10. DREAMGIRLS by Bill Condon
There’s a dynamic to the DREAMGIRLS screenplay that I loved. For the first half, most of the characters are on their way up, except for Effie White who bottoms out at the midway point. Then as everyone else falls on hard times, Effie slowly pulls herself back up. Along similar lines, James “Thunder” Early gives up everything that makes him special, while Deena Jones comes to discover what her special qualities are.

9. TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK & BULL STORY by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Certainly one of the year’s most unique screenplays. TRISTRAM SHANDY is the story of a 17th Century English gentleman. The story begins with his birth, but gets sidetracked so much that we don’t get much further. TRISTRAM SHANDY also tells of a bunch of actors making the film version of TRISTRAM SHANDY. It’s all very SPINAL TAP but with a droll British wit.

8. THANK YOU FOR SMOKING by Jason Reitman
Containing some of the year’s sharpest conversations, the screenplay doesn’t hold up the cigarette lobby for ridicule. It trusts in the basic absurdity of the situation, making the "spin" more frighteningly truthful. There’s also a touching father/son story that gives the film surprising heart.

7. THE LAKE HOUSE by David Auburn
This is a difficult plot to execute, and while there are rough edges in the sub-plots, the main story far exceeds its built in limitations. This is essentially the story of two people from different places falling in love through a series of letters. The structural form of the letters gives way naturally to conversation, and the script offers other satisfying ways for these two to share the same space. The earnest dialogue provides the beautiful music that Reeves & Bullock slow dance to.

6. FIND ME GUILTY by Sidney Lumet, T.J. Mancini & Robert J. McCrea
When I read the script was based on actual trial testimony, I figured the project was doomed. Either you keep the authenticity and the film is dry or you base the script “loosely” and the dialogue rings false. This script hit it just right. It feels real, and it’s very entertaining. The gangsters show surprising dimension, and some scenes carry real pain.

5. THE DEPARTED by William Monahan
The original INFERNAL AFFAIRS worked by focusing on the central hook, a cop working undercover with criminals and a criminal undercover in the police each try to catch the other. With THE DEPARTED, the large family of characters are given added layers, added meanings so that the story no longer seems so simple. It’s look at morality and loyalty lives completely in the grey areas.

4. BORAT by Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines & Dan Mazer
While most of BORAT is improvised, a structure and themes do sneak into the narrative. Had this been a tightly scripted film about a foreigner touring America, some of the more shocking moments would have rung false. Plus, there are plenty of staged bits (like the opening section and the nude fight) that merit recognition.

3. V FOR VENDETTA by Andy & Larry Wachowski
“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. A government should be afraid of its people.” The best political movies work as parables or cautionary tales. (Think PAN’S LABYRINTH or CHILDREN OF MEN.) V rails against the dark forces of tyrannical officials who rule over their people with fear. (Sound familiar.) The script mixes this message with a clever revenge tale, and the ultimate mystery of exactly who is V. I prefer his answer. “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof.”

2. LITTLE CHILDREN by Todd Field
I’ve been chewing on the film for weeks since I first saw it, and over time, what I took to be flaws started making sense. Some of them (like the child molester) became essential to what the film is really about. I still don’t agree with the 3rd person narration, but the levels upon levels of complexity make LITTLE CHILDREN the most challenging, intriguing and ultimately rewarding script this year.

1. THE LAST KISS by Paul Haggis
THE LAST KISS is not GARDEN STATE 2. I love GARDEN STATE, but this look at young adults in emotional crisis is more mature. You’re not asked to like Zach Braff’s character, or any of the men who fail at being adults here, but you completely understand how these situations happen.

The subplots are given equal special care, creating supporting characters that are just as engaging as Zach. (Rachel Bilson’s character felt limited until I realized she was being written as if in her own movie about a college girl attracted to an older man.) The friends all have their own interesting crisis and the parents are going through a tough time as well. Zach’s big scene with Tom Wilkinson is yet another high point. (“I haven’t even met my last brunette yet.”)

Everyone I know who sees this movie has a similar story to tell. A moment where they saw their future and didn’t go down without a fight. Most guys only THINK of doing something stupidly destructive. This film explores the subject, leading to some of the most honest and painful scenes of the year.

On the DVD commentary, the cast calls this “the year’s worst date movie”, because the guy will surely be grilled about what he would do in a similar situation. The script gets the temptation right, and is just as honest when dealing with the consequences. The ending even leaves room as to the long-term effects.


Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Great list ... My only addition would be Notes on a Scandal, which Mr. Marber managed to turn into a deliciously wicked and entertaining flick

3:10 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home