2018 Calvin Awards: Best Screenplay
By Reagen Sulewski
March 2, 2018
As a group of people who basically fetishize the written word, the Best Screenplay Calvin is probably our second most coveted award, and often goes to films that we're really, really passionate about. Often it's because of dialog that we're insanely jealous of, but other times it's a clever structure that takes on a ride, or it could be just an extremely well told story full of wonderfully drawn characters.
Our hands-down winner this year is Jordan Peele's screenplay for Get Out, the social horror/thriller which spun everyone for a loop. When they saw “racially conscious horror film from the Key and Peele guy”, I think a lot of people thought they knew were getting into. The final product of Get Out, however, was a much richer, inventive and insightful film than anyone could have ever predicted, with some amazing twists and turns that put the entire film in a different perspective.
Just being a twisty film isn't all that we're honoring it for, though. It placed its finger on the pulse of a number of social issues and framed them in a fascinating context. Its characterization: top notch, and even a comic relief sidekick wound up being crucial to the plot. As a thought provoking and insanely clever screenplay, it's a deserving champion for this year.
Second place goes to Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon's semi-autobiographical script, The Big Sick. The semi-true story of their courtship and her sudden illness, it also delves into the culture clashes which nearly tore them apart. Not shying away from some awkward moments between Nanjiani and her parents (crafted wonderfully as complex characters), it's also at times blazingly funny.
Martin McDonaugh, who just missed top spot in 2009 for In Bruges, lands in third for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, crafting an entire town of broken down characters caught in patterns of revenge. It's not without its detractors – are we really meant to sympathize with some of these hateful people? We are at least meant to consider what modern society has down to humanity, and that's a noble leap for any screenplay in this day and age.
Roughly half of the members of this site are Aaron Sorkin superfans, so in someways its surprising that his script for Molly's Game only finished fourth. A previous winner for The Social Network and Moneyball, here his dive into the world of high stakes illegal poker and the tempestuous woman that ran the circuit crackled with his trademark rapid-fire dialog and his methodical breakdown of a complex world. Bouncing around in the life of its lead character to show how she ended up in this world, it's another masterclass from one of the best screenwriters in the business.
Fifth place goes to another inventively structured script, I, Tonya's by Craig Gillespie. Taking the idea of the “Unreliable Narrator” to its logical conclusion, the script darts in and out of Tonya Harding's life, along with several of the other key people in her story, creating an “all sides were the problem” story that also serves as an indictment of American culture of the 90s. It's a witty, pointed script creates an indelible cast of unforgettable characters.
Sixth place goes to Call Me By Your Name by James Ivory. The coming of age story of a young gay man in 1980s Italy shone with its carefully crafted characters and a tender love story that transcended time and place.
Seventh place goes to Liz Hannah and Josh Singer's screenplay for The Post, which juggled a cast of a dozen or so major characters to find the narrative around the efforts to expose the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, as well as what it meant to be a journalist at that important time. It's a complicated story, but told extremely well.
Comic book movies rarely get attention for their script, but Scott Frank's script for Logan gets a nod here in eighth, as it takes characters we've been watching for years and wrenches new depths out of them. It's a story about people stabbing each other with great big claws, yes, but one that also grapples with loss and old age.
Dialog is not the star of the ninth place script, Dunkirk, but rather its unusual structure, which tells the story of the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of British soldiers on the scale of weeks, days and hours, all converging on a single moment. It's the war film as poem and it's as unique a script as you'll see in some time.
Finally in tenth, we get the joyful script for Pixar's Coco, which blends humor and music into a story about the importance of tradition, honor and family.
2018 Calvin Awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
||Big Sick, The
||Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
||James Ivory (Call Me By Your Name)