It's easy to appreciate the writing in the deserved Oscar front-runners for best original screenplay, "The King's Speech," and best adapted screenplay, "The Social Network." Both overflow with language that is witty or eloquent and full of character.
But what of "127 Hours," a film in which the camerawork and editing and James Franco's acting appear to do all the heavy lifting? Or a cartoon like "Toy Story 3," which crackles with the brilliance of the Pixar animation team? (Both are also nominated for best adapted screenplay.) Whenever I go on radio call-in shows or give a college lecture, audiences are always skeptical that movies as viscerally effective as these are really written.
Well, just take a look at this passage from Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy's script to "127 Hours," describing a pure action scene near the beginning of the film:
"Kristi, Megan and Aron are suspended fifty feet up a thin slot between two sheer walls of rock. Only the friction from their bodies keeps them in place. Flat to the rock, they nudge their ways sideways like something out of an Egyptian painting."Or consider this section from Michael Arndt's screenplay for "Toy Story 3":
"BOOM! The door bursts open, swatting Rex across the room.
A horde of squealing, hyped-up TODDLERS enter.
The Toys go limp. Buzz closes his helmet.
The Toddlers descend on the Toys with SHRIEKS of delight.
A Boy and Girl stretch Slinky until his coil goes haywire."
In each case, you can see how the precision, spirit and action poetry of the storytelling -- I love that "Egyptian painting" image in "127 Hours" -- inspired the gusto of the finished movie. In cartoons and real-life adventures as well as high drama, in the beginning is the word.