When the Oscar nominations were announced on Tuesday, the usual critics aired their usual gripes about how their favourite films could be left off the list of potential winners.
But in the pantheon of puzzles about the methodology of the Academy Awards comes a new query: how can a movie that’s almost entirely ad libbed nab a nomination for best adapted screenplay?
The flick in question is one that’s been causing controversy since it came out last year.
“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” features British comic Sacha Baron Cohen as a fictional Kazakhstan journalist interacting with Americans and making most of them look like idiots.
Needless to say, it’s been a big box office hit.
But does it actually have a script that makes it Oscar eligible?
When 20th Century Fox first screened the movie last fall, (it had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival), flaks proudly touted that there was “no script” and that this classic initiated “a new form of filmmaking for an age in which reality and entertainment have become increasingly intertwined.”
Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips are all credited with creating the flick, even if there isn’t much written dialogue.
Many Hollywood insiders are up in arms that it’s in the running, forcing the Writers Guild – which entered the nomination – to try to explain its own thinking.
“They turned in a script,” insists spokesperson Jody Frisch. “There was a script. The Writers Guild basically recognizes the creative process of writing, whether it’s traditional drama or comedy, whether it’s reality or documentary or animation. It’s all writing.”
As usual, Borat star Baron-Cohen is silent about the chaos he’s created. But he did give a hint about his mindset during a Writers Guild seminar last week
“We’d sit around the writers’ room and imagine the scene. What do we want it to look like?” he recalled. “Looking at the script and the finished film, they’re remarkably the same.”
“Borat” is up against more traditional works like “Children of Men,” “The Departed,” “Little Children” and “Notes on a Scandal.”
About the only sure thing? If it wins, you can bet the acceptance speech will be one to remember – and probably written well in advance.
We’ll find out who gets to deliver it on February 25th when the Oscar winners are announced in L.A.
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