2008 Calvin Awards: Best Screenplay

February 22, 2008

Girls just want to have fun!

We had plenty of outstanding contenders in this year's Screenplay competition. Unlike the Oscars, we don't split them up between Original and Adapted Screenplay. Instead, we choose the best of the best, whether they're straight from the mind of the writer or pulled from another source.

The Calvin for Best Screenplay goes to Diablo Cody and her original script for Juno. With super snappy dialogue, characters who are well-developed and easy to love and a 21st century sensibility and feel, Cody's screenplay is the driving force behind the movie's success. It's difficult to write teenage characters who don't feel like silly, bland caricatures, but Juno manages to succeed in making the main character feel true. The adult characters receive fair treatment as well – both Vanessa and Mark become much more than what you believe they are in the beginning of their story. Cody has a television series and another film in development, and it should be interesting to see where her career goes.

Our runner-up in this category is No Country for Old Men, written by Joel and Ethan Coen. Their adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel is particularly impressive in that it delivered precisely on the book's promise. All of the scenery is precisely as imagined, and their stubborn willingness to be faithful to the tale through the very finale is impressive, particularly as it might have been tempting to tack on a happier Hollywood ending. All of the characters in the film are well-drawn, with each of the three primary men in the story coming to life through the action and dialogue in the screenplay. It's one of the better adaptations in recent years, particularly when you consider that No Country for Old Men is generally considered one of McCarthy's "lesser" novels.

Third place goes to Brad Bird and his delightful screenplay for Ratatouille. We're predisposed to like Bird in the first place, given his history with The Simpsons, Iron Giant and The Incredibles. Naturally, whenever we become aware that he has a movie in progress, our anticipation soars high. He even exceeded our expectations with Ratatouille, which not only gives us a wonderful romp through the sewers and kitchens of Paris, but also creates some of the most memorable movie characters in recent history. Remy, of course, is a treasure, but Linguini, Anton Ego and Auguste Gusteau are all singular in their own right. The movie's message is perfect for all ages, too.

Knocked Up and Zodiac are our fourth and fifth place screenplays. It's no secret that the staff of BOP is comprised of huge fans of Judd Apatow. But it's not our consistent adoration of his work that has us disappointed that he was snubbed by the Academy in the Original Screenplay category. Knocked Up is a wonderful addition to the sex comedy genre, mainly because it goes beyond simple dopey shenanigans and turns out to be tender and sweet. Sure, there are boisterous laughs aplenty, but this is a film that breaks outside of an easy comfort zone to become much more than it appears on the surface, and it owes its success to an intelligent screenplay that doesn't assume its audience is full of mindless zombies. As for Zodiac, it takes an intricate, twisting story and makes it stay with you for a long time afterward. James Vanderbilt's script does a fine job of showing us characters obsessed and the downfall of such obsession.


Sixth and seventh place are awarded to two screenplays that have also been recognized with Oscar nominations. We'll look at sixth place first. It goes to Paul Thomas Anderson and his screenplay for There Will Be Blood. That script was inspired by the 1927 Upton Sinclair novel Oil, and does an excellent job of recreating that turn of the century Southern California landscape where crude is king and power is primary. Tony Gilroy's original screenplay for Michael Clayton is the seventh place finisher, and it is another example of a script that takes a complex, detailed story and translates it perfectly for the big screen.

The final three spots in the top ten are occupied by Hot Fuzz, Superbad and Eastern Promises. With Hot Fuzz, we have another example of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg hitting one out of the park (though that reference would probably mean little to them since they're British). Their celebration-spoof of the super-action genre is funny but also manages to incorporate some real exciting scenes of its own. Superbad comes from the mind of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and is clearly the work of talent on the rise. Their genuine exploration of how it feels to be a teenager not quite in the cool group rings very true. Finally, Steven Knight's script for Eastern Promises does a fine job of taking us into the world of a dark family of crime. It's perfectly suited to director Cronenberg and probably deserved more attention from the Academy itself.

Just missing the top ten were Adrienne Shelley (Waitress), Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard (Gone Baby Gone), Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi (The Bourne Ultimatum) and John Carney (Once). (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Breakthrough Performance
Best Cast
Best Director
Best DVD
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Video Game
Worst Performance
Worst Picture
Top 10
Position Writer(s) Film Total Points
1 Diablo Cody Juno 64
2 Joel and Ethan Coen No Country for Old Men 51
3 Brad Bird Ratatouille 45
4 Judd Apatow Knocked Up 34
5 James Vanderbilt Zodiac 32
6 Paul Thomas Anderson There Will Be Blood 28
7 Tony Gilroy Michael Clayton 27
8 Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg Hot Fuzz 24
9 Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg Superbad 23
10 Steven Knight Eastern Promises 21



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