Talk about having mixed feelings. On the one hand, I couldn’t be happier that Before Midnight, the very best movie of 2013, managed to be nominated for at least one Academy Award. It wasn’t a surprise nomination, since the previous installment in Richard Linklater’s “Before” series, Before Sunset, was nominated for the same award nine years ago. However, that part of me that thinks that things should make sense can’t get over the fact that the movies are being nominated for adaped screenplay when they are clearly not being adapted from anywhere. There is some logic to this decision, which basically comes down to they’re adapted because they’re sequels, which means the characters weren’t created for this particular film. To which I simply say: bullshit. I thought the reason for separating between original and adapted screenplays was to acknowledge the different creative challenges that come to creating a story out of whole cloth and trying to transfer another author’s creation from one medium to another. What Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have accomplished with Before Midnight is nothing short of extraordinary, creating some of the most realistic and complex characters in cinema history, and exploring their relationship through time. Their challenge, however, lied someplace completely different to that of, say, John Ridley, whose task was to translate Solmon Northup’s slavery memoir into a movie designed for contemporary audiences. That is all to say that, in my mind, there is no question that I think the biggest achievement was Before Midnight, but that at the same time, I think this isn’t an entirely fair fight.
As far what is going to win, don’t expect the Academy to award Before Midnight, which they may or may not dismiss as a movie “just” about two people talking. Either way, the other nominees seem to have much more support within the Academy. Philomena managed a somewhat surprising Best Picture nomination, and its story about a mother looking for the son she lost is one that will easily connect with voters. Then you have The Wolf of Wall Street, which is probably too controversial to manage a win, and Captain Phillips, which is based on a true story and just had the honor of winning the Writers Guild Award. The thing about that award, though, is that 12 Years a Slave, which remains the assumed front-runner to win Best Picture, was not eligible. So even if Captain Phillips is the one movie in this category that has actually won a major screenplay award, smart money is 12 Years a Slave.
Will Win: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
My Vote: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater (Before Midnight)