[divider style=”solid” top=”20″ bottom=”20″]
The last original musical to win Best Picture with an Original Screenplay nomination was 2011’s The Artist, which also won Director, Actor, Costume Design and Original Score. But you’d have to go all the way back to 1951’s An American in Paris to find a musical Best Picture winner that won Original Screenplay. It also won Best Cinematography (Color), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Color), Best Costume Design (Color) and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, six in total.
Its win was a bit of a surprise to most as it bested two major dramas that earned multiple nominations and wins that year; A Place in the Sun and A Streetcar Named Desire, which won three of the four acting awards. An American in Paris didn’t receive any nominations for acting.
It was nominated, but lost, Best Director and Best Film Editing to A Place in the Sun, which also won six Oscars, including a Screenplay award, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) and the Black-and-White sections for Cinematography and Costume Design.
2001’s Moulin Rouge! was nominated for Best Picture but missed out on a Screenplay nod. It did manage two Oscar wins (in Costumes and Production Design) as well as an acting nomination for Nicole Kidman but none for her co-star Ewan McGregor nor her director, Baz Lurhmann.
All of this brings us to La La Land. Currently, I’m the only person from the Gold Rush Gang not predicting La La Land to get a screenplay nomination. It might be foolish but it’s a tougher get than most people might think. Screenplays are often considered the weak link for musicals since the majority of the “dialogue” is (usually) sung rather than spoken. This thought process reduces screenplays to merely dialogue and forgoes story and structure, unfortunately.
Did you know that in the 88 years of Oscar no single screenwriter has won Original Screenplay (or its many incarnations) for a film that also won Best Picture? It seems crazy; you would think the screenplay, the very origin of any film, would be closer connected to the top prize. This lends credence to the argument some have made for Manchester by the Sea to surprise in Best Picture. Let’s say then, for argument’s sake that happens, that Manchester by the Sea wins Best Picture. Does that open the door for Moonlight in Original Screenplay? It certainly could. But just look at this year; Spotlight’s only wins were Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
The always-intrepid Sasha Stone at AwardsDaily wrote a great piece on musicals and screenplays last week and pointed out this surprising stat:
[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]Here is a look at the history of original screenwriting winners who also won Best Picture. The weird thing about it is that it’s pretty rare, although it did just happen two years in a row, albeit with co-writers.
2016–Spotlight/Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer (Iñárritu won Director)
2015–Birdman–Iñárritu + three other writers (also won Director)
2006–Crash/Paul Haggis + Bobby Moresco (Ang Lee won Director)
1977–Annie Hall/Woody Allen + Marshall Brickman (also won Director)
1960–The Apartment/Billy Wilder + I. A. L. Diamond (also won Director)[/box]
In this era of ‘spreading the wealth’ Oscars (we haven’t had a true sweep since 2009’s Slumdog Millionaire) Original Screenplay can often a place the Academy likes to reward either riskier material (like Moonlight) or something that is subversive and a top 5 Best Picture player but not something they’d ever give the big prize too. Moonlight also falls into that category (if it’s a top 5 player) but then dialogue-heavy Manchester by the Sea winning here would make perfect sense as a win for Lonergan and his career, despite it only being three films long.
Right now, La La Land is the frontrunner for Best Picture. We could see a year like 1951 when two highly acclaimed dramas (Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight) find themselves with the acting and screenplay wins while La La Land takes the top prize. Plus, we also have Jackie in the mix this year for acting and/or screenplay wins. We might even see a sweep for the musical like we did with The Artist.
Here is a list of all original musicals that won Best Picture and if they had a correlating original screenplay nomination or win:
The Broadway Melody (1928/29) – no Screenplay nomination
The Great Ziegfeld (1936) – Original Story/Screenplay nomination
Going My Way (1944) – Original Story and Screenplay wins (2)
An American in Paris (1951) – Original Screenplay win
The Artist (2011) – Original Screenplay nomination