Sizing Up: Best Adapted Screenplay

12-Years-a-Slave-Chiwetel-EjioforWell, we’re coming to the tail end of the Sizing Up series, which tackles the Adapted Screenplay race. I willingly admit that my success rate is still to be determined with this year’s crop of articles, but that kind of comes with the territory of Oscar prognostication, and I’m feeling at least a little bit more confident this year than usual about them, so there’s that. I guess I’m getting wiser with age, though some might argue with that as well. Both this screenplay article and next week’s final one of the year tackling Original Screenplay will be a tad lighter than usual, both in terms of the number of films overall and also in the number of big time contenders, mainly because these are the only categories that really limit what you can work from, so it’s a little bit harder. I did my best though, so at least give me credit for that! I think most of you will be happy with these rankings, but that ultimately remains to be seen, I suppose. Enough delays though, let’s get on with the list and size up the Best Adapted Screenplay field!

The “Wishful Thinking” Category

This is where I’d normally talk about the films I’d say are 100% out of the race, regardless of the quality of their script and how in another world they and their scripts might have been contenders (though not in this one), but I don’t have to this time around, since the Adapted field is just that sparse. If I strained my brain I’m sure I could find a few, but honestly, why bother? Let’s just now move on to some screenplays that actually have a shot, albeit a small one, before this smaller field begins to depress us.

The “Dark horse/Long shot” Category

This next particular grouping consists of ten movies this year that I think ultimately won’t be contenders for their scripts, but aren’t out of the race yet (though let’s be realistic folks).  There’s something missing from the equation to really take them seriously.  Some of them are a bit bigger contenders than others are, but for me I’m inclined to bet against them all right now.  Maybe I’ll be wrong, but I doubt it. The movies/scripts in question are as follows:

953802The Broken Circle Breakdown
Delivery Man
The Fifth Estate
The Invisible Woman
Man of Steel
Prince Avalanche
Star Trek into Darkness
World War Z

I’ll be frank with you folks right now…none of these pictures have anything better than a snowball’s chance in hell of getting nominated. The most likely of these long shots is The Broken Circle Breakdown, but it’s not even the most likely foreign contender in this category, so you can all but cross it off. With better reviews, The Fifth Estate could have had a shot, but that didn’t happen. Plain and simple, these just aren’t going to really be in play when all is said and done. Anyone trying to argue otherwise isn’t being at all realistic, regardless of the quality on display in a few of these.

The “Second Tier” Contenders

These screenplays and their associated films here are slightly more solidly in play for Best Adapted Screenplay, but they still have some rather serious question marks holding them back from the top tier.  I’m not sure that any of these will even come close to making it to the big show, but I wouldn’t write them all off just yet.  I don’t see them as big time contenders, but like I said, they’re not too far off, at least comparatively.  The ten scripts I see in this light are:

much-ado-about-nothing-movie-photo-10Black Nativity
The Book Thief
The Great Gatsby
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Iceman
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
The Motel Life
Much Ado About Nothing

I’m sure that there’s a version of this year’s race where at least some of these films/screenplays could make up a portion of the Best Adapted Screenplay field, but there’s still another dozen films and their scripts to come with far better chances. These are really lacking for the most part. The best chances probably lays with The Book Thief and maybe a surprise citation for Much Ado About Nothing, though neither are incredibly likely. Had the reception to the film been stronger, I think The Great Gatsby could have been a big player, but that’s obviously not the case, is it? The impending big group is next, and this category is more than a bit top heavy, so that’s where all the major players are hanging out this year, with pretty much no exceptions.

The “Pole Position” Contenders

These are the dozen most likely contenders for Best Adapted Screenplay. As previously mentioned, the big flicks and their scripts are all housed here, especially with the relative dearth of other contenders in the prior sections of this piece. My personal Oscar predictions consist of a grouping of some of these screenplays, believe it or not. They each have something going in their favor, and seem to be sitting quite pretty for at least some precursor attention. They’re some of the most mentioned films so far this year too, and that definitely helps. Which 12 scripts are they, you ask? Well, they are the following ones:

waekxsn12 Years a Slave
August: Osage County
Before Midnight
Blue is the Warmest Color
Captain Phillips
Labor Day
Lone Survivor
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Short Term 12
The Spectacular Now
The Wolf of Wall Street

Right off the bat, it’s clear that the two least likely contenders are Lone Survivor (which is coming on strong but will have a huge uphill battle) and Short Term 12 (which would be a lovely surprise, but I’m not amazingly optimistic). A bit more likely but still probably fighting a losing battle are Labor Day and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, though either could sneak their way in, I suppose. The surprise nominee here, at least to me, could be The Spectacular Now, which is well liked, will do okay on the precursor circuit, and could slightly lighten up a rather dark looking group of fellow nominees. Essentially, it’s alive and kicking in a way that not everyone expected. Beyond those though, it’s really between seven remaining scripts for the five slots. 12 Years a Slave is a lock, while the smart money has Captain Phillips making it in too. This leaves five contenders for those three final spots. The players bringing up the rear of this top grouping are August: Osage County and Blue is the Warmest Color (though this one is a huge threat, trust me), which almost by process of elimination leaves us with Before Midnight, Philomena, and The Wolf of Wall Street (one of our final X factors). They’re all vulnerable though, so the precursors will be essential. I’m very interested to see how the voters decide to work through these flicks and their scripts in the end, since they won’t have many obvious choices. We could be in for a surprise or two…

There you (almost) have it, ladies and gents. There are a lot of scripts looking for only a few slots, and the vast majority of them are pretenders, but it’s important to try and see which contenders are the true ones and which are hoping for some help to really make a true play here. I’m very eager to see which ones start getting precursor attention, and we’ll see the race shape up a bit in a matter of a few short weeks.

Thoughts? How do you see Best Adapted Screenplay shaping up? Discuss in the comments!

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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