2005: Best Original Screenplay

5. 2046 by Wong Kar Wai
The most poignant cinema romances are where the couple don’t walk into the sunset together. They are left behind to reflect and hold on to the memories. WKW masterfully capture the romantic joy of unsuccessful romance. His characters are sad, but the films themselves overflow with love. With 2046, Wai jumped straight to the end, following a man whose perfect love has gone. He engages in relationships with women, many of who also feel their greatest love has gone. How difficult it must have been for Wai and his actors (who collaborated on the story) to explore the lengths people go through for a few moments with a love destined to fail.

Now, I loved KILL BILL. It’s the quintessential example of revenge cinema. SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE goes in the opposite direction and turns the genre on its head. Park’s script takes a standard plot (kidnapping goes terribly wrong) and does for revenge movies what UNFORGIVEN did for westerns, play it all for real.

Park’s script isn’t afraid to stay in the moments, lingering on his characters sadness and doubt, not just their determination. When bad things happen, you share the need for revenge, and when justice is handed out, you feel the moral weight. What does it do to a man to kill someone? What does vengeance accomplish? How are we supposed to deal with violence done against us? Park’s script offers no answers, just deep understanding.

3. HUSTLE & FLOW by Craig Brewer
It's a terrible idea for a movie…a pimp that wants to rap, but Craig Brewer does such a good job with the story and gives his characters so much life, I want to see a TV series. The characters break cliche to become strongly written individuals, and the script gets better and better as it goes on. By the time the story reaches its mid-point, there’s just one great scene after another. (This is AMERICAN BEAUTY, urban style.) The final twenty minutes achieves a screenwriter’s perfection, it’s a complete surprise yet precisely the way the story should end.

2. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE by Noah Baumbach
Dad’s glory days are behind him, but he still acts like the toast of the town. Mom (the primary witness to his flameout) lashes out with affairs in a painful cry to feel alive. The oldest son worships his father. The youngest gravitates towards mom. Neither has learned to look at their parents with some distance, and when the parents announce they’re separating it causes great confusion.

The script is so well constructed you could diagram this family from any angle and every piece would lock perfectly into the grid. Everything one person does – emotionally, verbally, physically or mentally – stems directly from the actions of the other three. Their behavior is so logical, the film seems simple. A great deal of thought went into getting every moment right.

1. CRASH by Paul Haggis & Robert Moresco
Detractors are quick to point out the film’s coincidences and narrow scope, and you know what…it really doesn’t matter. It’s like complaining that about all the outer space noise in STAR WARS. You’re missing the forest for the trees. (And is there anyone who doesn’t think the Thandie Newton/Matt Dillon car crash isn’t one of the best, most emotionally powerful scenes of the year?)

CRASH is a film about race and racism. It’s about how we too often fail as human beings to look past the stereotype and see the person. It’s about a lack of trust, and while there’s no solution that any film can possibly give, the films final scenes point out that we’re all good people, equally capable of compassion and forgiveness.
Beyond its themes, CRASH just works as a great screenplay. Each scene soars with terrific dialogue, and the story is remarkably fast paced jumping from one great scene right into the next. The script makes you think, makes you feel (it even makes you laugh hard in places). I could make a list of all the great scenes, moments and relationships in this movie, but it would add another page, and I suspect most of you are making a similar list in your head right now.


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