A post on some similarities in some of the winners of this year's BAFTA and Oscars best film nominations. This only based on those I've seen or read the screenplay for. This will be 4 of the 5 BAFTA and 6 out of 8 of the Oscars nominations. I'll be focussing on four of them: The Father, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal.
And as a reminder, reverse engineering a story doesn't mean that a rebuilt work of art, will work.
Here were the nominations:
- THE FATHER Philippe Carcassonne, Jean-Louis Livi, David Parfitt
- THE MAURITANIAN Adam Ackland, Leah Clarke, Beatriz Levin, Lloyd Levin
- NOMADLAND Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Chloé Zhao
- PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN Ben Browning, Emerald Fennell, Ashley Fox, Josey McNamara
- THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 Stuart Besser, Marc Platt
- THE FATHER
- JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler
- MANK Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski
- MINARI Christina Oh
- PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
- SOUND OF METAL Bert Hamelinck and Sacha Ben Harroche
- THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
There is a good overlap between the lists but let's get on to the two observations. I've covered these before and although neither are revelatory or particularly novel, it's worth revisiting them in light of these awards.
The theme of loss is a frequent visitor in stories. Sometimes it's the dominant theme, other times it plays as a precursor or befellow on someone's journey. The loss is most frequently a person. In Peanut Butter Falcon, this loss is revealed through several flashbacks as being the older brother of the protagonist. This has the effect of giving some credance to his immature behaviour - without an older mentor, he's gone off the rails.
In other hands, loss is up front and centre the driver. In Toy Story, Andy's loss of his number one status is threatened or even signalled. In Finding Nemo, the loss of family members has driven the father to extreme caution. So loss can be a thing or a person. It can be shown withing the film or happen before and may or may not be shown.
If one looks at the lists above:
- The Father: loss of a daughter (past) and losing of one's mind (present and future)
- Nomadland: loss of a husband, job, home, community (past) and purpose/place (present)
- Promising Young Woman: loss of best friend (past) and loss of the will to live (present)
- Sound of Metal: loss of hearing (present) and purpose (present and future)
Why might loss be such a powerful theme that we'd want to add it to stories and watch them. Well, I believe, as Peter Marris states, that loss of something is a loss of meaning. The ability to make sense of life is severley disrupted. And one of the likely purposes of stories is to make sense of life. To understand why people behave in certain ways and how can one individual change the world or themselves to make the world better for them or others or so they fit better within it as it is or has become.
The protagonist in a story is often an outsider. Sometimes, if feels literal such as The Man with No Name or Jaws. In the latter, Sheriff Brodie moves to the small town from a city. Even in Toy Story, although Andy is the main protagonist, Buzz is a pretty close second to him - he's from outer space.
Why is the outsider such a powerful moniker for our protagonist? It's likely to be that this person's views will give us a new perspective on the world. They will help challenge our existing views. Many sitcoms are based around a monstrous central character e.g. Dad's Army (Captain Mannering), The Office (David Brent) or The Big Bang Theory (Sheldon). Why we might not want to be these characters or work/live with them, we get visceral thrill in seeing how they behave (and usually get away with it!).
Let's look at our 4 test subjects:
- The Father: a man out of step with reality, not able to recognise time or people
- Nomadland: a woman not in regular work or with a fixed home, moving from town to town
- Promising Young Woman: a bright woman working a menial job
- Sound of Metal: a punk drummer rehabilitating with deaf kids
Now of course, all protagonists become outsiders at the end of Act One. And often again in Act Three. But I think in the four cases above, there is already an outsider element to each before the inciting incident and move to the new world. What do you think?