thing straight – I’ve been nominated for 3 Image Awards, not 2, and the only thing I be serving is real talk, knaw mean? Looking forward to this year’s Oscars, especially because 2013 was heavily hyped as the year of the critically acclaimed African American themed film. Between Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and 12 Years A Slave, there were certainly more conversations about the black experience in America and its representation on film than ever before. Now, as we both know, you tend to prefer a Julia Roberts starring vehicle over, say, a Lupita Nyong’o type of actress, but that’s the beauty of this year’s Oscar season – you have both to consider! So, without further ado, lights, camera, action…
Here are the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay:
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
Wolf of Wall Street
Who Should Win
MALIK: For me this is either Philomena or 12 Years.  You look at that list and see we had some great adaptations of real life stories this year.  I define both screenplay categories as ‘that movie you just watched was 90 percent on the page’, so by that standard I’d go with 12 Years.
ART: All of the entries this year are well deserving, naturally. And, each has its own merits.
Before Midnight, written by actress Julie Delpy, director Richard Linklater and actor Ethan Hawkes, is a great third entry in a trilogy spanning decades. It certainly has a strong cult following. But, I’m still confused as to why it’s considered an “adapted” screenplay. Adapted from what source material, exactly? Sure, the characters were established previously, but the story itself was not. Am I missing something? That’s my writer’s soapbox for the day.
Captain Phillips, written by Billy Ray, adapted from the book by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty, was really well done and admired mostly because it did what films like Black Hawk Down did not – bypass the temptation to portray a bunch of dark, African aggressors as only that. This film went deeper, by displaying their humanity as much, if not more, than the likeable American main character. Solid story telling.
Philomena, written by actor Steven Coogan and Jeff Pope, adapted from a book written by Martin Sixsmith, was emotionally gripping, but my concern is that it may be perceived more as a display of acting for Dame Judi Dench (no offense, Malik) than writing.
The Wolf of Wall Street was fun, but has received backlash for a script that seems to praise a morally questionable main character in Jordan Belfort. Despite Leo and Scorsese’s claims that the story is meant to criticize Belfort’s excesses, it seems to fall on deaf ears when you consider the comic tone and cool music used to make Belfort’s journey seem so fun.
Flat out, this category should go to 12 Years. Based on a short slave narrative, the emotion in 12 Years is sincere and the story, triumphant. Hollywood has often criticized the mere thought of slave movies as too depressing. That may be one of the reasons so few mainstream industry films have taken on this subject matter throughout the century (that, and telling such a story would require entirely too many black people to be involved). This story managed to blow that excuse out of the water, by finding a story that gives an audience a happy ending that hasn’t (totally) scared Hollywood, while also not downplaying the horrors of the history behind that story.
Who Will Win
MALIK: This isn’t considered a glamour category (no offense Aaron and all my writing friends), but I could see 4 out of the 5 nominees taking this one.  I’ll again go with 12 Years.
ART: 12 Years. A win like this makes everyone involved feel good.
Who We Want to Win
MALIK: 12 Years just to hear Ridley get on stage and speak.
ART: Ditto that. Selfishly, I also want him to win because it’s always great to see diversity recognized behind the camera. Everyone gets caught up when Denzel Washington or Halle Berry wins an Oscar. But, actors are stars and performers (no offense) and have always been recognized (Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel) with no real change in the industry following said wins. I don’t feel like any real progress is made until we see more writers, editors, directors and producers gain entry and recognition. They make up the engine of the movie business.
Here are the nominees for Best Original Screenplay:
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska
Who Should Win
MALIK: Man.  There are some screenplays I really, really like in here.  But..it’s gotta be Her right?
ART: Another tough category. You may be right, though…
American Hustle. Lost in the shuffle of buzz surrounding American Hustle and David O. Russell is the fact that the screenplay is credited as co-written by Eric Warren Singer. Some of this is because Russell has the reputation for using a ton of improvisation in his films. This element both helps and hurts the perception of the screenplay. It hurts, because some may see the screenplay as simply a blueprint for each scene and not necessarily the guiding point. On the other hand, it helps… Well, it helps the improvising actors look smart and brilliant. In this case, a nomination may be the award for this script.
Blue Jasmine. Written by Woody “they won’t leave my skeletons alone” Allen. A great role written for a great actress. Which, again, can help or hurt. My sense is that Kate Blanchett’s performance may outshine the screenplay, as solid as it is. One might argue that this screenplay and Before Midnight should switch places, as much as Blue Jasmine was “inspired” by A Streetcar Named Desire.
Dallas Buyers Club. Written by Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack. Amazing story. And, learning the background on how the story came to the big screen, an amazing achievement as well. Great performances and a world that much of the public was not privy to prior to seeing this film. A darkhorse candidate.
Nebraska. Written by Bob Nelson. The little engine that could. Great story. Solid film. But, I also ask if it passes the test. Which test? The test of, whether or not it’s a film I’ll be thinking about a year from now. Not sure about that with Nebraska. But, I am sure about it, with…
Her. Written by Spike Jonze. Yes, the premise is wacky. Dude’s in love with his cell phone. Yes, it seems like an idea someone thought about during a long layover at the airport. Yes, it may well be the future for some people. But, it was the freshest and most unlikely story to resonate – and it managed to do just that.
Who Will Win
MALIK: I think Spike Jonze is pretty respected in most parts of town so I’ll go with him, but I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if American Hustle picks this one up.
ART: Spike Jonze and Her. But, don’t write it in stone. I could easily see conservative Academy voters sitting down to vote and muttering to themselves, “Wait a second, this clown is in love with his phone?! Can’t do it.”
Who We Want to Win
MALIK: Yeah, I want Her to win.  Loved the twist on the romantic genre.
ART: Her. Crazy, geeky fun.
Tomorrow, we break down the Best Director nominees…
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