The Devil and Miss Cody

Diablo Cody’s win over Tamara Jenkins for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar is perhaps the most egregious Oscar victory since Oliver! beat out 2001 for Best Picture in 1968. If this were a just universe, the appropriate executives would have taken Cody out behind the shed shortly after reading Juno and shot her down like an old dog. Instead, the Academy awarded Cody the Oscar for relying upon cultural references over emotional conviction, for using characters who are ironically detached rather than prepared to face the visceral realities of responsibility, and for encouraging Jason Reitman to employ the most insipid use of angst-ridden indie rock in cinema I’ve seen in some time.

diablocody.jpgLet us be clear on this. I saw all five Best Picture nominees. And while I liked the other four, it is an outrage that so many thinking people have been duped by Juno. Ellen Page’s snarky one-note performance, originating from the same creative morass that spawned such execrable “wonders” as Napoleon Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine, and Wes Anderson’s films after The Royal Tenenbaums, is considered multilayered and superlative. Nobody has had the balls to call out Reitman for relying so heavily upon great character actors like Rainn Wilson and Allison Janney to disguise his creative deficiencies. Juno was nothing more than an extended episode of Arrested Development — a dreadful film in which such filmmaking tactics as six consecutive cuts of a van driving in front of a suburban house are considered “clever” and in which Michael Cera has been encouraged to abdicate his talent in favor of being typecast as the nice guy (and he will most certainly be typecast, if he takes another one of these damnable roles).

Juno is a film that would rather have its titular protagonist cry out “Thundercats, ho!” while she is going into labor than express anything tantamount to fright or second thoughts. It is a film content to have Jason Bateman name-check Herschell Gordon Lewis and Sonic Youth instead of having him emote over the difficulties of getting older. It is a film content with such cheapshots as Jennifer Garner presented as a yuppie mom caricature and another mom (played by Darla Vandenbossche) mocked for being older and overweight. (In fact, Vandenbossche’s sole purpose for being in this film is to be ridiculed by Cody. What does that say about emerging talent?) This is a film designed for people who do not feel or embrace the world in any genuine way. With the exception of Juno’s parents (played by Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons), I felt nothing for any of the characters in this film. They were uninteresting, solipsistic, and as hackneyed as the flattest of paper dolls. I was appalled at the film’s reliance upon artifice over conviction. Handing over the Oscar to that inarticulate waif Sofia Coppola was one thing. But giving it to Cody for Juno last night was a true injustice.

The best original screenplay of 2007 — Tamara Jenkins’s The Savages, which bristled with emotion and intelligence — was entirely ignored by both the Academy and the purported streetcred of the Independent Spirit Award for a film phonier than a second-hand Hallmark card. If awards ceremonies are anything to go by, Hollywood is in trouble. Homegrown talent can’t measure up. Not only is Hollywood awarding its acting laurels to the Europeans, but it now feel content to dismiss any screenwriter who dares to pursue the human heart in conflict with itself. It’s the hip adding machines like Cody who now matter. But despite Cody’s penchant for taking off her clothes, the naked truth of true emotion eludes her.


  1. Ugh: “If this were a just universe, the appropriate executives would have taken Cody out behind the shed shortly after reading Juno and shot her down like an old dog.”

    That’s a bit much, Ed.

  2. I didn’t think I would find someone who hated Juno more than I did, but I guess I did. For my money, though, Margot at the Wedding should have been nominated for and won the Oscar for Best Orig. Scrply.

    Don’t worry, Ed, Diablo Cody (still the lamest pseud I have ever heard) will be a “Whatever Happened To…” article in 15 years.

  3. “Juno” is not that bad. It’s just not that good either. The reason it’s not that good is the script. Sixteen year old girls are generally not as articulate as Juno, so there goes your verisimilitude out the window for starters. Screenplay award? That’s ironic. The other thing about sixteen year old girls is that are generally not so flip about being pregnant. That doesn’t work, either. So yeah, there’s a lot to feel unconnected to in this movie.
    Still, there’s an interesting little flip that goes on as Jennifer Garner’s “yuppie mom caricature” evolves into something more substantial even as the husband devolves from hipster nice-guy to self-centered schmuck. There is something going on in “Juno”, but not enough to merit this egregious award. True.

  4. One more thing about Cody.

    I saw “Juno” when it debuted at the Toronto film festival in September last year.

    Cody and Reitman spoke after the screening. Reitman recalled when he first came across Cody’s script he read page after page waiting for Cody to make a mistake. But gosh darn it, she never did: she got it right the first time.

    At that point, she hadn’t started writing another screenplay; who knows what the Oscar will embolden her to write next.

  5. Unfortunately, I don’t really know if Reitman is really the best judge of character on this. I saw Juno twice; first time through I enjoyed it though it was clearly too clever for its own good. Second time through I was really put off by the shitty direction – it bothered me much, much more than the script.

  6. If awards ceremonies are anything to go by, Hollywood is in trouble.

    Awards ceremonies aren’t anything to go by. That’s your mistake right there. They’re popularity contests. No one is entitled to an award. Tamara Jenkins screenplay was produced. If the existence of Juno somehow precluded the existence of Jenkin’s film, you might have a case that some injustice was done. So she didn’t get an award. So what?

  7. Not having seen either The Savages or Lars and the Real Girl, I can’t make an informed judgment about the deserving winner of this year’s best original screenplay Oscar. I certainly wouldn’t have given it to Michael Clayton, as that film succeeds in spite of its shapeless script, and because of excellent performances and effective direction. I probably would have gone for Ratatouille, which takes an old, familiar story and does it exceptionally well.

    That said, I don’t think Cody’s script is nearly as bad as you say. The question of whether the dialogue is artificial is irrelevant. Like Brick, the question is whether the film’s artifice is sustained. I don’t think it is, but neither did I find it a complete failure, and the excesses of the dialogue were more than made up for by the film’s compassion towards and insight into every single one of its characters. Juno‘s popularity is completely out of proportion to its merits, but those merits are not insignificant.

    All of which is to say that we strongly disagree, which is fine and hardly the first time, but this:

    despite Cody’s penchant for taking off her clothes

    is way out of line.

  8. Really… I was pretty baffled by most of the nominees… Clayton was dead by about the 40 minute mark due to its awful script, Ratatouille is a damn CG kids film, and The Savages was, to be honest, a bit of a snooze…

    Juno itself was completley mediocre… I definitely enjoyed it for what it was, laughed quite a bit, and recommended it to friends… but was left talking more about its flaws than its merits with everyone afterwards.

    It deserved some praise, but the Juno-mania/obsession currently sweeping the nation is not only stupid, but possibly dangerous… for the many reasons cited by the backlash.

    I dunno whether she should be ‘shot down like an old dog’ though… however ridiculous the world of Juno may be, that kind of criticism is what [i]I[/i] would call piss poor writing.

  9. The only Award movie I’ve seen was “The Savages,” which I admired, but would have found difficult to watch except for Laura Linney and PS Hoffman. It wasn’t fun, although I did suspect the script was well written and much of the movie was wryly funny.

    Without a TV, I missed the Oscar ceremonies, too, and have only read about them.

    “Shot down like an old dog.” (?)

    Your overstatement always gooses me with a naughty thrill, Ed. Prone to over-the-top statements myself, I naturally marvel that you make them work. The machine-gun criticism I’m forever trying to duck is “hyperbole.” That one word brands me as ridiculous and perpetually unworthy of further consideration. Any tips on how I move from “hyperbole” to “a little much?”

  10. Oh, Ed. The Life Aquatic was fantastic.

    So you mean “Wes Anderson’s films after The Royal Tenenbaums (But not including The Life Aquatic)” right?

    Otherwise, I may cry.

  11. I haven’t seen Juno so I can’t judge it… but I know that a movie where the characters spoke like real teenagers would be a barrage of nigh-incomprehensible gutterspeak mixed with cringe-inducing inanity, pathetic whining and empty threats.

    I doubt that even real teenagers want to hear what they actually sound like. So the choice is to lie to the audience: “See how cool and suave you are!”

  12. They should raise the age of being eligible for Oscars to 35, like if you want to run for the Presidency. Or is that age the minimum for running for the Senate? But you get what I mean. Ah, Miss Diablo Cody is like Moby Dick to our great collective Ahab this week…I have yet to see her movie, but oh I’ve had my share of lapdances so even though I’ve never met the woman, I feel somehow I know her through her spiritual sisters in the g-string sorority…

  13. Could the Laura Albert in your comments be the same one I posted about on Jacket Copy? Is “JT Leroy” really that much better a pseudonym than “Diablo Cody”? Awfully unkind comments from someone who is herself the focus of a “whatever happened to…” article.

    I know — it’s probably just someone using “Laura Albert” as an ironic pseudonym.

  14. Ok, I’m a little late to the party, but thank you for this.

    Diablo Cody makes me want to lie down in a small dark room and quietly suffocate myself.

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