Welcome to the fourteenth entry in our Six Spot series!
Call us by your name and we’ll call you by ours. James Ivory became the oldest screenwriting nominee and winner for the Italian set gay romance. While the race was always going to go to “Call Me By Your Name” in the end, the battle for nominations was fierce. So what contender just missed the cut for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2017? First, let’s talk what got nominated for the award.
THE NOMINEES WERE:
- “Call Me By Your Name” – Screenplay by James Ivory – WINNER
- “The Disaster Artist” – Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
- “Logan” – Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green; Story by James Mangold
- “Molly’s Game” – Written for the screen by Aaron Sorkin
- “Mudbound” – Screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees
As the only Best Picture nominee in the field, “Call Me By Your Name” had a strong advantage in the Adapted Screenplay race. Writer James Ivory (of Merchant Ivory fame) held a very longstanding Oscar IOU card after losing for his run of nominations in the 80s and 90s. Throughout the season, the film racked up an impressive amount of precursors, including WGA, BAFTA and Critics Choice. Were there any challengers to the top spot?
In short, no. The most major award won by any of the other nominees was “The Disaster Artist,” which won National Board of Review. However, that film missed out on a key Best Actor nomination for star James Franco. It’s possible he lost out on that because of sexual harassment allegations made during nominations. Either way, this shows the film had waning popularity. In fact, the only other movie to show up in other categories was “Mudbound.” Dee Rees’ film was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Mary J. Blige), Best Cinematography and Best Original Song. Additionally, Netflix ran an aggressive campaign that contributed to the film becoming their first breakout.
“Molly’s Game” also had a fairly clear road to Oscar in this category. Despite not contending in other categories, writer Aaron Sorkin is a bit of an Oscar mainstay. In a category with few major Oscar contenders overall, a film with a star writer can sneak into a lineup. “Logan” was the big headline of the nomination field. The film became the first superhero movie nominated in the screenplay category. This nomination was always on the fence and was undoubtedly number five, based on precursors. Still, the nomination was very well deserved. Now let’s look into the films “Logan” beat out for that fifth slot.
THE SIX SPOT CONTENDERS ARE:
- “The Beguiled”
- Precursors – Online Film Critics Society Nominee
- Oscar nominations – None
- “Blade Runner 2049”
- Precursors – Utah Film Critics Winner, Indiana Film Journalists Runner Up, Other Critics Prizes Nominations
- Oscar nominations – Best Cinematography (WINNER), Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects (WINNER)
- “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”
- Precursors – BAFTA Nominee
- Oscar nominations – None
- “The Lost City of Z”
- Precursors – Online Film Critics Society Nominee, USC Scripter Nominee
- Oscar nominations – None
- Precursors – Critics Choice Nominee, USC Scripter Nominee
- Oscar nominations – Best Makeup
EARLY YEAR FILMS
Returning to the point made about Sorkin’s “Molly’s Game,” sometimes a celebrity writer helps in this category. Oscar winner Sofia Coppola possesses a similar level of clout in this category. Her film, “The Beguiled,” was a strong indie player when it opened in June. The star-studded remake earned strong reviews and popped up at some critics awards near the end of the year. In the past, there are a strong chance voters would have gone for the western remake from a Coppola. Do the same rules apply now, though?
“The Beguiled” wasn’t the only film from earlier in the year to make a play for the Adapted Screenplay category. James Gray’s long-delayed “The Lost City of Z” opened in April to few, passionate fans. Unfortunately, this made the film a massive bomb relative to its large budget. Yet, by year’s end, the film showed up at some key critics and tastemaker awards, including the USC Scripter. In the end, the film’s profile may have been too low to sneak into that final spot.
LAST MINUTE ENTRIES
One age-old Oscar proverb reads, “Beware the late-breaking contender.” The year 2017 marks the second year in a row Annette Bening headlined an Oscar film opening the last week of the year. So far, this hasn’t paid off in a nomination for Bening. Yet, 2016’s “20th Century Women” was able to surprise in the Original Screenplay category despite snubs in all other categories. Bening stars as Oscar-winning actress Gloria Graham in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” which finished the year with lukewarm reviews and even worse box office. However, it made the BAFTA lineup. This shows the film had some passionate supporters, especially since BAFTA voters have some overlap with Oscar voters.
STANDOUT CRAFT NOMINEES
“Blade Runner 2049” led the nominations tally for films not up for Best Picture. The sci-fi sequel received five nominations, albeit all in craft categories. Still, the movie won both Cinematography and Visual Effects, showing voters had seen and liked the film. Craft support doesn’t necessarily correlate with a writing nomination. Yet, when one looks at precursors, “Blade Runner 2049” had actually won an Adapted Screenplay category (Utah Film Critics) and been cited by other regional critics. Does this mean we came close to a “Blade Runner 2049” writing nomination? Or was “Logan” always going to be the best shot for a blockbuster in this year?
On a much smaller scale, Best Makeup nominee “Wonder” also had strong chances in this category. In fact, it may have seemed like the most likely contender for that fifth slot back at the time. Of the Six Spot contenders, “Wonder” was the only one to have an Adapted Screenplay nomination at a televised awards show. It received a Critics Choice nomination this year, albeit there were six nominees. The Q4 surprise hit features Oscar winner Julia Roberts in a key supporting performance as the mother of a child with facial disfigurements. This reads like Oscar catnip. However, Oscar rarely goes for kids fare in the writing categories, outside of Pixar.