Why If ‘Knives Out Doesn’t Win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, We’re Going to Cut Someone
With the 2020 Oscars quickly approaching, everyone seems to be arguing over which movie will win Best Picture. The more interesting Oscars debate, however, is the race for Best Original Screenplay. While movies like Parasite and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are certainly worthy of winning the award, Knives Out is clearly the best original screenplay of this year’s nominees. If Knives Out doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, we’re going to cut someone – Ransom-style.
Knives Out has already been in theaters for over two months, but it’s still cleaning up at the box office, which is indicative of the fact that the film is connecting with audiences. It’s honestly the rare original movie to not only connect with audiences but one that serves as a rare box office triumph that also leads to an Oscar nomination. Although all of these accomplishments don’t immediately make the screenplay for Knives Out worthy of an automatic win, it certainly deserves the win based on writer-director Rian Johnson’s devilishly clever script alone.
If you feel so inclined, you can read the Knives Out screenplay for yourself here (it’s totally worth your time). The most impressive thing about the script for this film is the way that it overthrows tropes and clichés within the murder mystery genre. It’s well known that Johnson is a massive fan of the genre, which also makes the way that he presents the murder-mystery elements of the film so fascinating. While the movie is certainly a deconstruction of the genre that was made famous by Agatha Christie, it’s also self-aware enough to realize that there has to be some sort of modernization to the story for it to work.
The interesting thing about subverting character intent in the way that Johnson does is that almost every character is written under these auspices, which makes each of their true intentions that much more fascinating. It’s a brilliant move on the part of Johnson, simply because we’re rooting for the main character Marta when we should traditionally be rooting against her. On a more technical level, the most impressive thing about Johnson’s screenplay is how detailed and efficient his action is written. Although the filmmaker’s dialogue is up to the level of someone like Tarantino, it’s amazing to see how good Johnson is at writing efficient, yet descriptive, action. Along with this, Johnson also has a clear thematic intention with the script, which makes it feel more timely than most of the other screenwriting nominees.
In short, it’s an effortless read, which also makes it one of the most efficiently written nominees for this year’s prize for Original screenplay. Despite all of this, there’s a high probability that Knives Out doesn’t even have a chance to win the Oscar this year. It’s a shame, especially because Knives Out represents one of 2019’s best success stories in Hollywood. Maybe the film’s level of success is a motivating factor for Academy voters to highlight other movies, but it ultimately shouldn’t be. After all, there’s a reason why Knives Out hasn’t had the awards attention that it deserves – it cuts too close to home for most Academy voters (especially the ones who are as old as Harlan Thrombey himself.) With all of that said, here are a bunch of GIFs to remind you how well written and tightly constructed Knives Out really is.
Cover Photo: Lionsgate
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