So. Um. Okay.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Wow!

Only in Hollywood can an Awards Show have a twist ending.

Feel bad for the La La Land guys. “You just won best picture!” “Hurrrrraaaay! I’d like to thank my father, who’s up in heaven right now, my dying daughter, and Charlie, back in Jamestown, who’s suffering from MS. Charlie! If you’re out there watching, brother, I love you…” “Oh! Um guys!? Actually?? Don’t mean to interrupt your speech but we made a mistake. You lost.”

But you know what? I’m sure they’ll forget about it by tomorrow.

However, that’s the perfect entry point into my thoughts about last night’s Oscars, as Moonlight, La La Land, and Manchester By the Sea were the big winners of the night. And all three were the worst written films of those nominated.

Let’s start with La La Land. I’m actually happy this movie did well. I didn’t like the screenplay (I felt it was cliche at every turn that didn’t involve the dance numbers). But the thing about La La Land is that it’s a movie. If you’ve got singing and dancing, you have MOVEMENT on the screen. That’s why they’re called MOVE-IES.

Moonlight and Manchester By the Sea, on the other hand, had about as much movement as an Alaskan sunset.

But to be honest, I don’t have a problem with Moonlight winning Best Picture. I understand that when you’re talking about a film, you’re talking about everything that goes into it. The direction, the acting, the makeup, the cinematography. And it’s no secret that The Academy of Motion and Picture Sciences wants their winners to represent something bigger. Therefore, their nominees are heavily slanted towards social commentary and the human condition. So I get why the film won the big prize. Its message is, indeed, an important one that shines a light on a community that needs to understand that exclusion shouldn’t stop at race, but extend to one’s sexuality as well. I mean, we definitely need less cringe-inducing moments like this one…

However, what I do have a problem with, is when the Academy weights social commentary and the human condition to such a degree that those variables become more important than whether the film is actually good or not.

Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea won the Adapted and Original screenplay awards respectively. And they’re both terrible screenplays. There isn’t even a discussion to be had on the matter. They’re awful screenplays that display no skill in the screenwriting department whatsoever.

How can I say such a thing? One of the easiest ways to judge a screenplay is to ask, “Can someone else have written this?” Is the skill on display at a level where other writers could’ve written something similar? I can say without hesitation that there isn’t one writer of the 10,000 members in the WGA who couldn’t have written either of these scripts.

All you had to do was write a scene of a character who looks lost, write another scene where someone just died or got high on drugs, write another scene where the character looks a little bit more lost, write a few scenes where the character talks to other people, either about being lost or not wanting to admit they’re lost, then repeat that process for 2 hours. ANY WRITER can do that. It doesn’t take a lick of skill.

Screenwriting skill comes from the ability to convey your message through an entertaining dramatic narrative. It’s saying the things that those two movies are saying, without dragging you through an endless collection of melodramatic cliches that hit the same dramatic beat over and over again. It’s being unexpected. It’s taking you to places you didn’t think the story would go. It’s exciting you. Being able to do that? That’s storytelling.

Recent examples of this include Drive, The Edge of Seventeen, Nocturnal Animals, The Big Short, The Imitation Game, Hell or High Water, and Sicario.

Unfortunately, there’s a bigger issue at play here. And that’s that the industry has designed the narrative behind these movies so that if you disagree with their greatness, you are either a) racist/sexist/bigoted/etc. or b) stupid. It’s almost laughable in the case of Manchester by the Sea. In the handful of times I’ve asked people about this movie in a public setting, the response has been, “Oh, it’s so meaningful. It’s so intense.” Yet every time I’ve asked a person about it privately, the answer is always the same and sounds very close to this most recent response, which I heard last night: “That was the most boring movie I’ve ever seen. It had three good minutes in it.”

What the Academy tends to forget is that a work of art, no matter how well-intentioned, is never beyond reproach. Moonlight is a script that would’ve failed miserably had it been featured on this site for an Amateur Friday review. And rightfully so. It hides its weaknesses behind beautiful cinematography and strong performances. But when you strip those away, you have 20+ minute segments of a boy walking around in a neighborhood. I’m sorry but that’s not screenwriting. It takes zero screenwriting skill to write, “The boy walks down the street” for 20 pages.

And that’s just the beginning. Moonlight has one of the most passive heroes in Academy nominee history. The guy just stares out while everyone else around him acts. I’m fine with a passive character if the writer has a reason for them to be passive. But I honestly believe this writer didn’t know the difference between passive and active, which is one of the easiest ways to identify a writer who doesn’t understand the screenwriting medium.

I’m a believer that you can write any story you want, as long as you entertain us in the process. And that doesn’t mean you have to include dinosaurs. It means understanding and implementing the tenets of drama. Goals, obstacles, stakes, urgency, mystery, suspense, conflict. Give me a script that shows a mastery of those skills and you’ve got my endorsement for an Oscar nomination. But if all you’re doing is drudging through one passive melodramatic scene after another, I’m sorry, but you haven’t written a screenplay, nor are you a screenwriter.

It’s not surprising to me that both of these movies were writer-director projects. While that combo can lead to some great films, such as when Quentin Tarantino or Spike Jonez have the reins, it is a hack that allows really bad scripts to slip through a vetting process designed to keep slog-fests like these from ever getting in front of the public.

If you don’t believe me, go watch Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight and strip away all the Oscar shine. Watch them for what they are. Tell me they aren’t anything but movies you see so you can tell other cultured people that you saw them. Once this happens, a dance will begin. You’ll look into each other’s eyes, and if those eyes give you the green light, you’ll be able to confide that, “That was a really boring movie, wasn’t it?” If not, you’ll both have to pretend how profound cinema can be, keeping the secret of these screenwriting imposters alive.

Maybe one of these days, the Academy will start celebrating movies that were actually well written as opposed to well-intentioned.

  • DaChoppa

    Carson wrote: ”
    It’s being unexpected. It’s taking you to places you didn’t think the story would go. It’s exciting you. Being able to do that? That’s storytelling.

    Recent examples of this include Drive, The Edge of Seventeen, Nocturnal Animals, The Big Short, The Imitation Game, Hell or High Water, and Sicario.”

    Sicario is a good screenplay? Seriously? A screenplay that has a passive protagonist? We’re led to believe that it’s her story, yet it switches to someone who has no emotional bearing on the story until the end. Blunt’s character is not even present at the finale and has no meaningful impact on the story.

    Drive? I love the film, it’s entertaining, but the female characters are just cardboard cut-outs, they have no voice in the story.

    You could write the best screenplay, yet when it goes through development that screenplay is churned out as garbage. Writing a good screenplay doesn’t guarantee anything; it’s hard to keep something good when going through the process. I have done this myself and been through a development process. When the bigwigs get involved, you have to know your story and stick by it. You must understand why your screenplay got noticed in the first place and protect its heart otherwise it will get stabbed repeatedly.

    • carsonreeves1

      Sicario isn’t great but it rode dramatic circles around both these scripts. Not that that was hard. All you had to do was make things happen.

    • brenkilco

      Sicario was downright peculiar. Started out with a convincing you are there, this is the way it is quality. But the longer it went on the more contrived and ridiculous it became. And by the end when Del Toro was doing his ninja thing it had become a straight to video level thriller that thought it was saying something.

  • Branko Maksic

    For me, the best film and script of the year goes to The Handmaiden.

    Darkly comic, and with so many twists and turns, it makes La La Land’s dace numbers look practically phoney.

    Deft character work and lesbian sex scenes that are beyond gratuitous however, they actually add to the character and plot!

    Korean films absolutely annihilate anything in Hollywood right now.

    • Brainiac138

      If only South Korea had submitted The Handmaiden for consideration.

  • http://twitter.com/getitdonelikeme Not your model minority

    I think Manchester was boring as shit, but I did love Moonlight, stripped of all it’s Oscar shine, it was a story that hasn’t been told, and definitely not from that perspective. And it was beautiful, and it was incredibly well acted.

    And it’s fine that you thought the film was boring, but that doesn’t mean others aren’t allowed to simply love it as a film and without bias.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpjCroELCew Carmelo Framboise

    Entertainment has nothing to do with the Entertainment Business.

  • Lucid Walk

    Best tweet of the night:

    M. Night Shyamalan — “I wrote the ending to the Oscars 2017.”

    • carsonreeves1

      Haha. That’s good.

      • Bfied

        “Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea won the Adapted and Original screenplay awards respectively. And they’re both terrible screenplays. There isn’t even a discussion to be had on the matter. They’re awful screenplays that display no skill in the screenwriting department whatsoever.”

        Kind of like how you also thought “Birdman” was a total piece of crap and required no skill, either? Are you starting to see a pattern develop here?

        But give Carson another typical thriller about someone that’s been kidnapped or some garbage broad comedy that checks all his GSU boxes and it’s the best thing he’s ever read.

        Sorry, Carson, but you truly have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not defending the work because they’re award winners; I’m defending the films and their screenplays because both required an incredibly high level of craft and were both extremely well done.

        They may not be the most inventive story ideas, however, to suggest that they’re awful screenplays or require no skill whatsoever is truly insulting not only to these writers, but writers everywhere.

        Maybe they’re not movies for you or you didn’t care for them? Say that while still acknowledging and respecting the craft behind the pages instead of engaging in over the top hyperbole that diminishes your credibility in recognizing craft that’s staring you right in the face.

        Maybe that’s a better idea for someone running a blog that is supposedly about the craft behind screenwriting and acknowledging it when you see it. But what do I know?

    • Avatar

      I really liked the Miss Universe “have your people call our people” tweet.

    • JasonTremblay

      Could someone check Casey Affleck’s envelope again?

      • Lucid Walk

        Too bad Hilary Clinton didn’t have an envelope.

  • D.C. Purk

    I feel that the Oscars are in danger of devolving into insincere group-think. Eventually it’ll get to the point where you don’t even have to tell a good story anymore. This will be the new criteria:

    What you’ll need:

    –Some sort of “social issue”
    –Pretentious hype, the kind that presumes you are a failed human for not believing it
    –People who aren’t white males, because white males are terrible, terrible people
    –Some sort of thin character drama where actors have damaged staring contests

    What you won’t need:

    –A unique, well told story with fleshed out characters
    –An actual card that says you are the winner

    One of the most telling phrases is “Oscar bait.” This is a phrase that is blatantly saying “There are good movies, and then there are movies that win Oscars.”

    When did those become two separate things?

    Then again, the fact that something like Hell or High Water was nominated gives me hope. That was a great script.

    • Scott Crawford

      Birdman, Spotlight, Moonlight.

      Next year it will either be Birdlight, Moonman, or Spotman. My money’s on Spotman, the story of the man who invented acne pads.

      • PQOTD


        • Scott Crawford

          Nah, too obvious… two ornithologists falling in love.

          • PQOTD

            I was thinking more along the lines of a cheeky Australian magpie with a wicked sense of humour lying in wait for the laundry to get hung out…

    • Sal Ayala

      2001 A beautiful Mind (Schizophrenia)
      2002 Chicago (Showbiz)
      2003 Million Dollar Baby (assisted suicide)
      2004 Crash (racism etc etc)
      2008 Slumdog Millionaire (third world poverty)
      2009 The Hurt Locker (Iraq war, ptsd)
      2010 The Kings Speech (speech impediment)
      2011 The Artist (Showbiz)
      2012 Argo (Showbiz)
      2013 12 years a slave (slavery)
      2014 Birdman (Showbiz)
      2015 Spotlight (Church child abuse)
      2016 Moonlight (homosexuality)

      Its been this way for awhile now. For a movie to even have a realistic shot at best picture it has to allow voters to feel self important. It has to be about the arts, or a social or political issue.

      The only exceptions have been Gladiator, Return of the King, The Departed, and No country for old men. Movies by respected directors that made big bank.

      • jbird669

        Funny how Spotlight won for its subject matter, which is reportedly a big part of Hollywood.

  • Marija ZombiGirl

    “The Physical Impossibility…” of upvoting this a hundred times.

  • Yas

    The Oscars felt like a middle class children’s birthday party – everyone wins!

    Hacksaw Ridge was by far the best film out of the contenders. Say what you want about Mel Gibson but dammit does the man know story structure!

    Best Actor was Denzel for Fences. Yes, the film could be accused of the same things as Moonlight and Manchester but Denzel was an absolute beast in that film. There was more dialogue in the first 15 minutes of Fences then there was in the whole of Moonlight!

    Best Supporting Actor should’ve gone to Jeff Bridges. I like Mahershala Ali but he was only in Moonlight for 15-20 minutes and he was a pretty straightforward character. Other than the fact he was a nice, sensitive dealer (ironic), I don’t remember any kind of character arc or pivotal scenes.

    Best Original Screenplay should’ve gone to Hell or High Water (Comancheria). I had a lot more fun reading HOHW than I did Manchester.

    Best Adapted Screenplay should’ve gone to Arrival. The Story of Your Life was a great script and I’m a big fan of Eric Heisserer. Go read Bird Box immediately if you haven’t already.

    Can’t argue with Viola Davis or Emma Stone. Pretty solid.

    Completely unrelated but, in my opinion, if you want to see acting at it’s finest, check out Ben Mendelsohn in Animal Kingdom. Absolutely fucking incredible!

    • TellittotheJudge

      HAHAHAHA “Dammit, the man knows story structure.” What does that even mean?Hacksaw Ridge was utter garbage and the fact that it won Best Editing still has me in stitches.

      • Yas

  • Avatar

    Why do major commercial films rarely get picked. Empire Strikes Back and Indiana Jones pretty much shook up the industry. Back to the Future is a classic and I put it next to almost any film.

    • Scott Crawford

      Firstly, if you look at Rotten Tomatoes, the best reviewed movies have last year pretty much correspond to the movies nominated for Oscars:


      There are some animated movies there which were nominated/won Oscars but not in the above-the-line categories. And there’s Captain: America 3, probably the best reviewed non-animated blockbuster. But people won’t bring themselves to vote for a sequel (Godfather 2 and Lord of the Rings 3 among a few exceptions).

      Plus… CA3 came out too early. For real Oscar consideration, you had better release in the holiday season.

      Plus… as good as that film it isn’t Oscar-intentioned. It’s too broad and fun.

      A few years back, the Baftas gave 12 Years a Slave best picture (natch) but gave best BRITISH movie to Skyfall, probably the closest that a commercial movie has come to awards glory (it also won two oscars for song and sound). Skyfall’s win was partly a lifetime achievement award for the Bond team, partly an acknowledgement of the amount of effort that goes into making these movies but also because it took the Bond formula and applied a SMIDGE of that Oscar bait stuff on it.

      Dramatic performances. Moody lighting. Tragedy. Contemporary relevance.

      Could Star Wars: The Last Jedi win Best picture? Probably not but if Episode NINE was decent and a rush job rehab tie-it-all-up like Return was then… maybe. Like Lord of the Rings 3.

      • Scott Crawford

        P.S. there were small movies that also did well on RT like Wilderpeople and Love and Friendship. But they’re small and can’t afford huge Oscar campaigns. And they’re on DVD, iTunes and Netflix before the Oscars which is never helpful.

        • -n8-

          And more light. At least wilderpeople. Comedy gets no oscar love

          • Scott Crawford

            Comedy does OK if it has a story that would work were it not a comedy. That sentence took me some time to think about but I think I got it right.

            Working Girl – a comedy, sure, very funny, but you could remove the jokes and it would be… not as good, but it would still be a story with characters.

            Forrest Gump – comedy drama, really, and with an epic sweep.

            Babe – i didn’t really get Babe so I’ll let someone else explain why this almost won best picture.

            My Cousin Vinny and Tropic Thunder – if the movies themselves don’t win or aren’t nominated, then a great supporting comedy performance might. Even though really Marisa Tomei was a lead.

            Wilderpeople… not seen it yet but i don’t think it’s the sort of story that would win an Oscar. It has social commentary, it’s contemporary I guess, but it doesn’t feel… Oscary. And the definition of Oscary is that it has to be SLIGHTLTY serious. Even the comedies.

          • PQOTD

            Been a loooong time since I’ve seen ‘Babe’, but close to the end, there’s a sequence where Babe wins a sheepdog trial at the local town fair. Partly it’s because he’s an innocent, a polite little pig, and this makes the sheep want to co-operate with him.

            What I got from that sequence was that it’s about doing things no-one thought you capable of; in this case, a pig that can herd sheep as well as any dog can. Someone just had to have a little faith in him and be prepared to give him a go. It’s about not judging our capabilities based on the exterior, equally applicable to race, religion, gender, sexuality, age…

            If that’s what H’wood took away from it, too, then no surprise it almost snatched Best Picture.

        • Avatar

          I just think that if they’re voting for best picture, it should be the best picture, evaluated on it’s quality, not have to fit the Oscar bait criteria. Star Wars has influenced several generations and probably affected more people than almost every film. The reason it would never be in the running is because it’s a fun sci fi film. If a film is fun, it almost has to be a musical, or an arty comedy. The Academy pretty much have all these little hidden criteria where Oscar contenders have to lobby to win. If we start running through Hollywood’s most influential films, most of the commercial ones will not even sniff an Oscar. The Golden Globes at least is a little more mainstream.

          • Scott Crawford

            Star Wars came very close to winning Best Picture, it was nominated, it won a LOT of awards, technically (in both senses of the word) it was best picture. Even Woody Allen admitted that he may not have made a better movie than Star Wars.

            But Woody’s win in 1978 illustrates the Oscar situation, in a good way this time, a person who had only directed broadly comic films does something seriocomic.

            Serio. That’s the prefix you need.

            Instead of comedy, comedy drama.

            Instead of action thriller, action drama.

            Spy drama, psychological drama (instead horror). For sci-fi you may even want to drop that label altogether and just think of it as drama.

          • brenkilco

            Actually the disconnect between BO and Oscar only really began in the eighties. Before that best pictures were generally big hits. A lot of reasons for this. And IMHO if an influential movie with space ships was going to win Best Picture in 1977 it should have been Close Encounters, not Star Wars.

          • Avatar

            There does seem to be a disconnect happening with the academy with movies the public loves. It’s almost like they are selecting movies that would make them look cool–like the arty picture with heavy social commentary that 5 people have seen. I appreciate those too, but it limits the type of film that Oscar will deem worthy. Academy members want to seem smart or socially conscious with their picks. Were you not floored when Darth Vadar told Luke that he was his father? That movie was so groundbreaking in every way. Back to the Future had one of the most perfect screenplays I’ve ever seen – not an ounce of fat and the meaning just resonates. The only way for a comedy to make it is if it’s a not so funny social commentary comedy film or one made by Woody Allen. Oscar has become so marginalized. You’re right, the academy was a little bit more balanced back then— Gone with the Wind was the biggest blockbuster of it’s time and it deserves to win because after 75 years, it’s still beloved.

          • Scott Crawford

            I argued this a while back and got shot down so thank you!

            I suppose it was the 80s. The movies WERE box office successes but they often eclipsed movies that were ALSO box office successes and may have deserved the Oscar more, like E.T.

            The REAL rot set in with the aggressive campaigns (we know who by) starting in the late 90s. People are BULLIED into not voting for certain films but instead for the film that seems the most Academy-like, as so many people have pointed out today.

          • brenkilco

            But is there something more going on? A lack of faith on the part of the studios in the concept of popular art. Something that can be both tremendously entertaining and superbly crafted. Seems today you get the indies and year end Oscar hopefuls, most cut from the same cloth and expected to perform tepidly at the box office. And most of the rest of the stuff is lowest common denominator crud aimed at the international teen market. Would anybody today bankroll a Lawrence of Arabia, a Kwai, even a Godfather? Are we likely to see a great western like Unforgiven or a thriller of The quality of Silence of The Lambs again anytime soon?

          • Scott Crawford

            There is an increasing dichotomy (right word?) between the art house and the blockbuster, to use the terms of ark. And it’s a problem when good, successful movies are not rewarded simply because… well, snobbery really.

            But on the subject of those previous BPs you mentioned, the problem has got to be BUDGET. Take Passengers – in SOME ways this is the sort of movie you’re talking about, not in terms of quality, obs, but an EPIC ORIGINAL. Or even an epic adaptation, but not a sequel and not a brand.

            A movie costing $70 million has to make $300 million (maybe more) to not lose money, and home isn’t bringing in the returns it once was (and back in Lawrence’s day there WAS no home, at least not of the same standard – you HAD to go the cinema for this stuff).

            So my answer to your question is, yes, there COULD be another movie of that type (Dunkirk? Maybe) but it could lose a lot of money. Then there wouldn’t be anymore after that.

      • DaChoppa

        And Skyfall was not even a great film, not even a decent Bond film. Casino Royale, though… not sure what other British films it was up against but it was an excellent Bond film that should have won the award in 2007.

  • Avatar

    I guess if you pick a subject matter that people really want to champion, they’re going to pick you. I really did not think Casey Affleck gave this incredible performance. His co-star Michelle Williams acted circles around him in that one stroller scene.

  • LostAndConfused

    Same thing with last year’s Oscars. I get why Spotlight won best picture, but it winning best screenplay was a travesty. Best screenplay is the rare award where you can judge a movie based solely on its story and dissociating it with the raw acting ability, cinematography, soundtrack, social importance, etc. Yet the movies with the most cultural significance keep winning these damn things.

  • LostAndConfused

    Just speaking for myself, why I loved Don’t Think Twice is that while you can classify them as subplots, it’s the rare story where all the subplots revolve around a central theme. Individually the subplots aren’t strong, but they all accentuate each other to come out stronger than the sum of its parts.

    For a lot of movies if you take out a subplot, the movie is still strong and doesn’t suffer that much. Take out even one subplot in Don’t Think Twice, I think the entire thing collapses.

  • witwoud

    Out of interest, anyone else NOT enjoy Hell and High Water? I found it a contrived, derivative No Country For Old Men wannabe with some fashionable banker-bashing mixed in. The very opposite of authentic. Everything came from another movie. Couldn’t finish it. Ugh.

    Just wondering.

    • Scott Crawford

      I listened to this podcast discussing the screenplay nominees:


      It’s 90 minutes so you may want to skip to the part about Hell. They liked it but with reservations, especially act three.

      So… no, you weren’t alone.

      • witwoud

        Thanks Scott. I’ll check it out.

        • Scott Crawford

          I’m recommending it to everyone!

          • PQOTD

            Just finishing the last half of it now. Just had the Casey Affleck / masshole discussion. New word for me.

    • PQOTD

      I think I got maybe 40 or so pages (with a concerted effort) in before bailing.

      • witwoud

        You’re my brother.

    • Brainiac138

      I enjoyed it enough in the first watch, but I watched it with my parents on blu ray and I kind of started to feel the same as you about it.

    • Midnight Luck

      I haven’t read it, but I fear you’d be correct, that I’d really dislike, if not hate it.
      But sometimes acting and Directing an really elevate material, and in this case, I believe it did, in the finished film. Not perfect, but compared to everything it was up against, it should have won. It was the best of the bunch, just not perfect.

    • Lucid Walk

      I was loving it until the predictable ending.

      • BellBlaq

        Less “predictable,” more “nonsensical.”

        Cops: So, we killed one of the two bank robbers we’ve been chasing. The one we killed totes has a brother with the same monstrous eyebrows as the the “unknown” partner, and that same brother totes paid off the family mortgage with the exact amount of money that was collectively stolen from those banks, but he probably just magically got it from the brother we killed before we killed him… but OBVIOUSLY without having been involved, so we won’t investigate or arrest him.
        Brother (aka Bank Robber #2): Suckaz!

        Retired Cop: Murder you later, criminal.
        Brother (aka Bank Robber #2): Anytime, Bro. Come at me.

        FADE OUT

  • http://zeeconstory.com/ Zeeshan Ali Contractor

    Hahahahaha…, the opening to this blog just cracked me up, hahahaha. I haven’t watched either of these films just because they looked quite boring from the trailers. But now I will watch them just to understand screenwriting a bit more… Thank you, Carson.

  • Avatar

    I loved Warren Beatty’s befuddled reaction – reminded me of his Howard Hughes portrayal, whenever Howard Hughes was befuddled about something. He looked in the envelope to see if there was another envelope, then at Faye Dunaway as if to say “is this right?”

    • Scott Crawford

      I didn’t see it live but it looked like before he opened the envelope he was doing a skit and… you’ve got to be careful doing a skit, you’re holding someone’s dreams in your hand. But it wasn’t his fault, they gave him a duplicate envelope.

      Maybe he thought Emma Stone was the producer La La Land? The SOLE producer.

      • Avatar

        At first, I thought it was Warren milking it for effect, but when I rewound it, Warren looked and had this look of “Is this right?” Then, he looked in the envelope to see if there was another piece of paper. Then, he handed it to Faye almost as if for her to verify it. He looked really confused and when it was called, he didn’t look comfortable.

  • lonestarr357

    Screenwriting skill comes from the ability to convey your message through an entertaining dramatic narrative. It’s saying the things that those two movies are saying, without dragging you through an endless collection of melodramatic cliches that hit the same dramatic beat over and over again. It’s being unexpected. It’s taking you to places you didn’t think the story would go. It’s exciting you. Being able to do that? That’s storytelling.

    You sure you weren’t Best Picturing us when you mentioned Drive as an example of this, because – it has to be said – watching that movie was like watching old people fuck: slow and sloppy.

    • -n8-

      Hahahahaha… Slow and sloppy … Hashtag brilliant

    • PQOTD

      Re the latter observation… Speaking from experience?

      • lonestarr357

        A George Carlin line, but it works well here.

    • brenkilco

      Hm. You need to watch how you spend your entertainment dollars.

    • ShiroKabocha

      Drive was so effing pretentious and empty. Poseur “look at me” filmmaking at its worst. So actually, it isn’t like watching old people screwing :) In fact, old people having fun sexy time is a happy, hopeful occasion that we should all rejoice for :) (but not watch…because seriously, who watches other people having sex, old or not ? so gross). Drive was just dull and miserable.

  • BoSoxBoy

    Innocent envelope mix up or … Russians?

    • Scott Crawford

      Revenge for Reds.

    • Kane

      I heard Steve Harvey handed him the envelope.

  • brenkilco

    OK, so by my count this is at least the third year in row where the best original screenplay Oscar has been awarded to a script which Carson considers not only not the best but downright fucking awful. A lesser man might begin to doubt his taste but thankfully not our host.

    No, Manchester By The Sea is not great, not a movie for the ages. But honestly nothing this year was. And likely only Hell or High Water will even survive as a thoughtful entertainment. Manchester belongs to a subgenre that Carson is ill equipped to judge or appreciate. Call it the aggressive, indie slice of life movie. Characters, most of them in various sorts of pain, are going to interact. There isn’t going to be much of a plot. And very little in conventional Hollywood terms is going to be resolved. The value of these things, in the rare cases when they’re genuinely good, is in the specific character details, bits of life honestly observed, and in tiny, but authentic, increments of personal change.

    The Station Agent is about the best one of these I’ve seen. But it’s foolish to think these films don’t require skill. By depriving himself of conventional plot and even a conventionally satisfying arc for his protag the writer is tying his hands behind his back and locking himself in a closet. Getting loose, which means making the audience care about the people he’s created, is no mean feat. Because there’s nowhere for the writer to hide.

  • Connor Smith

    As someone who did love Manchester-by-the-sea, I agree that out of the other nominees, it wasn’t the best written. Probably because of that Ordinary People-like structuring where there’s no real act structure.

  • Kane

    I don’t watch the Oscars anymore. I too often find myself falling asleep on films nominated as the “best”. I remember one of my good friends told me I had to see Blair Witch Project because it was the scariest movie ever. He was an avid camper. I am not. I did not find one minute of the film scary or entertaining for that matter. I turned to my friend after and asked him to explain himself. He told me about getting lost on a camping trip once and how he had this dreadful feeling someone was stalking him. So I said yeah, I get that. But me I’m not going anywhere I have to bury my own poo by choice. I just could not get into any of those characters and the choices they made. We each have our own personal experiences and perspectives. This is why some see a masterpiece when they watch La La Land and others see a fluffy musical with leads that could neither sing nor dance. As someone who battled deep depression after a family tragedy I was engrossed by Manchester. The script and film may have been cliché to some but to others it vividly captured that inescapable darkness that hangs over you in depression. As writers, we must accept that people aren’t always going to see eye to eye on what makes a good film. It is art. Art is subjective. Art moves us all differently. But I think we have to at least make the effort to try to understand what appeals to people in films or scripts we may not necessarily love. It is part of our learning process. That is why, while I don’t watch the Oscars, I do seek out the nominated films knowing full well, I may be taking a few unscheduled naps.

  • Brainiac138

    Oh come on! Manchester by the Sea is a great character-driven script. You say that the film was a slog but it was so funny in the face of all the great, great tragedy. I was in a full theater when I saw the film and there was probably more laughter than tears and I, for one, was not bored once by it. The characters were real to me and I was invested in them, that is the reason why it won last night, not because of any social commentary that I can’t for the life of me figure out it would be making, other than, maybe something about talking about your feelings?

    Moonlight was a sublime experience that had a script that told a story that has never been on the screen before. Who cares if the protagonist was passive? It worked. I hope we see more films that actually mean something. Thank God A24 is around and willing to take chances like it did, and believe, to tell the story about a black gay kid from the projects was a huge leap for a profit-driven distributor/studio, no matter what the naysayers or anti-“SJW” sentiment may say.

  • Brainiac138

    Thank you for this.

  • HRV

    The problem with the entertainment industry is that art is giving way to politics. The enjoyment is gone.

    • Brainiac138

      Yeah, it is almost like some artists feel like they have a responsibility or something to making sure all kinds of stories are told.

      • wlubake

        Yes and no.

        “All kinds of stories are told” so long as they support a certain viewpoint. They aren’t celebrating diversity of thought. They are celebrating progressive thought.

        It is what it is, but even if Kirk Cameron made a great film, it isn’t getting celebrated at the Oscars. Probably the best example is Passion of the Christ. It was expertly directed and acted. But that movie was never going to be nominated for Best Picture, Director or Actor. Even in a year where the Best Picture nominees were pretty weak: Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray and Sideways (along with the deserving Million Dollar Baby).

        It’s just how it breaks in Hollywood, but let’s not celebrate it for being something it is not.

        • Thaddeus Arnold

          Too many people felt that film had racial undertones. For that reason it was ignored.

          • wlubake

            Always found that comment interesting. Every non-Roman character in that movie was the same race/religion.

  • Scott Serradell

    The ending of last night’s ceremony smells like one big PR stunt to bring the spotlight back onto a brand that has been bleeding out its relevance for some time.

    No, Maximus. I am NOT entertained.

    • Scott Crawford

      Given that La La Land was the first frontrunner for best picture for some time to have actually been SEEN by a large part of the audience (because it’s made over $300 million), I think the Oscars was going to be more watched this year. They don’t need PR stunts, it’s still the case they need to e more generous to the films people actually see.

      How? I don’t know.

  • http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts Eldave1

    Could not agree more.

    Just hated Moonlight. I would not be am surprised if the original script was something like this for the first 40 pages:

    A boy is asked a question. He doesn’t respond. – PAUSE PAUSE PAUSE – you figure out what is going on in his head.

    A boy sees something unpleasant. We stare at it with him for three minutes. You figure out what is going on in his head.

    Rinse and Repeat.

    I am a fan of small character driven stories. But good God, bring some perspective to them. By way of comparison – and I’m not saying it was best script worthy – The writer of The Edge of Seventeen took a small story about a single girl in her adolescent years and actually made it quite interesting. Sorry, I just though Moonlight was horrible.

  • klmn
  • Elloie

    Thank you. Its annoying and the people who say it are basically just confirming the belief that white people are uncomfortable and don’t like it when black people win.

    • Scott Crawford

      It seems just a massive coincidence, and I mean that genuinely, that the most acclaimed movies released this year were about people of color (and some about women, homosexuality).

      Next year, might not be the case. Or maybe it will be. It’s still true stories, though, or classic adaptations like Fences. It’d be nice if there was more nominations next year for non-true, genre films (Get Out?).

      • Elloie

        I don’t see a coincidence, there are acclaimed poc-led films everywhere, just they don’t as often get recognized.

        Straight Outta Compton and Creed (non-true genre film) were two of the most acclaimed movies of last year. If they’d have been nominated, Creed would’ve been the third best reviewed movie of the list. If we want to talk about Oscar-worthy films that also resonate with general audiences: both made more than all but two of that years BP nominees (Mad Max and The Martian).

        People have this narrative that “white people win all the awards cause they deserve it, black people complain, and so under social pressure they give awards to black people that didn’t necessarily deserve it”.

        But no, its “black people consistently ignored in consideration for their achievements, they complain, and so next year the awards are pressured into fairly considering them.”

    • D.C. Purk

      My reply to Miranda above is a suitable response, but here’s something else to consider:

      It takes a special type of asshole to accuse everyone who disagrees with them of “racism” in order to discredit them (see also: “The Colonel”) It’s that type of shit that frustrates struggling middle class Americans and makes them vote someone like Trump into the White House. So for the sake of all man kind, please think before you talk, cause it could be the difference between 4 years and 8 years.

  • Scott Crawford

    Not young, not American. Still would though.

    So that’s one out of three.

    It’s quite common for the Oscars to award your actresses on the rise (Witherspoon, Lawrence), or even at the start of their career (Jolie, Vikander).

  • Avatar

    How does it work? So each Price Waterhouse has 24 cards and they hand the card to the respective presenter. So, while one hands the card, does the other person discard the duplicate? I’m still confused how they could hand the wrong card to Warren. If best picture is the last card, then wouldn’t one of the Price Waterhouse accountants still have a card?

  • Elloie

    I also think Carson is underselling the amount of ability that can go into writing each of those single scenes and making them powerful. And then doing it again, and again, throughout the movie.

  • Angry Cyborg

    OT: The Netflix teaser for Max Landis’ Bright just dropped, [x] impressive. http://scriptshadow.net/screenplay-review-bright/

    I gotta say, I’m underwhelmed. The Orc/partner just looks like he’s got a painted face with Boar teeth. And if the bleached-out Daenerys chick is supposed to be the big bad witch she certainly doesn’t evoke any fear or dread. I was imagining more like a Mrs. Ganush from Drag Me to Hell look.


    I read the Max version, it had potential but like all Max L. scripts it felt like a 1st draft. Hopefully Ayer polished that turd into at least a Ruby, but I ain’t holding my breath.

    • Kane

      I was not a fan of the script. But I have to admit, if I’d seen the teaser without reading the script or seeing suicide squad first this would definitely be on my too watch list. Who am I kidding, I’m going to watch this instead of all the Oscar winners.

    • fragglewriter

      I saw it and thought the magical sword, or whatever it is, would appease the eyes, but it looked it a wooden sword that was made using old wood and magic markers.

    • klmn

      Is “I’m assuming this doesn’t end well” a good line to include in a teaser? I suspect some critics are going to have fun with that line.

    • Master John Moss

      It’s gonna suck. I have zero faith in it. Will’s taste in projects is AWFUL. Wild Wild West, I Am Legend, After Earth, I Robot, Suicide Squad, Bad Boys 2, MiB 2, 3, Collateral Beauty…

  • Thaddeus Arnold

    Honestly, anyone that thinks the politics are bad now need only wait another year or two. That’s when the films inspired by and underneath the current adminstration will start being made.

    • HRV

      Hate films, anyone?

  • fragglewriter

    Thanks For writing the above because I didn’t want to sound aggressive.


    you should let everyone involved with moonlight know that the only reason they won was “white guilt.” their win certainly wasn’t based on any black person’s talent, right? diminishing, disparaging, belittling and perverting any of moonlight’s wins because of your prejudice and hatred for whites is not an intelligent way to go. but whatever makes you feel powerful. hope you find happiness someday.

    tweet the moonlight people your “true” reason for their win. i’m sure they’d love to hear a sister’s thoughts.
    @moonlightmov @A24 @BandryBarry @JanelleMonae @NaomieHarris

    and just so you know, I’m black. though not a racist like you. anyone upvoting nina craft’s garbage should be ashamed. but maybe you’re part of that white guilt.

    • HRV

      It’s just too bad that an actor’s talents have to be overshadowed by other, negative factors.

  • huckabees

    In a world where Suicide Squad is an Oscar-winning motion picture, one dumbfounded man must bang his head against every wall he passes until he finally wakes up.

  • ChadStuart

    Did everyone read Hollywood Reporter’s brutally honest Oscar ballots this year? It’s a series where voters can anonymously give their thoughts on how they cast their ballots. It gives a tremendous amount of insight into the minds of Academy members.

    And since voters represent the same mindset as buyers around town, it’s something important to take note of that if you’re writing a brainy or complicated sci-film, you’re probably not going to get a warm reception.

    Most of those who participated in the articles simply hated “The Arrival”. Like, really detested it from top to bottom. Heck, the only one who liked it, and ranked it second on the ballot said, “Arrival told a very complex, totally engrossing, fascinating story — I actually didn’t get it at all until after the screening, when I was out in the lobby talking to someone and asked, ‘Can you explain that to me?’ She did and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, now I see it!’ Once I understood what he [director Denis Villeneuve] was doing, I thought it was terrific.”

    This was a member of the executives branch of the academy. That says a lot about Hollywood at the moment, I think. You can read the whole article here:


    And there’s the links to the rest of them. They’re all a very illuminating read.

  • D.C. Purk

    A lot to unpack here. I mean no ill-will toward anyone and certainly don’t judge on the internet, so I’ll try to word this as harmless as possible without losing any precision:

    Nothing in my post said “people of color don’t deserve Oscars.” Very obvious strawman there, and the fact that you singled that out from 10% of my comment whilst ignoring the rest says more about your perspective on race, not mine. It was a small joke about the obvious liberal subculture who think that aimlessly hating white males makes them noble and virtuous people. Please see MTV News “New Years resolutions for White Guys” video. This video was universally panned, and people like that need to be made fun off. They manufacture false oppression in order to feel better about themselves. This creates a “boy who cried wolf” situation that takes away from actual oppression that may be happening elsewhere.

    One of the main characters of Hell of High Water was a Native American, the most oppressed people in American history. So we can check off “shallow, skin deep proof that people who like this movie aren’t racist” from the official How to Manufacture Racism at the Expense of Others to Feel Better About Yourself Handbook. I certainly don’t think the movie was a masterpiece, but it did a lot of things well.

    “the dangers of conflating personal opinion with fact”

    100% of your post is personal opinion. Please note that my comment begins with the words “I feel…” I certainly don’t believe that every thought in my head deserves its own Wikipedia article, and I’d never set up any strawmen to belittle anyone who disagrees with it.

    There was no “narrative” I was pushing. It was just an observation.

    Remember “The Colonel”??? Yeah. Let’s try not to devolve every conversation into that type of shit.

  • BellBlaq

    The winner of a contest can only come from the material that’s been submitted. Every year’s not going to be a “best of the best,” sometimes we have to settle for the “best of the worst.”That said, there was no choice but to evaluate the films available by the sum of their parts.

    Now, I haven’t read the screenplays for Manchester By The Sea or Moonlight yet, so I can’t really comment on their paper forms, but I’ll assert that one of the important elements presented by both films in their movie forms was their impact on the audience.

    Granted, I only got about 10 mins into MBTS (I really don’t like Casey Affleck’s face… sorry), but I watched Moonlight in its entirety and even though it wasn’t the most riveting movie I’ve ever seen in my life, it definitely had the most arresting and memorable moments I’ve seen in feature films this year.

    I agree that there’s a difference between “storytelling” and “telling a story.” Moonlight really only “told a story” in three parts, and although it did lack in its overall storytelling, I know when I watched the scene of Little being told off by his mom, even though there was no audio, and her head was cut out of the frame… I still knew exactly what she said to him and how it made him feel. The scene of Chiron at the beach with his first love…? Without them saying anything, I knew exactly what that moment meant to him. When Black reconnected with his ONE and ONLY love after 10 years…? And they just sat across from each other in that diner booth? Not really saying much, just happy to see each other’s faces…? Those moments were 1,000x better than the cheesy sandstorm car sex from Allied, or the convoluted mythology with childish predictability of Kubo and The Two Strings, or the jokingly racist, cliched bromance from Hell or High Water.

    And, apparently, this year that counted for everything.

  • HRV

    Or maybe karma was stepping in to say who it thought the winner should be. Personally. I don’t care for musicals so… Hacksaw Ridge should have won — very powerful movie, and a true story.

  • Dallas Cobb

    I full-heartedly disagree. Based on performances, visuals and colors, and everything thematic and symbolic included — moonlight was worlds better than La La Land, a film I’m unashamed to say I also greatly enjoyed/appreciated.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Lowest rating in 9 years.
    Don’t know where Carson’s been.
    Don’t watch Oscars for the movies,
    watch it for the politics.
    If they mention diversity, transgender, feminism, and immmm…igration
    — then it’s a good night.

  • Malibo Jackk

    (There is a belief that even a documentary has to be entertaining on some level.)

  • Citizen M

    I’ve said it before: Political Correctness is the death of art.

    • PQOTD

      While I agree with the point about forcing an ideology down people’s throats, there needs to be a middle ground found though, because otherwise the privileging of white, heterosexual men (and in the context of cinema, the dominance of narratives that celebrate their achievements and promote their interests – caveat: AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS) will continue apace.

      There ought to be room enough for great stories wherever they come from and whomever they celebrate.

      In my experience, ‘Political Correctness’ is a term commonly bandied about to denigrate anyone who challenges privilege and shut down the debate.

      Screw that.

      Let’s call out privilege for what it is and for what it does: it’s a mechanism that promotes the interests of some while making it so much harder for others to reach their full potential.

      You want a perfect example? The Lovelace Thirteen. You mightn’t have heard of them. They were a group of female pilots who competed with the Mercury Seven (male) astronauts for spots in the early space program.

      They passed every test the men had bar one, often doing better than the men. Most of the women had much more flight experience. The longest any of the men had lasted in an isolation float tank was a fraction of the time the ten hours that one of the women had gone – and they only pulled her out so they could all go home. The float tank was the closest simulation they could get to a power and light outage in a space capsule in a weightless environment. It was a test that really mattered.

      Powerful head of the Senate Space sub-committee then Vice president Lyndon Baines Johnson put his foot down and ordered NASA to deny them access to the last test and find a benchmark the women COULD NOT possibly pass because there was no way on his watch that any damned woman was going to get into space.

      So the standard was set that the Mercury astronauts had to be MILITARY JET TEST PILOTS under a certain age. Some of the women had been civilian test pilots. Most had flown jets. Some had served in the WASPs during WWII, at the end of which female pilots were pushed out of the military en masse.

      Ergo, none had been in the military when it was possible for them to test jets.


      That’s privilege in action and it ensures that people who are not necessarily the best people for the job succeed while others are failed for bullshit reasons.

      The real political correctness here is when privilege can’t be challenged because it might hurt white men’s feelings.

      • PQOTD

        Nice little graphic on how privilege works…


        • Malibo Jackk

          Don’t get mad,
          I’m going to tell an antidote.

          Got in my car the other day and there was an interview in progress on the radio. A black film maker. Sounded young. Didn’t catch the name of the film. Tale end of the conversation.
          Anyway, he seemed to suggest that he wanted to make movies to express his anger. And one day he went to a barber shop and there were two old black barbers. These guys had been around the block — so he opened up to them. Life unfair. White privilege. Black people get no respect. On and on…
          So what did the old black barbers tell him? “Go to Russia.”
          Yeah, they lived in a different world.

          • PQOTD

            Oh, gosh, Malibo – I’d never get mad (and I’m not mad today, so apols if it came across that I might’ve been. I was just making an argument :) Okay, I can get a bit passionate, but I wasn’t steam-coming-out-of-my-ears angry or thinking unkind thoughts towards anyone.)

            I think that’s a terrific anecdote, and they make an excellent point.

            That’s not to say injustices and systemic inequalities shouldn’t be named-and-shamed for what they are.

          • JakeBarnes12

            You have a great deal of patience.

            Teacher, perhaps?

          • PQOTD

            Well, thank you for the compliment, Jake, and Malibo’s an equally patient, um, sparring partner for want of a better word. He put up with my long-winded posts with good humor. I’m always happy to listen to dissenting opinions expressed thoughtfully and respectfully. We may not sway each other’s opinions, but trading barbs and punches is unhelpful.

            You’re very close, btw. I’m a post-grad and I study alongside teachers in an Education, Law and Humanities faculty.

          • JakeBarnes12

            Pretty easy to spot the precision of thought and expression fostered by academic training.

            Your posts are refreshing on a day when I’ve seen too many ugly and small-minded sentiments expressed.

          • PQOTD

            Hear, hear re the woeful state of public discourse.

            Thank you again, Jake. I wish everyone could receive the benefits of a university education – the rising tide lifting all boats metaphor, to bring out the best in us all.

      • Malibo Jackk

        Just a quick note. (short on time)
        In fairness, the other side of “political correctness” is that it’s a form of fascism — blackballing people from having an opinion that may differ somewhat. And shutting off even reasonable discussion.

        • PQOTD

          I have absolutely no inclination to shut down reasonable debate, Malibo. It’s when ‘reasonable discussion’ gets shut down by using provocative, derogatory and loaded terms about dissent and those who challenge the status quo that I get annoyed by the sheer hypocrisy of it all.

          Fascism started off as a somewhat racially-tolerant, right-wing reactionary movement under Mussolini but morphed into a fanatic, heinous, totalitarian, eugenics-based ideology under the Nazis.

          It was an ideology which elevated nationalism and Aryan racial superiority to a cultish pseudo-religion, then directly or indirectly caused the deaths of 60 million people in the Second World War, and the suffering and impoverishment of tens of millions more.

          That’s why I find it extremely offensive to be called (not here, but elsewhere) a ‘feminazi’. While what some say makes my blood boil, I will defend unto my last breath their right to say it. And, yes, that makes me a classic political liberal. I would never put anyone in a concentration camp, slave-drive and starve them until they were skeletally thin, gas them and burn their body in an oven because I didn’t agree with him or her.

          How so-called ‘political correctness’ can be likened to that is beyond me. It seems an hysterical, irrational claim.

          Sorry, Malibo, but have you been drinking the kool-aid, too, my brother?

          If we’re going to use loaded words like ‘fascism’ to describe the deliberate silencing of opinions and perspectives, then we have to acknowledge the historical reality of just how dominant ‘fascism’ once was in the liberal democracies and republics of the developed world, and who benefited.

          By your definition – ‘blackballing people from having an opinion that may differ somewhat’ – when women and people of color were deliberately denied the vote (surely the ultimate proof of a person’s right to a political opinion), that would be fascism.

          Who denied them that right to cast their opinion? The group who benefited most from it – guys who looked just like Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln.

          We’d also have to acknowledge that fascism’s happening right now. Using your definition, when President Trump denies certain media outlets the right to question his policies, or shuts down their legitimate concerns by tagging it as ‘fake news’, that would also be fascism.

          I’m very reluctant to tag him and his Administration with that label, although I fear if he continues to surround himself with people whose opinions tend to extremism and are not from the sensible, moderate center, he could lead the US down a very dark path.

          I hope not. I really hope not.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Have to run out and take care of some business but
            — here’s a short list of some people talking about political correctness and fascism:


          • PQOTD

            Happy to check it out, Malibo. :)

          • PQOTD

            Some of the things in there I very much agree with. Others I might, but shorn of context, they’re tougher to know.

            Wilbur Smith’s quote in there said ‘Quite frankly, I think
            political correctness is the worst form of censorship. You’re not
            allowed to speak your mind unless you’re black, or unless you’re a
            terrorist, or unless you’re an Arab or a minority people. Then you can
            say what you like. But if you are like a lot of us you are not supposed
            to say certain things.’

            And yet Mr Smith and everyone else can say whatever they like. They can say them on the radio, tv, to print journalists, they can tweet their thoughts, post them on FB, they can write them as dialogue in scripts. They can self-publish books, or be quoted on BrainyQuote.com. Nobody’s silencing their voices.

            They might be criticised for what they say, but nobody is stopping them saying it. I get criticised for what I say all the time – from both left and right, from men and from women. I don’t try to stop them, nor to limit their access to the means by which they can criticise me.

            As far as I’m concerned, bring it on, and may the best argument win.

          • Malibo Jackk

            “And yet Mr Smith and everyone else can say whatever they like.”
            Yeah — because they’re not being “politically correct.”

          • PQOTD

            Nobody’s forcing them to be, Malibo. There’s no penalty for not being ‘politically correct’.

            At worst, someone who says something provocatively racist or sexist or homophobic looks like an asshole to some others. They’re not put in jail. They’re not deprived of their right to speak.

            Those who rail against political correctness make a big deal about it being a mechanism to silence people who were never being silenced in the first place. The US Constitution protects everyone’s right to be an asshole in the First Amendment.

            My points are 1/ that nobody’s TRYING to silence anyone in the developed world at least, and 2/ if it hasn’t always been so, then political correctness has become an accusation that is in itself designed to shut down legitimate debate.

            It now does the thing it accuses others of trying to do.

            What those quoted in that website say might invite criticism, rightly or wrongly, but nobody’s threatening them with incarceration in a concentration camp for saying it.

            Quoted author P.D. James coined the term ‘linguistic fascism’ and he was one of those mentioned on the site. Who threatened to take away his right to speak or his liberty, damaged his person, or his livelihood or confiscate his property when ever he spoke his mind?

            How is the absence of threat in any way ‘fascism’? It’s not. James is being melodramatic.

            There are no blanket bans to deny anyone airtime. Nobody’s throwing Molotov cocktails through Simon Cowell’s windows for saying what he thinks. They might disagree or choose to ignore him, but that’s their prerogative in a free society. Only in a totalitarian state could someone force people to listen to Simon Cowell. Cowell’s not being silenced.

            The people who’re resorting to extremist intimidation are all on the reactionary right, painting swastikas on synagogues and mosques, and making bomb threats against Jewish schools. That’s what fascism looked like in Germany on Krystallnacht.

            Howls of ‘political correctness’ are designed to stop people asking about why, as an example, and as you pointed out last night – 17% of the US population is Latino, yet Latino people were few and far between at the Oscars as presenters and (almost or were?) non-existent as nominees and winners.

            Damn it, those are questions we should be asking if anyone truly believes that all people are created equal.

            Inequalities like that endure because they’re often structural, built into the political and economic system.

            When someone criticises that system, that structural inequality and those who are privileged by it, the easiest way to howl them down is with an accusation of ‘political correctness’.

            In Australia, we call it ‘dog-whistle’ politics, and the reactionary right has it down to a fine art. It’s a bit like the right’s complaints that those on the left want to take their guns. No, they don’t, and they never did. They just want the laws to be enforced to stop crazy people and violent criminals getting them.

            But acknowledging that truth doesn’t sell NRA memberships.

  • Midnight Luck

    The Oscars broadcast is amazingly out of touch.
    I didn’t watch it, because watching it real time doesn’t interest me anymore, and I think this is the problem in general, and speaks to the issues of the ludicrous show overall.

    In an age where everyone sells themselves, in an era where people put themselves on stage completely naked (The terrible Kardashians) and show off and talk about themselves and what they are doing or selling 24/7 via YOUTUBE and SNAPCHAT and INSTAGRAM and TWITTER both live and via snippets of information, all this live ABC television shows is just how out of touch this kind of thing actually is.

    I don’t know that people actually give two shits about watching as all these people peacock themselves and some fashion designed dress as 8 hours of “coverage” happens before you actually get to the Meat of the show.

    Then when we get to that point, does anyone actually want to see these people get up there, flub their lines, watch as people are all so seemingly uncomfortable onstage?
    Instead, people have gotten used to things looking and seeming to be so “perfect”. Images of human bodies so photoshopped, so modified that they look like sculptures and mannequins. (which is easy to do with photo apps)

    Outside of that, there’s also the problem of, watching clips of the show, everything and everyone seems so out of touch and dated. Like watching strange black and white film of people from the 1920’s. Like all these Hollywood elite’s have no idea how the rest of civilization functions. The show seems just idiotic. Then with a snafu like yesterday, it makes it REALLY out of touch.

    So, seriously, when people have become accustomed to snippets of video/audio/text and everything is available all the time / on demand / without interruption. When everyone is a BRAND or a Internet CELEBRITY and post images of themselves so perfected, so slick they almost seem like robots, watching a show like this, basically is like watching a VHS tape from a buried time capsule.

    And Hollywood doesn’t even seem to understand they are in an archaic system.

    • PQOTD

      And when they can nominate Meryl Streep for Best Actress in what will end up among her most completely forgettable roles, while overlooking Amy Adams (who carried a movie that’s grossed globally close to $200 million) and Annette Bening for ’20th Century Women’, then they run a highlighter through your points, ML.

      • Midnight Luck

        Yeah, the preview for that Meryl Streep movie looked so bad, I was a bit shocked it was being made.
        I would go with Annette Bening 100% for 20th Century Women. She was phenomenal (as she always is), a bit like her role in RUNNING WITH SCISSORS (another movie nobody saw) mixed a bit with AMERICAN BEAUTY. But she was really stellar.

        I wish, I really do wish, I liked ARRIVAL more, but I personally thought it was a mess. It didn’t effectively affect me or the audience (that I could tell). I didn’t much like the aliens (they were retreads of a million other movies), nor did I find any of the characters interesting or appealing. And none of the characters seemed to have any chemistry. They all just seemed to be plopped down into this film with little and no connection to each other, or even to the film itself.

        Anyhow, it wasn’t a film I liked much. I could tell what it wanted to be, what it was trying for, but I personally felt it failed.

    • Kirk Diggler

      “When everyone is a BRAND or a Internet CELEBRITY and post images of themselves so perfected, so slick they almost seem like robots, watching a show like this, basically is like watching a VHS tape from a buried time capsule.”

      This literally makes zero sense. You’re criticizing the Oscars for not being as shallow and fake as the Kardashians yet at the same time the Oscars themselves are archaic and old-fashioned like some sort of analog experience in a digital world.

      So basically, you hate the new and the old and everything in-between. And what specifically was it about the snafu that made the event even more out of touch?

      Just tell the Academy to get off your lawn at this point.

  • Midnight Luck

    He’s getting worse, so I’m guessing ——->> downhill.

  • Midnight Luck

    and everyone, in all the hubbub, has seemingly forgotten that Bill Paxton just died.
    R.I.P. Bill Paxton. I’m still remembering you.
    So very sad.
    Nowhere on IMDB does it talk about him anymore. He got one day of interest, and then everyone moved on to more important things like: the Oscars, the screw up, flub (manipulation) of the Best Picture award! Oh lordy, what do we all do?!

  • Dimitri

    Man. I thought both movies weer great and not boring at all. Both movies made me feel something and for me, that’s what movies are all about. Whether it’s a sense of adventure or sadness. And you’re totally right, both Manchester and Moonlight wouldn’t have done great as a screenplay on this site. But we must not forget that screenplays are blueprints for movies. That doesn’t mean they can’t be entertaining, but it does mean that a non-entertaining can be a very good movie. Read anything by a Nolan. They’re not great screenplays but some great movies (with a few duds).

  • Dallas Cobb

    To Carson (and for everybody else to play, too!):

    What 5 original, and 5 adapted, screenplays would YOU have nominated this year?

    • Midnight Luck

      it was a crappy year.

      The Founder
      Hidden Figures
      War Dogs
      The Infiltrator
      (see also below for a bunch more possible Best Adapted scripts***)

      #1. Hell or High Water
      #2. 20th Century Women
      #3. The Purge: Election Year (is this original or adapted since it is a Part 3?)
      #4. 10 Cloverfield Lane (just barely)

      (kinda sucking air here for originals, cannot find any others that were made that were worthy….)

      ***Alternative Best Adapted
      Deadpool (finally a fun and funny and great spandex movie!)
      Hunt for the Wilderpeople (haven’t seen yet but heard many good things)
      A Hologram for the King (really great, but low key, and some might say slow, but I found it really interesting and good)
      The Dressmaker (strange, but really well written and fun)

      • PQOTD

        While it had a couple of problems (the romantic spark seemed to come out of nowhere), I’d still throw ‘Arrival’ in the ‘Best Adapted’, too.

        • Dallas Cobb

          I mean, I personally enjoyed reading “Manchester by the Sea,” and I’m actually using it as one of my reference texts for my thesis project due at the end of this semester.

          I liked its prose, I liked how much importance was given to what was NOT on the page versus what was on the page, and (taking Casey Affleck out of the equation – since I feel like he just portrayed himself in a sense…), I thought the characterizations felt very humane.

      • Master John Moss

        ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is overrated, I thought. Gets lost in the wilderness of the second act. Doesn’t really recover. That said, the writer/director has a great sense of humor and I look forward to his next effort: ‘Thor: Ragnarok.’

        • carsonreeves1

          It did sort of lose track of what it was about in that 2nd act.

          • Master John Moss

            Did you see the Team Thor shorts?

  • Midnight Luck

    Boogie Nights, phenomenal
    Magnolia, phenomenal

    then it starts falling apart.

    I liked some parts of There Will Be Blood a lot, many of the ideas were great, but I had a lot of issues with much of it as well. In the end I wasn’t that big of a fan of the film. I think it was trying desperately to be really vile and violent, and I think might have suffered from some of the adaptation from the book.

    Yikes. Talk about truly breathtakingly terrible. Now that takes some effort.

  • Oscar

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    This is what happens when readers have it drilled into them that all scripts must always have an active protagonist with a concrete goal and high stakes and an inciting incident on pg X and so on and so forth. Which is all sound advice in terms of the fundamentals.

    But this is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.

    Only once you figure out how to transcend the conventional formula can you start to approach great art. Sadly, most of the Hollywood readers and assistants are very much stuck within the mindset prescribed by their coverage sheets, which is why most newcomers scribbling away on spec must learn to work within the rules before they can earn a license to break them.

    Moonlight was a worthy winner.

  • TruthSayer100

    Appreciate passionate points of view, but have to say I disagree with this one. Sometimes I think you think too much like a screenwriter, Carson. A script is an important part of a movie, but sometimes a movie is more than the sum of its parts. Moonlight was special to a lot of people because it evoked a feeling through its imagery and characters. It also appealed to people due to its specificity. It may not have been a groundbreaking script, but it was a deeply personal one, as it was based on the childhoods of both Jenkins and his co-writer. Something tells me the vast majority of writers out there wouldn’t have been able to pull off a script about a poor young gay black boy in Miami with as much ease.

    BTW, this is the third Best Picture and Best Screenplay winning movie you’ve disliked in a row (after Birdman and Spotlight). I’m starting to think your tastes don’t align with Hollywood’s, lol.

    • carsonreeves1

      I’m fine with the way the message connects with people. All I’m saying is that a screenwriter who understood screenwriting could’ve made that same message captivating, as opposed to something you had to endure.

      • Dallas Cobb

        IF you’re suggesting that Moonlight or Manchester would’ve been better films had they been more “captivating,” then you just don’t understand their intent. There is nothing “captivating,” in my opinion, about dealing with grief and tragedy, or struggling with personal and social identity in oppressive (and underrepresented) communities. Making the words on the page, or the final images, more romantic or “captivating” would’ve depleted each film’s value and message. Tone must match content.

  • Avatar

    What’s your theory of what happened? If best picture is the last envelope, then how could Emma’s card be given–unless, the last two originals were all Emma’s. Maybe, these guys didn’t really double check/triple check as they claimed.

  • Lucid Walk

    Manchester was one of the most layered stories I’ve seen.

    It earned and deserved its Oscar.

  • Pat

    I disagree Carson, I enjoyed Moonlight and Manchester By the Sea more than La La Land because both of those movies had something to say. La La Land was just fluff, romance and nostalgia and though it talks a bit about following your dreams I didn’t find it that inspiring or emotionally impactful. However, both Moonlight and Manchester By the Sea explored real emotions and real situations and though they are a little slower and are drama’s instead of any flashy genre piece, if you’re watching movies to feel something and to experience the lives of different characters, than those two movies are much better than La La Land.

    I don’t want to watch a movie that is just flash and spectacle that serves as a distraction but has no substance, I enjoy movies that mean something, that make you think and make you experience a life you might not regularly experience.

  • Angry Cyborg

    Sure, I’ll do a swap with you. I just trimmed an hour dramedy down to a 1/2 comedy. At least I hope it’s a comedy, I’m not sure if it worked.


    • Matt Bishop

      Awesome, sent you an email.

  • LaughDaily

    I respect this POV but to be frank, I am too much of an optimistic.
    I had a pretty crappy childhood so I have little to no interests in harshly realistic dramatic films. My life was crappy enough, I don’t need a reminder lol. I know everyone’s taste is different and I respect that. Some filmmakers thrive in the harsh reality of their life experiences in their films while other prefer to live in the fantasy of what could be. I prefer the optimistic potential of what could be. I come from the Spielberg school of storytelling. I couldn’t do harsh, bitter, realistic storytelling, I have the HIGHEST RESPECT FOR IT but not for me. To each his own though.

  • carsonreeves1

    Fair point. Whenever I’m confused about a movie’s success (or acclaim, in this case), I ask my non-industry friends what they thought, just to see what “real people” thought of the movie. And they all thought these two films were bad. However, I acknowledge that we hang around types that tend to think similarly to us. So there’s no truly objective opinion.

    • TruthSayer100

      It’s true. I’m sure the people I hang out with have similar views to myself as well.

  • Mallet

    I think when it comes to awards like this that it is important to remember the old saying that a script is a blueprint for a movie, not a movie.

    It is not like any of the voters actually read the script. They didn’t see how much “white space” there was or how long the action lines were or anything like that. They only see the final product: the movie.

    What they are voting on is how the movie made them feel or think. How the dialogue (by way of the actors) conveyed the emotions and motivations of the characters.

    Great scripts can make shitty movies, but any great movie automatically has a great script, because the script did it’s job, it inspired the director and actors to make a great film. Inspiring the cast and crew to make a great movie is a scripts real job. Actors, directors and producers don’t care about white space or long action lines or even formatting, they just want a script that inspires and excites them to create great work.

    If you want a “best screenplay” in a technical sense then maybe look at the Nichols contest, but also realize just how few “top 5″ out of 7000 scripts a year actually end up as good movies. Spoiler Alert: not very many at all. Like pretty much zero.

    A technically great script with a great plot might be celebrated amongst screenwriters, but for the people actually making movies the important thing is creating excitement and inspiring them to do their jobs.

    • blake011

      Very well put. Exactly right.

    • Oscar

      Here’s the thing — white space and action lines are not what screenwriting is. Not really.

      This whole cottage industry has developed around making scripts more “readable” in an effort to better navigate the slush piles of exhausted readers, but it’s all just polishing the chrome.

      The real craft of screenwriting is in creating characters, story, world, theme, set ups and pay offs, and yes, dialogue and subtext. The rest is just window dressing.

  • Jaco

    “But if all you’re doing is drudging through one passive melodramatic scene after another, I’m sorry, but you haven’t written a screenplay, nor are you a screenwriter.”


    Who has a better handle on the craft of screenwriting?

    (1) A screenwriter who pens a script that gets made into a movie and wins major awards;


    (2) A non-screenwriter who runs a blog and talks about scripts written by people described in Option 1 above.

    Stop taking pot shots at writers – it’s hard enough out there.

  • http://antixpress.com/ kidbaron

    What Carson said.

    Moonlight look great and has some great acting, but it really lacks a bunch of screenwriting fundamentals. Scenes go nowhere. Scenes just happen because they are staged in a cool way. Then characters sit and talk a lot. Which is funny, I had the same film professors as Barry Jenkins and I remember that was a critique of one of my short films. One professor mentioned giving the actor something to do, even as simple as Bogart tapping or smoking a cigarette. Remember that they shouldn’t be just sitting across from each other and talking.

    And the third act doesn’t play against anyone’s expectations. The lead doesn’t have to work for what he wants. He just had to go on a road trip for a couple of hours.

  • Nina Craft

    Its not negativity, I’m sifting thorugh the BS and reporting what I see. HIdden figures was amazing and should have been a contender over Moonlight in my opinion. I havent seen Fences yet. My issue was that from the start Moonlight, which was dull in my opinion, was shoved down our throats as the “Important” film to embrace and therefore beyond reproach or criticism and that doesnt sit well with me. It’s like you HAD to give it awards based on politics an the message. Reactionary people like this Luke Rage person wouldnt EVER get this passionate if I said I hated Arrival or La La Land. But say a bad thing about Moonlight and off to social jail you go. That’s what bothers me if you want to know

  • Claude Santos

    With Machester by the sea, by the time you reach the end you are wishing him closure for everything that happened but he doesn’t get it. He said “I can’t beat it”. You find a character who cant beat his problem but by the things that happened to him, you know why he is just beat up and forgive him for losing. Which makes the ending perfect.

  • peisley

    The Awards have always had a wtf whiff to them. Crash to start with. It’s become highly politicized, this latest show reaching an apex. The choices aren’t even art related, they are politically motivated. The ratings are down in part because there are no films nominated that people rally behind, let alone go to see at the theater or even in the comfort of their own home. For me, the magic is gone when they bus in a load of supposed clueless people for a “get” Kimmel moment. It’s not only tv fodder at the lowest level, even the tour group acted like it was just another Snapchat moment. Proving that awestruck moments on and behind the scenes are pretty much gone.


    And heaven knows, writing scripts is hard bloody work.

  • Bfied

    “Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea won the Adapted and Original screenplay awards respectively. And they’re both terrible screenplays. There isn’t even a discussion to be had on the matter. They’re awful screenplays that display no skill in the screenwriting department whatsoever.”

    Kind of like how you also thought “Birdman” was a total piece of crap and required no skill, either? Are you starting to see a pattern develop here?

    But give Carson another typical thriller about someone that’s been kidnapped or some garbage broad comedy that checks all his GSU boxes and it’s the best thing he’s ever read.

    Sorry, Carson, but you truly have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not defending the work because they’re award winners; I’m defending the films and their screenplays because both required an incredibly high level of craft and were both extremely well done.

    They may not be the most inventive story ideas, however, to suggest that they’re awful screenplays or require no skill whatsoever is truly insulting not only to these writers, but writers everywhere.

    Maybe they’re not movies for you or you didn’t care for them? Say that while still acknowledging and respecting the craft behind the pages instead of engaging in over the top hyperbole that diminishes your credibility in recognizing craft that’s staring you right in the face.

    Maybe that’s a better idea for someone running a blog that is supposedly about the craft behind screenwriting and acknowledging it when you see it. But what do I know?

  • thewildkingdom

    I have not seen moonlight yet because I am a racist homophob but I did see Manchester by the see, because white people bring me comfort; and yet the movie still sucked. I watched the directors last movie named after my mother, and was awful as well. Kenneth has gone the way of Cameron Crowe in terms of output. Which means Aloha should have been nominated for an oscar too.