2010 Calvin Awards: Best Screenplay

February 12, 2010

Hey, I won an award too! We're totally alike and stuff!

Over the years, the industry has devalued the art of screenwriting to the point where most of the greatest successes in the field are complete unknowns outside of Hollywood. I think of this whenever I watch classic titles like The Sting and North by Northwest and see the scribe given relatively equal billing to the director. That only happens these days if the writer is also the director. Otherwise, it's a generally thankless field, which aggravates BOP to no end since the writers are generally the people who go a long way in defining the overall success of a project. The reason so many films disappoint is that not enough focus was given to the script. After a few lackluster years in a row, our staff was thrilled to discover any number of worthy options for the 2010 awards, which is also why we consider this to have been a great year overall in the world of cinema.

What would cause a man to become so devoid of humanity that he willingly choose to spend the body of his days traveling? Why would he reach a point in his life where he finds the process of firing complete strangers to be a mark of career success? And what would he do if he met a couple of strangers who caused him to question his existence and forced him to look in the mirror and make an honest evaluation of what he has become? These are the questions Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner pose in Up in the Air, and the answers revealed in the film are so profound that we had little choice but to select the title as Best Screenplay of the year.


We were enthralled by the emotional ties that were gradually revealed in this film. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) has been on the road so much that he is approaching 10 million miles of air travel, a number the character points out has been reached less frequently than man has walked on the moon. Along the way, he has disconnected from his family, which creates an awkward situation when his sister's wedding approaches. In addition, he is facing the irony of having his job eliminated after a career of performing the same task with others. In meeting his too-young replacement, he grows to realize what a professional dinosaur he is. There is also a new woman in his life and her overt sexuality perfectly matches his ordinary love ‘em then leave town pattern. In many ways, she is the female version of him and their symmetry is what sets him on the road to personal disaster. The ultimate traveler is forced on a journey of self-discovery and the ride is mesmerizing. Reitman and Turner manage to avoid all of the pitfalls that ensnared the previous iteration of this film concept, In Good Company, and provide a much more profound tale of emotional departure.

"Could I have another glass of your delicious milk?" At this moment early in the proceedings of Inglourious Basterds, the viewer is introduced to the face of evil in this film. No, it isn't Hitler, who is portrayed as a cartoonish villain in order to reinforce the idea that the higher powers in the Axis were not as scary as the men in charge of day-to-day operation. Men like Hans Landa. From the first scene, he is shown to be a meticulous, vicious "Jew Hunter" who proudly claims his nickname as a sign of vocational competence. When he lets one little girl escape the dairy farm, the events of the entire film are laid out in one chilling scene that encapsulates the genocidal horror enforced by Germany in World War II. Quentin Tarantino finally has a story that is right within his wheelhouse and he doesn't miss, knocking every aspect of the script out of the park. From discussions of moviemakers of the 1930s to the joys of knife-carved tattoos to the combustibility of film prints, the writer/director operates at his highest level of efficiency to date in producing his most complete Hollywood film. It misses being Screenplay of the year by only ten votes.

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