Writing is a broad category, and I will be addressing it that way. We write books, we write screenplays, we write teleplays, and we write music. All shall be represented here.
First, an honorable mention. This is another one of the no one really knows or cares so why bother recognitions, but I must say it. Stew, badass rockstar and composer of one of the best rock musicals of all time Passing Strange, composed an original score for an outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's beautiful. You can sample it at CDBaby. It's not what you would expect for Shakespeare, but I can hear how it would work.
Our first honoree in Outstanding Achievement in Writing is a book that apparently came and went with no one noticing: Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow. Based on the lives of the infamous Collyer Brothers, a pair of hoarders in NYC who literally died in their own filth, Doctorow captures the desperation the men must have felt and accepted before allowing their lives to become overrun with hoarded objects. It's funny, it's touching, and it's entertaining. The extension of their lives through the Vietnam War and beyond was a smart touch to allow for a more believable arc of destruction. Sometimes, reality is too weird to be captured in print and seem real.
Our next honoree in Outstanding Achievement in Writing is the score to a motion picture that I simply fell in love with: Karen O and Carter Burwell's original score to Where the Wild Things Are. This is certainly a polarizing score. I was charmed by the simple melodies, complex arrangements, alt/folk/rock/pop influences, and emotional content performed by Karen O and a group of children. Others can't get past Karen O's signature voice and repetition. Here's a sampling of the score:
I'm a sucker for an original vocal score and Karen O and Carter Burwell delivered here.
Speaking of great original scores, I would be mad at myself if I neglected to mention another of my favorites of the year: John Ottman's original score for Orphan. "Orphan," you ask, "isn't that the one where the little girl turns out to be a [removed for spoiler free post]? That movie's stupid." I'm not arguing the screenplay here. I'm arguing the score. Beautifully written, largely sustained horror scores play me like nothing else. This one just worked for the film. Samples are available at Amazon. It's a little Goblin (Argento's go-to composing band), a little Danny Elfman, and a whole lot of strange and ominous. Truly an Outstanding Achievement in Writing.
Back to more easily understood forms of writing, our next honoree for Outstanding Achievement in Writing is a screenplay: (500) Days of Summer written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. What Neustadter and Weber did to the romantic comedy is to be praised. Who could imagine what an impact believable characters and genuine circumstances could make in this kind of film? The time-jumps are just the icing on the cake. Aside from a very strained board room scene, the dialog is natural to the characters and the story compelling. Yes, an architect working for a greeting card company is intended to be quirky just because, but it works beyond the wacky gimmick. It's certainly a film worth watching for the writing.
Our next honoree is an original song that will send people clicking away from my site in droves. That's ok. I can take it. Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." What happens when pop and/or dance music becomes totally self-aware? Lady Gaga happens. I've bought into the performance art hook, line, and sinker, and feel "Bad Romance" is easily the best new pop song of the year. It's disturbing, features half a verse dedicated to Hitchcock references, and only features a human voice as a real instrument (how modified is another matter of debate). So what's so great? It's a catchy pop song embracing the darker side of choosing a romantic partner, has a unique sonic identity, and stands out. See for yourself:
Freaky video, right? The song is even stranger. And I love it.
Now our winner. I struggled to pick a singular Outstanding Achievement in Writing since what I was drawn to this year was so weird. I opted for a mix of different writing elements combined to perfection in a television series. That would be the "Pilot" episode of Glee written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan. The key moment of the episode is "Don't Stop Believing." The arrangement of the song is still the strongest written of any presented on the show. The lead up to this grand unveiling of the students actually being talented in all things Glee Club is predictable, but handled with so much charm and genuine enthusiasm that the scene works better than I could imagine. The super clean processed vocals and unrealistic rate of learning these characters demonstrate in every other episode is not a detriment in the pilot. Shoot, I'm willing to overlook the clearly orchestrated diversity of the Glee Club (which only expands) because the "Pilot" episode is so much fun. Having such clean elements and familiarity was the smartest way to launch a weekly musical series on American TV and that is why this wins Outstanding Achievement in Writing.