Tag Archives: Best Original Screenplay

Top 100 Films #3 – Annie Hall (1977)

 

annie-hall#3. Annie Hall (1977)
Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane

Woody Allen is a writer-director who I’ve always revered – his incredibly amount of output and passion for the arts is a great source of inspiration for me as a writer and film enthusiast. Even when his films are bad or mediocre, there’s passion and heart to them. His 1977 film Annie Hall is arguably the greatest film he’s ever made, featuring a great love story, hilarious Woody Allen dialogue, and terrific performances. Annie Hall stars Woody Allen as Alvy Singer, a neurotic comedian reflecting on his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), which we find out has ended a year ago. Alvy chronicles his childhood in New York, where he obsessed over the meaning of his existence, and was punished for his early sexual curiosity. Through a series of flashbacks, Alvy and Annie meet after a doubles tennis game with friends, and the two awkwardly hit it off. Things progress wonderfully until Annie moves in with Alvy, which creates tension in the relationship. The two eventually break up, date other people, and reconcile shortly after when Annie needs Alvy’s help with killing a spider in the middle of the night. Soon after their reconciliation, the relationship once again falls apart, this time permanently – both characters are glad to have loved one another, even if it wasn’t always filled with good times. Annie Hall is one of the most beloved romantic comedies in Hollywood history – it even beat Star Wars for Best Picture at the 1978 Academy Awards. The screenplay by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman is highly intelligent and often morbidly hilarious, playing on Woody Allen’s fascinations with death, existence, and the creative process. Even through the script’s intellectual and neurotic nature, Allen and Brickman manage to create one of the most genuine and heartfelt romantic stories ever told on film – one that doesn’t just focus on the best moments in a relationship. The use of flashbacks and non-linear storytelling allows for Allen and Brickman to explore the past of Alvy Singer, including the failed marriages and relationships that have shaped his views on romance. Both Woody Allen and Diane Keaton shine throughout Annie Hall, carrying dramatic and comedic weight like no other on-screen pairing could. Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer is his usual highly neurotic and obsessive, but still confident and arrogant, self, while Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall is adorably goofy, strong-willed, and highly intelligent. The two had such obvious on-screen chemistry in their many collaborations, undoubtedly aided by their brief real life romantic relationship. Annie Hall is Woody Allen at his absolute funniest as a writer and a performer, somehow managing to make both Ingmar Bergman and holocaust documentary The Sorrow and the Pity humorous. The writing and storytelling feels personal and genuine, and the film’s ending feels groundbreaking for the time – not giving the audience the “fairy tale”-esque ending they might be asking for. Annie Hall is Woody Allen’s greatest achievement as a writer and director, and may even be the film where he finally found his voice. It’s hilarious, romantic, heartbreaking, genuine, and smart – everything a Woody Allen movie should be.

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Top 100 Films #22 – Fargo (1996)

 

fargo_033pyxurz#22. Fargo (1996)
Directed by: Joel Coen
Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, Peter Stormare

Fargo is perhaps the most iconic film in the impressive and prolific filmography of the Coen Brothers, thanks in part to the film’s many quirky idiosyncrasies. Fargo follows Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) as a pregnant police chief investigating the killing of a local State Trooper.  The murder has occurred after the pre-arranged kidnapping of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy)’s wife Jean. Lundegaard is in desperate need for money, and has arranged for his wife’s kidnapping in order to extort his father-in-law for a ransom.  The two men responsible for the kidnapping and the murder are Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare), who run a sloppy and uncoordinated operation. Their mistakes eventually lead Marge Gunderson straight to the source, complicating the extortion plot and leading to a series of betrayals and backfires.  Fargo is the Coen Brothers are their very best from a writing perspective – the complicated and unfortunate situation of William H. Macy’s Jerry Lundegaard is immediately established, and his motivations made clear, the lack of chemistry between antagonists Carl and Gaear is shown, and the investigative prowess and critical thinking skills of police chief Marge Gunderson become clear in time.  Every character is perfectly written and realized, with every one of them having their own idiosyncrasies and ticks – most famously Marge’s thick Minnesotan accent and good-natured attitude, Jerry’s nervous, innocent, and immediately suspicious demeanor, and Carl’s nonstop motormouth.  Fargo has been made famous by the sheer quotability of its dialogue, most notably the amount of “oh yeah”’s featured – even twenty years later anybody who has seen the film can’t hear “oh yeah” without immediately associating it with this film.  Frances McDormand’s endearing Marge Gunderson is one of the great screen characters of the 1990’s, “oh yeah”-ing her way all the way to an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1997.  Frances McDormand’s Marge is unintentionally hilarious, tough as nails, and far more complex than she is initially portrayed as – her awkward and uncomfortable scene with Steve Park’s Mike Yanagita and her subsequent revelations about his lies is one of my all-time favorite movie moments.  The Coen Brothers’ hilarious and suspenseful crime film is the basis for the highly successful television show of the same name, which has almost managed to match Fargo in terms of quality and bizarreness.  If you’re a fan of the television series and have somehow managed to avoid the film, do yourself a favour and see Fargo as soon as possible – it’s one of the funniest, quirkiest, most unique movie experiences you’ll ever have.

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Top 100 Films #59 – Pulp Fiction (1994)

 

ffc39ebe6c87b384c277ca8ce3a63ba4#59. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Christopher Walken

Pulp Fiction is a film that needs no introduction to anybody who even remotely cares about movies.  Quentin Tarantino’s revolutionary 1994 film changed the way people look at films and their structure, at least in terms of mainstream motion pictures. Pulp Fiction weaves multiple boundary-pushing narratives together into one of the most entertaining, remarkable tapestries ever put to celluloid, with stories that saw hit-men Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) collecting a mysterious golden briefcase, having the interior of their car cleaned after an unfortunate accident, and being held at gunpoint in a local diner.  Another saw a boxer named Butch (Bruce Willis) throwing a fixed fight and fleeing the city, only to encounter Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), the man he double-crossed, in a bizarre torture/sex dungeon.  Tarantino’s film was a massive financial and critical success, being nominated for several Academy Awards like Best Picture, Best Director (Tarantino), Best Actor (John Travolta), Best Supporting Actor (Samuel L. Jackson), but only won the award for Best Screenplay (Tarantino) – which it undoubtedly deserved. Tarantino’s screenplay is one of the greatest of the 1990’s, combining gut-busting humor, raw violence, satisfying character arcs, and Tarantino’s unique brand of bizarreness into one beautiful package.  Quentin Tarantino’s direction of Pulp Fiction is another element that cannot be understated – using high energy techniques, great music, and paying homage to some of his favorite cult films of yesteryear, every frame of the film has been carefully constructed and labored over.  The ensemble cast of the film features more than a few memorable performances, from John Travolta’s reluctant swagger, to Samuel L. Jackson questioning his faith and the world around him, and even Uma Thurman’s cool, sexy Mia Wallace.  It’s nearly impossible to argue that Pulp Fiction is not a masterpiece – even if you’re not a fan of the works of Tarantino, there’s something here for nearly everybody. While Ben-Hur is the film that hooked me on movies, Pulp Fiction is the work that made me appreciate how they were constructed, and made me dig far deeper into the rabbit hole than I had ever expected.  It’s been a lifelong favorite of mine and no doubt to millions of others.

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Top 100 Films #66 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

 

eternalsunshineofaspotlessmindjimcarreykatewinslet1#66. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Written by: Charlie Kaufman (story by Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a hard addition to my top 100 list, but only because of how difficult a watch it is.  Michel Gondry’s visionary 2004 film is the ultimate story of lost love, regret, and the power that memories hold. Eternal Sunshine is about a man named Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) who is looking to have an experimental memory loss procedure in order to forget about his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet).  The couple had disintegrated over time due to their polar opposite personalities, Joel is shy and soft spoken, and Clementine is free-spirited and impulsive.  The crew performing the procedure do so from Joel’s bedroom, where they drink, listen to music, and smoke pot on the job as Joel lays sleeping.  The film largely takes place inside the mind of Joel, where he begins to regret having the memory wipe procedure, and attempts to save his memories of Clementine.  It would be unjust to go too in-depth about the film’s plot, as it really is something viewers should see for themselves.  The story is told with a heavy reliance on interesting visuals that cannot be fully explained in words – the memories of Joel Barish know no bounds.  The real star of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind comes in the form of writer Charlie Kaufman’s script, which brings a whole host of surrealist ideas, as well as heavy themes of love, loss, and longing, and loneliness.  While Kaufman is most famous for writing some of the most bizarrely funny screenplays of the late 90’s and 2000’s (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., Synecdoche, New York) , Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind seems more focused on telling an intelligent, unique, heartfelt story that most anybody can relate with on some level.  Charlie Kaufman’s incredible script combined with Michel Gondry’s visionary direction results in a wholly unique sensory experience – the two artists work together seamlessly, creating one of the best films of the 2000’s.  Eternal Sunshine is full of heart wrenching moments, including the opening 15 minutes of the film, which mostly sees our two main characters meeting on a train, setting up the events to come.  While we certainly get our fair share of grounded moments, some of the film’s more special moments come in its absurd and bizarre sequences – an example being our two main characters hiding Joel’s childhood memories.  The supporting cast of Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst help to further the absurd nature of the film, breaking every workplace rule without even a hint of guilt or regret.  On top of Eternal Sunshine’s terrific screenplay and groundbreaking direction, the main performances by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are perfect in every way – both actors completely embody their characters, becoming lost in them for 108 minutes.  Jim Carrey is playing against type for his portrayal of Joel – instead of his typically zany, bombastic performance, he’s forced to play a much more meek and subtle character.  Kate Winslet’s Clementine is a joy to watch, despite how frustrating the character can sometimes be – she’s impulsive, aggressive, and maybe a little bit manic, but somehow always manages to be funny and sweet when it counts.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a difficult film to be sure, but it’s also one of the very best of the 2000’s – it’s worth every minute of familiar pain.

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Top 100 Films #68 – The Sting (1973)

 

b3242bfc7ad8#68. The Sting (1973)
Directed by: George Roy Hill
Written by: David S. Ward
Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw

My first experience with George Roy Hill’s zany The Sting came just this past year on the big screen – when the credits rolled and walked out of the theater, I was giddy and wholly satisfied.  The Paul Newman – Robert Redford starring film hit all the right marks dramatically and comedically, drawing the audience in with a compelling script and some terrific performances.  When the film’s unexpected ending finally arrived, I was absolutely floored – The Sting, a film about deception, had swindled its viewer.  The Best Picture winning film sees young con artist Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) getting in way over his head and ripping off the wrong people.  His unintentional actions anger kingpin Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), who seeks to have the mysterious young con artist killed at any expense.  Hooker decides to seek refuge with famed con-man Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), and the two men devise an elaborate plan to pull off the ultimate con on Chicago’s most dangerous man, Doyle Lonnegan.  The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 1974, picking up statues for Best Picture, Best Director (George Roy Hill), Best Original Screenplay (David S. Ward), and Best Music (Marvin Hamlisch).  David S. Ward’s screenplay for the film is brilliant in every way, using scenes of action and suspense constantly keeping viewers guessing, and employing comedic scenes to further the relationships between the cast of characters.  Each of our three main characters are believable and fully realized, all of whom have their own motives and reasons for being involved in the dangerous world of conning.  Ward’s build-up of The Sting’s long con is perfect in its pacing – even leading viewers on the wrong path on some instances. Director George Roy Hill matches the pacing of the screenplay with an often frantic pace, setting many scenes to the music of ragtime pianist Scott Joplin – most famously his endearing “The Entertainer”.  Even with a great script and some highly energetic direction, The Sting would be nothing without the terrific chemistry between actors Robert Redford and Paul Newman.  The two legendary actors play off each other in a way that few cinematic pairings can match, resulting in more than a few memorable dramatic and comedic moments.  The performance of Robert Shaw as the villainous Doyle Lonnegan is my personal favorite aspect of The Sting – he steals the show with a scenery chewing, occasionally over-the-top performance, but Lonnegan never feels like a joke. Despite seeming larger than life in almost every way, Shaw’s Doyle Lonnegan still manages to be menacing and threatening.  The Sting is an incredibly well-written and acted film, resulting in the most fun I had in a theater in 2016.  

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