ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

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In 2009, Argentinian director Juan José Campanella won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for The Secret in Their Eyes, the story of the an investigation of cold case told in flashbacks to the 1970s. The film won several truckloads of awards all around the world, and represents one of the few FLF Oscars winners that qualifies as a genuine mystery thriller. The sort of story Hollywood used to make all the time, so naturally it’s been adapted and packed full of Oscar nominees: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts. Because subtitles require reading and I guess it’s assumed that most American moviegoers don’t do that. The Americanized version is directed by Billy Ray who helped write a screenplay that did something to State of Play that drained all the urgency right out of the UK original, but let’s not dwell on that. As director, Billy Ray’s debut film was Shattered Glass, a tight tense little knockout a dozen years ago. In 2013, he was Oscar nominated for his screenplay for Captain Phillips, a tight tense enormous knockout.

A tight-knit team of FBI investigators, along with their District Attorney supervisor, is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered. Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games), and produced by Academy Award® winner Mark Johnson (Rain Man, “Breaking Bad”), Secret In Their Eyes is an intense, powerful, haunting thriller starring Academy Award® nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Academy Award® winners Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts.

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With the Writers Guild the last of the major awards to announce, just a few days before the final Oscar ballots are due — though how many voters will have already cast their ballots? Either way, both categories remain wide open.

Original Screenplay is a three-way race between The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman and Boyhood. The BAFTA chose Budapest over Birdman, which was surprising. In fact, both scripts that were disallowed by the WGA (King’s Speech and The Artist) both won the BAFTA for screenplay. Will the Academy, with all of its actors dominating final voting, go for Birdman instead? If Birdman is to win Best Picture, as all of the major guilds have dictated, will it also have to win writing?

The predictions at Gold Derby are all over the place, truth be told, with 7 predicting Birdman and 12 predicting Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Globes gave their screenplay award to Birdman because Budapest took the top prize. The BAFTA gave Birdman just one award for cinematography, a highly unusual move for a Best Picture frontrunner. In fact, it’s never happened that a film won the PGA/DGA/SAG and only won a single Bafta in the techs.

All of the films that won those three, since BAFTA shifted their date, also won a significant award at BAFTA.

That already makes Birdman breaking with precedent in a third significant way. One thing we’ve learned from our past, though, is that when they want to pick a movie they like all stats and history go out the window.

But just in terms of Best Picture we now have to add, for a Birdman win, to overcome:

Not winning the Golden Globe for comedy (it went to Budapest)
Not having an editing nomination
Not winning screenplay or actor or any major award beyond cinematography at BAFTA

All three of these things make Birdman’s potential win a long shot, even with the big three. Remember, the big three have always resulted in a major award at BAFTA, if not Best Picture. How do films with the big three stack up with the WGA?

UPDATE: Birdman is not eligible for the WGA – for some reason I forgot this when I first wrote this piece — that puts it in the King’s Speech/The Artist territory. BOTH won the BAFTA for Screenplay but Birdman did not. One won the Oscar, the other didn’t. Both in original.

2012 – Argo: PGA/DGA/BAFTA/SAG/Oscar – WGA/Oscar
2011 – The Artist: PGA/DGA/SAG/BAFTA/Oscar – was not eligible for WGA, won Oscar SILENT FILM
2010 – The King’s Speech: PGA/DGA/SAG/BAFTA/Oscar – not eligible for WGA/won Oscar
2009 – The Hurt Locker: PGA/DGA/BAFTA/Oscar – WGA/Oscar
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire (PGA/DGA/SAG/BAFTA) – WGA/Oscar
2003 – Return of the King (PGA/DGA/SAG/BAFTAs) – WGA/Oscar
1999 – American Beauty  (PGA/DGA/SAG) – WGA/Oscar
1995 – Apollo 13 – (PGA/DGA/SAG) – did not win WGA

Therefore, if you’re predicting Birdman to win Best Picture you should predict it to win the WGA.

We can’t really count BAFTA much in terms of history because of their date change (2000) and their changes in voting procedure (2012) but since 2012, the Best Picture winner has won the BAFTA for Best Picture, Argo and 12 Years a Slave.

Adapted Screenplay is also quite a toss-up. Since the Best Picture heat is in the original category, adapted is kind of up in the air.  Gillian Flynn and Gone Girl would have won this prize, I think, had Whiplash not knocked it out of the category.  The reason being the buzz would have grown every time Flynn hit the mic. She’s funny and she would have made Academy history. What a shame to see these opportunities vanish like that.

The Imitation Game has the overwhelming support over at Gold Derby. That is primarily because it won the Scripter and the predictions took place before the BAFTAS.  Clearly, the brits did not much care for the film since it didn’t even get a directing nominations. The Oscar voters and the industry DO care for the film because they have Morten Tyldum nominated both at the DGA and a the Oscars.

But now you have to factor in Whiplash, which was put in the adapted category and is very much loved by both BAFTA and Oscar.  Now we have three films to choose from and we have no precursor to go off of, not until the WGA and even then it’s a toss-up.

Other than Argo, you have to go back to 1998 to find a year when the Adapted Screenplay Oscar went to a film without a directing nomination. The BAFTA picked The Theory of Everything, which did have a directing nomination.  But the Oscars did not give James Marsh a nomination for directing, which means that The Imitation Game is the stronger of two.

Finally, Anne Thompson is predicting American Sniper to win the Oscar for Adapted. I think that’s a very strong prediction – and thus, Sniper would be a great prediction for both the WGA and the Oscar.

The bottom line: both screenplay categories are wide open and unpredictable.

 

 

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All eyes were on the USC Scripter to help STOP the women in the Oscar race for 2015. It was touch and go there for a while, since Gillian Flynn won the Critics Choice after not being nominated for the Oscar. The idea that Flynn could adapt her own novel, which would then go on to make around $168 million, spark all kinds of debate, emerge from the entire year with the only quotable lines from any screenplay would actually deserve an Oscar nomination is truly terrifying. But that fear was put to rest when the Writers Branch of the Academy blocked Flynn’s inclusion, thus ensuring the patriarchy maintains its steadfast course.

We were really worried there for a while. My god, to think that anyone seriously considered Flynn not only a major contender, but a real threat to win the whole game? Thank god — thank god. We can’t have powerful females roaming the quiet countryside.

But the Scripter awarded its top prize to Graham Moore for The Imitation Game, who will likely go on to win the WGA and then the Oscar. This was Flynn’s to lose before the Writers Branch stopped it in its tracks. We can all thank them for helping to maintain the status quo and for keeping things harmonious in the awards race.

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The BAFTA pushed its date back to be before the Oscars in 2000. The USC Scripter began giving out their awards in 1997. The Golden Globes only has one category for screenplay, which includes original and adapted. Only the Critics Choice, the WGA and the BAFTA divide their categories. Since you could put all of those together, no writer has landed on all of those lists and not been nominated for the Oscar.

Had Flynn been nominated, she would have become the second female writer in Academy history to be nominated for adapting her own novel. But alas, they opted out of that opportunity.

Making matters worse, there’s a good chance she might have won. Or she could have been like Jason Reitman, who lost out in the final lap. But at least he had a nomination.  The closest you get to the Gone Girl snub is About Schmidt, which did not have a BAFTA nod but had everything else. Flynn, who should have been the frontrunner, was knocked out so the Academy could make room for Whiplash, which should have been in original anyway and now could win, unless Imitation Game barrels through.

At the beginning of the season my 16 year old daughter became a fan of Flynn’s when she read one of her short stories. She liked it so much she even drew character art for the short story.  Explaining why Flynn didn’t get a nomination was not one of the best moments for me as a mom. How do you explain institutional sexism to a 16 year-old who is about to take on the world? I think she gets the message loud and clear, though. I suspect she won’t be the only teenage girl out there who will come of age believing the Academy is way behind the times.

Sure, I know Amazing Amy made them feel like their balls were curling into tiny raisins but I figured hey would acknowledge a woman who wrote such a successful film – how could they not, especially when the script had already been vetted by BAFTA, WGA and Scripter. Here is a perfect example of the why the Academy needs the precursors to light their way.

Let us never forget how women got screwed in 2015’s Oscar. All 10 of the writing nominees are male. All 10. All five of the directing nominees are male.

My only hope is that the crowd of voters doesn’t diminish Flynn’s success because of the unforgivable Oscar snub. My hope is that she slays the season in a clean sweep. History tells me that they don’t vote that way. They don’t vote to show up the Academy. They like to vote to stand alongside the Academy proudly — on the side that’s winning.

Here are the charts…

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Pete Hammond reports that there will be a disconnect between Whiplash’s category confusion. The Academy has decided the film’s script should be adapted since a short film existed before the feature film. The film was taken from Damien Chazzelle’s original screenplay as a feature. The short is the adaptation. The Writers Guild has deemed it original. Hammond got this desperate email from the screenwriter of Flight:

“I just tried to vote for Whiplash for a Screenplay Oscar nom and I couldn’t find it as a selection on my ‘help list’—I searched and searched—I finally switched to the ADAPTED CATEGORY and I found it there. The Academy has made a HUGE mistake!!! They are gonna have to ask the writers’ branch members to re-vote….and it makes this whole voting process off kilter. HELP!!!…Unless Whiplash is NOT an original–am I crazy? Haven’t I read 100 articles about Damien wherein he tells the story of his life being the inspiration for the flick?”

The question then becomes whether voters will vote for something else in original and then see Whiplash in adapted and NOT vote for it there because it isn’t in original. Yeah, I don’t get it. I think Whiplash’s chances of a nomination are WAY higher in adapted. Here’s why.

Here are the original frontrunners:
Original Screenplay
Wes Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel (LOCKED)
Alejandro Inarritu et al, Birdman (LOCKED)
Richard Linklater, Boyhood (LOCKED)
E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Paul Webb, Selma (NOT WGA eligible)
JC Chandor, A Most Violent Year
Mike Leigh, Mr. Turner (NOT WGA eligible)
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, Interstellar
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie)
Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias, Love is Strange
Gina Pryce Bythwood, Beyond, the Lights
Dear White People, Justin Simien (NOT WGA eligible)

Compare that to Adapted:

Adapted Screenplay

Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (LOCKED, hopefully)
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game (LOCKED)
Paul Thoman Anderson, Inherent Vice+*
Anthony McCarten, The Thoery of Everything* (NOT WGA eligible)
Nick Hornby, Wild*

You can see that adapted is much more wide open than original, and with Selma out of the original for the WGA Damien Chazelle and Whiplash should have no problem getting in, no matter what category it’s in.

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Two more films by women filmmakers have broken through this year. Their best hope for Oscar nods would be the screenplay categories. It is near impossible to crack any major category with good intentions. The buzz machine starts early and snowballs – or perhaps more appropriately, it’s like the Titanic, gaining speed and momentum as it barrels towards the iceberg and by the time you want to turn it around it is already too late.

Still, with a little push there could be SOME movement in these categories. Let it be known that both Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Beyond the Lights and Jenny Slate in Obvious Child delivered strong leading performances this year. With a little help from the crisis, ANY CRITIC, they could have been launched into the race – though even then, Best Actress is already too full, with most slots reserved early by high-profile roles and veteran performers.

Not saying it’s impossible – it’s just unlikely, as these contenders are being pushed hardcore early in year by powerful publicity companies that know how to get nominations. That’s WHY they get the big bucks. I’m not going to address whether they are deserving or not – Mark Harris already plugged them in his column a while back. My own feeling that is actresses get the short shrift in Hollywood after the age of 30. When Julia Roberts came along in the 1980s, that became the model for a successful actress in Hollywood: versatile, breathlessly beautiful, charismatic. We wouldn’t really see another Julia Roberts until Jennifer Lawrence. But aiming at someone that young and fresh-faced resulted in older actresses being sidelined, continually and tragically, resulting in one of the worst years for actresses since I’ve been blogging. Do I think these vets should be sidelined for the youngers? No, I don’t. Does that mean we’re talking about better performances? I’m talking about how hard it is to find good roles if you’re over the age of 35. They just aren’t offered up in mainstream film. Getting awards for them backs the notion that women don’t expire after the age of 35. All of them will get there – all of the young ones will be used up and spit out by the time they get there – wouldn’t they rather empower career success later rather than earlier?

It’s up for debate, I know. I’m not saying definitely one way or the other – I’m just examining the tragic state of how women are treated in Hollywood, black women especially.

The original screenplay category is once again packed with men. If Gillian Flynn represents the sole female in either of the writing categories, original looks to be 5/5 men. Flynn might be joined in Adapted by Gillian Robespierre, Elisabeth Holm, Karen Maine for Obvious Child. It isn’t as packed as Original and there could be some wiggle room there.

Gina Prince Bythewood’s Beyond the Lights is original and that category is already too crowded. Sure, Beyond the Lights and Obvious Child are filled with woman-y stuff, icky love story stuff, not taken seriously stuff – usually that isn’t sexy enough, or enough at all, to get Oscar attention. As we know from the treatment of Gone Girl by both genders in the media, it’s a tall order to satisfy the requirements of male audiences and critics, female audiences and critics. The list is too long, the requirements too hard to fill. Or to put it another way, not even Mean Girls, arguably one of the best screenplays of the last two decades, couldn’t even manage an Oscar nod and it wasn’t even about romance, as Beyond the Lights and Obvious Child kind of are, with other important elements threaded throughout.

The synopsis for Beyond the Lights is, as follows:

The pressures of fame have superstar singer Noni on the edge, until she meets Kaz, a young cop who works to help her find the courage to develop her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be.

I have not yet seen the film but I am going to seek it out in the coming days on the recommendation of Dargis and Kris Tapley and others. I’m sure it’s a lot better than that synopsis suggests. But I’m also sure that “relationship movies” can’t build the same kind of steam or gravitas than “important” stories, usually about Great Men. If the gender balance in the guilds ever equalizes, there might be some wiggle room in that area. But mostly “relationship movies” suffer, unless they’re made by men, about men, like Silver Linings Playbook (another Dargis favorite, where the female lead is really just there to enforce the male protagonist). The more critics talk about Beyond the Lights, the better.

In taking another swipe at Gone Girl, the NY Times’ Manohla Dargis made a big thing about Beyond the Lights in her Best of list:

The movie’s writer and director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, is defiantly sincere about its romantic tropes, a rarity in American mainstream cinema. That sincerity may be too alien for audiences or perhaps years of Katherine Heigl flicks have made them skittish about heterosexual romance. That’s too bad, because watching people fall in love is surely as interesting as watching them kill one another. As of early December, though, the only title in the Top 20 grossing movies featuring a straight couple is “Gone Girl,” a nihilistic cartoon in which a woman gets away with murder by crying rape. As edgy metaphors for modern relationships go, I prefer “Edge of Tomorrow,” in which Emily Blunt’s character keeps killing Tom Cruise’s, à la “Groundhog Day,” as he struggles to become the hero he’s meant to be.

I’m not sure why “Beyond the Lights” hasn’t found its audience. I like to think it isn’t racism. In typical fashion, the trailers reduce the movie to its most obvious terms, including a frolic on a beach and images of a male torso so sculptured it would make Michelangelo sigh. Yet that body and beach are crucial to the movie’s method and meaning, and its exploration of a woman’s right to pleasure and self-determination. It doesn’t broadcast those ideas, but folds them into a story that’s also a maternal melodrama about a poor white mother (Minnie Driver) and a black daughter (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who’s as talented as she is haunted by her place in the world. It squeezes tears as cannily as that old Hollywood weepie “Stella Dallas,” except that here Mommy Dearest exploits her daughter.

So, Dargis likes Edge of Tomorrow where Tom Cruise is the lead and Blunt, while great, is yet again sidelined. She also likes Beyond the Lights because it offers traditional romance. But can’t bring herself to support, and feels the need to again criticize, the one movie that lets women out of those traditional cages of “backseat babe” and someone to whom love matters more than anything. I think there is room for all of these kinds of stories, not just the ones that paint women in a positive light. It’s important to allow for us to continue to be dark and dirty, to explore the myths about women, to upend stereotypes.Sadly, because Dargis can’t see past her own inherent bias about what women should be, she’s unable to celebrate Gillian Flynn’s success. The more freedom women have as writers and storytellers the more stories there will be about women, not just ONE KIND of woman. This is not criticize Beyond the Lights in any way – it ought to be championed as hard. I just don’t get why, to do that, Dargis felt the need to harpoon – yet again – Gone Girl.

I’m not thinking Beyond the Lights has a shot at screenplay, not with a 73 over at Metacritic. Then again, Theory of Everything also has that a score just as low and it is “in the conversation.” But that’s because it’s “important” as it’s about Stephen Hawking. Still, why shouldn’t Beyond the Lights be considered a contender? At least for writing. Gina Prince-Bythewood has been an established filmmaker for years now. What she needs, what all women in the field need, are strong advocates.

The brilliant writing by Gillian Robespierre, Elisabeth Holm, Karen Maine for Obvious Child, if nominated in the less-crowded adapted category, would put two Gillians in the adapted screenplay race, for a total of FOUR women writers. That, along with the addition of history-making Ava DuVernay, potentially in the Best Picture/Best Director race? Now you’re talking about “movement.”

Obvious Child is really funny throughout – with vulgarity woven through likable and admirable young women who face wrenching dilemmas like having an abortion. It is handled very well, and indeed, the lead character Jenny Slate does not find her strength through a male character but rather with women like her mother and her best friend. The women I know out there in the world who aren’t plugged into the 90% male-driven Oscar narrative would find enriching value in both Beyond the Lights and Obvious Child. They would see themselves in their stories. Still, how many men can relate?

When you’re talking Oscar that’s what you’re talking about. The sad evolution of film critics has resulted in a similar dynamic. Movies that get into the race have to have the male stamp of approval. Where women are concerned, if the story is more about men then women they can roll with it. But if it’s about women, written by women, driven by what women care about? Forget it. We see in film a reflection of ourselves. And in this case “ourselves” is majority male, majority straight white male.

I’m going to put both of these on the contender tracker with my fingers crossed. After 16 years of this, though, I know that rave reviews drive these awards. Neither of these films got the kind of raves a contender really needs, despite Dargis’ push. As an Oscar blogger, I know what can and can’t be done. I know that sometimes no amount of advocacy can push a contender in. At best, you can put them in front of the thing to watch it. That doesn’t mean it will get their vote when they’re deciding what is best.

They’re on the radar. They’re definitely on the radar.

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I am kind of (not) amazed that the New York Post’s Kyle Smith nearly killed himself trashing (as would be expected from the right wing critic) Jon Stewart’s Rosewater. Several films this year, and every year in the modern age of the Yelpification of film critics, will hopefully bypass the so-called critics and head straight to the people. Rosewater is one of those. Go out in the world and talk to people. Some will say, “Oh, I really want to see Rosewater.” And others might say “I read some reviews of Rosewater, should I skip it?” The answer to that question is yes, by all means skip it because then you can buy another Starbucks while sending the message to Hollywood that you really don’t want more movies like this one, more movies about topics that matter, and more movies made by Jon Stewart. I, for one, do. I want to support movies that make a difference in the lives of ordinary people.

Throughout the year, we wait for the so-called critics to anoint films for the Oscar race. The pile shrinks as the particular tastes of the critics (mostly 30-something white, mostly male) thumbs up or thumbs down that which they are privileged enough to do. Rosewater is going to mean a lot less to someone like that than it does to someone like me who didn’t know the story before, had no idea what happened to journalists in Iran and more importantly, the film’s overall message is worth sending, knowing, repeating: freedom of speech matters, whether you’re a kid holding a video camera or Jon Stewart lampooning fascists.

The people I know in the real world will appreciate Rosewater, I can tell you with certainty, probably more than they’ll appreciate the films the critics unanimously anoint. I hear complaints every year about the Oscar movies and how unwatchable they are. I think they’re pretty great but it’s also clear to me that something has gotten lost along the way. The movies selected are no longer movies for audiences, by and large. The Oscar brand still matters and it will continue to draw eyeballs and boost box office but there has to be room for films like Rosewater, Fury, The Judge that are making money but aren’t getting any Oscar buzz. Movies are, last time I checked, made mostly for audiences, right?

For the most part, critics are mixed on Rosewater — some love it (Stephanie Zacharek), others don’t (Kenneth Turan). Mostly the reviews are that the film is too easy, too simple in its message. What that means to me is that Stewart never intended to make a film for critics – he wanted people from all over the world to see the movie. There are very few films I feel confident recommending to people who aren’t critics – Rosewater is one of those. Eleanor Rigby is another. There are hopefully those discussions still happening, though admittedly most people I know are talking about TV.

Having just watched the extraordinary Olive Kitteridge on HBO, starring Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins I wondered, why couldn’t that have been made into a movie? Well, we know why. For one, television doesn’t have to pass that initial test of critics — now numbering roughly 200 plus – that is what I mean by the Yelpification of critics. Rosewater on television would have been a much better fit probably because then everyone could see it and it wouldn’t have to run the gauntlet of what film criticism has become.

Note how television only matters by how many people watch and keep watching. Criticism has nothing to do with the success or failure of programming. The success of the shows determine the awards — success usually means popularity mixed with admiration by critics. Such is no longer the case with the film community. The people now have very little to do with determining the success or failure of films when it comes to awards. I feel partly responsible for this devolution by trying too hard to focus on critical acclaim rather than box office success. I think there has to be a little bit of both, because films aren’t made for critics.

In the end, I admire what Jon Stewart was doing with Rosewater. I was greatly moved by the story and I think many people will be, unless of course, they hate Stewart already from the Daily Show.

THRWriters

Rope of Silicon points us to this Oscars Roundtable discussion by writers. One has to marvel that with all of the films headed into the race — there isn’t a single woman writer or even co-writer among them. Except one. Not only did Flynn write the screenplay, she wrote the book upon which the screenplay was based. The last time any single female did that and go into the Oscar race was Lillian Hellman who wrote The Children’s Hour (a play) and then wrote the screenplay in 1941, 73 years ago. 73. Years. Ago. As co-writers, Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski did it for Fried Green Tomatoes in 1991, winning the Scripter even. 1991 was an extraordinary year for women as Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture, Prince of Tides and Beauty and the Beast were nominated. Callie Khouri won original screenplay, and four female writers were nominated in adapted.

The Hall of Shame for authors who adapted their own work. A crushingly embarrassing number for women who are dominating the world of fiction – but Hollywood? Move over honey, I’ll drive.

Winners:
John Irving won for Cider House Rules
Michael Blake won for Dances with Wolves
Alfred Uhry won for Driving Miss Daisy
Christopher Hampton won for Dangerous Liaisons
Peter Shaffer for Amadeus
Ernest Thompson for On Golden Pond
Mario Puzo, Francis Coppola for Godfather II
William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist
Mario Puzo, Francis Coppola for The Godfather
Paddy Chayefsky, Marty

Nominees:
Daniel Clowes and Tery Zwigoff for Ghost World
Scott Smith for The Simple Plan
Authur Miller for the Crucible
William Nicholson for Shadowlands
Michael Tolkin for The Player
Ron Kovic for Born on the 4th of July
Mark Medoff and Hesper Anderson for Children of a Lesser God
Horton Foote, Trip to Bountiful
Willy Russell for Educating Rita
Ronald Harwood for The Dresser
Harold Pinter for Betrayal
Bernard Slade for Same Time, Next year
Neil Simon, California Suite
Nicholas Meyer, The Seven Percent Solution
Neil Simon, The Sunshine Boys
Julian Barry, Lenny
Robert Anderson, The Nun’s Story
John Gay, Terence Rattigan, Separate Tables
Reginald Rose, 12 Angry Men
John Dighton, Roger MacDougall, Alexander Mackendrick, The Man in the White Suit
Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
Graham Greene, The Fallen Idol

Women:
Lillian Hellman, Little Foxes (1941)
Fannie Flagg, Carol Sobieski, Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

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David Fincher’s Gone Girl is about to make in 4 weeks what Benjamin Button made in 18. Argo totaled out at $136 million, and didn’t get where Gone Girl has gotten until about 18 weeks. Gone Girl will likely hit $150 million before it leaves theaters. It’s estimated at $124 million right now. It continues to hold the zeitgeist and remains the most talked about film of the year.

The remarkable thing about it is that Gone Girl was written solely by a woman, produced by a woman, and stars mostly women. Right now, it’s about to hit somewhere around $120 million. In 4 weeks. While the success of films like Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, Maleficent and Frozen can be marginalized as appealing to young girls, Gone Girl appeals across the board to men and women, and especially adult women. This represents a significant step forward. The only remaining question is whether Oscar voters will embrace the film fully, as Kenneth Turan at the LA Times has done, or cooly reject it the way Manohla Dargis at the NY Times has done.

Recent history tells us that once the Academy narrowed the nominee list from ten to five, films by and about women have gotten the shaft; with only five choices the mostly male Academy leans towards male driven cinema, give or take a Gravity.

The box office story of Gone Girl is a very big deal, though you’d never know it by the way other pundits and reporters are talking about it. They’re mostly writing it off, probably because of the star power of Ben Affleck. It reminds me of other films pundits underestimated like Silence of the Lambs and The Departed. That means I think Gone Girl could be a very strong Best Picture contender, no matter what my colleagues like Scott Feinberg, Kris Tapley and Thelma Adams think. It could prove, by year’s end, that they turn out to be right. But something tells me that Gone Girl will make history, becoming the first film to be written by a woman who has adapted her own novel. The only other woman who managed this feat was for the play Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman.

Here are the previous Oscar winners and nominees who adapted their own work for the big screen:

Winners:
John Irving won for Cider House Rules
Michael Blake won for Dances with Wolves
Alfred Uhry won for Driving Miss Daisy
Christopher Hampton won for Dangerous Liaisons
Peter Shaffer for Amadeus
Ernest Thompson for On Golden Pond
Mario Puzo, Francis Coppola for Godfather II
William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist
Mario Puzo, Francis Coppola for The Godfather
Paddy Chayefsky, Marty

Nominees:
Daniel Clowes and Tery Zwigoff for Ghost World
Scott Smith for The Simple Plan
Authur Miller for the Crucible
William Nicholson for Shadowlands
Michael Tolkin for The Player
Ron Kovic for Born on the 4th of July
Mark Medoff and Hesper Anderson for Children of a Lesser God
Horton Foote, Trip to Bountiful
Willy Russell for Educating Rita
Ronald Harwood for The Dresser
Harold Pinter for Betrayal
Bernard Slade for Same Time, Next year
Neil Simon, California Suite
Nicholas Meyer, The Seven Percent Solution
Neil Simon, The Sunshine Boys
Julian Barry, Lenny
Robert Anderson, The Nun’s Story
John Gay, Terence Rattigan, Separate Tables
Reginald Rose, 12 Angry Men
John Dighton, Roger MacDougall, Alexander Mackendrick, The Man in the White Suit
Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
Graham Greene, The Fallen Idol

Women:
Lillian Hellman, Little Foxes (1941)

It shouldn’t need explaining, why this matters. Other writers should be covering it and noticing. You will have to draw your own conclusions about why they haven’t. But let it be known that David Fincher held out for Gillian Flynn. There was much pressure from the studio to have an established male screenwriter adapt it. Alfonso Cuaron held out for Sandra Bullock last year despite pressure to cast a male. While it seems archaic in 2014 that this is how you play Hollywood chess, but nonetheless, this is the reality. One great thing about Gone Girl is that it shows how much better things will be for women if we allow ourselves to dip into the darker, less flattering arenas of the female experience; forcing ourselves to only depict “positive role models” or politically correct feminist leaders on film – well, we severely limit our power as artists.

Gone Girl’s box office will make it yet another of 2014’s extraordinary success for women driven films, despite the pummeling they took from critics:

Maleficent – $241 million
Divergent – $150 million
Lucy – $126 million
Gone Girl – $124 million
The Fault in Our Stars – $124 million

Before we get to the part where the 6,000 mostly male voters in the Academy obliterate all hope for women in film, this is something to celebrate.

As an added bonus, just writing about this topic opens the door for an all-out troll offensive, a cacophony of caterwauling by men who hate it when women talk about women. You call it harassment. I call it fun.

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One of the coolest things David Fincher did on Gone Girl was keep Gillian Flynn on as screenwriter. Probably the powers that be wanted a dude. I don’t know, just a guess.  Here is what the talented Ms. Flynn had to say about the adaptation process:

“I read tons of screenplays and watched a lot of movies. Since my director was David Fincher, I read all the screenplays and rewatched all the movies—that was not bad homework. I also watched movie adaptations I really respected, like The Talented Mr. Ripley. Then I went to town with my book. I read it one last time; I listened to it on audio so it could wake up my brain in a different way, and then I didn’t look at it again—except to grab certain lines of dialogue—so I could let it become a movie.”

Source: Vanity Fair

Screen caps after the jump.

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It seems to me that there are some categories where voters will have likely seen most of the nominees. How hard is it, for example, to see all five of the Best Director contenders? Likely you’ve seen them: 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, American Hustle, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street. If you haven’t seen those five by now you’re probably the wrong person to be voting on the highest achievement of the year in film. But giving you the benefit of the doubt that you really HAVE been that busy and that your television hasn’t otherwise been occupied by True Detective or the Olympics (are you kidding me?) – you will likely have seen all five in the next week before final ballots are due. But there’s less of a chance you’ll have seen the screenplay nominees.

4/5 of the adapted screenplays are from Best Picture contenders, and 4/5 of the original screenplays are from Best Picture contenders.  You have to go back to 1998 to find a year when the Adapted Screenplay winner was not a Best Picture contender.  And you have to go back to 2004 to find an Original Screenplay winner that wasn’t a Best Picture contender. It is even more difficult to not be represented in Best Picture now that the Academy has expanded to more than five nominees.

This year is full of  great works in both the original and the adapted screenplay categories.  Some of the writers are first time nominees.  Strangely, most of the stories are true stories.  Some of the original works are those of the author’s imagination entirely, cut from whole cloth.  Others are faithful adaptations of well known, or little known, books.

The two main precursors for the screenplay category are the Writers Guild award and the Scripter.  Unfortunately, several key films in the race weren’t eligible for the WGA, like John Ridley’s 12 Years a Slave and Steve Coogan’s Philomena.  Not being eligible for the award meant that they did not go up against the WGA winner, Captain Phillips.  However, all three screenplays were represented at the USC Scripter Awards, where John Ridley’s adaptation of Solomon Northup’s memoir, won.  All three were again represented at the BAFTAs, where the screenplay for Philomena triumphed.

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ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • American Hustle, Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell; Columbia Pictures
  • Blue Jasmine, Written by Woody Allen; Sony Pictures Classics
  • Dallas Buyers Club, Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack; Focus Features
  • Her, Written by Spike Jonze; Warner Bros.
  • Nebraska, Written by Bob Nelson; Paramount Pictures

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • August: Osage County, Screenplay by Tracy Letts; Based on his play; The Weinstein Company
  • Before Midnight, Written by Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke; Based on characters created by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan; Sony Classics
  • Captain Phillips, Screenplay by Billy Ray; Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty; Columbia Pictures
  • Lone Survivor, Written by Peter Berg; Based on the book by Marcus Lutrell with Patrick Robinson; Universal Pictures
  • The Wolf of Wall Street, Screenplay by Terence Winter; Based on the book by Jordan Belfort; Paramount Pictures

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The WGA will announce their nominees tomorrow morning. Usually this happen around 10am.

The rules for inclusion at the WGA awards usually exclude many of the year’s best scripts – and thus, can sometimes render the WGA awards not useful come Oscar time. Kris Tapley announced the films that would be excluded this year and that includes John Ridley’s 12 years a Slave, the likely winner, or certainly the strongest contender, for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

In the original screenplay category, there are so many strong contenders heading into the race – American Hustle and Her are right at the top of the list.  But there is also Inside Llewyn Davis, Blue Jasmine, Nebraska, The Butler, Dallas Buyers Club and more.

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Since the premiere of his play “Killer Joe” in Chicago in 1993, actor and playwright Tracy Letts has become a major figure in American theater, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his play “August: Osage County” and this year’s Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Letts has also earned acclaim as a screenwriter, adapting his plays “Bug” and “Killer Joe” into polarizing yet well-regarded films, both directed by Oscar-winner William Friedkin (The French Connection).
Letts recently added to his screenwriting credits by adapting “August: Osage County.” John Wells (TV’s “ER”) directed the film, opening in limited release on Christmas Day. August: Osage County chronicles the hilarious and heartbreaking encounters of the Weston family, the members of which have returned to Osage County, Oklahoma following a family tragedy. The ensemble cast features Oscar-winners Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Chris Cooper, Oscar-nominees Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, and Sam Shepard, and Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Margo Martindale.

In anticipation of the film’s release, I recently enjoyed an insightful conversation with the brilliant Letts about his latest film adaptation. Here’s what Letts shared with me about removing an hour of material from the play, walking the fine line between comedy and drama, and crafting August: Osage County.

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The Carpetbagger reports:

LOS ANGELES— Count Tony Kushner, the “Lincoln” screenwriter, among those who believe several United States Senators went too far when they suggested that Sony Pictures should somehow correct its depiction of torture in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Mr. Kushner on Monday was among 28 supporters of a letter sent to all 100 Senators objecting to the pressure exerted by three of them — Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain — on “Zero Dark Thirty,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. Other supporters, according to Norman Siegel, a lawyer who helped organize the protest, included the lawyers Alan M. Dershowitz, Laurence Tribe and Floyd Abrams.

“History demonstrates, in particular the 1950s McCarthy period, that government officials should not employ their official status and power to attempt to censor, alter or pressure artists to change their expressions, believes, presentations of facts or political viewpoints,” the letter said.

Mr. Kushner has been nominated for an Oscar in the best adapted screenplay category, while Mr. Boal is up for best original screenplay.

60 Minutes tonight explores the depth of detail that Spielberg and his collaborators put into recreating Lincoln’s world of 1864. Here’s the complete 12-minute segment featuring extended interviews with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Daniel Day-Lewis and Spielberg himself. Want more? Check out the 3 “web extras” after the cut.

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by Sasha Stone and Ryan Adams

The USC Scripter will be held tomorrow night. You can watch the Scripter on the live feed.  

It’s rare that I come across writing that turns my head, especially in the Oscar race because the screenplay is inextricably tied to the Best Picture contender. When we envision the screenplay we envision the movie. We don’t look at them as separate works.  And generally speaking what wins Best Picture also wins Screenplay.   The Scripter has a hit and miss record with Oscar.  Lately, the WGA has been more reliable in terms of predicting how the screenplay award goes but the Scripter is an interesting award in and of itself.  One of our goals as Oscar watchers should really be to learn to appreciate the awards as separate and not ONLY in terms of how they relate to the Oscars.  After all, fucking your way to the middle isn’t always the best course of action, as the preacher said.

When the awards season began and the critics were praising Tony Kushner’s moving, complex Lincoln, a script that took six years to write from one of the most famous books ever about a president, I mostly forgot it was awards season and that buzz can determine how things rise and how things fall. It seemed for a time that Lincoln would be a no-brainer for the Scripter, which honors both the original work and the adaptation.   Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book trounces all of the competition for source material with the possible exception of Life of Pi.  Now that Argo has captured the buzz, one has to wonder whether Chris Terrio will win the Scripter and the WGA and the Oscar.  It is probably between Lincoln and Argo but I think the Scripter judges will pick Lincoln.

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The USC Scripter nominees are:

Argo

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Perks of Being a Wallflower
Silver Linings Playbook

–A tie resulted in six sets of finalists for the 2013 honor, rather than the typical five.

The finalists are, in alphabetical order by film title:

  • Joshuah Bearman, author of the article “The Great Escape,” Antonio J. Mendez, author of The Master of Disguise, and screenwriter Chris Terrio, for Argo
  • For Beasts of the Southern Wild, dramatist Lucy Alibar, who wrote the play Juicy and Delicious, and screenwriter Benh Zeitlin, who co-wrote the screenplay with Alibar
  • Novelist Yann Martel and screenwriter David Magee for Life of Pi
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and screenwriter Tony Kushner for Lincoln
  • Stephen Chbosky, author of the novel Perks of Being a Wallflower, as well as the screenplay based upon the book
  • For Silver Linings Playbook, author Matthew Quick and screenwriter David O. Russell

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Following a year-long journey that began at Sundance and ended in theaters all over the world, Beasts of the Southern Wild endures as one of the most emotionally evocative and deeply heartfelt pieces of filmmaking to be released this past year. The film explores the themes of courage, community, and parent-child relationships through the lens of six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), her Dad, Wink (Dwight Henry), and their close-knit bayou community lovingly referred to as “The Bathtub.” With the waters rising all around them, and Wink facing a mysterious illness, Hushpuppy attempts to save both her father and her community. The surrealist southern fable is the brainchild of Lucy Alibar, who wrote the play, “Juicy and Delicious,” upon which Beasts of the Southern Wild is based. She co-wrote the screenplay for the film, along with first-time feature director Benh Zeitlin. In celebration of the film’s widespread acclaim and its recent release on Blu-ray and DVD, I recently enjoyed a wonderful late lunch with Alibar. We spent the afternoon at Petrossian West Hollywood, where chef Giselle Wellman appropriately prepared a juicy and delicious array of oysters for us to enjoy while discussing Alibar’s bayou tale. Here’s what Alibar shared with me about collaborating with Zeitlin on the screenplay, how they were influenced by Southern storytelling, and crafting Beasts of the Southern Wild.

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On Thursday, January 3rd, the Producers Guild, Art Directors Guild and Writers Guild all announce their nominees. It is he same day as Oscar ballots are due.  The Writers Guild is a fairly good indicator of Best Picture at the Oscars usually.  This is a year where a lot of the best screenplays, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere are all ineligible. That means we could see something similar to last year’s Original Screenplay category where only two made it through to the Oscars.  Everything is ass-backwards this year because usually these nominations are released before the Academy’s ballot deadline, thus, the WGA, DGA, PGA will not be the guidepost for Oscar voters.

That means you can’t get a bump from a screenplay that might have been snubbed by the WGA.  As you can see by the charts below, the WGA and Oscars match quite often for wins, particularly in the original screenplay category.  As the date for Oscar has been pushed back (circa 2003), those matches were somewhat more rare.  After that, you can see how closely they matched.  That’s because there is simply less time for contemplation. Everyone votes roughly at the same time, so what wins one place tends to win another.

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