Six Spot: Paul Thomas Anderson Vs. Science Fiction in the 2012 Original Screenplay Race?

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Welcome to our favorite part of Mondays. Check out our special sixth installment of the latest Six Spot series, spotlighting all the people who came in 6th place at the Oscars.

The 2012 Oscar race for Original Screenplay was a very interesting one this year. While the Adapted Screenplay race featured five Best Picture nominees, the Original Screenplay was more volatile. The lineup featured three Best Picture nominees, one indie hit with a lone nomination and another hit riding the coattails of its leading performance. Let’s take a look at the field.

The Nominees Were:

  • “Amour” – Written by Michael Haneke
  • “Django Unchained” – Written by Quentin Tarantino – WINNER
  • “Flight” – Written by John Gatins
  • “Moonrise Kingdom” – Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” – Written by Mark Boal

Overall Summary

This marks Tarantino’s second and final win in the Original Screenplay category. He first won for “Pulp Fiction” in 1994. He did not receive a corresponding Director nomination for “Django Unchained,” but that did not stop him from winning. “Zero Dark Thirty” showed initial promise to take this and other major prizes. However, Boal had won a few years earlier for “The Hurt Locker.” Additionally, the film missed some key nominations, including Best Director. That signaled lack of widespread support for the film. In fact, Michael Haneke was most likely in second place, as “Amour” surprised with Picture and Directing nominations for Haneke. “Moonrise Kingdom” was the well-regarded indie, which initially had more promise. However, it only managed this nomination. Many considered “Flight” only an acting play for Denzel Washington. However, it was able to scoop up this nomination as well.

The Six Spot Contenders Are:

  • “Keep the Lights On” – Written by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias (Indie Spirits)
  • “Looper” – Written by Rian Johnson (Critics Choice, National Board of Review Winner, Online Film Critics, WGA)
  • “The Master” – Written by Paul Thomas Anderson (Critics Choice, Online Film Critics, WGA, BAFTA)
  • “Ruby Sparks” – Written by Zoe Kazan (Indie Spirits)
  • “Seven Psychopaths” – Written by Martin McDonagh (Indie Spirits)

Indie Spirits

The screenplay categories can oftentimes shine a light on indie darlings. The Indie Spirit nominees for Screenplay had varying degrees of success this year. Both “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Moonrise Kingdom” were able to get nominated for both Indie Spirits and the Oscars. The three other nominees each had varying degrees of chances to get to the Oscars. “Seven Psychopaths” had perhaps the best chance since writer Martin McDonagh had been a surprise nominee four years prior for “In Bruges.” However, this film was less of a critical and commercial hit than his previous film. “Ruby Sparks” was an impressive debut for writer and actress Zoe Kazan, but was too small and slight to make a dent in the race. Likewise, “Keep the Lights On,” from Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, had an even lower profile, despite showing up at a few different critics awards.

Genre Breakthroughs

The screenplay categories have often been kinder to films from genres not typically recognized by Oscar. Prior to 2012, “Ghost World,” “Memento” and “Borat” all received nominations for writing. In this year, many were excited about the possibility “Looper” could join the club. Rian Johnson’s science fiction film racked up an impressive amount of precursor support. The film showed initial strength with critics when it won the National Board of Review for Original Screenplay and showed up at other regional critics awards. Additionally, it was nominated at the Critics Choice and BAFTA. The film primarily campaigned for Original Screenplay, which was seen as its best shot at a nominated. However, when the time came, Oscar went with the more familiar fare, such as “Flight,” over “Looper.”

Old Favorites

“The Master” had perhaps the strangest of trajectories heading into Oscar nominations morning. The polarizing film opened with a per theater average of $145K (a then-record for a non-Disney film). The Weinstein Company was overjoyed at this news and quickly expanded to over 750 theaters, where the film floundered. Finishing with $16 million, the film paled in comparison to what many had thought it could do. It showed up strong at some awards (Critics Choice) and was snubbed at others (SAG). However, Paul Thomas Anderson’s script consistently was honored across all precursors. On top of critics nominations, it picked up notices at Critics Choice, BAFTA, and WGA. Much like surprise nominee “Flight,” the movie was a hit with the acting branch. In fact, it netted three acting nominations – Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. However, it seems Oscar liked the actors more than the film.

The Six Spot For 2012 Best Original Screenplay Was:

“The Master” – Written by Paul Thomas Anderson

Agree or Disagree? Let us know who you think was the Six Spot for the 2012 Best Original Screenplay race in the comments below.

Check out our Oscar predictions at the Circuit Hub for this year’s race and see who we have predicted to fall in sixth place.