2013 Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay

Chris Terrio (Argo)
Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
David Magee (Life of Pi)
Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

For some reason, writing doesn’t really get as much pub as the acting and directing. You can see it with the acting; what’s in front of the camera likely gets more attention than what’s behind. But writers bring as much to a film as a director. The two work hand-in-hand: the writer sets the stage, the director moves the pieces. One couldn’t work without the other.

But at the Oscars, writers get two bites at the same Oscars apple: two separate writing categories, while directors only get one (many people think Best Picture if for the directors; it’s actually for the executive producers and high-level producers).

The biggest overlooked film in this category at the Oscars this year was the delightful Perks of Being a Wallflower, which also had the rare feat of being adapted and directed by the novel’s original author Stephen Chbosky. It provided a unique take on the traditional coming of age story, with some great characters and a surprising twist at the end.

As for the five nominees themselves, the one I don’t get here is Life of Pi. I enjoyed the book and the film equally. However, the film is mostly about the directing, the effects and the way Lee cut in the narrator to add depth. Not to say the writing is bad, it just doesn’t jump off the screen.

Beasts is another one that’s a half-step below. Again, it’s a solid story, but most of the force from this film comes from the acting of (then) six year old Quvenzhané Wallis and what Zeitlin does on-screen, not so much the writing.

Argo, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook are the three to watch. Each of the three develops well layered characters as well as taut and well told stories. Lincoln is a bit longer than it should be, but the screenplay is what made that movie (even above Day-Lewis’ performance). The choice of that one piece of his life somehow encapsulates both Lincoln the man and Lincoln the politician. So lets go with that.

in a Best Picture race that, on paper, is between Lincoln and Silver Linings, score one for the 19th century.

Who will win: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Who should win: Tony Kushner, Lincoln