Themes That Resonate… with Oscar Nominees
The nominations for this year’s Academy Awards for screenwriting have been announced and it’s an encouraging list.
Well, sure. Several of the nominations are for writers I am really rooting for, including Diablo Cody, the creative force behind Juno, and Lars and the Real Girl writer, Nancy Oliver. These two scripts are exactly the types we can be writing. Both are clever ideas, smartly conceived and well executed — and each a spot-on example of how the BS2 works every time.
But these two films also show how it’s not enough to have just an original idea and a well-structured story, it must also, as I say in Save the Cat!, be “about something.”
And that means theme.
The theme of Juno involves the Rites of Passage its heroine undergoes, and the hero’s connection to the B story — the hip Yuppie hubbie, played by Jason Bateman, and his more-than-meets-the-eye wife, Jennifer Garner — is where that character change is discussed. Likewise, the Rites of Passage the titular Lars goes through in Lars and the Real Girl, one of mourning, is seen in his relationship with the “real” girl of that film — but who is that? (Any takers?)
What it’s “about” is what our stories must address, and is seen in each of the honored films this year.
Here is the list of nominees:
Best Original Screenplay:
Diablo Cody, Juno
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird, Ratatouille
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Sarah Polley, Away from Her
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
I have yet to see a few on the list, but the ones I have seen reinforce the importance of theme. Theme is directly tied to the B Story of most films; it is the “helper story” and is the subterranean undercurrent of why we appreciate the movie overall, whether we are consciously aware of it during our first viewing or not.
I would be interested to hear about how these nominated films affected you, and how the theme of the movie, the “moral of the story,” is really what makes story hit home.
By getting at the heart of why these films work, we can find the meaning in our own — no matter what type we are writing.
Congratulations to all the nominees.
And I have a feeling, the show will go on!
I can’t wait to be watching the winners get their well-deserved recognition.