The nominees for the USC Scripter match exactly the Oscar nominees for adapted screenplay. But BAFTA and the Writers Guild have Moonlight in original, up against Manchester by the Sea and La La Land. That makes predicting original screenplay difficult, given that the Globe went to La La Land in a sweep. How will Original Screenplay out? It’s anyone’s guess at this point.
The Scripter, however, is a different story. The nominees for this prize are honored for both the original work and the screenplay. All five are worthy in both and for different reasons. This is an extremely tough category to choose from. For instance, Lion‘s original book is written by the person the film is about: Saroo Brierley. It’s his story that was adapted by Luke Davis. The only female writer in the bunch is Allison Schroeder who co-wrote Hidden Figures with director Theodore Melfi. The original book by Margot Lee Shetterly‘s bio:
“Writer, researcher, and entrepreneur Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow/HarperCollins). A 2014 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grantee, Shetterly is the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s. She is a native of Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women behind the history in Hidden Figures. She lived for many years in New York and Mexico before moving to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she lives with her husband, writer Aran Shetterly. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia.”
A Scripter win for Hidden Figures awards two women writers, happened twice – once in 1991 with Fried Green Tomatoes with Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski, and again in 1995 with Jane Austen and Emma Thompson for Sense and Sensibility. But not in over over 20 years.
Then there is Eric Heisserer‘s lifelong commitment to bring Ted Chiang’s sci-fi short story to the big screen with Arrival. It’s a hell of an adaptation that imagines a whole visual world that isn’t in the story while maintaining the essential element of the story that makes it great: the juxtaposition of the scientific approach with the human approach. Both film and story are beautifully written.
And there is August Wilson whose adaptation of his own play Fences was written into a screenplay. Though Wilson died before he could see the film fully realized, it was his vision to have it directed by an African American director (Denzel Washington) and as the cinematic adaptation he envisioned. How do you bet against August Wilson, one of America’s most treasured authors?
And finally, you have the likely winner, Moonlight written by Barry Jenkins, adapted from “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” by Tarell Alvin McCraneyz. Moonlight is an original screenplay and not a direct adaptation but it is based on McCraneyz’s story. Moonlight is a visual masterpiece, one of the best films of the year and certainly was carrying the buzz when final votes for the Scripter were due, January 18th.
Moonlight might end up having a big weekend if it wins the Scripter and the BAFTA this weekend. It is up against tough competition at the BAFTA, however, competition it won’t have on Oscar night.
Here is how I see the two categories playing out right now for the Oscar Screenplay category;
Moonlight vs. Hidden Figures vs. Lion
Manchester by the Sea vs. La La Land vs. Hell or High Water
The Scripter’s winner is announced Saturday night.