Welcome to the thirtieth entry in our Six Circuit series. Another category cycle has begun. We are back with an Adapted Screenplay race. Often films earn their only nominations through the screenplay categories. However, the 2010 Adapted Screenplay race was filled completely with Best Picture nominees. This year marks the second year with a ten-wide Best Picture field, which makes this feat a little easier. Still, were there any non-Best Picture nominees bubbling under the radar that could have made a play? Let’s take a look at the nominees first.
THE NOMINEES WERE:
- 127 Hours — Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
- The Social Network — Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (WINNER)
- Toy Story 3 — Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
- True Grit — Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
- Winter’s Bone — Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini
There was little doubt that Aaron Sorkin was winning this award. For most of the season, “The Social Network” was heralded as a consensus pick for Best Picture. Sorkin’s script was cited as one of the top reasons for why the film worked so well. He ran the gauntlet in terms of precursor awards winning the WGA, Critics Choice, BAFTA Awards and Golden Globe. Though “The King’s Speech” started stealing “The Social Network’s” thunder, nothing could stop Sorkin.
It’s hard to figure out what may have come second. Some voters may have cast their ballots for “Toy Story 3” in an effort to reward the influential film trilogy. “Winter’s Bone” over-performed in terms of nominations and was a major independent hit. If the Academy was looking for a place to give the film a win, this would be the best category to do so.
The Coen Brothers and Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy had won Oscars in back to back years. In 2007, the Coen Brothers won Best Picture, Director and Screenplay for “No Country for Old Men.” This hat trick happened the following year with Best Picture winner “Slumdog Millionaire,” which gave Boyle Directing recognition and Beaufoy as Oscar for Screenplay. The Oscar success of their 2010 projects – “True Grit” and “127 Hours,” respectively – illustrates the power of Oscar’s afterglow effect. Though both films had fans in the Academy, neither were in a rush to win additional Oscars. Had the Oscars not gone with an all-Best Picture list, which contenders would’ve made the lineup?
THE SIX SPOT CONTENDERS ARE:
- “The Ghost Writer”
- Precursors – National Society of Film Critics Runner Up, USC Scripter Award
- Oscar Nominations – None
- “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
- Precursors – BAFTA Awards
- Oscar Nominations – None
- “I Love You, Phillip Morris”
- Precursors – WGA Awards
- Oscar Nominations – None
- “Rabbit Hole”
- Precursors – Independent Spirit Awards
- Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Nicole Kidman)
- “The Town”
- Precursors – Critics Choice Awards, WGA Awards
- Oscar Nominations – Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Renner)
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” has had a very strange relationship with the Academy. Stieg Larsson’s best-selling book was first adapted into a 2009 Swedish film of the same name by Niels Arden Oplev. Starring Noomi Rapace as hacker Lisbeth Salander, the film did strong business in the US when it was released in 2010. Many thought Rapace had a shot at cracking the 2010 Best Actress lineup. Additionally, the film also secured a BAFTA nomination for Adapted Screenplay, honoring writers Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg. Its chances in Adapted Screenplay would’ve only been significant if it earned nominations in Foreign Film or Actress.
Still, the Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” paid its Oscar cache forward to next year’s David Fincher remake. The 2011 American version earned Rooney Mara a nomination for Best Actress for the role Rapace originated. The film also won Best Editing and was nominated for Best Cinematography, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. Even with this Oscar success, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was still not able to make it into the Adapted Screenplay race. It appears that there was little chance this story would end up in the writing categories.
Many films earn lone nominations in the screenplay categories. One of the biggest question marks of the year was “The Ghost Writer,” the well-received thriller from Roman Polanski. Despite a rape conviction in the ’70s, Polanski was able to win Best Director for “The Pianist” in 2002. Some thought residual Oscar love could earn the thriller a place in the Adapted Screenplay category. However, Polanski continues to be a divisive figure the more time passes from his Oscar win. It looks unlikely that he will get another film released in the US, much less earn another Oscar nomination.
One WGA nominee to not repeat at the Oscars was “I Love You, Phillip Morris.” The satirical true story earned headlines as Jim Carrey played a gay con-man who finds the love of his life (Ewan McGregor) behind bars. Despite an A-list star and positive reviews, the film barely broke $2 million at the box office with a release that peaked at 100 theaters. Additionally, the Academy still has not caught on to Jim Carrey. The actor has been a long-time Oscar snub (“The Truman Show” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).
Nicole Kidman did more than just act in “Rabbit Hole,” she produced the independent film as well. The stage to screen adaptation was the first film made by her production company, Blossom Films. Kidman earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her work as a grieving mother. Despite strong reviews and Tony-winning source material, the film did not receive any other Oscar nominations. Had the film received a bigger release, it could have had a better shot in Adapted Screenplay.
Meanwhile, “The Town” was busy making the play for a bigger Oscar narrative. With PGA, WGA and Critics Choice nominations, “The Town” came very close to a Best Picture nod. Instead, the only nomination the film received was Best Supporting Actor for Jeremy Renner, who still had Oscar afterglow from “The Hurt Locker” from the previous year. Still, had the film been a bigger Oscar deal, an Adapted Screenplay nomination would have easily followed.