Oscars: is Best Original Screenplay a consolation prize?

Jared Hemming

Though excitement stormed throughout most of my social circles when the 2015 Academy Awards announced its nominated films this week, there’s only one Oscar this year (and every year) that I care about: Best Original Screenplay.

 

Throughout Oscar’s nearly 90 year history, they’ve routinely given the writers of some of cinema’s greatest films this consolation prize, often when the film is too ahead of its time to warrant that overly-coveted Best Picture win.

 

The evidence for this theory is strong: Orson Wells and Herman J. Mankiewicz won in 1941 for a little film called Citizen Kane, a movie that lost Best Picture but has still gone on to receive a few accolades since its release.

 

But proof that Best Original Screenplay is the real top prize at the Oscars doesn’t end there; 1994’s Pulp Fiction earned Quentin Tarantino (and his video clerk friend that he probably plagiarized) the little golden man. Though Tarantino and co. were up for the top prize, they lost to Forrest Gump, a worthy (but certainly less-parodied by The Simpsons) contender.

 

But the list of Best Original Screenplay winners that resonated longer than the year’s “Best Picture” continues. Fargo. Almost Famous. Her. Eternal Sunshine. Can anybody endlessly re-watch 2004 B.P. winner Million Dollar Baby and find the same joy as Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry’s memory masterpiece? (Actually, this video sums up the emotional weight Clint Eastwood’s boxing ode nicely).

 

Ultimately, Best Original Screenplay is the trophy they give to movies who haven’t had enough time to earn the real award yet. Of this years nominees, Birdman, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel seem to be at a dead heat, but my guess is the statue will go to Wes Anderson’s whimsical perfectionism, especially since the man’s been writing classics his entire career.