My Best Original Screenplay Oscar Predictions Based Solely On The Writing, As It Should Be

My Best Original Screenplay Oscar Predictions Based Solely On The Writing, As It Should Be

Let's focus on the writing, not the politics.

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The Oscars are almost here, so it's time to make predictions.

Except, if you're like me, you probably haven't seen all the nominated movies. This year, I realized I had not seen any of the films up for Best Original Screenplay. This was a bit of a failure moment for me as a hopeful future screenwriter, but I took the opportunity to do something everyone always says to do when you're learning—read scripts.

I decided to read these scripts and make my predictions based solely on the writing, as it should be. I read each script, then watched the trailer and read a few articles about the movies to answer any questions.

And here's what I decided.

"The Favourite"

I'd heard great things about this movie before reading it, so I was excited to study this screenplay. It was well written, I will be honest, so bravo to Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. But, it still left some to be desired. It definitely has its good qualities and is justified in its being a, well, fan favorite.

Except, the script relied heavily on subtext for commentary. Any narrative, no matter what time period it takes place in, will be held against the current societal environment regardless of intentions. However, it was clear that this film's intentions were to place a female voice in history and in current outlets. Which, of course, is not a bad thing. However, this film does so with disregard for true equality. The female focus is at the men's expense, which is not true equality (but that's an argument for another time).

I actually found the story predictable. The story tried to build suspense around the war, but even that seemed like a second priority to the writers after the love triangle. The script didn't explicitly tell the reader "how to feel," but it was strongly implied by the end.

"First Reformed"

This was a solid film written by Paul Schrader. Each scene really does move the plot forward which is story 101 but still important to note sometimes. Even the scenes that seemed like they would be time fillers allowed for the voice-over narration of Toller's journal.

This voice over was a nice touch of characterization and introduced well in the first scenes. This introduction was so well written, I could see exactly how it would play out, which is textbook screenwriting. The dialogue was believable. The setting description was a good balance and told part of the story too.

But there was that ambiguous, "La La Land"-dream-sequence-ish ending though.

"Green Book"

Okay, this one. This film is important and was skillfully written, so definitely a bravo to Peter Farrelly, Brian Currie, and Nick Vallelonga.

This film spoke to racial equality in the sense of true equality—meeting on the same level. It took place in one of America's shameful times and followed a white man realizing how things really are for those different from him and learning how to use his privilege in a way that helps and not harms. Like Dr. Shirley said, "You never win with violence." And as far as movies nominated in this category based on true stories, this did the best at maintaining the integrity of the original.

The writing was phenomenal. There was a personality in the action. The characterization was shown, not told. This was done through the actions, letters, reactions, how the characters treat others and how other characters treat the main characters. There was evident development in growth in the two main characters Lip and Dr. Shirley. It ended nicely, and the scenes were paced well.

"Roma"

This story would be better as a novel, in my opinion. The descriptions were beautifully written, so much so that every time there was dialogue or a scene change, I was roughly drawn out of the story. For a script, the action was almost too artsy and I could tell that it would be better visually than in writing. There were a few inconsistencies, like how Pepe calls Cleo "mom" in the beginning when Señora Sofia is actually his mom. Of course, this was probably meant to be just a kid crying for his mom when he was tired, but it leads to some confusion going forward when introducing characters.

This film was artfully written by Alfonso Cuarón. Most of the time, there was a good balance between detailed and vague descriptions (except that one part that described the color of the sky even though this is a black and white movie). I was struck by the impactful use of sound descriptions woven into the script, such as the car horn or the plane flying overhead. This was something that was present in the other scripts but didn't make as much of an impact, in my opinion, as it did in "Roma"

"Vice"

Oh goodness, where to begin? Adam McKay begins this script with an indignant tone in the superimposed text saying they "did their f***ing best" to tell a true story. But did they? No. If this Best Original Screenplay award is based on the writing, then "Vice" is shockingly nominated. If it's based on political people-pleasing, then I guess the nomination makes sense. The film is riddled with a bias to the left. It assumes the viewers agree with the flat narrative of the film and that we all see the characters as the one-dimensional people they movie portrays. The film even addressed this bias at the end, but the way they did didn't level the playing field at all, but just pandered to that bias, trying to pick a fight. Well, they shouldn't be dignified with a response, in my opinion.

But I digress. The writing. That's what we're here for.

Unfortunately, even the writing was objectively bad compared to the other scripts. And I don't say that lightly. It read like a school project that was completed the night before it was due. There were typos everywhere (notably, "due" was spelled "do"). The story and scenes seemed willy-nilly thrown together with the only goal of pushing an opinion. The framework and organization were centered around how best to convince the viewer of McKay's views, not tell the story. It's a very serious subject that's covered here and could've been handled better instead of this script that reads like a comedy with political propaganda tendencies.

And now, my predictions for best original screenplay go to...

I'll break this down into categories.

My favorite: "Green Book."

What should win: "Green Book."

What will probably win: "The Favourite."

They all have a chance, but if "Vice" wins, then what are we all here for? The writing, or politics?

The other films all had their stance in politics without taking away from the story being told. "The Favourite" was female-driven with LGBT aspects and classist themes while telling the story of Queen Anne and her ladies. "First Reformed" critiqued megachurch culture, environmental activism, and big business while telling Toller's story of grief. "Green Book" also had some classist themes and attacked racist tendencies in a way that can educate and change minds by telling a historical story. "Roma" was the story of a family set in cultural and political context. But "Vice" was just about politics and not the story.

Let's focus on the stories. Let's focus on the writing.

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If You Remember 'Shazaam,' The Movie That Doesn't Exist, You Aren't Alone

A scientific phenomenon or a massive conspiracy?
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Anyone who has ever misplaced an item or gotten in a feud about what really happened at the last party they attended can affirm that sometimes our memories can be unreliable. Misremembering an event is by no means unheard of or uncommon, but what if it was not just you who misremembered that event. What if a whole bunch of people misremembered the same exact thing even if there is no evidence to support it?

If you were a kid or teenager growing up in the '90s, you might remember a movie called ‘Shazaam’ with popular television comedian Sinbad playing the principle role of a genie. As the plot goes, two children (a pre-teen boy and his younger sister) find a genie in a lamp and decide to use their wishes to restore love to their single father’s life. It is a comedic tale involving the genie and children who use their three wishes for domestic activities, often failing comically. The culmination of the movie takes place at a pool party related to the father’s work in which the children successfully use their final wish to make their father happy. What a marvelously cheesy ending!

Some of you reading this might be nodding, recalling having watched this movie, and you are not alone. There is a large community of people who can remember quite vividly watching this movie with their friends and family. So what seems to be the problem? Well, the movie ‘Shazaam’ does not exist, and it never has. The rumor of its existence has gained so much traction that even Sinbad himself had to set the record straight on Twitter.

You can scramble the Internet and old video stores nationwide, but you will not find any proof that there ever was a movie named ‘Shazaam’ with Sinbad playing a genie. If you are at all dismayed by this fact, you are not the only one.

An ever-growing number of confused '90s kids have flocked to the Internet to adamantly insist that there was indeed a movie called ‘Shazam,’ and Sinbad was definitely in it. Just peruse the countless threads about it online, and you will find that there are hundreds of people who can provide their own accounts of having seen the movie. Most people agree that the movie was released in 1994 and concur with the supposed movie plot described above.

How is it that so many different people can all recall specific details of a movie that does not exist? The ‘Shazaam’ case has come to be known as a famous example of the "Mandela Effect," a term coined by author and researcher of the paranormal, Fiona Broome, creator of mandelaeffect.com, which is defined as “a collective misremembering of a fact or event."

The name “Mandela Effect” came from the most famous case of the Mandela Effect involving the shocking amount of people who believe that former South African President Nelson Mandela died while in prison, when the truth holds that he was released in 1990 and died in 2013.

Another famous example of the Mandela Effect is the common misremembering of the Bible verse Isaiah 11:6. A large amount of people, including many priests who were interviewed, will swear that the verse reads “The lion also shall dwell with the lamb...” but pull out your trusty Bible and the correct verse is “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb.” This verse discrepancy makes many Christians uneasy because the protective image of a lion is replaced with the crafty and destructive image of a wolf. Some even believe that the verse change is a sign of the existence of the antichrist.

There is even scene in the 1941 movie ‘Sergeant York’ in which the character Gracie walks past an old man in a rocking chair who recites the Bible verse using the lion, which has many people firmly insisting that the correct version includes a lion, but that something in recent history has caused it to be changed.

Some examples of smaller instances of the Mandela Effect are the common misrememberings of the name of the classic animated TV show, “Berenstain Bears” (most people remember it as “Berenstein Bears”), the existence of a dash in the brand name “KitKat” (there has never been one), and other misspellings of logos.

Many conspirators believe that the Mandela Effect is the result of a jump between parallel universes in which slightly different alternate realities exist, but Snopes.com, a famous reference website dedicated to documenting and debunking urban legends, has offered some more logical explanations for instances of the Mandela Effect.

“A leading psychological theory holds that memory is constructive, not reproductive,” Snopes says, “— i.e., the brain builds memories out of various bits and pieces of information on the fly as opposed to playing them back like a recording. Memories aren’t pure. They can be distorted by any number of factors, including bias, association, imagination, and peer pressure.”

For example, the common misconception that Nelson Mandela died in prison might be a case of a faulty connection of two isolated facts —(1) Nelson Mandela went to prison and (2) Nelson Mandela is dead. Or with the Berenstain Bears, it is quite rational to believe that people just assumed that the name was spelled “Berenstein” because that is a far more common spelling of the name.

So what about ‘Shazaam’? A reasonable explanation is that people are simply mistaking it with the 1996 movie ‘Kazaam’ in which Shaquille O’Neal plays a genie and helps a teenage boy who happens to have a single mother (similar to how the children in the alleged ‘Shazaam’ had a single father).

Additionally, other shows and movies at the time could further muddle people’s memories. There was a movie called ‘Legend of the Seven Seas’ with a character named Sinbad the Sailor and a Hannah Barbera cartoon called ‘Shazzan’ about the adventures of a genie and the two children (a teenaged boy and girl) who released him.

There was even a sketch in the wildly popular Nickelodeon show “All That” about a foreign exchange student dressed in genie-esque garb, and who was the actor? You guessed it...Sinbad! It seems perfectly reasonable that all of these similar media products could easily mix together after a certain amount of time, causing mis-memory that has been perpetuated by all of the hype on the Internet.

Another explanation that can be layered on top is the idea of 'memory conformity,' which states that people can remember events that they were told about or that were described to them as if they had experienced those events. In this way, many people may agree that they remember something that happened simply because someone else said it was so.

Pictured: The VHS cover for 'Kazaam' (left) next to a supposed VHS cover for 'Shazzam'


This may be a perfectly acceptable and scientifically logical explanation for the strange occurrence, but the plot thickens. When the theory was presented that people were simply mistaking the movie ‘Shazaam’ for ‘Kazaam’ and the like, the people who claimed to remember ‘Shazaam’ pushed back, vehemently claiming that they were well aware of Shaq’s movie ‘Kazaam’ and were certain that ‘Shazaam’ was a separate movie that preceded it. One woman named Meredith who was interviewed on the subject claimed:

“I remember thinking Shaq’s ‘Kazaam’ was a rip-off or a revamp of a failed first run, like how the 1991 film ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ bombed but the late ’90s TV reboot was a sensation...I am one of several people who specifically never saw ‘Kazaam’ because it looked ridiculous to rip off ‘Shazaam’ just a few years after it had been released.

Additionally, there was a reference to 'Shazaam’ on a TV show called ‘A Different World’ (1987-1993) in which Sinbad played Coach Walker Oates. In this scene (appearing in season 5 episode 13) the character Freddie is trying to hide a scarf with the initials “SZ” on it that she is making for her boyfriend, Shazza Zulu, from her friends, but when they discover it and ask what “SZ” stands for, she responds that it “could be for someone who loves Shazaam.”

So do you think the Sinbad movie is real or an urban legend?

Cover Image Credit: Slate.com

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Talking, Crying, Chewing, What Ever Happened To Movie Theater Etiquette?

The unofficial rules you should follow if you go to the theater.

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Dear Moviegoers,

Movies are often made to be viewed on the big screen, which is why we go to the movies. I personally like the experience. The loud sounds, the big screens, the popcorn and candy, the darkroom. I pay a lot for that experience.

That's why, at the risk of sounding petty, I have to ask: Please, stop going to the movies if you're just going to be annoying.

I mean, whatever happened to movie theater etiquette?

It's like people have forgotten how to behave in a movie theater!

I know it might seem silly, but I pay too much for tickets and snacks to have my seat kicked and listen to other people whisper. I don't know when it happened, but people seem to be disregarding the societal rules we've established to make going to the movies fun. In case you're one of those people who've forgotten how to act, let me remind you.

Please, for the love of god, arrive on time. It's distracting when someone shows up late and is awkwardly maneuvering around people to find a seat. At the very least, sit on the ends of the rows instead of climbing over other people to sit in the middle of the row.

Along with that, please remember that there is limited space in the theater. Whether you're finding your seat or simply readjusting during a long movie, be mindful of the space you have. I don't want my chair kicked repeatedly because you can't get comfortable. If you're sitting in the middle of the row, don't get up repeatedly. Keep your elbows in if you're sitting next to someone. Respect others' personal space.

Turning your phone off is another way to show respect for your fellow moviegoers. I don't want to hear your cell phone ring. If, for whatever reason, you really need it on, please silence it. If you're expecting an emergency call from your sister in labor or you're worried about the babysitter, maybe you shouldn't be at the theater.

Since you're expected to keep your phone quiet, you should be quiet, too. I don't want to hear you and your friends whispering behind me for two hours, and no one in the theater wants to hear your commentary. If something funny happens, feel free to laugh. If something terrifying happens, you can gasp. If you're at the theater solely to get attention, please take your over-the-top reactions to a sporting event or something.

If I go to see the newest Disney-Pixar film, I expect to see children there and it doesn't bother me. I don't care if you bring your toddler to a children's movie, especially since it was made for them. I do not, however, expect children to be in the audience if I go to see the newest slasher film. In that case, I will be annoyed. I mean, come on — who takes their young children to see an R-rated in the theater?

And, like, I would expect anywhere else, you should be eating and drinking quietly. Wait till a loud scene to open that candy wrapper (or be smart and sneak your own candy in — you can buy it at Target and put it into Ziploc baggies that don't make noise and can hold lots of candy). Don't suck on the straw when you're clearly out of soda. Chew with your mouth close.

Please, have some respect for other people.

I don't want to come off as a snob, but there are certain rules for seeing a movie in the theater that people seem to disregard nowadays. It might not be a big deal to you, but it is to me. I go because I'm interested in the film being shown and because I want to see it on the big screen with popcorn and a slushie. The cost of going to movies is expensive, but it's worth every penny when I can actually enjoy it.

Sincerely,

One Frustrated Moviegoer

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