Final Draft Awards: Aaron Sorkin, Radha Black, Sofia Coppola
Posted on March 3, 2021 at 6:48 pm
Final Draft is the most popular word processing software used for writing movie scripts, which have to be in a particular (and peculiar) format. This week, Final Draft recognized the creative minds who use their programs to imagine great films.
In a Zoom ceremony, Aaron Sorkin was presented with the Zeitgeist Award for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” a movie about events in 1969 that has been in the planning stages since 2006, when Steven Spielberg first approached him about writing the screenplay. But somehow, in the way of movie synchronicity, it seemed to arrive at just the right moment. As he said, “The zeitgeist crashed into us.”
“The 40 Year Old Version’s” Radha Black, who starred in as well as writing and directing the semi-autobiographical film, got the New Voice Award.m and Ramy Youssef was presented the New Voice Award.
The full list:
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – The Zeitgeist Award
presented by Sacha Baron Cohen
Sofia Coppola, “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV Plus) – Storyteller Award: Film
presented by Paul Schrader
Steve McQueen, “Small Axe” (Amazon Studios) – Storyteller Award: TV
presented by John Boyega
Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix) – New Voice Award: Film
presented by Mary Harron
Ramy Youssef, “Ramy” (Hulu) – New Voice Award: TV
presented by Laith Nakli
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual material, strong language, and some teen drinking
Some strong language
References to rape, predatory behavior
A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters:
March 3, 2021
“It’s so nice not to be on anyone’s radar,” Vivian (Hadley Robinson) says to her BFF Claudia (Lauren Tsai). It’s the first day of school and we might detect just a hint of wistfulness in her voice. Everyone is waiting for The Ranking, an annual list of female students selected based on how attractive they are. Some are selected based on how attractive individual body parts are. So, there are names attached to “Most Bangable,” “Best Rack,” “Best Ass.” And presumably the young women are supposed to feel flattered.
Vivian is shy and unsure of herself. Asked to write an essay on what she is passionate about and what steps she has taken to pursue it, she draws a blank. But we see in a dream she has the night before school starts, she has some strong feelings she does not know how to express. The arrival of a new student named Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) will give her a new perspective and help her find her voice.
The school’s alpha male is Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger), arrogant and predatory. But his behavior is dismissed by the school’s principal (Marcia Gay Harden as Ms. Shelley) and the students. When he finds he cannot intimidate Lucy, he becomes even more aggressive. Vivian tells Lucy to ignore him so he will move on to someone else. “Keep your head down,” she advises. Lucy says she will be keeping her head up, and Vivian for the first time considers how pernicious the behavior of Mitchell and his friends is. It is more than teasing.
Vivian is close to her single mom, Lisa, played by director/producer Amy Poehler. When Lisa says that at Vivian’s age she was trying to burn down the patriarchy (crucially, she admits that as engaged as she was, she made a lot of mistakes and was not as inclusive as she should have been). Vivian goes through Lisa’s old files and sees the “zine” she and her friends created. And so Vivian follows in that tradition (and in the tradition of “Bridgerton’s” Lady Whistldown and A in “Pretty Little Liars”), Vivian creates an anonymous zine called Moxie (1930s slang for spirited determination), calling out the behavior of the boys who publish the rankings and insult girls. She leaves copies in the girls’ rooms at school, asking everyone who supports her ideas to draw stars and hearts on their hands. And some of the girls too. So does one boy, Seth (Nico Hiraga of “Booksmart” and “Edge of Seventeen”).
“Moxie” is based on the novel by high school teacher Jennifer Mathieu, and you can see the lived experience of working with teenagers, at the same time righteous and vulnerable, in the film. At times, it becomes didactic, as though it is running through a checklist of abuse, and some of the items on that list (the right to wear a tank top to school) are out of proportion to the others. And the resolution in the end is far tidier than anyone who has seen or read about real-life cases will buy.
What works better is the portrayal of the strain on Vivian’s friendship with Claudia as she becomes closer in both the relationship and the style of Lucy. This is more than the usual teen drama about outgrowing childhood connections. It is about developing a deeper understanding and empathy, and that extends not just to Claudia, but to the other girls in the school as well. The emphasis on finding ways to support each other despite differences is well handled. The film should spark some important conversations, some second thoughts about the line between “boys will be boys” and recognizing and stopping damaging behavior. It even might inspire some stars and hearts, some zines, and other ways for girls to tell their stories.
Parents should know that this film concerns toxic masculinity and abuse ranging from insults and objectification to rape. It includes sexual references and some mild language.
Family discussion: Does this movie make you see some incidents at your school differently?
If you like this, try: “Nine to Five,” “Booksmart,” and the documentary “Roll Red Roll”
I love a chance to pay tribute to under-sung Hollywood figures, especially utility infielders who show up in movie after movie, genre after genre, handling every role with precision and commitment. David Morse fits that description perfectly, and it was a pleasure to join my friend and fellow critic Jen Johans and novelist William Boyle on Jen’s Watch With Jen podcast to talk about some of our favorite Morse performances, including “Inside Moves,” “The Slaughter Rule,” “Diary of a City Priest,” “The Indian Runner,” and more.
Daniel Arkin writes about Frances McDormand in “Nomadland” and the increase in movies about older women characters.
The film industry routinely casts “men of a certain age” as romantic leads or action heroes. But women over 50 tend to be relegated to supporting or one-dimensional parts, and major stars such as Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman might be exceptions that prove the rule, Malone said.
“When we see older women, they’re in sideline roles with a lot of stereotypes around them and a lot of jokes being made at their expense,” Malone said. “They’re rarely shown to be at the center of stories as viable, complex characters.”
My thanks to Arkin for including me in the story:
Nell Minow, a film critic and expert in corporate governance, said she believes there has been more cultural oxygen available to small-scale and women-led projects during the coronavirus pandemic because leading studios were forced to postpone the release of many male-driven blockbusters.
“It’s been a bonanza for more intimate films like ‘Nomadland’ in many ways,” said Minow, pointing to Channing Godfrey Peoples’ “Miss Juneteenth” and Radha Blank’s “The 40-Year-Old Version” as examples of women-anchored projects that received welcome attention last year.
“I have realized that so much of the media I consume requires me to translate from the male point of view into something that speaks more directly to me,” Minow said. “When I see these movies, I can relax. I don’t have to translate anything.”
“It’s a cliché at this point to say ‘representation matters,’ but it makes me feel connected and listened to because I have something in common with these characters,” she added.