2015 Oscar Circuit: Best Adapted Screenplay

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Our annual look at the individual Oscar categories. If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Circuit 2015. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions page for Best Adapted Screenplay here.

Before the Oscar nominations were announced it was pretty clear to pundits that Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her novel “Gone Girl” was the front-runner for Best Adapted Screenplay, but something funny happened on the way to the Dolby Theater. “Whiplash,” initially thought to be in competition for Original Screenplay was labeled as adapted, “American Sniper” kept building up support and would eventually break box-office records, and the once perceived front-runner “Gone Girl” mysteriously vanished from the field of five.

So, where does that leave Best Adapted Screenplay? Well let’s take a look.

The nominees are:

  • American Sniper – Jason Hall
  • The Imitation Game – Graham Moore
  • Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson
  • The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten
  • Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

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American Sniper – Jason Hall

“American Sniper’s” haul of six nominations was surprising; combined with its stellar box-office performance, Clint Eastwood’s film has become a dark horse contender in nearly all of the categories. That is especially true in Adapted Screenplay. With no clear front-runner, a strong surge from a film like “American Sniper” could just be enough to get voters to reward it. Jason Hall’s script profiling Chris Kyle is being praised for how it tackles PTSD, but it is also receiving criticism from some on details it leaves out about the Iraq War and Kyle’s viewpoint on it. Just how popular is “American Sniper” with the Academy? How it fairs here could be the ultimate indication.

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The Imitation Game – Graham Moore

“Birdman,” “Boyhood” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” have been the films that have dominated the circuit leading up to the Oscars. However, “The Imitation Game” has been right there beside them as an also ran in nearly every race, it just has failed to come away with the hardware. Competing away from the others, and without the presence of “Gone Girl,” “The Imitation Game” is the closest thing to a front-runner the Adapted Screenplay category has. The work from Graham Moore is surprisingly funny, makes the turning of nobs quite gripping and does a commendable job in the portrait of its subject. With the Weinstein’s behind it and the always popular aspects of a biopic of a British/WWII hero, “The Imitation Game” may finally have a trophy to call it’s own with Best Adapted Screenplay.

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Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

Kudos for the Academy on giving a nod to Paul Thomas Anderson’s script for “Inherent Vice.” Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel may be hard to follow, but that is kind of the point of this drug inspired mystery. While the script hazily moves forward from one point to another, each scene is a wonderfully written and enjoyable experience on its own merits. That being said, a nomination is as far as “Inherent Vice” is likely to go.

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The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are rightly the primary focus of “The Theory of Everything” as they magnificently bring Jane and Stephen Hawking to the big screen. The adaptation of Jane Hawking’s novel “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen” by Anthony McCarten covers all the bases of their relationship and gives the actors every opportunity to shine. But at the end of the day, it is the actor’s that carry this film and are the likeliest to be rewarded.

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Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

“Whiplash’s” journey to a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay is a long and weird one, nevertheless, here it is. Damien Chazelle’s story of a young jazz musician who strives to be the best and the abusive band conductor who pushes him to the brink is tense and crescendos to a finale that is arguably the best of the year. Perhaps the confusion with its nomination will lead to a similar result here. Many thought “Whiplash” could miss out entirely on a screenplay nominee because of the late change, but the work rose to the occasion and now it arguably has an even better shot at winning.

 

There’s one precursor left for these contenders with the Writer’s Guild, but don’t expect that to be the best indicator. While “The Imitation Game” and “American Sniper” will go head to head, “Whiplash” is nominated for Original Screenplay there, while “Inherent Vice” and “The Theory of Everything” sit it out. A late surge by either “Vice” or “Theory” is unlikely, so it seems we got a three horse race, with “The Imitation Game” with the edge at the moment, but by no means is it safe. Another question mark in what could be one of the more exciting Oscar ceremonies in recent years.

Will Win: The Imitation Game

Could Win: Whiplash

Should Win: Whiplash

Snubbed: Gone Girl