Monday, February 25, 2008

Cody, Oliver, Jenkins

Congratulations to Diablo Cody for winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Her acceptance speech was gracious and sincere, and I wish her well following up all the hype with her next project. And even she admits that a lot of her recognition has come from "the cheesy backstory" of her research as a stripper. I'm hoping her new description in news articles will be "Oscar winner Diablo Cody" rather than "stripper-turned-screenwriter" Diablo Cody.

I actually thought Nancy Oliver's script and story for Lars and the Real Girl was more compelling and moving. For me, the characters in Lars were more emotionally nuanced than those in Juno. Ryan Gosling should have been nominated for best actor for his performance in the title role. And two great women help him move through the emotional and psychological box he gets trapped in. Lars' sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer) literally tackles him to get him to come out of his shell, and the doctor, played by the ever-wonderful Patricia Clarkson, who works with Lars, but also with Lars's brother Gus, to help him try to understand what Lars is going through, and come to terms with his own role in the family history.

Scene from Lars & the Real Girl

Of the three original screenplays written by women, the characters in The Savages are the least emotional accessible, though they are dealing with the painful life moment of placing a dying, demented loved one in a nursing home. Of course Hoffman and Linney are terrific in their roles, and the dialogue and situations do feel very "real," compared to some of the more playful moments in Lars and Juno.

The National Board of Review agrees with me - they awarded Oliver best original screenplay. The WGA, while also nominating Oliver and Jenkins, also went with Cody. Jenkins took home the Indie Spirit award.

Cody is not resting on her laurels. She's writing a television series for Showtime called The United States of Tara, about a woman with an identity disorder. Her film Jennifer's Body, about a demon-possessed cheerleader, is in production, and Universal has bought another script. Jenkins hasn't reported what she's working on next, though she hopes that it's not another nine year process between films.

After writing Lars, Oliver wrote and produced several of the complex tales that made up Six Feet Under. She's now working with Alan Ball on his new series True Blood, about a mind-reading bartender and her dealings with vampires, based on the novels by Charlaine Harris.

And while it's great to celebrate the women writers this year, the reality is that only 20% of the WGA's film members are women. And only 3 women have been nominated for directing in the history of the Academy Awards (Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, Jane Campion for The Piano and Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties).

What's been great is the mutual respect among the nominees. From Cody's speech:
I especially want to thank my fellow nominees because I worship you guys and I'm learning from you every day.

Having these nominees and winners helps women filmmakers out there learn that it's possible.

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