2007 Calvin Awards: Best Screenplay

February 15, 2007

BOP's praise of The Queen might have gone too far.

We had some outstanding competitors in the category of Best Screenplay for 2006, but in the end, the final choice was easy. We chose to award the incisive, captivating work of Peter Morgan, the man behind the story of The Queen. Thanks in large part to Morgan's work, The Queen becomes a movie that is about much more than a queen who is out of touch. Instead, we get whip-smart dialogue that recognizes Tony Blair's keen perception in his early days as Prime Minister as well as the difficult path he would face in the future. We also begin to think differently of the relevance of the royal family as they struggle through tragedy and have contentious conversations about the appropriate courses of action. The brilliant script is a key reason that The Queen is not simply a showcase for the work of one single performer.

Second spot belongs to Alfonso CuarĂ³n and Timothy J. Sexton for their adaptation of the P.D. James novel Children of Men. This deft screenplay inserts intelligent and political dialogue into scenes of extreme action and tension. Since the director was involved in the writing of the script, it's clear that he had a definite vision of where the movie would go and how his characters would evolve. Given that the book is considered one of the classics of literature, it's quite a challenge to convert it to something that really works on the big screen. Cuaron and Sexton succeed on all levels.

Black comedy is difficult to write well, particularly when it involves a family road trip. Michael Arndt's Little Miss Sunshine is an imaginative piece of work that creates some of the most memorable characters that we saw onscreen this year. Through their dialogue and actions, he portrays some very flawed individuals who ultimately have nothing but the best intentions when it comes to the hopes and dreams of a child. Especially when one of them is a suicidal Proust scholar.

It's incredibly challenging to take write a screenplay that is a remake of a highly regarded foreign film. We've seen some spectacular failures in that regard, including such recent entries as The Last Kiss and Pulse. Somehow, though William Monahan was able to take the source material of Infernal Affairs and turn it into something amazing. It would have been so easy for this story to have gotten far too convoluted for comprehension, but it turns out to be a clever story full of intrigue and fully-formed characters.

The Last King of Scotland is another movie-based-on-a-book, and writers Jeremy Brock, Peter Morgan (yes, the same Peter Morgan that wrote The Queen) and Joe Penhall did an exemplary job of creating a terse thriller that centers upon one of the most vile real-life characters in world history. But the story involves so much more - Idi Amin is obviously the crucial character to the movie, but it turns out that Nicholas Garrigan is every bit as interested thanks to the depth created in the screenplay.

Next up are Jason Reitman for his adaptation of Christopher Buckley's Thank You for Smoking and Paul Greengrass for United 93's original script. The screenplay is what truly shines with regard to Thank You for Smoking - it is clever, well thought-out and fully encompasses the entire blueprint for the movie. As for United 93, how hard must it have been to imagine the events that occurred during the hijacking of that plane? That Greengrass could create such a dignified treatment of the situation without crossing over into schmaltz is truly impressive.

The final slots on our list are filled by The Wachowski Brothers and their adaptation of David Lloyd/Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta, Sacha Baron Cohen and friends for the in-your-face-faux-gonzo-journalism of Borat and Rian Johnson's cool Brick. While V for Vendetta can't really be honored for doing a good job of staying true to Alan Moore's vision in the book, it can be credited for taking its own direction and making a story and characters that are gripping. As for Borat, its creativity and hilarity cannot be denied. Finally, Brick is one of the most unique scripts we've seen in some time, as it takes its teenage characters and puts them into the world of noir, including some magnificently written dialogue.

Near misses in the category were John Lasseter for Cars, Michael Winterbottom and Frank Cottrell Boyce for the supposedly unadaptable Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story, Neil Burger's Illusionist and the great Patrick Marber for Notes on a Scandal. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Top 10
Position Writer(s) Film Total Points
1 Peter Morgan The Queen 81
2 Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton Children of Men 64
3 Michael Arndt Little Miss Sunshine 51
4 William Monahan The Departed 39
5 Jeremy Brock, Peter Morgan, and Joe Penhall The Last King of Scotland 25
6(tie) Jason Reitman Thank You For Smoking 24
6(tie) Paul Greengrass United 93 24
8 The Wachowski Brothers V for Vendetta 22
9 Sasha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Peter Baynham & Dan Mazer Borat 18
10 Rian Johnson Brick 16

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