2015 Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay

It’s Oscar season, and over the weeks leading up to the awards, I’ll be rolling out nine blog pieces breaking down (what I consider) the eight major races – Picture, Director, both writing and all four acting categories.

Like with most things on this blog, this will be a mix of fact, popular opinion and my opinion – the three of which don’t often intersect. Then I’ll post a full list of my Oscar picks right before the show as best I can.

On to today’s posting: Adapted Screenplay

 

The Nominees
“American Sniper” Written by Jason Hall
“The Imitation Game” Written by Graham Moore
“Inherent Vice” Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Theory of Everything” Screenplay by Anthony McCarten
“Whiplash” Written by Damien Chazelle

Who Will Win: “Whiplash” Written by Damien Chazelle
Who Could Win: “The Imitation Game” Written by Graham Moore
Who Should Win: “Whiplash” Written by Damien Chazelle
Who Should Be Here: “Rosewater” Written by Jon Stewart

The race for Best Adapted Screenplay, as I understand it, is coming down to two films: Whiplash and The Imitation Game. This is a testament to how great a film Whiplash is. It’s a small film, small marketing budget, no real stars and doesn’t have that “epic” Best Picture Oscar story, so it’s not really in the Best Picture race. But, despite all this, it’s 6 to 5 and pick ‘em that Whiplash will go home with Oscar gold for writing. This is an even bigger deal because something like 40-50% of Best Picture Oscar winners also take home the Best ADAPTED Screenplay Oscar. That’s how good Whiplash is: it can and should win this category.

If Whiplash comes in second in the Oscar race, it’ll be to The Imitation Game, which deserves to win (almost) as much. It’s a somewhat different take on the biopic category – presenting a great story in a pretty timely topic (assuming you can look past the surface). It’s a taut film with solid twists and – even though you (should) know where it’s going because it’s, you know, history – it all still feels fresh and real.

In third place is more than likely The Theory of Everything, which might also be known as “that other British biopic”. That’s unfortunate – because The Theory of Everything is a beautiful film, but it got knocked out of most of the conversations once The Imitation Game hit. It’s flaw is that it’s a bit too beautiful and a bit too happy, given the dark nature of what happened to Hawking.

American Sniper and Inherent Vice round out this category. Sniper was one of my five four-star films for this year, but it’s a film made in photography, acting, editing and pacing. If it has a flaw, and if it does it’s minor, it’s that the story isn’t quite cohesive, rather a bit episodic in nature. The film doesn’t quite figure out where it’s going until late in the game. Vice, I’m not going to discuss too much. I recognize the abilities of Paul Thomas Anderson as a filmmaker – he shoots beautifully and gets the most out of his actors, but I have yet to connect to a story in any one of his films. Vice was no exception.

I had a hard time picking the snub in this Oscar category. Ultimately I went with Rosewater, which is an important story (all the more after Ferguson), and would like to have seen it recognized. But Gone Girl could have just as easily gotten it from me – that film is driven first and foremost by its writing.