Friday, January 31, 2014

One Category at a Time: Adapted Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay was the only category I guessed 100% correctly for nominations this year, but given the how thin the field of contenders was, that's hardly worth bragging about. That being said, I think the final five are a perfectly respectable lineup; Naturally I would think that, having myself nominated all of them for Awards-Nazi Awards for writing. Still, it would have been nice to see the writing branch look outside the box at contenders like Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now, or Blue is the Warmest Color (The latter two of which I haven't seen yet, but have heard good things).
Anyway, on to the actual nominees, from whom the eventual winner looks to be fairly obvious.

Though ineligible for the WGA, John Ridely's eloquent script for 12 Years a Slave appears to be leading the pack here. This is the only category wherein it is not in direct competition with either of its chief Best Picture Rivals American Hustle or Gravity, making it the most natural place for the Academy to honour it, even if it does fall short in the big race.

But not so fast... is it at all possible that the frontrunner could face some heat from another WGA disqualification, Philomena? Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope's screenplay has a firm enough grasp of structure and theme to justify its nomination, and some may find the period dialogue of 12 Years a Slave alienating. The soft-edged drama played perfectly to the older demographic of the Academy that Harvey Weinstein knows how to manipulate oh so well. They say seniors always vote in record numbers!

At any rate, with both of these contenders axed from the WGA slate, it seems unlikely that this Sunday's awards for writing are going to shift the race in any meaningful way. But it does beg the question: Who will win the WGA?
My bet is that the same late breaking momentum that secured five Oscar nominations for The Wolf of Wall Street will lift it to win for Terrence Winter's sprawling account of corporate greed. Even though it severely lacks structure and a fair bit of comedy was improvised by the cast, his work on the page is nevertheless extensive and darkly hilarious.

I can tell you right now who I'm rooting for: Show me a WGA upset for Before Midnight and I'll show you what an Oscar blogger doing cartwheels looks like. Richard Linklater's masterful collaboration with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy is far and away the best of the lot. I think I've already adequately expressed my objection that the film should be competing in Original Screenplay, but as it turns out, it had a much easier time being nominated here than it would have in that super competitive category, so who am I to complain? Alas, being the only non-Best-Picture-nominee of the five, an Oscar win is out of the question.

Finally, there's a chance that the WGA could spring for Captain Phillips. The film and its screenwriter Billy Ray are well respected (deservedly so). The so-called "steak eaters" of the industry could make themselves heard here by stumping for its no-nonsense depiction of the events on which it's based, but for a broad group of people, the film may not register as much as a "writer's piece".

Will win: 12 Years a Slave
Runner-up: Philomena

Should win: Before Midnight
Should have been nominated: Short Term 12

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