Essays · Movies

2012 Oscar Prediction: Best Adapted Screenplay

By  · Published on February 23rd, 2012

While it’s inevitable that one day, perhaps one day soon, the Best Adapted Screenplay category will be jam-packed with reboots and comic book stories and robot superheros flicks, it’s not quite that day just yet. For now, Adapted Screenplay (which, over the years, has also been called Screenplay Adapted From Other Material, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, and Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published) is the refuge of book nerds and theatre wonks. And, also, weirdly enough, sequels (did you know that all sequels are automatically considered adaptations because they must be based on the original story?).

This year’s category includes some of the year’s best films (and one I absolutely hated, mainly because I love the original material so much), from a family drama to a kiddie flick for grown-ups, all the way to a political drama and a sports drama and a big, smart spy flick. But, in my mind, there’s just one clear nominee deserving of the award – but do you agree?

Read on for the nominations and my predicted winner in red

The Descendants, Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Why They Were Nominated

An adult film about adult issues with a smart, snappy script, Payne, Faxon, and Rash gave a story about one family both weight and laughs. And, man, do those Academy voters love them some Clooney (this might be a recurring theme in this category). The trio’s adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel is both accessible and intelligent, no easy feat.

Why They Might Win

Director Payne and screenwriting duo Faxon and Rash took a novel that was not nearly as interesting or compelling as their finished product and, well, made it that. Hart Hemmings’ book is a fine effort, but compared to the final film, it’s but a kernel of an idea. Payne, Faxon, and Rash crafted some of the finest characters of the year – Clooney’s Matt King, Shailene Woodley’s Alex King, Judy Greer’s Julie Speer. Hell, they even made a woman in a coma feel like her own character.

Why They Might Not Win

In another year, The Descendants would be the top pick in a slew of categories, including this one – at the very least, the film would be a much more sure choice for Best Picture and Shailene Woodley would have gotten a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. But this is not that year.

Previous Nominations: Payne – 2, Faxon & Rash – 0

Previous Wins: Payne – 1, Faxon & Rash – 0

Hugo, John Logan

Why He Was Nominated

Much like The Artist, Hugo is really a film about Hollywood – or what Hollywood wishes it was. While The Artist is about the industry, Hugo is about the love of cinema. Logan turned a kids’ book into a giant love letter to the big screen that’s also a magical fairy tale with some wonderful secrets that unfold over time.

Why He Might Win

Like all the other nominees in this category, Logan transformed his given material into something very different than its original state. In his case, Logan gave Hugo considerable substance, filled it with emotional beats, sprinkled in humor, and topped the whole thing off with a big old dollop of wonder.

Why He Might Not Win

Logan has two nominations under his belt, but no wins. Hugo, while a very lovely film, never quite caught on the way it should have considering its pedigree, and it’s very possible that stodgy old voters shined it off because they thought it was a kids’ film. That, and a latent fear of 3D.

Previous Nominations: 2 (both for Original Screenplays)

Previous Wins: 0

The Ides of March, George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon

Why They Were Nominated

Again, the Academy loves them some Clooney. The Ides of March got lotscritical love, but not nearly enough box office cash. Oh, that sound just like Clooney and Heslov’s other Oscar loved-up film, Good Night, and Good Luck. That one won.

Why They Might Win

Like J.C. Chandor’s Margin Call over in the Original Screenplay race, The Ides of March took complicated matters and made them appear easy to understand and digest. The machinations of a political campaign could be dead boring, but Clooney and Heslov (along with playwright Willimon, whose play the film is based on) made them feel sexy and vital.

Why They Might Not Win

There’s simply not enough awards season heat on the project to spring it into winning territory – but that’s just a small, political problem in comparison to the real issue at hand, which is that this is a poor adaptation of a wonderful play. It’s almost bizarre that playwright Willimon helped out on something that is, in many ways, a bastardization of his original work. The film’s script puts the spotlight on Clooney’s character – a character we never actually meet in the play – and then trumps up some of the more reserved elements of the original work, from Gosling’s character to the subplot involving Evan Rachel Wood’s character. It’s hard to pull out a win when your original material is far superior.

Previous Nominations: Clooney & Heslov – 1 (for Original Screenplay), Willimon – 0

Previous Wins: Clooney & Heslov – 0, Willimon – 0

Moneyball, Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Story by Stan Chervin

Why They Were Nominated

It’s Sorkin – so it’s smart and big and fast-talking. But Moneyball is also less slick than Sorkin’s The Social Network, more human, more chompy and American and, well, Brad Pitt-y.

Why They Might Win

Have you read Michael Lewis’ book? Probably not, unless you’re a huge baseball fan, and even then, that’s pushing it. Zaillian, Sorkin, and Chervin took a non-fiction book about stats and numbers and economics that had some stories sprinkled in and turned it into a narrative with all the emotional gut punches an audience wants and needs in order to get involved. They wrote Oscar-worthy roles for both Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. You guys, Jonah Hill. But more than anything, Moneyball is really just phenomenal adaptation of tough material.

Why They Might Not Win

Like so many other films from 2011, Moneyball is getting left in the dust by The Artist. And while they’re not competing with that film here, the carryover might strike them down. Also, you ever hear of the term “inside baseball”?

Previous Nominations: Zaillian – 3 (two for Adapted Screenplay, one for Original Screenplay), Sorkin – 1, Chervin – 0

Previous Wins: Zaillian – 1 (for Adapted Screenplay), Sorkin – 1, Chervin – 0

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

Why They Were Nominated

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the grown-up nominee in this category, the old school pick, the grandpa of the set. O’Connor and Straughan took a big, meaty work by John le Carre and condensed it down to something that can stand alone.

Why They Might Win

The husband and wife team might get some extra love, thanks to the untimely passing of O’Connor before the film even hit theaters. The film’s old school feel should appeal to voters, and its gorgeously intricate story calls back to much more classic films.

Why They Might Not Win

TTSS might be a leaner version of the le Carre work, but it’s still dense stuff that confounded quite a few viewers. People expecting a slick spy flick were hideously disappointed, and most people who only saw it once could argue quite easily that it’s a film where nothing quite happens.

Previous Nominations: 0

Previous Wins: 0

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