Oscars 2013 – Best Original & Adapated Screenplay

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This is part two of our preview on the 85th Annual Academy Awards. Click here for part one.

These categories are near and dear to my heart. After all, I’m working on becoming a screenwriter myself so it’s only natural that they would interest me. That said, I can’t say I haven’t disagreed with some of the Academy’s decisions regarding who they nominate in the past and there’s even a couple of examples this year! Before I get into that, let’s look at the nominations:

Best Original Screenplay

·         Michael Haneke (Amour)

·         Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

·         John Gatins (Flight)

·         Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)

·         Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)

Best Screenplay Adaptation

·         Chris Terrio (Argo)

·         Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of a Southern Wild)

·         David Magee (Life of Pi)

·         Tony Kushner (Lincoln)

·         David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Let me start with my issues with the nominations. That’s not to say that the ones that were nominated are bad (because they aren’t) but I do believe that there were two writers that should’ve been recognized but weren’t:  Rian Johnson for his work on Looper and Andrew Dominik for his work on Killing Them Softly.

In Looper, Johnson crafted a brilliant, refreshing take on the time travel genre, a genre that can get bogged down in unnecessary details that often lead to a muddled and confusing film. Granted, the very fact that it’s a genre film works against it, as the Academy doesn’t often give recognition to genre films but there’s no denying the quality of the story and dialogue in Looper. Johnson was overlooked for the work he did on his 2005 film Brick, as well and that’s probably one of the most innovate uses of dialogue in the past 10 years so it’s not a complete surprise that he’s been overlooked. However, the overall awareness of Looper is infinitely more than it was for Brick so it created some hope that Johnson would be properly recognized for his work and talent.

On the flipside, despite it’s very bullish nature in getting you to understand the film’s setting, Dominik’s dialogue in Killing Them Softly is brilliant, with an end monologue that is quite possibly the best piece of dialogue in the past five years, let alone just 2012. He wasn’t recognized for his previous film either, 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James so there is a certain amount of correlation between him and Johnson. Both are extremely talented filmmakers that have yet to get their due from the Academy and it’s a shame, something that will hopefully be rectified sooner rather than later.

There’s really only one writer that I felt was snubbed in the Adaptation category: Stephen Chbosky for his work on adapting his own novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. What could’ve easily turned into a coming of age film bogged down by all the clichés to come out of the genre since Chbosky’s novel was first published, the film manages to stand alone in its creation of relatable and meaningful characters. The fact that he was adapting his own likely played against him but I think the very fact that he was able to do so without ruining the intentions of the original work show a certain amount of restraint that a lot of authors might not have been able to avoid.

Anyways, on to the actual nominations. I would hope the Academy rectifies it’s snub of Quentin Tarantino in the Best Director category by giving him the nod for Django Unchained in the Best Original Screenplay category but like I mentioned in my previous piece, the controversial nature of the subject matter might persuade them to go with a lesser choice. That’s not to say that the other nominees aren’t strong, I just don’t think they’re at the same level as the latest film written by one of this generation’s most talented filmmakers. Regardless of your opinion of the man, there’s no denying that Tarantino has a special way with words and Django Unchained is Tarantino at his best. Him winning the Golden Globe would normally be a strong indication that he would get the nod but as I’ve said before, the HFPA and the Academy have been a lot more far apart than they used to be. If they do go in another direction, my money would be on Mike Boal for Zero Dark Thirty. He’s quickly becoming a go-to screenwriter (and one that will likely follow Bigelow wherever she goes) so he has some name value himself, which always helps. The other nominees aren’t as strong but I want to make special mention of John Gatins for his work on Flight because it really is a tightly-scripted film so it’s just a shame he has to go up against such a strong list of contenders.

The Adaptation category can really only go one of two ways: Tony Kushner for Lincoln or David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. That being said, it’s likely to go to Kushner because Lincoln is likely to dominate the event simply because the Academy loves historical dramas and while Silver Linings Playbook is done very well, it’s strength comes more from the actors than the actual script. My personal pick would be Chris Terrio for Argo, a superb film that benefits from a very strong script and I suppose it’s not out of the realm of possibility but it doesn’t seem as likely as the first two I mentioned.

Well that’s all for the screenplay categories. Look for my next piece covering the Best Supporting Actor & Actress categories!

Author: ConceptsbyKJR

Dylan Zellmer

I split time between games journalism and making video games. My love of it’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), fitness and my family define me otherwise.